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Meet the Designer – Caren Barry of Caren Barry Designs


What are your greatest achievements so far , what are you particularly proud?

I’m very proud that I took the leap to leave my full-time job and become a self-employed designer in April 2013. Owning and running my own business is an enormous undertaking, which I jumped into with both feet. Regardless of how overwhelming and stressful it has been at times, I’m so thankful that I have been able to pursue my dream career and I’m glad it happened.

How would you describe your work?

I would describe my designs as modern with a hint of nostalgia. I’m very much influenced by my surroundings so I like to spend as much time outdoors as I can. Nature, animals, colour and the little details in life are an endless source of inspiration for me and I love taking a small moment from my life and translating it into my artwork. It can be anything from memories of my childhood, my passion for nature (especially flowers!) or just capturing something simple that I see from day to day. I think my style comes from several different influences that include Nordic design, vintage textiles, my childhood neighbourhood in the Cambridgeshire countryside, and the fact that I’m part Filipino.
My designs always start with a pen and paper, but more recently I’ve been experimenting with watercolour or gouache. I scan everything into Photoshop and Illustrator where I create my pattern designs and add colour. I’m especially drawn to pastel colours, which I think compliment my style. I adore creating surface patterns that are soft, organic, quirky and colourful – something that I try to recreate through my use of natural fabrics and textured papers. It’s so much fun being able to piece together a product that is functional yet beautiful and I love the way I can use my surface pattern designs to transform an ordinary object into something completely different.


When do you work best, are you up with the lark or a night owl?

Oh I’m definitely a night owl. It’s actually since becoming self-employed that I’ve realised how I’m really at my most creative during the late hours. I can quite easily work away in my studio until well past midnight, which I have to admit isn’t always ideal (or sociable), but being able to create isn’t something I can always do on-demand. So I try to figure out a balance of the best kind and work things out from there.

Describe your work space?

We converted our second bedroom into my workspace last year just before I became self-employed. My workspace has A LOT of potted plants, design-related books and white furniture. I have two huge trestle tables that occupy most of the space – something I’ve definitely come to appreciate for all my computer, sketchbook and sewing work. It goes without saying that I love pattern and colour, so my workspace is adorned with lots of quirky decorations from printed woven rugs, pretty planters, wire side-tables and an ever-growing gallery wall of prints by some of my favourite artists. I’m hugely influenced by Scandinavian style, so I’m planning to freshen up the (rather drab beige) walls with a coat of fresh white paint soon, as well as some extra storage pieces to hide away stock and any clutter. There’s a little way to go before my workspace is completely finished, but it’s still my creative little home studio and I love it.


What do you do to overcome designers block?

On days when I’m feeling deflated from lack of inspiration, I always find that the best thing to do is step away from my work. Going for a walk (usually with my camera in tow), gardening, spending time with my family or simply treating myself to a pretty bunch of flowers means I can clear my mind and focus on my work with fresh eyes. If that still doesn’t work, inspiring day trips with my mister definitely help me to boost my creativity and gain perspective on my work.


Where did your love for design originally develop from?

I’ve always been drawn to art and design – I think it’s part of my personality and since my parents have always encouraged my sisters and I to pursue our creative talents it’s difficult to imagine or focus on doing anything else. I guess that’s why I have always known I would do something creative with my life. I studied art throughout school and had the most wonderful support from both my GCSE teachers and Sixth Form tutors. I went on to complete a degree in Decorative Arts at Nottingham Trent University which is where I developed my love of illustration and surface pattern design. When I moved back home to Cambridgeshire in 2010, I got myself a job in retail so that I could get enough savings in place while preparing to launch my business. This happened for me just last year, and all of those moments that led up to me taking that leap have definitely strengthened my passion for pursuing my dream career and my love for design.

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What is it that draws you to work with fabric and what benefits to your process does Digital Printing bring?

I adore creating surface patterns and I think I’m definitely at my happiest when designing for textiles. My illustrations often take me hours to complete and I love how digital printing has made it so easy for me to translate my pattern designs onto textiles exactly how I see it on my computer screen! Digital printing allows me to include even the most intricate details of my hand-drawn designs and working with the lovely ladies at BeFab has given me so much confidence to continue experimenting with and sharing my creative ideas.

Your home is on fire, assuming your family, pets & computer/phone are safe, what is the one thing you save from the blaze?

I’m very sentimental, so our family photographs would be my main priority. I also own some special pieces of jewellery that were gifted to me by my mister on our first Christmas together and by my parents on my 21st birthday and graduation.

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In terms of procrastination, what are you doing, when you should be doing something else?

Instagram and Pinterest are definitely my obsessions lately and they tend to distract me very easily if I’m struggling for inspiration on a current project. Though it may sound silly, I like to look at it as ‘productive procrastination’ in that although I should probably be prioritising another project, I usually find myself much more focused and motivated after pinning some inspiring images or posting some pretty pictures. I’m sure that I’m not alone with that and it makes me feel less guilty, even if just a little…carenbarry_just-nice-

Food & drink: We like our food!

It’s been a long week, what’s in your glass (or mug) on a Friday night?

Southern Comfort and lemonade.

You have clients coming round, do you bake or buy in the treats to go with your tea/coffee, what are they and why?

I would more than likely bake a batch of some small treats. Sponge cakes like Madeleines and Chocolate Fingerellas or Langues de chat biscuits, Amaretti biscuits, Millionaires Shortbread and not forgetting my favourite, Macaroons. All quite simple yet so delicious and perfect to have with a cup of tea or coffee!

Music: What’s on your Studio Playlist?

Physical Track: The track that gets you up dancing or tapping your feet without fail.

‘The Wire’ by HAIM or ‘Closer’ by Rae Morris.

Inheritance Track: A track that you inherited from your parents or significant person in your childhood and who did you inherit it from?

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell. My sisters and I first heard this song while watching one of our favourite childhood films ‘Stepmom’. We watched this film every Christmas for years, so now whenever I listen to this track, it always evokes such fun memories of us singing along to this song on repeat for hours!

Emotional Track: The track that calms you down or gets you through when you’re just having one of those days.

‘Where Is My Mind’ by Sunday Girl.

Album: What’s your album of the moment, who’s on repeat for you right now?

Rae Morris, Birdy, Lianne La Havas, Ellie Goulding, KT Tunstall and HAIM are firm favourites on my playlist, but the album ‘Glorious’ by Foxes has been on repeat for me since I purchased it back in May.

Advice: A few pearls of wisdom here.

What is the best advice, you’ve ever been given?

It was either my art teacher at secondary school or sixth form, I can’t quite remember but both of whom had really positive influences on my creative confidence, just said “Look, look and look. Always look around you and you’ll be surprised by how much inspiration you can find”.

If you were starting out again now, what advice would you give your younger self?

Worry less about what others think of me, surround myself with inspiring people who genuinely care and make me laugh and do what makes me happy.

We like to hear about new and up and coming designer and artists, can you recommend someone new (or new to you) a ‘one to watch’ that you think is doing great/interesting/admirable things, that we should know about, and why do you like their work?

I’m being so indecisive that I can’t choose just one! Atelier Stella, Secret Holiday Co and Wildfield Paper Co are all talented designer/makers of the most beautiful ceramics, affirmation banners and paper products. I discovered them all on Instagram over the past year and I’ve developed quite a collection of their designs already! I love the unique, hand made quality to their work and I would certainly feel much less inspired without them brightening up my studio space!

And lastly, whose words inspire you, a quote to live life by?

My parents have always emphasised the importance of treating others how we ourselves would like to be treated, that kindness and generosity is a trait that will bring nothing but love into our lives.

This quote is a perfect sentiment – “Being generous of spirit is a wonderful way to live” – Pete Seeger.

I also love these quotes for their great affirmations.

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong” – Joseph Chilton Pearce.

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway” – Earl Nightingale.

“If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sun beams and you will always look lovely” – Roald Dahl.

If you want to find out more about Caren you can find her in all these lovely places:

Website : Blog : Facebook : Twitter : Instagram : Pinterest : Etsy : Folksy 


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