A Graphic Designer by trade, and with creativity at the heart of everything she does, Julia Gardner wanted to find the work-life balance that would allow her to be available for her children, while designing and creating products that would bring joy to others. Alongside her design business, Layered Design Studio, where she helps women in business connect to their audience through authentic branding and design, she launched Layered Creations, where she creates gorgeous fabric sensory balls, bibs, Plunket book covers, memory bears and more. Here Julia talks to The Natural Parent Magazine about the inspiration behind what she does, the pros and cons of running her own business, and her hopes and dreams for the future.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
The desire to give myself the permission to follow where creativity leads.
I am a Graphic Designer by trade and have been a creative person for as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a mum too. I have always wanted to be able to have the flexibility to be the one who dropped/picked my kids up from daycare or school. I love the one-on-one connection I get to have with my branding and pattern design clients, and I also love watching the products I create bring joy to those who purchase them.
Some say trying to run both Layered Design Studio and Layered Creations may be crazy, but there is just something so freeing and fulfilling about following the natural flow of creativity and seeing where you end up.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
I have been running my design Business Layered Design Studio since 2018, where I offer Brand Identity & Surface Pattern Design. The Layered Creations side of things was created because I needed to have a creative outlet that was more tactile. Layered Creations first made an appearance in 2022 where I had made my oldest son the cutest little personalised bunny bags for Easter. Everybody kept asking if I could make them one too, so I did! I then took a break from Layered Creations. I focused back on the design side of things where I took a surface pattern design course. I learnt all about how to design repeat patterns that you could get printed onto fabric! That’s really where my creativity exploded. More on that later!
Layered Creations started calling me again once I had my second child in 2023. It was a rough beginning adding my second child to our family and after weeks of trying to brush all of my feelings off as ‘this is just motherhood’, I got diagnosed with postnatal depression. I tried to throw myself back into working in my design business, but it didn’t help – so I decided to follow where my creativity was calling. There was something about holding something I had created in my hands that was healing to me. I started with the things that my kids needed, like pajamas and cot sheets. Sewing again was so fulfilling, I didn’t want to stop, so it has now flourished into Sensory Balls, Plunket Book Covers, Memory Bears, Bibs and more! I love having the creative freedom to lean into whatever I feel like sewing and just do that. Creativity is such an unpredictable thing, and I am learning to trust in myself and let my creative side take the lead.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
My creative brain exploded when I took a surface pattern design course where I learnt all about designing repeat patterns for fabric. Like you mean to say I could design patterns for fabric AND make something out of that fabric?
For a long time, I was made to feel like I had to keep both the businesses separate, but I just always had a pull that they could work together somehow! Obviously the fact that I am running two businesses can be a struggle and very time consuming, but I give myself permission now to just follow the creativity. Some days that may look like working on a branding project, others it’s sewing bibs. I love the variation I have allowed myself by being my own supporter and letting myself nurture not just one but all of the aspects of my own creativity. I love fabric and as a designer, it is such an exciting opportunity to combine my two passions.