Selecting artist Lisel Jane Ashlock to be part of our new Universal collection was a no-brainer. We had just finished our first collection with her and absolutely loved her artistry and talent for illustration. We immediately knew that her signature style would be the perfect fit for the Jaws-inspired pattern that became Amity Sunset. Armed with some movie stills and our creative brief, Lisel was able to take the vision we had in our heads and bring it to life in stunning detail—all with her unique spin that made the iconic movie elements feel refreshingly modern without losing the nostalgic charm of this film. We caught up with Lisel to learn more about her process for creating Amity Sunset, her connection to Jaws, and more.
Tell us a bit about your background. Have you always been drawn to the arts and creative pursuits?
If doodling had been a class in junior high and high school, I would have graduated with honors! As it happened, I was an average student, with many many beautiful binders. Luckily, even in high school I realized how much I loved creating pictures, and was able to take classes at the art academy during the summers. Those classes showed me at a young age that you can create a job for yourself as an artist, beyond the gallery/fine art world. Learning this early allowed me to set my sights on working as an illustrator even before I finished high school. I graduated from CCA in San Francisco and moved to New York where I began working professionally as an illustrator. Now, I specialize in flora and fauna, with most of my client work being in publishing and advertising. And of course, my new favorite focus is surface design!
Do you have any special connection to Jaws that inspired the pattern you created for our Universal collection?
I wasn’t allowed to watch Jaws when it came out, so there was an immediate obsession with this forbidden film. I finally saw it at a friend’s sleepover and was immersed. I still remember how huge that shark seemed, like it filled up the room. I hated it and loved it.
What was your design process like for this pattern? Take us from ideation through execution.
The first thing was rewatching the film! I took a ton of film stills to really be able to clarify the authentic moments in my drawings and did a series of sketches to share with [H&W co-founders] Christiana and Aimee. We decided on an ocean-forward direction, with elements from the film and, of course, Jaws himself, peeking in and out. These elements, especially Jaws, were meant to be secondary—we didn’t want it to be too scary. Once we identified the elements from the film we wanted to include (the bikini, the floatie-raft, the iconic fishing boat, etc.), it was time to piece it all together. To create a repeat pattern that flows, like the ocean and waves flow in this pattern, is really an intense math problem, so that was the main thing to work out. Then it was about hiding all the elements so that they would flow within the overall composition of the waves and, when zoomed out, create a cohesive, abstract pattern. I love creating patterns where you can’t tell where the pattern block begins and ends, so I had a lot of fun making this dizzying for the viewer.
How did you decide which scenes, moments, or characters to depict in your design?
Rewatching the film, I loved the muted colors that only real film from that time captures. The sun is a little too hot, everything feels washed out. Seared in my memory, besides Jaws himself, were the boy on the boogie board and the girl in that cute 70s bikini. I couldn’t resist sneaking those elements into this print!
The films in our Universal collection have diehard fans and followings. How were you able to retain the characteristics of the film that the fans know and love but put your own unique spin on it?
This was in my mind the entire time I was designing this pattern. It was especially important to me to get the fishing boat, the Orca, exactly as it was from the film—because it’s so iconic, I knew this needed to be right. I did extensive research about this boat and found many pictures to work from. I learned that the boat they used in the film was an exact replica of a real Nova Scotia-style fishing boat. They created a second "stunt boat" that the prop team could sink and pump air back into so that it would resurface on command to get the perfect shot.
How does wallpaper—both the pattern and the color—affect the way we experience a space?
During the color process of creating this pattern, I did a million colorways—I couldn’t stop! We honed in on four of them. Each is very different, but holds its own reference to the film. There is a soft gauzy one, reminiscent of the color-quality of the original film. Then we did a monotone indigo one playing on the glow of the ocean waves, which feels like a block print. There is a summer one, that makes me smile, not just because of the color, but also because of the macabre subject matter playing off the cheerful colorway. Each colorway accents a different part of the pattern; some play off the overall feeling of the flowing ocean with the elements from the film working in a more subtle way, and some put the Jaws elements at the foreground, really celebrating the film. I think there is a little something for everyone here.
A look inside
What's your favorite way to enjoy a movie night at home?
My five year old is finally ready for real movie nights, and they are my favorite. We order pizza and pile on the couch with the lights dimmed, but not dark. It’s my favorite night of the week. I can’t wait until he’s old enough to watch Jaws!