Meet the Designer: Sareka Smith of sarekaunique

AUG 20, 2018
Southwest Summer Blue by sarekaunique

This week we’re back for another installment of our Meet the Designer series to introduce Michigan based illustrator and designer Sareka Unique, otherwise known as sarekaunique in the Spoonflower Marketplace. Experiencing Sareka’s art is like exploring a candy-colored dreamscape full of texture, movement and wonder within her perfectly juxtaposed geometric and organic shaped design elements. She has a lot to say about color and offers some excellent tips for choosing the perfect palette, so stick around for a really fun interview!

My day starts with…

“Hitting my snooze button about five times. I’m not a morning person at all and am usually up until about 3 a.m. engulfed in my creative projects. During the week, I work 45-50 hours for a trucking company doing trade compliance and when I come home in the evenings a lot of that time is spent with my family and my dog, Carter. After everyone is tucked away for the night I go into my studio/ bedroom/ living space and turn up the music or put on a podcast to get me in the zone. Sometimes I’m up painting and drawing, or batching Instagram posts, or updating my website and just doing whatever needs to be done until I can’t hold my eyes open anymore. I don’t do this every night or I wouldn’t be able to function at work the next day but the goal of being able to do what I love full-time fuels me and gives me that energy I need on the nights that I am up until 3 a.m.”

Sareka’s inspiring studio space is a color lover’s dream

When I’m in my studio…

“I feel at home, and safe to express my creativity any way I see fit!”

I fell in love with design when…

“I was in Elementary school, probably about 3rd or 4th grade. I had a great art teacher and we explored all kinds of art-making techniques. It was also the start of having computer classes where I began making repeating patterns, it was the coolest thing ever to me. I just wanted to stay in my computer class all day and draw pictures and make patterns (in between playing ‘Oregon Trail’ and ‘Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego’…lol). I was hooked!”

The design process: Research, sketching, digital work and meticulous color selection

What’s in your toolbox?

“Mechanical pencils, Sharpie pens, tons of paper and sketchbooks, gouache, acrylic and my iPad Pro and Pencil.”

What is your process when creating a new design?

“A lot of my geometric designs are created intuitively, without too much planning involved. But if I have a specific theme or subject in mind, I do a bit of research first. Then comes sketching and drawing ideas with pencil and ink. When I am happy with my drawings, I scan them into Illustrator and clean things up a bit. Next, I arrange and layer my images to build my pattern. I usually start using color early on but once I have a composition I am happy with, I will play around with the colors until I find that winning combination. Adding color is probably my favorite part because it can drastically affect the mood of the design.”

Sareka’s love of color on full display in one of her original abstract paintings

What inspires your work and why?

“There are so many different things that inspire me but I would have to say the main thing is color. I am drawn to color everywhere I go, and it is my favorite part of the creative process. When you add color to a design or an illustration you are automatically saying, “this is how I want people to feel when they see my work“. You can have the same pattern and change the color palette and it will change the mood of your pattern to a point where it looks like a different design and gives off a completely different vibe.”

Sareka’s dog Carter strikes a pose in front of her first abstract painting

Can you talk more about how you make your color selections?

“When it comes to choosing a color palette for my projects, I have tons of inspiration I pull from. A lot of it comes from images on Pinterest and Instagram; my saved tab on Instagram is crazy packed with images that caught my eye simply because of the color palette used.  I’ve saved anything from interior design, gardens of succulents and paintings by amazing artists. I also have loads of color palettes saved in my Adobe Color Theme that I constantly update and refer to.

My friend Natalie Williamson runs Dot & Flow, and she also created a course called Folio Focus. Every week she provides amazing trend information and color palettes that I utilize as well. Teal is my favorite and fits my personality, but I usually play around with color until I feel good about it!”

Midnight Garden II by Susan Nethercote

If I could live in a painting, I would live in…

“Something abstract. I recently started painting abstracts and there are so many layers and so much to explore. I am currently obsessed with paintings by Susan Nethercote.”

What piece of your wardrobe best represents your style?

“I’d have to say my shoes. When I pick out a new pair I always go for the ones that are a bit spunky and unique. I rock my grey and teal Sperry boots most of the winter and once spring comes along, and it started raining a bit, I pull out my red UGG rain boots whenever I can.”

Create your own leggings on Sprout Patterns using sarekaunique designs

I’d love to see one of my designs turned into…

“Swimwear and activewear!”

The secret to a strong collection is…

“A variety in scale and a great color pallet that allows each design to complement each other but also allows them to stand strong on their own.”

Shop Sareka’s designs on Roostery throw pillows

What advice do you have for picking a great color scheme?

“Pick a neutral everyday color or something that’s either very high in value or very low in value. Then, add a bright contrasting color and a few complementary colors.  When using them in your collection create one design that uses quite a few colors from your pallet but also create a few coordinating patterns that maybe only uses 2-3 colors or 1 color in different values. That way when looking at the collection as a whole your eyes can rest a bit. Don’t be afraid to experiment, unless you are doing work for a client who has a very specific color request. Play around a bit and switch out a color until you are happy with the end result.”

My mantra is…

“Trust the Journey.”

Shop Sareka’s designs on Roostery Plymouth Curtain Panels

What drew you to Spoonflower?

“Fabric! I have always loved the idea of having my designs on fabric. It gives you the opportunity to make so many awesome things, from fashion to home décor. These are some of the things that I have always envisioned having my designs on. I love that with Spoonflower, the opportunities are limitless. You can connect with so many talented makers and have the opportunity to see what they can create with fabric.”

For someone new to trying the design challenge, what advice would you give them?

“Think outside of the box. Whatever the first 5 ideas that come to mind for the design challenge may be, scrap them and push farther. It’s also a good idea to pay attention to the use of color. Color is important and can make or break your design.”


Sareka Unique is a freelance Illustrator, Graphic Designer and Surface Pattern Designer from Ypsilanti, Michigan. She’s a self-proclaimed lover of color and maker of all things beautiful. Her work can be found on her website and in the Spoonflower Marketplace under the shop name sarekaunique. Keep up with Sareka’s latest projects and get a bit of color inspiration of your own by following her on Instagram.

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