Jane Win Artist Spotlight: Atwater Designs' Sarah Bourne Rafferty

Jane Win June Collection - Behind the Scenes

It should come as no surprise that many of our designs are inspired by nature. Hello Hope's 4 seasons of flowers, Strong Rising Sun, our classic Crescent Moon and Star on the back of every coin and charm...the list goes on.
Our June collection features a series of sea motifs, a celebration of summer and the inspiration that this time brings. While creating our mood board for the June launch, I knew we needed to shoot with blues and whites and an artist friend came to mind. You all know that our showroom is filled with artists we adore but you may not know that we often partner with artists for our photoshoots. Sarah Bourne Rafferty of Atwater Designs generously shared her art with us for the shoot, and we are excited to share her story with all of you.🤍

Jane Win x Atwater Designs

How were we introduced? My daughter Naomi was in her class! Sarah was a photography teacher at Naomi's school for 8+ years. The course was titled Artists As Entrepreneur - and Sarah invited me to speak on my journey as a business owner. Pictures below!

Jane Win x Atwater Designs

Sarah, we are so happy to share your art and story with the Jane Win community. Tell us a little more about you!

I was born and raised in Chestertown, MD, went to Westtown for highschool where I boarded all 4 years, then Warren Wilson College in NC for undergrad where I studied Fine Art with a concentration in Photography. I taught for 5 years before going back to school at The University of the Arts to earn my MFA in Book Arts and Printmaking where I spent most of my time in the Alternative Process Photography Lab! I taught photography for 8 years at Agnes Irwin School, starting Atwater Designs in 2017 and then took AD Full Time in September of 2020. 

I was always a visual person, I got that from my Dad, and so I sought out every art class and art opportunity available to me throughout my life. 

Tell us about your design and creation process.

I start with a walk, almost always. It might be in my garden or the woods or lately I have been traveling to various places and building collections from those specific places (The Florida Collection is part of the art behind this shoot.) I look at plants really closely and try to pick the ones I know will render well. Then, back in the studio, I experiment with my composition until I feel like it is right. Once I am ready I take a coated paper (coated with the cyanotype solution I mix and apply in my studio in the dark hours of the evening and allow it to dry overnight) and arrange my composition on the paper. This process is light-sensitive, meaning it reacts to UV light. I use the UV light of the sun and place my composition in direct sunlight and allow the exposure to happen before washing it in water to stop the exposure. Once it is washed clean, the places where the plants block the sun will turn the color of the paper and where the sun hits the solution directly it will turn the famous Prussian blue of the process.

You’ve worked with some really incredible brands – Terrain, Ralph Lauren, Papyrus to name a few - tell us about a collaboration you will never forget.

I can't say there is any collaboration I haven't enjoyed. I really love working with people and companies to bring together a larger vision. It's also so lovely, when I work in the studio by myself most days, to get to share and chat and build ideas together, especially with other creative teams. I also think it makes me more flexible and less stuck in my own way of doing things and I like to flex that muscle. But nothing quite compares to an out-of-the-blue email from Ralph Lauren to create work for a few of their stores. That was a real pinch-me moment.

Jane Win x Atwater Designs

We were so honored to shoot all of our June product, which features nautical motifs, with your designs. There is such a connection to nature in your pieces and in the name Atwater itself. Can you share a little more about how nature feeds into your design process?

Atwater is both my Mom's maiden name and my former middle name (I dropped it and moved my maiden name to my middle after getting married.) I decided to name the business after it because of the family connection but also because the name AT-WATER has had tremendous significance to me as I grew up on the water of the Chester River in Chestertown, MD and my whole life I have been drawn to the water with a force that I can't fully describe. As I have traveled, I have begun to put my feet in (or swim if I can) in every body of water I come across. This May I got to swim in the Aegean Sea, a life long dream. 

Nature is the basis of my work on so many levels - it is what I use to create my work but it is also a constant metaphor for me. The changing of seasons and the ebb and flow of times of rest and growth are paramount. When I immerse myself in nature or observe her, it helps me to have perspective on my own life and my art practice. The undercurrent of my work is an exploration of the transition of settling into a space of calm. You know that feeling when you breathe in and breathe out and your whole body changes. Your mind relaxes. Your shoulders drop. You jaw unclenches. That moment in time fascinates me. Likely my Quaker education, but that time holds more power than anything else in my life and nature is one of the places this transition occurs on a routine basis. 

Ok we are ready to shop😉How can our customers get involved with Atwater Designs? 

I have a website that a dear friend just re-designed and it is fabulous, if I do say so myself. Definitely worth a look. There you can find all the info on my shop where you can buy original art, arts prints, or start the commission process. You can also sign up for workshops (lots happening this summer!), take one of my Skillshare classes or just get some fun free resources. And sign up for my newsletter where I send a monthly email with updates, an artist spotlight, and a list of my current delights like books, gardens, flowers, movies, etc.

www.atwaterdesigns.com

@atwaterdesigns

Thank you Sarah for sharing your art with Jane Win 🤍