This design had been in the back of my mind for a long time.

Inspired by the colours and textures of our beautiful Australian flowering gums and those cheeky, raucous, magnificently coloured Lorikeets – it seemed as though this work came together of its own will.

Now, normally I draw up designs with a pencil, rub-out, re-do then go over with a black felt-tip pen when I’m happy.

But this time my process was different.  And it really all came from wanting to use a blue and white tile-like design along with some elegantly free-flowing folk-art type motifs.  They were simply easier to work separately as I wasn’t really sure how or where I was going to use them – this way I could move them and assess as I worked.

I had taken some amazing photos of the flowering gum, its fruit and buds – these became my inspiration source.  I printed them off and traced around some of the shapes I found appealing, abstracting and simplifying them to suit my needs and the needs of my technique – free machine embroidery.

These little groupings I traced out onto paper, coloured with markers and cut out.  Then I reversed the paper and did the same again.  It was fiddly and time-consuming, but the beauty was that I could move them around to my heart’s content.  Those beautiful blue and white tiles were gorgeous, but I just couldn’t get them to work the way I had imagined.

Initially, my idea was to use the blue and white tiles as three focal points in the main body of the work with gum leaves, flowers and buds cascading over them – the colour contrast was amazing and I loved it, but found it hard to work other areas of the design around them.

The breakthrough came when I took away the idea blue and white tiles, allowing the main body of the design to be filled entirely with all my natural elements – the tile idea eventually became the border.  Finally, I was getting somewhere.

So I went back to the main design, drew out more flowers, fruit and buds, trying to make them look different by reversing them or only using small parts of the original tracings I’d made.

I can’t remember where the idea for using the folk-art motifs came from, but I employed them as guides to engage the eye to flow across the work.  I painted large pieces of paper in a greenish-yellow, drew the shape on the back and cut them out.

Now it was time to get serious.  Set with all my coloured, cut out motifs, I began working from left to right, completing small areas before moving on to the next, incorporating leaves in a variety of shapes and sizes as I worked.

The five lorikeets came last and were slipped in and around the design to look as natural as possible.

Working to scale enables me to ensure the design is unified and that it flowed like a beautifully gentle piece of music, and while my design process changed, the outcome was the same – a great design satisfying my very first concept – with a few tweaks along the way.

Isn’t that how good design should happen?

cathy jack coupland