Behind the Scenes: Pattern Design with Caitlin Alderfer

We are so excited to work with famed illustrator and Surface pattern designer, Caitlin Alderfer! We sat down with Caitlin to ask her some questions so you could get to know a little more about the designer behind our scrumptious patterns! 

Caitlin Aldefer London

Tell us a bit about your background.

I've loved to draw and paint since I was a child, and ultimately studied Fine Art at Sewanee: The University of the South, with an emphasis on painting and collage, in undergrad, along with a minor in Psychology, but I didn't really know what I wanted to do with it. After graduation I moved back home to the DC area and spent a year or so working as a personal stylist, but as much as I love fashion, I missed the creation process. This led me to Atlanta and a 2 year portfolio program in Graphic Design at The Creative Circus. I landed the "dream job" as a graphic designer at Coca-Cola, but found myself designing watercolor wedding stationery on the side as a creative outlet. My love of painting, fashion and graphic design then all led me to 5 years working for a product design company designing their prints and patterns for new products, and really helped me come full circle in using all my skills! I'm thrilled to now work for myself full time so I have the opportunity to work with various brands who align with my artistic style, where we can work together to create beautiful new things.

 What is your process when working with clothing designers?

I like to get to know the company as much as possible, understanding who their customer is and what their core values are so I can be sure we align, and that I can bring forth their vision in the best way. This comes through research and talking with the Creative team, discussing any visual references they are inspired by and creating an inspiration mood board. From there I try to just keep the dialogue as open as possible, showing sketches and ideas as I work, and I think this ultimately leads to the best final designs! I like to think it's a collaborative process.

 Who are some of your favorite fashion designers? Who have you drawn inspiration from in the past?

Oh, the list is so long, but I've always loved a mix of both classic, elegant design as well as those who use bold colors and prints in their work. I'm inspired equally by both! I've always loved Diane von Furstenberg for her ability to combine classics with bold prints, and I'm obsessed with everything Stine Goya and Gorman put out. Strong, bold women, all around. I really pull inspiration from everywhere, but especially art and historical interior design. I received a beautiful coffee table book of Zuber wall murals for Christmas last year and look at it often.

How did you connect with Cake for Dinner?

As I mentioned earlier, I spent 5 years working for a product company in Atlanta, Mud Pie, and during my time there I got to know and work with so many talented women. One of those women was Mallory, who had left Mud Pie to work for herself, and ultimately became CFD's Creative Director. We had kept in touch throughout the pandemic, and when she reached out letting me know about this new brand I was so excited to work together.

Tell us about the process to design the two Cake for Dinner patterns.

These prints were both so much fun to create. I've loved traditional toile patterns for a long time, so in brainstorming the desert toile, I knew I wanted to combine some architectural elements and vegetation, to give a sense of place, with various animals. Joshua Tree was a major source of inspiration, so I researched plants, animals and homes that might be found there, and once I decided on the elements, I had fun bringing them to life artistically, and then creating the pattern itself. Making a repeat pattern is sort of like a puzzle, trying to balance letting the elements flow from one section to another, while still paying attention to white space. I absolutely love how this one turned out, and am itching for a Joshua Tree trip now.
The floral was more of a free-flowing process, where I wanted to start with an idea of the color palette before I painted, but otherwise left a lot of it to come out as I painted. I always try to look at as many photos of different types of flowers as I can while I work, so I can reference different shapes and angles, but this one really just flowed out of me. The hard part came after I painted, because then I had to scan them and digitally figure out how the pattern would all fit together. That print feels very joyful to me, and I tried to make sure the pattern kept that vibrancy and fun.


Follow Caitlin on Instagram at @caitlinalderfer!