Meet the Designer: Kristi Heck

APR 25, 2016 updated May 17, 2021

Today we'd like you to meet designer Kristi Heck as part of our new Meet the Designer series. Hailing from Panama then California, and most recently the great, green rainforest of the Pacific Northwest, Kristi is inspired by her natural environment and uses acrylic paints to create scenes involving friendly creatures, soil, vegetables, and lots of vivid color. She's down to earth in more ways than one–keep reading and get to know what gets Kristi's creative juices flowing.

  Meet the Designer: Kristi Heck

Where do you currently live? I live in Hood River, Oregon.

My day starts with the little dog whining to be invited on the bed. Once she’s up (sitting on my chest, attempting to lick), the big dog arrives. His warm fuzzy head smells like corn chips. After a quiet moment, I’m up: feed dogs, make coffee, drink coffee with husband, pack lunches, wake kids, get dressed, breakfast kids, walk dogs and kids to school, return with just dogs. Then it’s down to my studio to work…

Kristi Heck in her studio

I fell in love with fabric design when I turned around. This love (sort of, not really) snuck up on me. Our house is chockfull of textiles: Pendleton wool, reverse appliqué molas by the Guna Yala of Panama, Indian kantha quilts, chunky knits, plush flokati, African Dutch wax block prints, and a crazy variety of patterned throw pillows. I’ve always loved designing with fabrics; I’m brand new to designing actual fabrics. Our family moved to Hood River mid-December 2013, our first winter in about ten years. Time lived in Southern California combined with six years in the Republic of Panama had left us cold. Literally. So I over-dressed and began painting creatures hibernating. Soon, the animals migrated into human beds. Painting their bedding was my favorite part. I thought I’d try designing fabric versus just painting it, but the ability to create a repeat pattern eluded me… I have dozens of horrible designs stashed in file folders titled “Trials” and “Tribulations.” Then I found the class “How to design fabric” at featuring Spoonflower. Click! Apparently, my visual brain required a visual demo, as I later uncovered near-verbatim written instruction in multiple fabric design books I already own!


What’s in your toolbox? My technology includes a MacBook Pro, Wacom tablet, HP printer/scanner, and Epson Artisan 1430 printer. My art supplies include a rainbow of Blick soft matte acrylics, Magi-Wap Chinese watercolors, an array of Blick synthetic brushes (most are Scholastic grade), a few Princeton Catalyst angled bristle brushes (love love love these), and a few dozen craft store tiny round brushes in different stages of life (I like to go through these, so I don’t invest a lot). I like Micron and Gellyroll pens, Bristol paper and Blick canvas. My Spoonflower color guide is always near, as well as stacks of books, magazines, print outs, old notebooks, and sheets scribbled full of my brainstormed lists.

studio supplies and illustrations

When I’m in my studio, I feel inspired, ready to work! Alternately, I feel bereft and need to read or refuel. Other times, I’m cluttered enough to push through a satisfying deep clean of my studio. Such is the roller coaster ride that happens within a creative workspace.

Dream Racoons fabric design

What inspires your work and why? Storytelling inspires my work. My fabric line “Animal Dreams Series,” available on Spoonflower, started one winter when I painted animals asleep in beds. Foxes, bears, raccoons, sea otters, even a walrus. I began with research: what does the animal look like asleep? Yawning? What would they look like if they were, say, singing in the shower? Then I read about their diet and habitat to hone in on a bedding theme. Panda with bamboo and origami cranes, raccoons with trashcans and fish bones, foxes with forest colors and jay feathers. Once each painting was complete, I didn’t want the story to end. What could each animal dream of? I wanted those dreams to be reminiscent of human childhood: woodsy bear dreams of catching fireflies, lanky hare dreams of new sneakers, kangaroo dreams of flying a kite, honey bear dreams of toast. (What kid doesn’t love toast?) From there, I translate details into coordinating prints: the pattern from a pillow, various elements from a bedspread or bed frame, the dream. It’s exciting to anticipate weaving the story behind each painting into a line of fabrics that are whimsical, vibrant, and new.

Gato solo

My favorite small business shops include … mostly shops online at Etsy. These include United Thread (watercolors of nature to swoon over by Michelle Morin), MCM Classics (well crafted mid century upholstered furniture by Kit Young. We own two of her amazing chairs!), Elizabeth See (who lives nearby, I love the color choices she makes to capture animals and birds in her oil paintings), Berkley Illustration (by Ryan Berkley, because who doesn’t love an animal in coat and tie?), and Khalima Lights (makers Lindsay and Robert MacLeod were so lovely to work with on our dining room light fixture). I also love Geninne and Iota Illustration.

Sky, sea, sand painting by Karen Smidth

If I could live in a painting, I would live in… it’s a tie… between the painting “Sky, Sea, Sand” by Karen Smidth. I love how the ocean can feel so peaceful, yet still be ever-changing and continually moving. And… artwork from a Berenstein Bears book of the cross-section of their treehouse. I could stare at that for hours. I’ve always wanted to live in a treehouse… by the sea.

If I could only wear one fabric, it would have… to be a solid white, gray, or black cotton tee paired with hiking pants. I appear to reserve color and pattern for house and kids. I’m a uniform person; I own multiples of the same things. Perhaps I align with Gustave Flaubert, “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

Swan illustration printed on Linen Cotton Canvas

I’d love to see my designs turned into… quilts, clothes, pillows, bags, aprons, art on the wall, a book, a stuffed animal, you name it! I love the thought of creating designs that inspire others to create.

The secret to a strong collection is… the cohesive story it tells, the feeling it evokes.

Dream barn owl collection

My mantra is… From Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, the poem “Listen to the Mustn’ts”:

Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,

  1. Listen to the DON'TS,
  2. Listen to the SHOULDN'TS,
  4. Listen to the NEVER HAVES,
  5. Then listen close to me,
  6. Anything can happen, child –
  7. ANYTHING can be.


Kristi HeckPleasure getting to know you, Kristi! Be sure and check out Kristi's adorably whimsical Spoonflower shop here. This, this, and this happen to be a few of our favorites!

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