Inspired By - Vikings

I have Viking in me (according to my 23 and Me results). But that’s not the only reason I’ve been fascinated lately. It must be from my current obsession with the show Vikings and the trip I made to Iceland a few summers ago. I’ve always found Nordic cultures, along with their folk heritages and design so special. It probably goes back to my youth growing up in Northern Europe, i.e. Germany and Finland. (I’m also completely obsessed with “Scandi-Noir” crime dramas, but that’s a whole other discussion. Hit me up if you want a list of the best).

The images I collected for inspiration give me a feeling of beautiful craftsmanship, cold and ice, and dark days; and and that’s what my inspiration board is. A collection of images which excite and inspire me to feel a certain way, and in turn influence my designs.

What is your latest obsession or inspiration for your designs?

Katja Blog

June Instagram Fave - LIVINGPATTERN

Wow! I love to see how people are influenced by nature and this feed by Jenny Kiker is full of lush botanicals along with the sketches and paintings they inspire. She is a botanical artist who started Living Pattern "to connect herself and her audience to the still delicateness of nature and to themselves." I feel like I'm breathing fresher air just looking at these!

Putting Inspiration To Work

I often visit libraries and used bookstores in search of new inspiration. I found a few great books recently and wanted to share how I get inspired by imagery and designs, and then capture various motifs to make my own. I found this book on Erté by Charles Spencer at the Russian Hill Bookstore and found that it contained a huge amount of inspiration.

Erte - Charles Spencer
Erte - Charles Spencer

While flipping through it, I sat with my sketchbook and noted little details that spoke to me and my aesthetic. Once I have a selection of motifs I like to take a page from my sketchbook like the one here, into Photoshop and start playing with various items to see what I can come up with. I sometimes use individual motifs or combine a few—the possibilities are endless.

Can you tell which ones I used to make the patterns below? With color and scale changes, rotating, reflecting and putting my own spin on things, the designs now feel like mine but I know Erté was my inspiration and that's I nice thought. Because I did these designs in the same hand and used a complimentary color palette, they also feel like they could work as part of a collection. 

I hope you have fun finding your own inspiration and putting it to work.

© 2016 Katja Ollendorff

© 2016 Katja Ollendorff

© 2016 Katja Ollendorff

© 2016 Katja Ollendorff

© 2016 Katja Ollendorff

© 2016 Katja Ollendorff

© 2016 Katja Ollendorff

© 2016 Katja Ollendorff





My Inspiration this Week

I'm always inspired by world cultures—from the Sami people of Lappland to the Omo tribe in Ethiopia. I also love how tribal and folk wear is so prevalent in today's world of design. Below are some images that really drew me in— can't get enough of the colors, the patterns, the fabric! Some are authentic folk wear and some are modern interpretations, but each of them feeds my creative soul. Click to see more on my Pinterest Folkology board.

Around the world folk cultures. My personal inspiration using images from Pinterest. See more on my Folkology board. 

Les Ballet Russes

Have you ever heard of Leon Bakst? No? Well perhaps you have heard of the Ballets Russes, a dance company that was concieved by Sergei Diaghilev, that performed throughout Europe and North and South America between 1909 and 1929.

I did ballet for about 10 of my (much younger) years and I have always loved the world of dance and still go to the ballet regularly. The Ballet Russes has always inspired me because the costumes are so incredibly beautiful, and designed by artists who were very avant garde for the time—from Picasso, Matisse, Chanel and yes, Leon Bakst.

His costumes are bold and bright and I can really imagine that the simple shapes and vibrant colors would be perfect for viewing from a distance while moving across the stage. Here is just a selection of a few I loved in particular. How beautiful that must have been!

He also did set design, and created patterns for textile that were never put into production (as far as anyone knows). Here are a few incredible examples in rich palettes that I found here.

On My Inspiration Board

Do you love Pinterest? Do you collect a gazillion images but then never look back through them? Women are gatherers after all. We love to scoop up pretty things and then store them away. It's in our nature.

I make a point to go back through my boards and gather up images that are speaking to me at that moment. Obviously I love them all because I chose to hoard them in the first place. But it's fun to think of a theme or trend you are feeling at the time and revisit them. 

So what have I been feeling this week? What's on my inspiration board and speaking to me right now? Well it's definitely bold and bright—did you expect anything less from me? 

Click through to my  Fabric Textile Print and Pattern  board for sources 

Click through to my Fabric Textile Print and Pattern board for sources 

September Instagram Fave: Nitch

I often talk about visual inspiration, but every so often I'll see a quote or some words that resonate with me and have major impact. One of my favorite places that combines both of these things is NITCH. This is a wonderful Instagram account (and website with amazing portraits of people you know, and some you may not—accompanied by their inspirational quotes. I could read this for hours!

Take a gander and allow yourself some time to reflect.

Letting It Flow in Black & White

The "letting it flow" piece.

I was in a bit of a creative slump so I decided to just sit with a large white page for a bit. Instead of worrying about a palette, I got out some black free-flowing acrylic (love that stuff!) and just filled a large round brush with it. I wanted to see what would happen if I approached a design with absolutely no intention—no aforethought as to what I wanted the design to become. Most times I go in with an idea or vision of what I want. 

It felt really good to let the ink just flow on the page and see what would happen naturally. I had been using Sharpie's lately to draw motifs and it felt great to switch mediums and try something different. Something looser. Before I knew it, I had filled my page, and I was super pleased with the result. It actually got me excited to do more, so now I can confidently say my block is down!

Through this experiment for myself, I have learned that starting a design not thinking about the end result, allowed my inner creative voice do its thing. I urge you to try it the next time you don't think you have anything left in you, because I bet you do!


If your life is feeling a bit ho-hum and you need a little kick in the pants, the movie Iris will give you that little burst of inspiration you might need. Watching 92-year old Iris Apfel in her home with her husband Carl and seeing how free and youthful they are is just so sweet. She is witty, honest and fearless with her style, and it is just so invigorating to watch her in action! 

Seeing how active and full of art, travel and fashion her life is, makes me never want to complain about an ache or pain, or waste another lazy day lounging on the couch. After seeing what she takes on, reminds one of how much living there is to do! 

If you aren't familiar with the fashion icon, here's a great article in April Vanity Fair to give you a taste of who she is. And check out the movie trailer here.

Getting Unstuck

As a designer, I need fuel. Creative fuel. When my tank is empty and I've hit a block, the paint doesn't flow as easily and I know I need a spark to reignite my creativity. That's when I go to my three favorite ways to get inspired:

  • Taking a walk around town or in nature.
  • Perusing a library or used bookstore for great art book finds.
  • Visiting a museum—preferably alone and very early in the morning.

When I take walks, I love to bring a camera with me. It encourages me to not only see things differently, but to look for things. I will come home with photos of the day and see what I can make with them. Sometimes I'll make a collage of images to create a mood board (or a blog post). Other times I will use the photos and manipulate them to create a pattern. Even just the act of walking, and getting fresh air will clear my head and wipe the slate clean.

Books are another fantastic source of inspiration. You don't have to spend a lot of money on them either. I often make trips to used book stores or the public library and sit on the floor flipping through art reference books—not just on textiles and pattern—but illustration, photography and art. They just open up my mind to different ideas and ways of looking at things. Sometimes I will even snap a picture from the book to remind myself of a color palette, or jot down the name of a designer to investigate further online.

My all-time favorite way to get inspired is to go to a museum. The earlier the better, the fewer crowds the better. I recall a time I went to the Legion of Honor in San Francisco on a Tuesday morning at 9:00AM, and I was the first one in. The hair on my arms kinda stood up. It was the quietest, loveliest experience and just made me feel all kinds of creative! 

Removing myself from my workspace is really the key. No matter what I choose to do, I trust that the creativity will come back. I have learned not to panic and accept it as part of the process. I allow myself the time to recharge and it always pays off. Plus, it's pretty fun. 

How do you recharge?

©Katja Ollendorff
©Katja Ollendorff
©katja ollendorff

Pale Shelter

It isn't hard to see that I love bright colors. They enliven my soul. But sometimes, I just need to soothe my soul too, and that's where these pastel beauties come in. My Pale Shelter board on Pinterest is a place where I can collect dreamy cotton candy colored hues to my heart's content. I might just go revisit my board and listen to a pretty rad song by the same name. 

Clockwise from upper left: Sally King Benedict, Crystal, LittleElmsTumblr, Tec Petaja, Dianna Molzan, Ana Montiel, Kate by Anna Palma, Sol LeWitt, Hibeck jacket

Clockwise from upper left: Sally King Benedict, Crystal, LittleElmsTumblr, Tec Petaja, Dianna Molzan, Ana Montiel, Kate by Anna Palma, Sol LeWitt, Hibeck jacket

February Instagram Fave: Mark Otto

Wow this month is just flying by! I almost forgot to share my latest Instagram favorite with you all. As usual, I'm drawn to all things bright and colorful and Mark Otto's feed is just that. 

He's a 17-year old student who showcases high school life in Dayton, Ohio with snaps of himself and friends, as well as school supplies and such against minimalist and colorful backdrops. As he said in an earlier interview with Instagram "I believe that our generation is using the Internet to make connections and showcase our art...Young adults today totally own the Internet." 

Ain't that the truth! 

All images: Mark Otto

All images: Mark Otto

Inspired by: Miguel Mesa

This Colombian designer's work totally caught my eye. Not only is it rich in method, texture and color, but has a powerful background story as well. The collection is called "Potosi" named after the richest silver mine on earth (located in Bolivia). The colorful torn strips of paper running through each piece are meant to recall the destructive paths that are made to the land when mining the silver. He says "In the garments those scars are the ripped paper...I home-dyed over 40 colors of a textile cotton waste and used PET to generate the headpieces."

Hearing the inspiration behind a collection or piece of art always makes it that much more interesting and beautiful to me. Whether it's to make a political statement or just translate a simple idea that comes to mind—on the vast spectrum of inspiration, isn't that what art is no matter the medium? What inspires you?

Image from Trendland_Miguel Mesa

Quotation, info and images are from a Trendland article written by Anna Canlas May 2014.

Image from Trendland_Miguel Mesa
Image From Trendland_Miguel Mesa
Image from Trendland_Miguel Mesa


I finally have an Instagram account and I can't believe I didn't start this sooner. What the heck was I waiting for!? It's so fun! Since I love to take adventures around the city, and am constantly snapping pics, it's the perfect forum for sharing the gems I find along the way. Join me on my jaunts around the Bay Area and beyond @katjaollendorff and I hope you enjoy! 

Jewel Beetle

As a young kid in Virginia, I was terrified of Japanese beetles that would swoop down and get caught in my hair. I think I've made it past that phobia to see the beauty in these iridescent emerald gems.

Katja Blog | Jewel Beetle

Clockwise From UL: Milly, Prabal Gurung, Emilio Pucci, Irina Rudneva, Christian Dior, Rodebjer, YSL, Anish Kapoor, Jil Sander

New Wave

With summer here, I have visions of swimming in pools, in oceans, in the Bay—Er, no not that last one. (Brrrr!) Instead, I can enjoy these beauties that evoke the calm, rippling water that I see in my dreams. Check out Mirella Bruno's amazing Pinterest board for more seaworthy inspiration. 

Clockwise from Upper left: Mina Perhonen, Caitlin Foster, Missoni,  Sean Montgomery, House of Holland, M Velho, Birgitta Hahn, Marimekko Sikkikuikka, Pat Bradbury, Petit Bateau Satu Maaranen, Andre Herrero/Richards

Clockwise from Upper left: Mina Perhonen, Caitlin Foster, Missoni,  Sean Montgomery, House of Holland, M Velho, Birgitta Hahn, Marimekko Sikkikuikka, Pat Bradbury, Petit Bateau Satu Maaranen, Andre Herrero/Richards