Spoonflower Spotlight: 4 Designers to Keep an Eye on This Month | Spoonflower Blog

This month for our Meet the Designer series, we’d like to introduce not one, but four inspiring designers making waves in the Spoonflower community. Though their creative paths are unique, their design styles share a common theme of whimsy and playfulnesswith a hefty dose of brilliant color theory. Read below to discover what inspires them, and what advice they have for new and experienced designers alike. 

Meet the Designers

Alison Janssen portrait
Mel Armstrong portrait
Meghan Hageman portrait
Claire Van Winkle portrait

What influences or inspires your work?

Alison: The beach town I live in constantly blows me away with amazing views, plants, colors. My teen girls are always giving me fresh viewpoints on fashion and color palettes. And, music! A band’s vibe, their styles—I love all kinds of music and I have it playing while I’m working constantly.

Mel: My children influence my work a lot. They inspire me with their unique and creative ideas. I also really love the outdoors and am fascinated by birds. I’m lucky to live in a beautiful country with a gorgeous landscape and amazing wildlife to keep me inspired.

A close up of Mel's design Hummingbird is on the left and the design on a tea towel hanging on a wire connected with two wooden clothespins is on the right. A 2019 calendar with a white background and black dates is on the lower half of the tea towel. The design features small turquoise hummingbirds with white bellies with small black lines. The hummingbirds are flying around yellow and red flowers on black stems.
Mel’s best-selling design Hummingbird won first place in our Animals By Air Design Challenge

Meghan: My biggest inspiration is my kids. A walk through the zoo or the park or even a story that we read at bedtime can really get my creative juices flowing. There is no higher praise than my son or my niece giving me the thumbs up on a design that they love. That means I have a lot of dinosaurs and outer-space themed patterns in my collection. I also am inspired by my favorite story growing up, Alice in Wonderland. The more magic and whimsy I can put into my artwork, the happier I am. I also have some watercolor designs inspired by my grandmother, who became a watercolor artist late and life. Her home was a gallery of florals and nature scenes; I hope I made her proud with my own take on the medium.

Meghan's Space Dinosaurs design in in Blue and Lime Green on the left on on a navy background on the right. The design features dinosaurs wearing clear astronaut helmets and floating in the sky with constellations and pink, yellow and purple stars. The dinosaurs on the left are lime green and blue. The dinosaurs on the right are lime green, blue, purple and pink.
Shop Meghan’s best selling dinosaur designs

Claire: I source a lot of my inspiration from alpine artists, street art and outdoor industry apparel brands and films. The street art coming out of Reykjavik, Iceland and Valparaiso, Chile are particularly interesting to me at the moment, as well as the artwork in films like Drawn by Jeremy Collins and adventure films debuting at the Banff Film Festival. I’m working on my brand story, and slowly but surely my Spoonflower shop and Instagram are following suit. It has taken me 8 years of being a part of the Spoonflower community to figure out where I want to go and I now have this vision.

How do you get out of a design rut?

Alison: If I’m in a design rut, I go for a long trail or beach run and my mind just wanders. It’s my form of meditation. I come back to my studio with new ideas feeling totally refreshed.

Mel: Taking time out from designing. Normally this will be spending quality time with my kids and doing activities that don’t involve designing. It’s a bit like hitting the reset button on your phone when it starts acting up. Being outside, gardening, playing with the kids or doing something completely non-design related, resets me and wipes my mind clear of any distractions.

A design by Mel with a navy background and a yellow bird sitting on a black branch with pink dot clusters running out of its stems. Light pink flowers and yellow flowers of varying size dot through the design, along with mint green leaves

Meghan: Often I will find a creative prompt that someone has started on Instagram, sometimes a little structure is just what I need to get me focused and back on track. Creativity can really bloom when there is a framework to work around, like a vine climbing up a wall. Absentminded doodling can also bring unexpected results. Sometimes I also just need a day off to veg-out or go for a walk. I don’t do this for more than one day (unless I am on vacation), because I like to keep my creativity active in one way or another. We have heard the rhetoric before, but keeping your creative muscle moving is essential. The more you work it the better your mind is capable of staying creative.

On the left, Meghan is drawing strawberries on a tablet lying on green, navy and yellow striped carpet. The background of the design on the tablet is white. The strawberries are red and orange with small black seeds on them. The strawberries have green tops.
Shop Strawberry Fields by latheandquill

Claire: I work a 9-5 job, so most of my creative work happens in my bed on the weekends after I’m recovering from a nice long run along Lake Michigan. Usually, I have a good ole’ ice pack on my knee, have Bon Iver or Sufjan Stevens cranked up on Spotify, and have a cup of coffee next to my bed that I will probably only drink half of. I scour Pinterest and browse through my Instagram saved posts to create a mini-mood board. After I’ve collected some color palettes and ideas, the micron-pens come out and I work through ideas in my sketchbook.

Share a defining moment that shaped your creative path:

Alison: I was an art director for 12 years in the mid-west, but a move with my family to California allowed me to venture out and start designing on my own. It was a pretty big learning curve, but the creative freedom has been so rewarding and each day I am grateful that I am doing what I love.

The image on the left has a white background and black watercolor flowers on stems. The middle image shows a person sitting at a computer with a floral design on the desktop. They are holding paint chip swatches in their left hand. On the right is a one-piece bathing suit with a white background and a repeating design with black arcs running through it. A wooden woven purse is hanging next to the bathing suit and a green palm frond and two sprigs of tall yellow flowers are coming out of it.
Swimsuit design is Black & White Mountains by alisonjanssen

Mel: Winning the Make it in Design scholarship in 2016 certainly changed my career path in surface pattern design. I’ve always worked in a creative job, but winning the scholarship opened up a whole new world for me and I haven’t looked back. I’ve always loved drawing and illustrating but never ever thought I could make a career out of it until I stumbled upon surface pattern design.

On the left: A dog harness that goes over a dog's neck and chest with a brown tag that says "MY PUPPER" on it has a design with a pink background and gray cacti repeating through it is sitting on a white and gray table in front of a stick and gray and white lantern. To the left of the harness is a small white container with a wooden top. On the right: a painting in progress of a gray round flower on black stems with small flowers at its base and black dots on its middle and top.
Mel’s designs brought to life | Shop her Spoonflower shop

Meghan: While I worked at an advertising agency, I created a kids t-shirt design for our local zoo. It was the first illustration I ever designed, and I was in love. I knew I wanted to be an illustrator some day. It wasn’t until years later when my son was born that I realized I wanted to move to freelance, so that I could spend more time with my family. I left my advertising job and worked with local businesses on logos and websites, but also began creating original art that I sold via print-on-demand sites. These sites seemed to favor art that used repeat patterns, thus began my exploration in the world of surface pattern design. As I continued to build my skills I discovered Spoonflower, but it took me awhile to build up the courage to submit my first designs in 2018.

How has Spoonflower supported you as an independent designer?

Alison: Spoonflower has consistently been there to help me connect with clients and designers from around the world! All awesome inspiring people I would have never met on my own.

A close up of Alison's design "Elegant Pigeons," which has a yellow background and gray and black pigeons with red eyes and pink beaks in a ditsy scattered pattern.
Elegant Pigeons by alisonjanssen

Mel: Being a Spoonflower designer has broadened my creative world to places I never dreamed of. It’s led to numerous book deals, gigs designing kids craft games, board games and book covers. Thank you!

Claire: Thanks to my Spoonflower designs, I collaborated with Sh*t That I Knit, a million dollar brand to design the surface pattern for their holiday packaging. It was awesome because a lot of mountain athletes and artists like Rachel Pohl support them!

On the left: a box says "Sh*t that I Knit" with a drawing of a head wearing a red knitted hat, their face is below the brim. Christmas trees are scattered throughout the design on the box. Small red hearts are dotted throughout. On the right: Shorts and a bandana are made out of a design with a white background and kelly green, navy and electric green fir trees.

What’s your advice for new designers on Spoonflower?

Alison: Create what you love, and what you are most passionate about. My top selling fabrics are from designs I created for my personal use.

On the left: a blue and white batik bathing suit hangs on a wooden rod in front of a bamboo wall. In the middle: a white bikini with small black lines throughout lays on a white table next to a rust colored pair of pants, a khaki woven hat and a palm frond. On the right: a plant sits on a shelf on a wall with large green, yellow, red and pink palm fronds.

Mel: I often get emails asking how long it takes to start selling on Spoonflower. I believe it’s like everything in life. It takes time. So enjoy the process, keep designing, challenge yourself and continue to improve your skills by taking classes. Eventually, you’ll see the rewards.

Meghan: Participate in the Weekly Design Challenges. It’s amazing how much your work can grow and how the design prompts can really spark your creativity. The challenges are also a great way for the community to get more familiar with your work so you can build up a following. Even better if you can land in the top 50 as your design becomes available for sale and you can start earning money on your pattern designs.

A close up of Meghan's Dinosaur Fossil pattern. The design has three wavy brown stripes, the top stripe is dark brown, the middle stripe is a lighter brown and the bottom stripe is an even light brown. Cream dinosaur bones of entire dinosaurs dot through the design along with small shells and individual bones.
Dinosaur Fossil Pattern by latheandquill

Claire: I’ve got 4 great tips for new designers!

  1. Listen to podcasts (at the moment, I’m really digging 3 Point Perspective), sign up for Skillshare, take an illustration class, or try something new!
  2. I also recommend entering the weekly challenges—know your audience and submit to the contest themes that play to your skills.
  3. Rescale all of your designs specifically for fabric vs. wallpaper vs. gift wrap. Once you proof your initial design, you can reset the design size for your fabric prints, wallpaper prints, and wrapping paper prints. I prefer to customize these for each product.
  4. Connect with other designers on Facebook and on Instagram. Everything comes down to community building.
A close up of Claire's design You Really Otter. The design has a black background with green kelp swirling around it, with green otters swimming through it. Small red and pink fish and flowers appear throughout.
You Really Otter by clairekalinadesigns

Tell us three surprising facts about yourself

Alison: I’m a health food nerd and will try any weird new superfood. I have an addiction to collecting tarot cards and lastly, I can’t draw a straight line, so the wonkier the better!

Mel: I love building flat-packs and I once risked my life to save a dog. At age 16, I left school, moved out of home then moved overseas to pursue a career in ballet.

Meghan: I have an unnatural love of cupcakes, my favorite story is Alice in Wonderlandand my favorite memory is yelling Bonzai from the top of Mt. Fuji at sunrise with my brothers.

Claire: I nerd out over mountain ranges, I don’t have a studio/desk and do all of my artwork from my bed. One of the highlights of my year last year was climbing a volcano in Chile.

Are you ready to take the next step and upload your designs to the Spoonflower Marketplace? Be sure to check out the Spoonflower Seller Handbook before you get started!