Elizabeth Olwen is a Canadian print and pattern designer living in Lisbon, Portugal. She prides herself on creating highly considered patterns infused with heart and soul, with the intention of spreading beauty, of amplifying joy. Inspired by the world around her—from dense Canadian forests, to the colors and tiles of Lisbon, to her frequent travels—Elizabeth’s work is is driven by the desire to leave something beautiful behind with every step she takes. You can find her work around the globe, on products from decor to paper to fabric to bedding for clients like Cloud9 Fabrics, Crate + Kids, Tokyu Hands Japan, Mixbook and many more.
How did you get started in illustration? Do you have a background in the arts?
I actually went to school for graphic design and was always trying to sneak patterns and illustration into my work. I realized, after working for over 10 years, that I was a GOOD designer, but I had this fire in my belly — I felt like I might actually be GREAT at something else. So I took a creative sabbatical and went to Berlin for 3 months, and got up every morning to work on something creative. I quickly fell deeply in love with pattern and illustration, and I went back home knowing exactly what I wanted to do, and the rest is history. Sooo grateful that I found my path! It’s never lost on me how amazing that is.
How did you end up living in Portugal?
I just had one of those moments when everything kind of let go. I’d just ended a long-term relationship, and had been designing a work model that was remote for so long but not really taking advantage of it. I’ve always loved to travel, and I was travelling in Europe when it hit me that I was so free, and fortunate to have that freedom, so I decided I better take the leap before anything grabbed my ankle. I returned home to Canada, and 6 weeks later I was living in Portugal. I gave it 6 months to make sure I loved it (I did!) and then I went back and sold all of my belongings. It was one of the most freeing, liberating things I’ve ever done.
Where do you go for inspiration?
My work comes from the heart, and the way I synthesize the world around me. Since moving to Portugal and adapting to a slower pace of life, I’ve really been able to stop and smell the proverbial roses, to see the world around me with fresh eyes and to really absorb what is happening in my own life and celebrate the evolution of my life and my inner self. There is so much to celebrate and my work is inspired by the wonder I experience when I really open my eyes to all of it.
Tell us about your top 5 favorite things at the moment:
Deep soul connections, drawing with my Posca markers, morning practice at my yoga studio in Lisbon, chocolate-chili tea, and Michael Pollan’s new book on the healing powers of psychedelics! It’s fascinating.
What's next for your brand, any exciting collabs?
It’s always evolving and I love what I do more and more every day. It’s so fun to have a job that can change and evolve along with my own life. My eyes have really been opened to the state of our glorious but suffering planet so I’m really excited to be doing more and more collabs that have values rooted in sustainability. My goal is to leave the world a more beautiful place than I found it, so I’m really excited to be spreading beauty with brands who are conscientious of that.
Thank you for sharing with us Elizabeth! Your story and designs are equally inspirational, we can't wait to see more of your beautiful work in the world!