Textile Design Lab

Design Heroes: Yayoi Kusama

We are delighted to kick off a new monthly post series for 2021, created by Lab member Stephanie Chauvel (@stephanie-chauvel here in the Lab, @sc_patterndesign on Instagram.) Inspired by Lesson One of The Sellable Sketch where students are asked to identify and “walk in the shoes” of their favorite design hero, Stephanie brought to us the brilliant idea to focus on a different design hero each month as a group here in the Lab. Take it away, Stephanie!


This project aims at celebrating women in art and at finding inspiration from famous women artists from different schools of art and different media uses. The idea is to learn from them, their life, their struggles, their time, their technique, use of color, sensibility and to propose a new vision, a personalized interpretation of their art/works and of how we relate to them today, or how we would make them today with current colors, trends, vision of the world and ourselves.

For each hero, we suggest you first start with an image search on Pinterest, in books, on the internet, etc. and then make a “backbeat” or mood board either for a collection or a single pattern inspired by this artist. You may wish to read from their bio to learn more about them to aid you in designing a pattern or a collection inspired by the artist’s life, their techniques, colors…even a single motif, or one small aspect of the artworks…anything!

Just like with Chelsea’s Challenge, Lab members are free to participate or not each month, and you can post on the new Design Heroes forum if you need help or feedback along the way. We also encourage you to share your work on Instagram using hashtags to spread the word about women artists and about the TDL community. Suggested hashtags can be found below.

We hope you find this to be a light and fun moment in a month, a parenthesis in our busy lives to explore and nourish our creativity. Let’s get started with the first challenge!




This month we will be taking a walk in Yayoi Kusama‘s shoes!

Yayoi Kusama needs no introduction, but here are a few key words, images and links to reconnect!

  • Born in Japan in 1929.
  • Movement: Pop art, Minimalism, Feminist Art, Environmental Art
  • Media: Paintings, drawings, installations, performances, sculptures, fashion, novels
  • Reading from her biography in Wikipedia a few key words: polka dots, infinity nets, pumpkins, flowers, mental health, art as coping mechanism, hallucinations, traumatic childhood, self-obliteration, infinity mirror, obsessions, accumulations, repetitions, infinity, quiet cosmos, enveloping, fashion, collabs with luxury brands, exhibitions all over the world, site specific installations and sculptures…


To help you with walking in her shoes:

  • Does art help you coping with life? In what way?
  • What are you attracted to in her work and why?
  • Among the key words which resonate with you? How?
  • What would you create that would make her happy and that would also resonate with you, your style, your hand?
  • If you were to walk in her shoes, what would you be drawn to create?
  • Without copying what are you drawn to design that still evokes her artistic style?
  • What inspires you in her work? In her life?
  • Or: Envision that you are Yayoi Kusama and a museum contacts you to create an installation/exhibition/site specific work–what would you do? (With all due respect and in total humbleness of course!)
  • Go beyond your comfort zone! Stretch your limits.


The three boards above can be used individually or in tandem to help inspire your pattern or collection. You may wish to dig deeper into just one aspect of Yayoi Kusama’s art such as pumpkins, or to take a broader approach with her aesthetic. All of the images used in the boards were found via Pinterest and there is lots more to be found there!


If you are not feeling inspired to walk in Yayoi Kusama’s shoes, consider this alternative: You are asked by a museum to create a collection of patterns for stationery notebooks or textile prints to become tote bags/T-shirts for the museum shop. What would you create?

http://yayoi-kusama.jp/e/goods/index.html (see the goods section)

Also: https://store.moma.org/prints-artists/featured/yayoi-kusama








The Wikipedia page has great links:








Please post your backbeats and patterns to the Design Heroes forum and feel free to share these on social media as well using any or all of the following hashtags:

#textiledesignlab #textiledesignlabmember #textiledesignlabcommunity #patternobserverstudio #designheroes #yayoikusama #thesellablesketch #creativity #inspiration

Have fun!

January 11, 2021

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