The next in our series of interviews is with one of London's hottest surface designers Kei Maye. We've been working with Kei here at Giant Sparrows for just over a year now and her beautiful cases which contrast geometric layouts with organic imagery have been a huge hit! With her brand new range of tropical designs now available on our website, we spoke to Kei about designing for products and where she gets her inspiration from.
GS: Hey Kei, could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
KEI: My name is Kei Maye from London, and I create patterns and digital prints for various surfaces and textiles. I've been involved with multiple design disciplines over the years from graphic to web, but I've found what I truly enjoy, and where I'm meant to be.
GS: Where do you source your material to produce your images from?
KEI: I have various shots from my own archives that I have taken myself while on holidays or days out, and I purchase stock images from various websites.
GS: What importance do you place on searching the internet for inspiration vs. getting out and about with a sketchbook?
KEI: I feel it's important to allow yourself to explore as many different sources as possible! Sometimes sitting at the computer clicking away through pages expecting ideas to pop up can lead to nothing but red eyes, frustration and a series of blank documents.
I walk around with a little idea book, so I can scribble down or doodle any ideas no matter where I am, so I can tend to it when I'm in a position to. Even the smallest of words can lead to an entire collection of work.
Mood board by Kei
GS: Your designs have been applied across all sorts of products including trays, clocks, and one of our favourites, your 'BlingBox'. As a Surface Designer do you always design imagery with a particular product in mind?
KEI: When I'm making my prints, I don't tend to have any specific item in mind. I work in quite an organic way - I improvise and listen to whatever my mood is at the time. When the piece is finished, I visualise which mediums I feel they would work best on, and what I should apply them to. My more bolshy and tropical prints are more apparent on my clothing and accessories, whereas I've reserved the more earthy and subtle tones to interior pieces. It just happened naturally this way.
BlingBox in 'Biome' print by Kei
GS: Have you thought about branching out into producing custom made or personalised products?
KEI: I had considered it and actually practised it, getting involved in freelance projects while I studied, but I started to feel a little stifled and found it difficult to create pieces where I had not been given complete freedom to produce imagery in my own time. I explored other ways I could produce pieces and share them - which lead me to partnership with third parties, and the production of my prints on my own merchandise, available to the public.
GS: What advice would you give to a designer trying to get their work into stores?
KEI: Don't be shy! Also, don't place more emphasis on profit margins or too much emphasis on making money when you're just starting out. I featured my products on Society 6 for around a year, made a small percentage of each sale - but this website gave me great exposure and customers from all over the world, and got my work out there. Find stores that you feel could represent what you're about, and get in touch with them. You never know, they could love what you have to offer.
'IVOR' Fleece Throw Blanket and Woven Rug designed by Kei
GS: Your brand new phone case designs for Giant Sparrows are as sumptuously tropical as ever. Why do you think tropical themes are so on trend right now?
KEI: The hot weather brings out all the multi coloured ice lollies, the fluorescent flowers, colourful cocktails, fun and vibrancy. The mix of botanicals, wildlife and tropical scenery, reminds me of exotic beaches and dreamy destinations. Tropical prints are are uplifting, fun and perfect for the season, they bring the holidays to us. Which is great for those of us who can't always find the time to get away!
'Aysha', 'Scotch' and 'Toucan' phone and iPad mini case designs by Kei
GS: If you could have your designs reproduced onto anything, what or where would it be?
KEI: If you had asked me this a week ago, I would have said shirts, swimsuits and kimonos, but I've managed to achieve this with the help of the guys over at Print All Over Me. That said, I would love to have my prints featured on footwear! It would be great to broaden the selection of printed shoes currently available, and see the different ways people would style them.
'PANTHER Unisex T' by Kei
GS: What's next for Kei Maye?
KEI: I will be bringing out some printed fashion pieces for the remaining summer months and will continue to build on my collection of fabric design. I've started work on my autumn/winter themed prints and will be showcasing items I have never produced before. I'm going to continue to explore and have fun with my projects!
GS: Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us Kei, it was great chatting to you!
To get your hands on Kei's new phone case designs for Giant Sparrows click here.
To find more of Kei's work and inspiration you can check out her;