Cecilia Mok is a celebrated artist and surface designer, her prints represent the whimsical and natural world. Cecilias work has a narrative and tells stories through movement, colour and illustration. A print may tell a magical story of musical mermaids deep below the ocean surface or evoke the smell of spring blooms and the sound of chirping birds. One thing is true to all of Cecilias work, it is beautifully executed. I was delighted to learn more about Cecilias inspiration and life as a designer.
What path did you follow to becoming a surface designer?
I studied fashion design at East Sydney Tech and my favourite subjects were textile print and design. I learnt how to create repeat prints with paper and scissors, and make silkscreen prints. Trying to be practical, I started working as a graphic designer in an apparel company, learning Illustrator and print design. After having a break to have kids, I was always hunting for sewing fabric and became inspired to create my own. It was a good opportunity to finally dive into surface design.
What are your favourite techniques to use in pattern design?
I love experimenting with different materials and exploring various techniques. I always begin with simple pencil sketches to get down my initial thoughts and ideas. These drawings might be transferred to watercolour paper to be painted in watercolours or gouache if I want to maintain a hand-painted finish. If there is a focus on linework, I can capture the energy of a stroke with my Kuretake brush pen which maintains the organic nature of drawings. With a completely digital artwork, I will scan my initial sketches and redraw them in Illustrator, allowing me to play with an endless colour palette.
You tend to create a series of designs as part of a mini collection, what inspires you for each of these collections?
One feeling or memory expressed is at the heart of a mini collection. A hero print starts the foundation. It might be based on a childhood memory or the feeling of a pattern from my mum’s handmade clothes for us. It could be the seed of an idea for a magical narrative, mythical flora or creatures and fantasy gardens. The incredible gamut of colours in our world can send me off into an exploration of capturing light peeking through overlapping leaves and petals, or the beauty of elements arranged like stained glass.
What does a normal day in Cecilia Mok look like?
Mornings are busy making breakfast, preparing lunchboxes, and doing the school run. At the studio, my day is broken down into time blocked windows to make sure I attend to each aspect of my creative business. The work is a mix of client commissions and licensing, my surface design and painting, and personal art projects. I make time to just play with ideas and materials without an outcome. It feels incredibly free to experiment and explore. I am also taking time to enjoy books on creativity, mindfulness and living. These activities greatly enrich my work by filling up the artistic well. My days also include yoga and pilates which gives me pause to focus on the moment and being present in each facet of my life. In the evenings I love to cook and have dinner together as a family while we recount our daily highlights. We end the day quietly reading together.
Is there a particular collaboration you are most proud of?
I was honoured to be included in Modern Fabric, a book about international fabric designers, by Abby Gilchrist and Amelia Pool. It was a wonderful opportunity to share my journey, inspirations, studio and thoughts about modern artisan design. I was thrilled to be featured alongside incredible artists like Bari J. Ackerman, Jen Hewett, and Holli Zollinger.
You have a vast array of print designs, do you have a favourite?
There’s a handful of designs close to my heart because they were passion projects. I didn’t create them with a commercial eye, and when a client or customer chooses that print, I feel a secret thrill that they really understand who I am! Some of those personal designs are The Wild Swans, Wonderland Flowers, and Wholehearted.