Meet the Designer: Samarra Khaja aka SammyK

JUL 3, 2017
design by sammyk

Samarra Khaja, or SammyK as she’s known on Spoonflower, is not only a designer and community favorite, she’s also a talented pattern-maker (see this and this), has a much-loved class on Skillshare and consistently finds ways to inspire other designers and makers. Much of Samarra’s own inspiration is centered around New York City—in fact, if her two-story house grew legs and stood up, she’d be able to see the Empire State Building from her upstairs office. (She’s still waiting for it to do that.) Enjoy our candid chat with Samarra below!

My day starts with:
Coffee, getting my kids ready to go to school, coming home to my studio and plotting what’s next on my never-ending to-do list. I also typically forget to eat when I should and always seem to hatch new creative brainwaves moments before I’m supposed to leave the house. Always!”

I fell in love with design when:
I realized I enjoy cleaning up visual messes for clients and quickly realized that most people have no idea how to do it.” 

What’s in your toolbox?
“I have two studio spaces and enough supplies to open up my own art supply store. There. I said it. Favorites for designing textile-based projects include graphite and sketch paper for initial concepts and black pens, colored pencils, vellum and graph paper, my Wacom Cintiq, Illustrator and some Photoshop for bringing those concepts to life.”

When I’m in my studio, I feel:
“Ready to make a mess. It’s also nice to have closeable doors on a studio. I highly recommend it.”

Who or what influences or inspires your work and why?
“I adore Japanese and Scandinavian design aesthetics. I love to jumble them up together and toss in my quirky, whimsical style and see what comes out. If I can impart happiness and humor along the way, bonus.”

design by sammyk

What piece of your wardrobe best represents your style?
“Probably my wooden clogs. Quick, classic, bold and simple, but also potentially impractical, wacky and loud given the circumstances…you know, like if I need to sprint three blocks in them.”

If I could live in a painting, I would live in:
“Hmmm, I’d like to spend time in just about any Albrecht Dürer woodcut or engraving and I might pick his “Rhinoceros” from 1515 and then move on the “The Four Horsemen” from 1498. I’ve got a soft spot for Medieval artwork, what can I say. (Hahaha, you weren’t expecting that answer, were you? Always expect the unexpected from me.)”

By Albrecht Dürer – National Gallery of Art: online database: entry 1964.8.697, Public Domain

I’d love to see one of my designs turned into:
“A home goods line; hello, no-brainer! I’d happily be all over that like a rash. I also maintain pipe dreams of being commissioned to create an MTA subway art piece and a postage stamp.”

The secret to a strong collection is:
“Universal appeal, multi-functionality and usefulness as well as inventiveness of imagery. Everything’s been done before, so it’s a matter of putting the right amount of personal twist on a collection to make it new and interesting.”

My mantra is:
“I don’t really have one, but I have spouted out ‘sharing is caring!’ more often than I’d like to admit. It’s ALWAYS great when you’re the one saying it and not so great when you’re caught standing there with a comically huge chocolate bar and your quick-thinking kid parrots it right back to you without missing a beat.”

Who or what drew you to Spoonflower?
“Can you believe, I’ve been with Spoonflower from the beginning?! C’est vrai! It started with a friend asking for a printed version of my two-paneled mural in Brooklyn (you can see it from the F train if you’re siting on the right side, headed towards Coney Island, I know this for a fact) to hang in her daughter’s room and that artwork was the very first thing I uploaded and had printed way back in the day.”


Every fun interview must eventually come to an end, but you can keep the party going by visiting Samarra’s website. That’s where you can pick up her awesome DIY book and coloring book. Finally keep up with her quick wit and latest designs on her Instagram account as well. Have you made any of her projects or attended her Skillshare class? Let us know in the comments!

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