Interview: Michelle Fifis on The Sellable Sketch

In the last section of A Field Guide to Fabric Design I write about whether or not formal schooling in textile design is necessary to make it in the field. The short answer is no, but it’s an invaluable experience if you are able to enroll in a program. You will have the time set aside to concentrate on developing your artistic voice, have access to additional tools and resources, and perhaps most importantly, you’ll get advice and feedback from experienced professionals and benefit from a community of creative peers. Of course, we’re not all at a place in our lives where we can go to FIT or The California School of Professional Fabric Design! Fortunately, the wonders of the internet, met with the hard work and vision of textile designer and blogger Michelle Fifis, we can all participate in the next best thing: textile design e-courses. Michelle currently offers two courses through the site Camp Pikaland: The Ultimate Guide to Repeats and The Sellable Sketch: Developing an Irresistible Surface Design Collection. The Sellable Sketch is starting up again next week, on Feb. 6. And Michelle is joining me here today to answer some questions about the course. Below, I’ve also shared Michelle’s video introduction to the course. This girl thinks of *everything*, and my forum members highly recommend the class, so I do too!

Hi Michelle, and welcome! Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.

Sure Kim! I am a Portland, Oregon based designer who specializes in working one-on-one with clients to develop textile design collections. I work with clients in a variety of industries, but I specialize in and have a passion for the fashion industry. Over the past ten years I have worked with clients such as: Lucy Activewear, Jantzen Swimwear, Columbia Sportswear, P&B Textiles, and Floppy Products Inc. In 2010 I started Pattern Observer and I quickly fell in love with the textile design community! Through Pattern Observer I discovered a new passion: teaching and mentoring aspiring textile designers.

And please also tell us about Camp Pikaland — how did your relationship the wonderful Ms. Amy Ng begin and how has the Camp evolved?

Camp Pikaland is an amazing resource that Amy launched in 2011. It is basically an online classroom where students can take a variety of classes from anywhere in the world! Amy offers flexible, affordable courses that are perfect for designers who want to continue to learn, but do not have want the restraints of a traditional classroom setting. When I discovered what Amy was creating I immediately contacted her with several course ideas. This will be my third time teaching The Sellable Sketch and it just keeps getting better!

How does the class work? What can students expect, and what are the requirements time- and equipment-wise? Is it completely self-paced or do you have to be online at certain times?

Each week students receive a video tutorial, a workbook, and a few projects to work through at their own pace. They are free to post any questions that they have to the private forum and at the end of the week we have a live 90 minute project review and Q&A. Those that are unable to attend the Q&A can submit their questions beforehand and download the video at a later date. Students also receive wonderful tools such as a hand-dandy resource guide and The Sellable Sketch Next Steps guide which they can use after the course has come to a close.

The Sellable Sketch is packed with information and projects so I recommend that students set aside at least 3 hours each week for the development of their collection. Students just need a computer and internet access. It helps to have Illustrator and Photoshop, but it is not required. Many students choose to hand-paint their designs.

What will students learn from the Sellable Sketch?

Students learn a systematic method for creating irresistible surface design collections, which they can implement season after season. This includes discovering their personal style, identify their ideal customer, developing a theme to their collection and learning how to turn their sketches into digital prints in Illustrator and Photoshop. We also dive into color palette creation, print coordinate development, and elements that lead to a successful print collection. In addition to these tutorials I answer any and all questions about the industry and launching or improving an existing surface design business.

This course is a wonderfully supportive environment where long-lasting friendships are created. We even started a private Linkedin group for Sellable Sketch graduates to share successes, ask questions, network and stay in touch. I love it!

Thanks so much for stopping by, Michelle! I hope all you aspiring surface designers will sign up, I know it’ll be just the thing you need to go from dreaming to doing.


  1. Melissa says:

    What a great resource! I wish I would have known about this course a few years ago when we were starting out! Props to Michelle for creating something so beneficial to people wanting to learn more!

  2. Sondra says:

    Great info, Kim…as always!

  3. denise says:

    eee! I signed up for this class a few weeks ago – and when this post popped up in my reader I could not be more excited! Come on Feb 6th could you come a little quicker?