She'd rather you not blab this all over the place, but Kathy Lengyel's got a little secret about her fabric illustration: "It really doesn't take that long."
That's great for Lengyel, because like all commercial illustrators, she routinely faces brutal deadlines. "Really, selecting and cutting out the fabric"—translating the picture into three dimensions—"takes longer than sewing it."
Lengyel has been sewing prolifically since childhood. A native of Bridgewater, N.J. Lengyel learned the basics from her mother. She also took a Singer sewing mini-course that was all the rage in the 70's. And she has been sewing pictures since college. Lengyel had done a fabric illustration on a whim for a college design competition at Hood College, where she studied, and she scored first place. "Then I just kind of put it aside and went into the graphics field."
But stuck in the back of her mind were the words and art director she met at a career day in college: "This is it, the AD said when he saw her fabric illustration. "Forget all the other stuff you do. You're just one in a million there, but this is different." At the time, Lengyel just thought, "Yeah, but how can I make a living doing this?"
Instead of pursuing illustrations as a career, she headed into graphic design and art direction, working a succession of jobs in advertising and publishing all in the Tampa Bay area. Then at one point she did a few more fabric illustrations, showed them to a rep who liked them, and the spark was rekindled.
In 1987, while still working, she started Kathy Lengyel Design out of her home, still her base of operations and where she has completed fabric illustrations for recent clients which include Publix supermarkets, a Florida hospital, and YKK Zippers. Most of her billing is for traditional graphic design work—brochures, logos, and retail ads for local market real estate and health care—for which she has racked up 11 local Addy Awards.