The Snowflake Diaries – Getting Started

I want to share with you the excitement around my Liverpool #snowflaketrail sculpture design along with a real account of the preparation work & challenges that come with it. It's been such a fun process so far but definitely more time consuming than I anticipated... It will all be worth it though & I feel so honoured to have received such a wonderful design commission from Open Culture.

When submitting our design idea we did receive an informative template with the dimensions, however since meeting the sculpture in real life I did have to make some minor adjustments.

Measuring the snowflake

One of the first things that I did was take some more detailed measurements ahead of finalising my vinyl Adobe Illustrator files for the printer. I created a mock up with paper showing the mid section & printed out some very rough circular shapes which I then cut out & experimented with. Playing around with the composition with a paper mock up allowed me to know the exact vinyl sizes that I wanted. RACHAELTAYLOR_SNOWFLAKETRAIL_MEASURING_550PX_LRRACHAELTAYLOR_SNOWFLAKETRAIL_MOCKUP_550PX_LR

Sanding & applying a base coat

I obsessively sanded any imperfections on the snowflake prior to painting as I knew I needed a smooth surface for the vinyl elements. I then applied a watered down matte emulsion base coat to the sculpture before adding my base colour to really ensure it was all primed correctly.

Paint colour

It was so tricky to find the right paint colour & finish for my base coat. In the end I selected a Valspar matte emulsion. The image of my working concept looks a lot brighter on screen & in the end I was able to almost perfectly match the frosty tone that I had visualised.


Due to the nature & tone of blue I chose as my base, some of the snowflake circle colours that made up the pattern element of my design struggled a little against it. One of these colours was the mid-grey I had selected. I also had to have in mind that the colour I saw on screen was not necessarily going to be printed exactly the same, so I spent some time picking various shades & tones of the colours that need another look. Selecting grey's took the most time as a lot of them seemed to look almost brown-grey on screen against my blue. It took some time but we finally got there with a nice selection of blue-greys, purple-greys with a mix of lighter & darker to see which printed best.


Preparing the vinyl files in Adobe Illustrator

Even though I knew what sized shapes would work on the sculpture I wanted to feel like I could place some a little spontaneously too, therefore rather than feeling really regimented with a limited number of snowflake circles & snowflake circular sizes, I set up each snowflake with 7 different sizes. I also added an extra Adobe Illustrator file with extra snowflakes in case I needed even more variety as well as variations of colours & tones of some of the colours. I wanted to honour my original design very closely but I knew I had to adapt them slightly to cater for using a painted base coat. I added extra vibrancy to a few of the shapes along with adding a hot magenta to the mix & trialing different shades of some colours, such as the yellow & purple-blue you see below. For me colour is everything & I felt it was the most important part to get right.

Kelly & I had our annual Liverpool team meeting already pre-planned but in the end it turned into project snowflake! However it was so important to get the design files really accurate for printing. I felt so privileged to be able to work with Roland DG UK, one of the world's leaders in digital printing technology, who generously printed my vinyls for me. The set-up process was simple, as I laid out my snowflake circles on Adobe Illustrator documents & Joe Wigzell (the Academy & Creative Centre Manager for Roland DG), took my files, added cutters to them & whizzed them off to print.


In case you missed the announcement post you can read all about it here. Next time I'll be writing about the Snowflake Trail press day in which I was interviewed by BBC Radio Merseyside & look out for a post on how the vinyls turned out coming soon!

Stay tuned for more work in progress posts & in the meantime you follow daily images over on my Instagram / Twitter / Facebook & follow #snowflaketrail

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