Meet Ty, the Surface Design Guy

You may recall a post on my Editor's blog when I mentioned meeting TV makeover show host and designer Ty Pennington, who has a new line of fabrics with Westminster Fibers.

I also hinted that we had something planned for him, and you'd find out more later.

Guess what? It's later!

Say hi to our new Studios cover guy!

Ty is super creative, very, very intelligent, and it was fascinating to listen to him talk about his design process and how he'll take a seed of an idea and turn it into something spectacular.

He said he was one of those unusual teenagers who sewed or embellished his clothes. And while he first made a name as a carpenter on his "Trading Spaces" gig, sewing and quilting have always played huge roles in his life.

What I loved was that, like me, he shares a passion for surface design, creating your own stamps, etc. On a 10-minute video on his website,, he describes his design process from noticing patterns on his travels and sketching or photographing them, to carving stamps out of wood, and photographing and playing with the stamped patterns in his computer.

Studios Editor Cate Coulacos Prato interviewed him about how his process and his new studio affect each other. Here is an excerpt of their interview.

CCP: What types of projects do you work on most in your studio? Do you mostly work on projects for "work" there or do you create for yourself? And, what do you create for yourself; what medium do you most enjoy?

TP: The studio for me is about conception. I create a lot of patterns-for wall coverings, for fabrics, for large art installations-and that's done in the studio. I also do most of the "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" room designs in my studio, drawing from the materials and resources I have stashed there. But most of the actual building or making of things I do is outside my own home or, if I'm experimenting with something maybe it's in my backyard.

For instance, when I conceived the designs for the fabric line a lot of the work was done on the computer in the studio where I could quickly access my photos and color decks. But once I had in mind what patterns I wanted I took it to the backyard where I did some experiments using paint–trying out different shapes with colors on canvas. Then back to the studio to play around with it before sending it off to Westminster. As for what medium I enjoy, there's no good answer for that. Right now I'd say it's playing around with fabric design, but tomorrow it could be sketching and painting. 

CCP: What prompts or strategies help you to be most creative/get in your creative zone?

TP: This might sound arrogant, but I'm always in my creative zone. Sometimes I need help focusing, but I never need help being creative. In fact, it drives people closest to me crazy. I'll be in a business meeting with my team and suddenly I'll stop the conversation–maybe we're talking about whether to drive or fly somewhere–and start making notes on a room design or sketching a pattern. I'll be walking to my table at a restaurant with friends and I'll see a light fixture or a plant or even a wine glass that catches my eye and I'll stop and take a picture and spend the rest of the evening thinking about that design and how it speaks to me. I've been this way all my life. It's a blessing and a curse, but it's who I am.

I'm sure many of you react the same way to the patterns and images you see all around you.

Ty shares more about how he creates and uses his studio space-as well as lots of pictures-in the Spring issue of Studios. If I were you, I would pre-order it now, because we expect a sell-out.

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