Interview With Aurora Fox, Student at the California School of Professional Fabric Design

If your fabric love has led you to the desire to design fabric for a living, you’re not alone. There are a few options to set yourself on that career path, and I hope to cover them all here on True Up. One option is the California School of Professional Fabric Design, a trade school located in Berkeley, California. Aurora Fox is a student there. She’s finishing up the program and currently in the middle of moving from the Bay Area to Oregon (she’ll commute south once a month or so to take care of business at the school). The program sounds absolutely dreamy — Aurora was kind enough to answer my questions and share some of her work.

All images in this post copyright Aurora Fox 2008, and used with permission.

True Up: Why did you decide to become a student at the school, and what was the admissions process like?

Aurora Fox: I have always wanted to design surface patterns for fabrics, but never knew where to go to learn the process. Then, I discovered through a friend — this school right where I live, The California School of Professional Fabric Design, but I didn’t have the money to attend. Then, my mother died and left me some money — so I decided to use the money for textile design school. (thanks! mom :-) I made an appointment, went in for an interview, and signed up at the end of the interview.

TU: How big is the school (physically) and how many students are there?

Aurora: The school is not really big — one large classroom, a gallery for student’s work, a library and office space. I am not sure how many students attend the school — classes run from about 12-30 students in size.

TU: What is the typical course sequence? How long does the program take?

Aurora: Each student takes six design classes. Each 12 class is weeks long, and then the student graduates into the Master Class, where one stays until the portfolio requirements are completed. How long the program takes depends on how fast you progress. Some students have jobs, and may take longer than a full time student who is not working. The classes last about two years, but I have been at the school three years and estimate I have about six months to completion. In addition to the weekly design classes, students take a sequence of computer classes geared toward textile design in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Also, in addition to the weekly classes, there are a series of weekend workshops to teach various painting techniques.

TU: What have been your favorite courses? Your least favorite, if any?

Aurora: I like them all, but really enjoyed the watercolor painting classes — the instructor was very good. I found the computer classes the hardest at first, but still liked the challenge of learning to be creative in a new way. I have really learned quite a few new painting techniques in the workshops.

TU: Do you do any hands-on production — batiking, screenprinting, painting, etc.?

Aurora: We learn to hand paint designs in several mediums — gouache, watercolors, dyes, crayons — but we do not create any designs on fabrics, only paper.

TU: It seems like digital textile printing technology is changing the face of the industry right now — is it addressed in the program? How is the technology viewed there?

Aurora: We learn the appropriate computer skills for working in the industry — and technology is viewed as a necessary and useful tool.

TU: What kind of skills did you have beforehand that helped you succeed?

Aurora: I have been an artist all my life, and in the 70s and 80s I was a handweaver — I taught weaving and spinning. I also knit, crochet, quilt, sew, create lace, do beadwork and embroidery, so I had an extensive background in fiber and textiles. I also have a background in printmakng and and painting, and had my own printmaking studio for several years. I have a BA in illustration and graphic design, but really no art experience is necessary to learn these techniques. The one skill I think helps one succeed is perseverance.

TU: What has surprised you to learn about the fabric design or the fabric industry?

Aurora: I was surprised that the practice of ripping off or stealing others designs was so rampant in this industry—and that copyright of one’s designs seems to not matter to people who do this.

TU: Do you have to do some sort of final project to graduate? If so, what will you be doing?

Aurora: We do have a final project, but you don’t get that assignment until you have finished everything else, so mine is still a mystery.

TU: How necessary is a program like this to becoming a working fabric designer?

Aurora: There are many designers out working who do not have the training we have when we graduate. When we graduate we are professionals who can put designs into repeats, create colorways with weighed in colors, create co-ordinates for a design, do precise color matching, and much more.

TU: What kind of job/employer is the program geared toward?

Aurora: This school has grads in so many fabric and paper companies all over the country! From Pottery Barn, to Gap, to Hallmark. The program is geared toward surface pattern design for fabrics, all paper products (wallpaper, wrapping paper, paper plates, scrapbook papers and so on), dishes, rugs — anything with surface pattern design.

TU: What is your dream job post-graduation?

Aurora: I would love to work full time for a company who prefers me to create handpainted designs. I enjoy creating on the computer, but I love painting — it’s my dream to get paid to design and paint all day ;-)

Check out Aurora’s blog, Foxy Art Studio, for more about her life, artwork, inspiration, and of course her progress toward graduation! And furthermore:

  • The California School of Professional Fabric Design is located at 2000 6th St., Berkeley, CA 94710, phone (510) 549-3051.
  • Article about CSPFD founder Zeida Rothman on bnet
  • Harmony Susalla of HarmonyArt is a graduate!
  • If you’re involved in a textile design program and want to be featured in an interview, please contact me!


  1. Baba says:

    Thanks for the inside look at Graphic Design School classes!

  2. pamela says:

    What a small world! Aurora is one of my classmates at the CSPFD. I’d only add one thing to all her wonderful information: personally I’m surprised at the amount of personal growth I’ve experienced in the program. Oh, and just in case anyone is asking, my dream job is to work for Westminster Fibers! :-D

  3. Loved reading this interview. Thanks for posting! Can’t wait to see what else you have in store in this vein.

  4. Natasha says:

    Thanks for this interview. Can’t wait to read more about designing fabrics.

  5. Laura Bucci says:

    Interesting. Thank you. It’s something I’ve been thinking about.

  6. Malinda says:

    I soo love the idea of that school! Is there a branch in Los Angeles. I’m so curious now!

  7. SarahB says:

    I had no idea there was such a school! Absolutely thrilling! Thanks so much for posting this interview!

  8. Kris says:

    It was interesting to hear from a student at the California School of Professional Fabric Design. I had inquired about the school last year and spoke to Zelda(the owner). It sounds like a really neat program! I have always wanted to do textile design! Unfortunately I live in Philadelphia and have 4 children so I can’t pick up and go to CA – I wish there were a school like that one here! If anyone knows of anything, please let me know! Thanks!

  9. Lynne Woods says:

    I too, looked into the school at Berkeley, which seems the best, but I live 8 hours away! I have found a program at Otis School of Art, in Los Angeles, near the airport. They have several fabric design classes each trimester, but are expensive if you want the professional certificate. I will probably sign up for one class ($385, non certificate), which starts in Feb 2009, and goes for 12 Saturday mornings. If anyone knows of any other programs, please let us know. I love the idea of the classes, but 3 hours of driving every Saturday will take it’s toll on me!

  10. sandie sing says:

    Thank you for sharing the info about the program.
    No one mentioned how much the program would cost.

    I wish they would have one in central California. I hate to drive to east bay every week.