After the Jump: Julia Rothman (MP3)

by Grace Bonney

After a nice winter break, I’m thrilled to announce that the second season of my radio show, After the Jump, is back! Getting back in the booth after years of college radio was a huge goal of mine, and to be able to start another season this year is a dream come true. One of my biggest motivations for doing this show was to spend more one-on-one time with people I admire and think would be inspirational to a wide range of listeners. After 25 guests last season, there was one name that jumped out at me for this season’s debut: Julia Rothman.

I remember meeting Julia at the very first Biz Ladies meet-up back in 2006 and hearing about her soon-to-be-launched pattern line. I visited her at Surtex that year blown away by the freshness of her pattern designs and knew right away that I wanted to work with her in the future. As Julia’s career took off, I was fortunate to work with her and the rest of the team at ALSO (Jenny Volvovski and Matt Lamothe) to redesign Design*Sponge and eventually design Design*Sponge at Home. Those working experiences led to a great friendship that I cherish to this day.

In addition to her insights about the art world and the importance of collaboration and a diverse portfolio, Julia’s interview stands out to me for one main reason: she’s done it all on her own. A lot of people talk about projects but don’t actually do them. Julia always seems to come up with an amazing idea and finds a way to make it happen, no matter how difficult. Her motivation and self-determination are bound to be inspiring to anyone who’s looking to start (or expand) their creative career. I hope you’ll enjoy her interview as much as I enjoyed recording it. It’s not often that you get an opportunity to interview someone you know well, and I really appreciate this chance. Examining the path that led Julia to write four books; collaborate on over 10 publications; design for companies like Anthropologie, Crate & Barrel and Land of Nod; and create illustrations for The New York Times, Details and Gourmet uncovered all sorts of tips and advice that I hope will help anyone find the motivation to keep pushing forward. xo, grace

Click HERE to listen on iTunes and HERE to stream the episode at Heritage Radio online.

*Julia also answered three bonus questions and shared her top five obsessions after the jump below. Be sure to check them out!*

D*S: What are your biggest inspirations right now (people, places, styles, etc.)?

Julia: I’ve been trying to loosen up my style and try other mediums. Lately I’ve been experimenting with drawing with a paintbrush, which automatically makes things get a little less detailed and flow more. In light of that, I have been admiring illustrators who have a more painterly approach like Virginia Johnson, Caitlin McGauley and, of course, my two friends and collaborators, Rachael Cole and Leah Goren.

I just took a trip to Miami, Florida, to get away from the cold and meet some family. I was really excited by all the architecture and decided that South Beach buildings will be my next pattern design. I took over 100 pictures for reference. Can’t wait to get started on it!

I’ve been feeling out of the loop on the new styles and trends. I go to art openings and think, “So that’s what the youngsters are wearing these days.” Because of that, I get happy when I see someone who really breaks all the rules and wears very unique clothes. Designer Jennifer Daniel is one of those people, and I’m really impressed every time I see her outdo herself at a local Brooklyn event wearing lots of amazingly mismatched patterns and textures. I guess eccentric style has always intrigued me even though I would never have the guts to pull it off myself.

D*S: What is your biggest piece of advice for aspiring artists and designers?

Julia: One of the things that have really helped me is working on a lot of different kinds of projects — illustration, pattern design, book projects. I think it’s really important to not put all your eggs in one basket but instead branch out and think about all the different ways your skills could be used. Having diversity in my workweek really helps in two ways: it stops me from getting in a creative rut, and it also helps me keep afloat financially. When illustration work gets slow, I can work on a few patterns to add to a growing collection of licensable designs. When I’m tired of making patterns, there’s always a long-term book project I can devote some time to. There’s usually something to get done, and I think the variety of things that I do keeps things exciting. It works best when one project inspires another; for example, the pattern I’m working on for a bedding project gives me an idea for the end pages of the book I’m working on, or vice versa. I take all my book illustrations and make a pattern out of them.

D*S: Your diverse range of work seems like it takes a lot of planning and organization. How do you stay organized and on top of all the things you’re working on at once?

Julia: Even though I’m a fast worker, keeping on top of things has always been a challenge, and there were a couple all-nighters this past year and a lot of late nights. I’m trying to slowly change that since I think it’s a very unhealthy lifestyle. It’s hard for me to say no to new projects when they sound so interesting. But that’s one of things I’ve learned to do this year — not take every job that comes my way. I’ve had to prioritize my time so that I can get the most rewarding projects done and also have time for my personal life. More specifically, keeping on top of things means constantly updating my calendar with project sketch dates and due dates and checking it every day. Usually I write in a due date on my calendar a few days earlier than the actual date, so I can make sure it gets done on time. But it’s hard to trick yourself, and I always know I have a tiny bit more time when I see it coming up in the schedule. I also have a big chalkboard that just lists my projects. This way I’m always reminded of everything that I’m working on at once, which is usually 8 to 10 projects.

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