Behind the Bottle: Terra

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

We’re excited to introduce the Terra bottle, a special limited edition S’well to celebrate our favorite holiday, Earth Day. Crafted by S’well Designer Michela Buttignol, Terra celebrates all things beautiful about our planet. We sat with Michela in the S’well design studio to discuss her inspiration behind the bottle.

Tell us about your experience as an artist.

I knew I wanted to be a designer when I was in kindergarten. Teachers were giving us prepared drawings to color and it upset me – I wanted to make my own drawings! I definitely pursued my dream: I graduated from the Istituto Europeo del Design in Milan and later studied graphic design at Parsons in New York. After a few years working in the design field, I moved from Italy, my country of origin, to New York. Since I moved to the United States, I have had the opportunity to work as an editorial illustrator for several publications, including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and Buzzfeed.

Painting in sketchbooks is often Buttignol’s first step in creating her designs.

What inspires you as an illustrator/artist?

I love to constantly feed my brain beautiful images. I do not have a specific process for this, I just try very hard to collect what I find to be aesthetically relevant and then use it as a reference when needed. Besides that, going to museums and traveling are best for inspiration.

What was your inspiration for this Earth Day bottle?

I was really inspired when [S’well Creative Director] Rachel Ivey first briefed me on the project. We exchanged several images and reference texts about nature and the planet and ecosystems. On this special occasion, I also was very inspired by [S’well Founder & CEO] Sarah Kauss and her mission – respect for the planet is one of S’well’s main objectives.

After completing a preliminary sketch, Buttignol studied the S’well’s space and surface to translate her idea from paper to paint on the bottle.

What technique did you use to create this design? How is this different from other S’well bottles you’ve designed?

I created the very first sketch in my sketchbook with chalk pencil –  that’s how I normally conceptualize my ideas. While sketching, I painted with acrylic colors directly on a S’well bottle, which was key to my process. It helped to understand the surface and the space for the composition. When the sketches were complete, I transferred my ideas to the computer, working digitally with Photoshop. The process itself is not that different from the way I typically create patterns and surface designs for S’well. [The only difference is that the] bottle had to live by itself without being part of an entire collection, as per our usual assortment.

In creating the Terra bottle, Buttignol experimented with surface painting and decoupage during her design process.

What do you do at S’well on a daily basis?

I am Senior Graphic Designer taking care of most of the pattern design and aesthetic of the S’ip by S’well brand, but I also assist with S’well patterns as needed.

Do you have a creative mentor?

My mentors are, as I like to call them, my design heroes: people who inspire me not only because of their work and our collaborations, but because they gave me a chance and believed in my work. These include Matthew Dorfman from The New York Times and Giorgia Lupi of Accurat Studio, but [since I’ve been at S’well,] I must add S’well Founder Sarah Kauss and Creative Director Rachel Ivey.

Shop the exclusive limited edition Terra bottle here.