Becoming Danika Herrick
My company is Danika Herrick, Inc., I’m a Surface Pattern Designer located north of Boston, MA and I create and design fabric and wallpaper.
What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator, maker, business person, educator, etc.?
Designer seems to be the “umbrella” that covers everything I do. I’ve worn a lot of hats from Interior Designer, Decorative Artist, to Surface Pattern Designer. I am always “designing” something!
Where did you grow up? Were there aspects of your childhood that have influenced what you do now?
I grew up in a little town called Highland Mills, NY. It was about an hour north of NYC.
My parents always encouraged my sisters and I to be creative. This was during the 70’s and 80’s- so we would use whatever resources we had and put on neighborhood plays, had fashion shows (our entire line was made from Shop-Rite paper bags, staples and tape) and had plenty of entrepreneurial endeavors like selling grapevine wreaths and painted rocks to the neighbors. I think our neighbors hid when we would come knocking!
Our house was always under construction, and my love of DIY stemmed from this. My Mom would come up with the design and My Dad would build it. In 1st grade I asked my teacher if I could go home because my Dad was digging a foundation and I would much rather be doing that.
We also took lots of art classes. To this day I am so grateful my Mom encouraged us to do this because it really helped to build my confidence. It also fostered my love of learning. When I find myself stuck or not knowing how to do something I will seek out answers on Google or Skillshare.
Oh, one more thing that shaped me was that my parents would drag us to antique stores, flea markets, and the family trips were more Colonial Williamsburg than Disneyland. While we weren’t thrilled as kids they definitely made an impression. I find my patterns have a nod to the past and timeless design, and all the years of staring at shelves and shelves of Flo-blue plates and ginger jars can be seen in my work. Thanks Mom and Dad!
What did you dream of becoming when you were younger?
A Nun! I went through a phase when I was about 3 or 4. I would dress up in rosary beads and shrouds of lace doilies. My Mom had a bag of big of vintage crocheted table runners she bought at a yard sale and I would wrap myself in them and make my own habit. She was a great sport, and I went everywhere dressed in my elaborate headdresses and beads for a while.
What is your educational background and how has it shaped or changed your current career?
So despite having a really creative childhood and always taking art classes, I went to college for Biology. I loved AP Bio in highschool and thought “I’m good at this. Maybe this is what I am supposed to do”. Fast forward to the end of my sophomore year. I had lasted one day as a Biology major. The long 5 hour labs killed it for me. I bounced from Communications to Psychology, and finally took a required elective art class. It felt natural. I was plugged into my creative side, but also terrified! How was I going to make a career out of this? The stereotype of being a starving artist haunted me. I called my Mom in tears one day, afraid of failing and that I had no idea what I was doing. All my friends seemed to know what they wanted to do. She was so supportive and calmly told me that I have always been creative and what works for one person isn’t going to work for me. If I was passionate about something, I needed to pursue it.
Have you ever made a big career switch? If so, what prompted that? Are there aspects of a prior career that you incorporate into what you do now?
My career feels like a long road full of forks… I have had several career changes but they felt really fluid and natural. One would lead me to the next. My first job was working as a Decorative Artist in New York. I got to work on so many beautiful spaces and I really became bitten by the world of interiors. I wanted to do more than just paint the walls and floors, and I went back to school in Boston to study Interior Design.
While in school I had a few internships with fabric companies and fell in love with patterns- but it would be a while until that seed would sprout. I worked as an Interior Designer for two decades and during that time I met so many inspiring people and had lots of little side projects from blogging and starting a fretwork company. I discovered Spoonflower while I was blogging and was instantly smitten. I had always wanted to create a fabric collection, and here was this platform that allowed me to design, print and sell my own patterns.
I had to brush up on my Photoshop skills and learn how to put my artwork into seamless repeats, but I would spend all my free time from 2011-2014 doing this. I began creating collections and designs were selling. I slowly added more and more designs and it suddenly became my full time business. I retired from interior Design in 2012 and gave it my full attention.
How do you make social connections in the creative realm?
I have made so many great friends through Instagram and Zoom. I am an introverted-extrovert, and very content to be alone and work, but when I find like minded creatives I am so excited! Quite often I will be DM-ing with someone and it will lead to a Zoom chat with drinks.
What is your workspace like? Has it changed at all since the beginning of the pandemic last year?
I work from home and have slowly taken over several rooms in our house. I have a main office on the first floor where I do my painting and computer editing, and I took over half of our guest room as a studio space where I store all my art and sewing supplies. Designing patterns requires testing out scale and color, so the surfaces of our home are my constantly changing canvas.
Describe some habits that keep you motivated and productive. How do you climb out of a creative slump?
Do one thing and do it well. I have a highly distracted ADD brain, and I love to multitask and do ALL the things, but it’s usually at my own demise. I would always find myself with so many unfinished projects and just feeling overwhelmed as many creatives do. I looked at my strengths and weaknesses and realized I was great at hyperfocusing on things I enjoyed. I did a little experiment and decided I would just focus on fabric design for a month. I drew, took classes, expanded my website- and almost immediately I saw so much growth! I also felt less chaotic. I realized that while I was good at doing several things at once, I was great at doing just one. To this day, I really try to map out that one thing I want to accomplish- and if I get in a slump I take a class and learn something new. That almost always triggers new ideas.
What is a typical day like for you?
Monday- Friday are all business and then I try to go off the grid Saturday and Sunday. The weekends are when I am my most creative because there are less distractions- it’s when I paint and create the artwork fo my designs.
My average day starts with a pot of coffee and getting my emails and custom design requests organized and prioritized. I am a paper list maker so I like to plan my day and cross things off as I go. Once I get through that I will Photoshop and work on digitizing my artwork. Working from home is great, and I love what I do, but I can easily get lost in it. Quite often I sit down with my coffee and suddenly I’m like “how is it already dinner time?”
What is one skill you wished you learned when you were younger?
Delegating and time management. I am just the worst, but I am trying!
Nobody likes to talk about it, but can you share any advice regarding financing your business?
Grow slowly and organically if you can. I hate debt and try to avoid taking loans or racking up my credit card if it’s not absolutely necessary. As I’ve grown and made extra money I reinvest in myself. Start with what you need, you will always have wants (for me its art supplies and better computers or software)- just don’t put yourself into debt if you don’t need to. I set yearly financial goals for myself and when I hit them and have the extra money, I treat myself to that “want” as a reward.
What do you hope to accomplish within the next 10 years?
My goals include collaborations with a few of my favorite designers as well as creating a resort wear collection. Besides feeling like I work 24/7, I also have a husband, 2 teenage sons and a dog. My goal is to get better with my time management and be able to spend more quality time with them. Both boys are both really creative. The older one produces music and has had songs on Billboard and the younger one is an amazing artist/ entrepreneur so I am really excited to see what the future holds for them and the paths they take!