By Bethanie Hestermann
Michelle Parascandolo creates and licenses stunning designs, which end up on everything from iPhone cases to little girls’ dresses. As a freelance surface pattern designer + illustrator, Michelle’s expertise includes conceptualizing and bringing to life beautiful patterns that will “move” on fabrics, and illustrations that will pop on paper goods. Her bright, fun color palette makes ALL things better!
Michelle says it’s impossible to be “on” all the time and shares why she pushed through a time when she thought freelance creative work wasn’t for her.
Tell us about your business!
I am a surface pattern designer and illustrator. The main part of my business is licensing my artwork to brands to use on their products. I also have my own small line of products, consisting of fabric and paper goods.
What’s the best part about what you create?
The best part for me is that I get to work with brands that range across so many different industries. It never gets boring seeing all the different products my artwork ends up on.
How do you stay inspired + avoid creative ruts?
I get a ton of inspiration from other creatives. Not necessarily only illustrators or pattern designers, but really from anyone just putting something that they’ve created out into the world. It makes me want to do the same.
I think creative ruts are kind of inevitable. It is impossible to just be “on” all the time. When I’m not feeling super inspired to create, I will usually just take a break. I find that trying to force myself to feel creative never works out well and just leaves me feeling more frustrated. Taking some time off to allow myself to recharge will usually help me naturally get back into a good creative space.
Favorite song(s) for boosting creativity?
Really any songs by The xx.
How does creativity bring goodness to your life?
It brings so much freedom to my life, which equates to goodness for me! My creativity allowed me to turn my art into a career where I am able to work for myself and on my own terms.
What do some people NOT know about what you do?
Sometimes when I tell people what I do, their reaction is “Oh that’s amazing, you just get to draw all day!” While I wish that was true, it isn’t. There is so much that goes into a creative business that isn’t creating. I still have to worry about all of the things a regular business does, like marketing, accounting, administrative work, etc.
What made you decide to start designing patterns? How is that process different for you than illustrations?
I was in high school when I first came across pattern design. I knew I wanted to study art in college, but I wasn’t really sure what area I wanted to focus in. The Fashion Institute of Technology offers summer programs to high school students, and I enrolled in some pattern design courses and really fell in love with the process. I ended up majoring in pattern design at FIT.
The process can be a little different between patterns and illustrations. When creating patterns, I’m always thinking about the movement of the pattern and how it is going to flow when repeating over and over.
Where are some of the most exciting places your patterns have ended up?
The most exciting thing for me has been getting to wear clothes with my own patterns. For the first few years, I was mostly working with home decor, stationery, and children’s clothing brands. It was just this past year that I began working with a few women’s clothing brands. It has been really special and fun for me to wear my own prints!
Let’s be real, what’s the hardest/most frustrating thing about what you do?
Having to switch gears between the business side and the creative side of my brain.
Have you ever considered throwing in the towel? What stopped you?
Yes! When I first started freelancing, I considered quitting a few times—and not because I wanted to—but because I didn’t know if I could truly make it work. It was definitely a little daunting in the beginning when I was putting in so much work and really not seeing it pay off. Luckily, I wanted this too badly to ever be able to quit and was able to push those doubts to the side. Over time, those feelings really began to fade, and I would never consider quitting now.
Favorite way to celebrate a job well done?
A nice dinner and a glass of wine.