• Helen Ferguson

Rachael Does Design

Meet Rachael King of Rachael Does Design

Rachael is an Australian Surface Designer, Author and Creative.

She works in beautiful, vibrant water-colours, producing prints and fabrics that are almost edible.

Her book, Pattern Pulse, is a passion project that celebrates the world of Surface Design and the amazing Artists working in that space.

Rachael and I had a couple of false starts trying to get this interview underway.

I had inadvertently been trying to connect with completely the wrong human by Video Messenger, then both of us completely overlooked the fact that some of Australia’s States operate in different time-zones to each other, so 10am is a moveable feast!

Eventually we got ourselves in the right space, and it was worth the initial confusion.

She’s great company; packed to the brim with passion for her work as a Surface Designer and her development as an Artist.

Pleasingly, she’s also quick with a giggle.

Rachael is 50, born in Melbourne, moving aged 4 up to Brisbane, Queensland.

She’s the eldest of 4 children and joked that the eldest child is always the experiment, with parents learning the nuances of education, routine and discipline as they go.

She was quite independent and resourceful as the eldest, helping with her younger siblings, being a ‘mini-mummy’.

Hindsight shows her that this allowed her to grow into a pretty competent 10 year old!

What do you remember of being a young girl in 1970’s Queensland?

The 1970’s still had the expectation that daughters would be ‘good girls’ with pleasing behaviour.

I remember wanting to rebel against that and having to check myself sometimes.

My parents were not especially strict, they were just working within the accepted framework of the times.

Now I’m raising 3 daughters of my own and I’m pleased to see that some things have changed.

“We encourage our Daughters to express themselves and we stand proudly behind them when they do!”

What was the Cultural or Religious background of your family?

We’re Christian.

Mum is Catholic and Dad was raised Methodist, which has now become The Uniting Church of Australia.

The difference in their religions was quite contentious at the time!

Their marriage was a bit of a first in Queensland; they had the marriage service in one faith and a blessing of the marriage in the other.

On January 9th, 1971, that was a big deal!

I ask the question about Religious or Cultural upbringing, because I know how much my own Religious background has impacted on my Woman-hood, and I’m interested to understand what it means for other women.

We were raised in The Uniting Church of Australia.

It wasn’t over the top, we said Grace at mealtimes and attended Church on Sundays.

By the age of 15 I was able to make my own choices and dropped away.

I’m very grateful that I had that structure in my upbringing though, it exposed me to other ways of thinking and made me aware of how other people live.

I found belonging to a Church Community was a way to ‘be seen’, which a lot of people don’t have these days.

In the Church community if you needed help, it was there.

You recognised if people needed support, it taught us compassion.

Working Bees would swing into action, advice was available, there was always someone to turn to.

I’m glad I had that as my framework.

I can see the power and benefits of that type of community.

I’ve done a full circle with that way of thinking, because if ever there was a child who didn’t want to toe the line, it was me!!!

Who were the ‘Leader Women’ throughout your upbringing?

Most definitely my lovely Mum.

She’s a gentle Matriarch.

She doesn’t force her position on anyone, but you know that there's a subtle foundation that our family is built on and my Mum is the rock.

I had a very strong connection with my Mum’s youngest sister who is 5 years older than me.

I gravitated towards her.

I love all of my Aunts but my bond with her was very special.

There were some beautiful times that I shared with my Maternal Grandmother.

She’s another very gentle soul.

I learned as I was growing into adulthood that she'd had a very difficult life and that makes me sad.

When I compare my own life to hers, they are light years apart.

My sister and I were raised to become independent, strong women.

Rachael with her Mum, Ann and sister Narelle

How does your Mum react to this path that you’re ploughing for yourself as an Author, Designer, Businesswoman?

She’s very proud of me, and I love to share all of my news with her, but she tries to keep things very Mother-Daughter, because I think she’s worried that I take on too much.

Her way of loving me is to encourage me to look after myself and take it easier sometimes.

When things get busy for me I know she’s watching to make sure that I can handle things.

She has her ‘Stitch and Bitch’ sessions, which is Coffee, Embroidery and putting the world to rights.

It’s her community, and I know that she will be proudly telling those ladies what I’m up to.

Stitch and Bitch!!!

Is that an official thing?

‘Stitch and Bitch’ exists all over the world!

Mum’s S&B, has been running on Tuesday mornings for 10 years!

I think it’s amazing, and does them so much good, it reduces the need for Psychologist bills!

As you grew into yourself, what expectations or attitudes around women did you become aware of?

I was surrounded by the ‘At Home Mum’.

That was the norm of the time and place, it was rare that a woman worked outside of the home.

I was in the privileged position of coming home to my Mum at the end of my school day.

What I did pay attention to, was the division of roles.

My Mother grew up knowing what she was supposed to be doing, and rightly or wrongly,

that kept harmony in the home.

Our generation of women grew up expecting to do all of the chores in the home,

and that carried over, even when we stepped up into our education and applied for the jobs that would normalise Women working outside of the home.

We can ‘have it all’, but we have to ‘do it all’!

The boys that we grew up with saw women running the home and in general assumed that would continue to be the case.

The division of roles became muddy.

I hope that we are the last generation of women who have to do that juggle.

How have you prepared your daughters for this side of life?

My daughter's generation is approaching it very differently to us.

They draw a line and say, okay, if we are raising a family or running a home together, it has to be 50-50, we have to work together.

They are prepared to say ‘no, that is not what I do’.

My Daughters have watched me doing the juggling and I’ve warned them not to get caught up doing what I do.

I’ve warned them about taking on the ‘Mental Load’ of managing everybody and everything, of asking for things to be done and keeping track of endless to-do lists.

As women we take all of that on and it’s exhausting, but I don’t know how we get to a point where the mental load is shared.

How have your Daughters reacted to your career success?

Have they verbalised anything?

Definitely! I think I am quite a strong role model for them.

I was a late bloomer with my career.

We had our children when we were living overseas, and we decided that I would be an At-Home Mum.

It was very important to me to have happy, healthy children.

It made absolute sense, rather than paying huge childcare bills, so that I could commute to a job in the city.

It was a commitment that I was comfortable making.

My youngest child was in Prep when I decided, at 42 years of age, it was time to go after my career.

That was very new for them.

They saw me coming out of my shell and showing them what was possible!

They would tell me they were proud of me, and I am proud to be able to be that role model.

Where does your Artistic talent come from?

I get my creative side quite strongly from my Paternal Grandmother, she was an oil painter and a Creative.

I love that I can see a stream of creativity coming through the family.

Whilst my Mum is not an Artist, she’s a phenomenal Seamstress and Maker.

My Father is a Woodworker and Television Technician.

So we grew up with a ‘can-do’ attitude.

7 Year Old Rachael

What was your motivation or ambition growing up?

I was such a creative kid.

I was always doodling and drawing.

I lorded it over the Craft table!

Those skills came so naturally to me, and I loved it.

I remember kids like you!

I was the kid on the other side of the table gawking at the fabulous things you could produce with the same materials that I had!!

I vividly remember my friend getting a ‘Type Book’ from the Scholastic Catalogue at school.

I would go round to her house every weekend and spend hours poring over it,

meticulously practicing, drawing different fonts and script-types.

That book opened a whole world up to me.

The world of Type.

I would put together the most beautiful presentations.

All of my projects had intricate cover pages.

And that’s my job now!

It’s so interesting, we don’t go too far away from who we are meant to be.

What was your career path?

In hindsight I would have loved to get a Visual Arts Degree.

I was the poster child for Visual Arts!

I was offered a Jewellery Making Apprenticeship.

People were on the fringes trying to help me find where I fitted.

However, when I left school in 1988 I actually did a Bachelor of Commerce Degree at Griffith University!

The thinking back then was to do something that would get you a job and a decent wage.

I completely ignored my creative leanings to get a ‘sensible career’.

I am grateful for the trajectory that my Business Degree put my life on and the opportunities it gave me.

It’s helped me in so many ways, but it really wasn’t me.

So what happened?

At 42 It became time for me and my Career revamp and my whole heart was leaning towards Fabric.

My Mum used to have a Haberdashery Shop in the 90’s that I worked in at times and

all I ever wanted was to see my designs, my art, on Fabric.

All of these questions kept flooding into my brain;

How does that work?

How do I put my designs onto fabric?

Who has control of that?

How do I access all of that?

I was doing my research and the answer kept coming back to getting a Graphic Design Diploma, because then I would learn the necessary skills to get my analogue drawings and designs onto a computer.

The greatest gift for me was learning the Adobe Suite.

It changed my whole life.

All of a sudden I knew how to transfer my ideas into a digital format.

When you draw something on a piece of paper, it’s private or local.

If you transfer it onto a computer, all of a sudden you can share it with the whole world!

It allowed me to circle back to my whole childhood and development!

I began to understand that not everybody experiences Art or Design the way that I do and that it was a beautiful gift that I had.

What have been the highlights of this new phase?

Oh! Every moment, from 42!

I have not missed a beat.

I hit the ground running after gaining the Graphic Design Diploma.

I began work as a Graphic Designer, my bread and butter was producing logos, websites, Branding packages.

My income from that allowed me to continue learning and developing into the Surface Pattern Designer that I wanted to be.

I was doing on-line courses; I became part of an international community of Surface Designers.

I travelled over to New York to check out the scene, and just knew that they were my people!

For the last 7 years I have just had my head down, building my collection, making the connections and it has all culminated in these amazing career highlights of me writing the book.

‘Pattern Pulse’

And also having a collection of patterns on fabric that are now being worn as garments out and about walking down the street!

That must be so cool, seeing a fabric that you have designed, coming down the street towards you! Has that actually happened?


That was the ultimate dream for me and it’s happened!

It’s quite surreal.

That a person has gone and selected that particular fabric, taken it home and made clothing from it,

and there they are in public, wearing it in front of me!

It made me aware of a whole community of sewists and makers who are so passionate about patterns and making clothing.

They follow people like me and they know when a new collection of fabrics and patterns are coming out.

Because I grew up in that world, I spoke their language, it’s amazing.

All my worlds collided.

Launching her Tropical Fabric range at Spotlight 2017

Tell me about your book ‘Pattern Pulse’ and how you came to write it.

I keep an ideas book, and Pattern Pulse came to me as a fully formed idea.

The entire concept for the book was so clear to me, I even designed a logo for it at the time!

It dropped out of my head and onto the page, but then I put it aside for 4 years.

I read Elizabeth Gilbert's book ‘Big Magic’ and she suggests that ideas exist, visiting Creative people’s minds and filtering through them.

The idea might stick around for a while and the Creative may or may not do something with it, but eventually the idea will move on and visit someone else.

That brought me to a moment when I had to ask myself

‘Would it make me sad if I don’t make this book?’

I had a huge physical reaction to the thought of not doing the book.

It was grief and loss and phenomenally upsetting.

From that moment, I was fully committed to doing it.

That was December 2019.

By 15th September 2020, I had the finished book in my hands.

You got it done!

It was a huge task, like a Marathon.

I had to break it down into smaller tasks, and approach it that way.

My gift in life is being observant around other Creatives and Makers.

In my childhood I would see other people getting things done, making things achievable, so I operate on that frequency.

For those 4 years I had the idea but didn’t believe I was the right person, but once I decided to get on with it and I had the self-belief, it was do-able.

The Universe was saying “It’s time for your idea now Rachael”.

From the moment I committed, things opened up and started happening.

People said yes to requests.

Help was offered.

Hurdles were not actually hurdles.

Preconceived problems had solutions.

I got quite suspicious, wondering when something was going to go wrong.

I'd assumed I would need publishing experience, financial backers, lots of connections;

it turned out, once I committed to it, I was the right person for the idea after all.

I couldn’t imagine selling even 500 copies but It’s sold 1800 copies so far!


What has the reaction to the book been?

The world just keeps saying yes to it!

People love it for their own reasons, they react to a piece of art in there, or they love a story from a Designer.

Someone said it was like a breath of fresh air.

It just shows me that it was a book that was needed, it was an idea that had to be acted upon.

So are you now living a life that you imagined?

If someone had said to me “What would you do if you quit your day job?’

I was always quite limited in what I imagined.

I assumed I would be running a Craft business, or an Art shop, something like that.

It turns out I needed to be the Artist!

'Emerald Hummingbird' - Rachael's best selling fabric on Spoonflower.com

Are there women who have inspired you in your career?

I heard a lovely story in my 20’s from my Mum, about a Doctor that she had to go to see.

Sitting in the waiting room, she saw these breathtakingly gorgeous quilting artworks, displayed on the walls.

She commented on them to the Doctor when she went in and met her.

The Doctor said ‘Oh, that’s me! That’s what I do with my creative time.’

That was the first time that I’d heard of that; really professional women with serious jobs who needed their creative outlet.

I thought it was wonderful and it almost gave me permission to pursue that side of my personality.

Of course we’re not all one thing or another, we can have multiple sides.

So what comes next for you?

My mind and my creativity is the best it has ever been right now, in my 51st year.

I see myself building community as a Mentor and an Educator.

I get butterflies in my tummy when I think about teaching!

I’ll be teaching some Bootcamps and sharing my experience and knowledge with students.

My vision is of having a beautiful big Studio, with space for large scale works on canvas, a Potters Wheel for fun. I can just move from one space to another and work on what I feel like that day.

Aussie Birds greeting card - Licensed by John Sands

What about Book Number 2?


I have got my wish list of Artists.

I will be reviewing that and approaching people, offering them a spot in the book.

I will ask them for samples of their Artworks and their Biographies.

I learned a lot from the first book; this time I will be bringing in a paid employee to help me much earlier in the process.

That should help lessen my stress.

In an ideal world it should be released in September 2022!

What assumptions do you think people might make about you?

I think people assume that they can trust me as I have an open, friendly nature.

In the Art World, I am still very much in the trenches, digging away, working hard and building community. Given that, I think people know that they can approach me and depend on my unbiased advice.

What do you wish people understood about Middle Aged Women?

That we still think that we are 22 and we still love having fun and laughing!

I’m lucky that I hang around Young People with my daughters, so I hear lots of younger ideas and concepts.

I do think the conversation around ageing needs to change though.

It can be very limiting, and I’m not interested in that, I’ve got stuff to do.

Rachael wearing her own print as a Bomber Jacket made by @scarlettbirdhandmade

Is there anything about being our age that drives you bonkers?

Oh, the aches and pains frustrate me.

Honestly, I would sit at this desk and work for 10 hours straight if I could, but my body won’t let me.

I must get up and move, do the stretches and the Yoga, take the multivitamins.

The gift I give to myself is to look after my body so that I can feed my creativity.

What is your Superpower?

I am very good at reading the room and the emotional energy in it.

I’ve always been able to pick up on things that people might be going through.

Another side of that is that I am very good at recognising other people's work, spotting their artistic styles.

That was very helpful when I was putting together the list of Artists for my book.

Annabel Trends products using a Rachael King print

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

Oh! That beautiful girl.

She had no idea that she just needed to let go of what everybody else thought.

She was so wrapped up in pleasing everyone else and deferring to everyone else.

She had no idea of her potential.

She had to go out into the world to find out that she was a bit different and that was okay.

My advice to her would be to get out there and do her own thing.

Is there anything about Womanhood that I haven't asked, that you wish that I had?

One of the things that really bothers me is the extraordinary amount of pressure on women to do all of the things.

I never felt it more than when I had young children, the demands on young women with families, to wrestle everything together and keep it working, are immense.

We need to put more resources into supporting their mental health and give practical help to Young Women.


You can learn more about Rachael King's stunning work and perhaps buy some of her printed pieces over at her website


Learn more about her beautiful book 'Pattern Pulse'

at www.patternpulse.com.au

If you would like to stay up to date with Rachael on Social Media, follow her and her work on:




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