Casey Saccomanno's nature inspired patterns have the delicate strength of an aged book of pressed flowers. As an independent print and woman's wear designer, she seeks to bring the outside in - taking a natural, handmade approach to anything she creates. Photographer and musician Jonathan Chu met up with Casey in Brooklyn, NY to chat about corporate struggles, internet friends, and that freelance hustle.
Hey Casey, why don't you start by telling us about where you grew up.
I grew up in the Southern New Jersey area, about 25 minutes from Philadelphia. The fondest memory I had growing up in South Jersey is when my dad lived on a houseboat in Margate and I would spend a lot of time at the beach year-round. There were breathtaking views of the marsh and bay area and it was absolutely beautiful during sunrises and sunsets. I loved taking walks on the beach in the summer and winter with my Jack Russels.
How was your college experience?
I attended Philadelphia University for 4 years and received a bachelors of science in fashion design. The best experience in college for me was studying abroad in Rome, where I was able to explore a different culture that's full of art and design inspiration. My education focused on the construction of clothing and fine arts; I learned all my computer/photoshop skills after school at my first job.
How did you end up in Brooklyn?
I lived in Manhattan for 6 years before moving to Greenpoint, Brooklyn about 3 years ago. I feel Brooklyn has a more relaxed casual vibe compared to Manhattan and my neighborhood has a lot of like-minded creative people.
What was your first job after school?
I accepted my first job at New York & Company as a Woven Tops and Embellishments designer. My second job was at a small company that sold to a department store where I designed a line called Nurture. This is when my fashion design skills led me to discover my passion for textile/print design for clothing. At this job, I got to design the garments as well as the textile patterns for the fabric. It allowed me to teach myself how to take my hand painted artworks and translate them into repeating textile patterns.
How did you transition from a full time corporate job to freelancing?
About a year ago, I realized I wanted to have more time to work on small, creative projects instead of just focusing all of my creative energy on one clothing line. A full- time corporate job can sometimes keep a designer from exploring creative projects and opportunities due to long work hours. I left my job in August 2015 and took a few months to paint, create, and learn skills that would help me to land some small freelance jobs.
Do you work out of a studio? Your apartment?
I currently work on freelance projects out of my apartment and also work at Maurice's in their Manhattan office a few days a week as a freelance Print/CAD designer. When I have freelance crochet projects I love to work in a nearby coffee shop for a change of atmosphere.
Do you ever get weird looks for that? Or is that crocheting in coffee shops a common occurrence in Brooklyn?
I have had people ask me what I am working on and interested in the project, but I haven't noticed any weird looks - then again I am usually looking at my yarn and crochet hook so maybe I don't notice any weird looks!
Do you find being experienced in multiple mediums beneficial for freelancing?
Yes! Of course, I feel like the more mediums I am able to work in, the more marketable I am to potential clients and the more interesting the end product becomes.
I think there is a value to hand created work, so many products and designs are created directly on the computer these days and often the work lacks a organic, unique feeling that can be achieved from hand painting. I try to constantly teach myself new skills and keep ahead of industry trends.
Also, do you find working in multiple mediums healthy for you on a creative level?
Working in multiple mediums allows me to be the most productive with my time. I like to alternate drawing- to painting- to working on photoshop- to crocheting.
I'd like to push the boundaries on working with many mediums even more, in the near future I aim to create a textile collection that combines printed fabric with embellishments like beads and crochet on the surface to bring even more dimension to the fabric.
How has social media impacted the proliferation of your work?
After I left my full time job, social media was my outlet to show the world what I am able to create. I joined Instagram, Society 6, and Skillshare only nine months ago and these websites were the best places for me to find a community of creative people living all over the world. I've actually gotten most of my freelance projects through networking on Instagram!
Do you ever find it strange to work with people you've only met over social media? Or do you enjoy the process?
I don't find it strange at all, technology allows us to easily connect and clearly communicate with people living on the other side of the world. I currently design prints for Threaded Earth, a bohemian brand based in Australia. The founder Lisa Maree and I met through Instagram and even though we never met in person we have a very similar design aesthetic and live by similar core values.
What specific imagery do you cull your inspiration from?
I relish in a handmade approach to design, nothing should be created by only looking at a computer screen, and I am very connected to nature, the environment, the universe, and animals. I am drawn to imagery that shows off that beauty- it provides me with so much color, texture, and organic shapes to take inspiration from.
Traveling all over the world is also inspiring to me, nature looks different every place I travel and I pull inspiration from photos I take. I even bring my small watercolor set to paint when I travel.
I love this quote: "Distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity. When we get home, home is the same. But something in our mind has been changed, and that changes everything." -Jonah Lehrer
Any last words of advice for freelancers?
I think networking is so important for any freelancer, the best way to start working on new projects is to put your work/ideas out into the creative community and show people your potential.
As an emerging artist it can be really intimidating to compare yourself to other artists and what they have accomplished. There are so many talented creative people in this world, but I really do believe every artist has a story that makes them unique and that will help helps bring great opportunities to them. Don't compare yourself to others, just do your thing, follow your heart, and good things will come! (insert peace sign emoji here)
Shop Casey Saccomanno's work here: