This week in our Meet the Designer series we’re highlighting one of our community favorites; Crystal Walen of crystal_walen. Over the last seven years, this Southern California-based artist has built a following in the Spoonflower Marketplace for her gorgeous watercolors. Within her shop of over 640 designs, you’ll find geometrics such as chevrons and ikats softened with hand-painted stripes, and roses and cacti composed in dreamy, romantic color palettes. Love that old-world meets new-world aesthetic too? This is one designer you won’t want to miss: her design style is both eternally timeless, yet unequivocally modern. Keep reading for a glimpse into how Crystal has built a successful career around surface pattern design.
When did you get started designing?
“I started designing patterns in high school which prompted me to study textile design in college. I have always been drawn to prints especially in terms of fashion. Growing up thrift shopping with my grandma for clothing and other vintage wares, I was often attracted to rich colors, prints and soft unique textiles.”
How did you hear about Spoonflower?
“I heard about Spoonflower through a textile designer friend around 2011. Soon after, I opened a shop. Initially, I was interested in using Spoonflower for fabric design prototypes. After some time though, I considered it could potentially grow into something as I started exploring licensing and freelance work outside of my full-time design job.”
What’s your design process like? What mediums do you use?
“After plenty of research, I work out ideas with rough sketches. Then, I paint freehand referring to my sketches. I paint elements separately or all together. I can do several iterations, and sometimes archive the art to use later or not at all. If I use the art, then I scan, layout, re-color and separate elements. I clean up the elements from the background to optimize for various uses including licensed products that require a transparent background. This also makes it easier to edit and make derivative artworks later such as new colorations. I create my own textures and have a few that I use frequently. I don’t use stock art elements in my work but have occasionally applied a metallic surface texture from Creative Market. Creative Market is an online design resource that a lot of designers and companies use extensively or supplementally to obtain design elements, fonts, and textures.
Some designs I render in Illustrator for clean vectors or limited color palettes but mostly my designs are painted with watercolor, and therefore Adobe® Photoshop® is typically my digital tool of choice.”
What’s an important resource for you as a designer?
“Pinterest is a great resource for organizing ideas for design development and marketing to other creatives.”
How do you incorporate your own (or outside) designs into your home?
“In my home, I like solids in neutrals or deep rich colors as a baseline and accessorizing with color and print that highlight metallics, textures and light.”
How do you connect with makers and/or other designers?
“I spend a lot of time connecting online with other makers and designers but I am always looking to connect more offline personally at events, or traveling to meet up in person with connections.”
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
“I am inspired by vintage, romance and fashion, as well as interior design and other artists with similar aesthetics. I enjoy looking at fashion magazines and selectively using trend. Sometimes it’s a subject, art style or color story that resonates with me and prompts a design or collection.”
How do you choose your color palettes?
“My color palettes are influenced by my diverse experiences working in home décor, fashion and stationery. I find some colors are a natural fit for certain applications. Interior design prints like geometrics, stripes or textures I typically color as monochromatic or limited color palettes. For fashion applications, I like playing with more expressive color.
Then there are some colors that my customers love so I keep using those same colorations.”
How do you market your designs to current and potential customers?
“I market my designs by talking about them to everyone online and offline. I have a social media manager who has helped me grow my audience organically for the last few years. I have learned a lot from working with her and from following influencers and other successful artists. I have found Spoonflower’s message functionality to be a great tool for feedback, collaboration and networking. I also use social media to connect with customers and share curated posts that show a mix of best-selling prints and new designs.”
From button-up shirts and swimwear to zipper pouches and lampshades, Crystal’s designs have found their way onto a wide range of apparel, accessories and décor. Her artistry is featured in boutique Etsy shops and has appeared in Anthropologie, Target, and TJMaxx—and that’s just the beginning. “A big inspiration for my work is seeing how makers use my current designs,” she said. “There are so many ways that my designs are used that I never imagined, but those applications have influenced how I think about new designs.” Find Crystal in the Spoonflower Marketplace and keep up with her latest on Instagram (@crystal_walen).