YingChen Chen portrait
Nadine Westcott portrait
Mary Zabaikina portrait
Sarah Knight portrait

Welcome to another installment of the Spoonflower Designer Spotlight series; a fun way to discover fresh inspiration and get to know some of the talented artists in the Spoonflower Marketplace. First up is YingChen Chen of canigrin who visits us all the way from Taiwan and had the most adorable (and accurate!) way of describing her design process—a recipe calling for, “Pen, paper, a pinch of imagination, a scoop of fun, and 3 cups of colors!”. Next, you’ll hear from long-time greeting card designer, Nadine Westcott of nadinewestcott who has been shopping the Marketplace for years, but only recently started uploading her playful designs to her Spoonflower shop. Next, we introduce Russian designer, Mary Zabaikina of adehoidar, whose intricate drawings mimic beautiful etchings creating a modern, yet timeless aesthetic you’ll fall instantly in love with. Lastly, you may recognize the work of Sarah Knight, known as sarah_knight in the Spoonflower marketplace, whose designs are fan-favoties and often found in the top-voted collections of our Weekly Design Challenges.

Describe your design style in one sentence:

YingChen: Happy animals in a playful world.

Left image: A close up YingChen's design Flying Squirrel and Lily of the Vally, which has a purple background and pink, purple and peach flying squirrels flying around a field with lillies of the valley flowers. On the right, YingChen's Zebra Strawberry IceCream design, which has a light pink background and ditsy zebras and ice cream cones with a scoop of blue, hot pink and white ice cream.
Flying Squirrel and Lily of the Vally and Zebra Strawberry IceCream by canigrin

Nadine: I tend toward a light-hearted simple approach, but at times I switch to intricate realistic art.

A selection of six of Nadine's designs on home decor products: pink and yellow woodland animals amid a field of wild flowers on a bed sheet set; a design with pink, yellow, green and blue leaves on a tablerunner with a black background; wispy blue and pink flowers with green leaves on a cream background made into a tablecloth and more.
Browse Nadine’s designs on our sister brand, Roostery

Mary: Food and floral engravings with a bit of a digital twist.

On the left, a close up of Mary's design Tropical Palm Leaves, which features green palm fronds clustered all over a white background. On the right, Mary's sketchbook with watermelon slices, ic cream cones, fruits and leaves drawn in black. Several other sketchbook pages are on the table next to the top page, featuring monstera leaves and a pineapple.
Tropical Palm Leaves by adehoidar

Sarah: I like to tell a story with my designs; I love novelty and fun when it comes to creating a pattern.

A fabric design by Sarah of dark blue and pink sloths asleep and laying on black branches on a white background is used as a cover of a baby book. The book cover also has a cream label that has Isabella 10.06.2018 stitched on it in in tan thread.
Sloths are a popular motif in Sarah’s work! | Visit Knight and Gray on Etsy for more handmade baby books

What’s one design tool you can’t live without?

YingChen: Since I started to draw with my Ipad pro, it became my favorite tool. I can sit on a sofa and draw when my baby is playing on the floor. I love the freedom that I don’t have to sit in front of my desktop.

YingChen is drawing on a large electronic tablet and sitting on a tan couch.
YingChen of canigrin

Nadine: For years I painted with acrylics. Now I use a large Wacom tablet in my studio and I travel with a smaller Cintiq tablet. I had to teach myself Photoshop. It was a smart move for me, I can do so much more with a tablet.

On the left, three designs from Nadine's Dogwood collection, in rose, blue and yellow. The design features straight repeating columns of two dogwood leaves connected by a green stem. On the right, Nadine is drawing a scene with sea shells, seaweed and a mermaid on a tablet.
Left: Designs from Nadine’s Dogwood collection. Right: Nadine of nadinewestcott

Mary: I bought my first tin box with Koh-i-noor pencils when I was a freshman. I think that was the moment when I realized how important tools are for artists. Since then, I haven’t parted ways with these pencils, and I regularly stock up on them.

Mary at work drawing monstera leaves with a pencil on a piece of paper. The paper is lying on a desk with a cup of coffee to the right and a keyboard in front of the paper.
Mary’s pencil drawings turn into incredibly detailed patterns for fabric

Sarah: A black pen and paper. I design most things in Photoshop or Illustrator but everything starts with an idea scribbled down on paper.

Share a defining moment that shaped your creative path:

YingChen: I can recall the memories when other girls at kindergarten were playing dolls, I was busy making things at the craft corner. I couldn’t stop my craft making with recycled bottles and newspapers, even when my mom called me for lunch!

Then when I taught myself how to use a sewing machine at college, I became a crazy fabric hoarder. I shopped like a millionaire at the fabric market every week until I found I can design my own fabric. Now I have to spare half the shopping time on designing!

On the left, YingChen's design Cheetah and Banana Trees shown as wallpaper on a wall. The design features repeating dark yellow cheetahs roaming through a trio of bananas trees of varying heights on a white background. On the right, YingChen's design Zebra Safari shown as wallpaper on a wall. Small zebras are running in all directions on a dark yellow background.
Wild African Animals collection by canigrin

Nadine: I majored in art in college, but never thought I could make a living actually making art until I was hired by Hallmark in Kansas City to design cards. It was a plum job for me, I loved it. When I married my husband and moved to VT, we started our own greeting card company, Hartland Cards. I will always be grateful for the opportunity Hallmark provided.

On the left, a close up of Nadine's design Cheetahs, which features smiling yellow cheetahs covered in black spots and with pink rosy cheeks relaxing in repose and sleeping on a white background. On the right, Nadine's design Cheetahs Black shown on a pillow and a backpack. The design also features smiling yellow cheetahs covered in black spots and with pink rosy cheeks relaxing in repose and sleeping on a black background.
Cheetahs (left) and Cheetahs Black (right) by nadinewestcott

Mary: I have been drawing since I was really little. My mom is an artist, and she’s always encouraged and supported my creative passion. (And still does!) I always had a bunch of paints at home, and I always tried to paint on everything around me. Luckily, I started to use paper for that later.

Mary's design Vintage Floral Pattern, which shows both large and small pink flowers with white accents. The flowers are drawn with brown ink and have brown centers. They are growing among green leaves on a yellow background.
Vintage Floral Pattern by Mary of adehoidar

Sarah: It’s so hard to try and pick one. I think I’ve always wanted variation in my work and life, and lots of different jobs rather than one, and most importantly a job that didn’t feel like ‘work’.

After university, I was selling handmade goods at London Greenwich Market, which then led me to think about creating my own fabric designs to make my products exclusive. I taught myself how to use illustrator and it took about five days to create a very simple pattern, but I loved it and carried on learning from there. I began sharing my work and realized I loved the design more than the making and wanted to be a surface pattern designer. I began working with my first few clients and tried to enter as many weekly challenges on Spoonflower as I could.

Two photos on Sarah's studio space. On the left, designs are clipped to a white wire frame, one says "MUM you are wonderfull" and has small woodland animals peeking around the letters in MUM, one design has bunnies and foxes and bears out in the rain with umbrellas, there's a design with a pink watering can with flowers coming out of the top and a cake design that has "Happy birthday" written above it. On the right, a computer monitor is placed on a desk next to some papers filed on small shelves with a spider plant on top. Above the monitor are shelves with books and pens and plants.
Sarah’s studio space

Top three design trends you’re noticing:

YingChen: Rainbows, zodiac and veggies with faces.

Nadine: I really try to stay away from what’s trending and stick to what I do best. Besides, if its already trending, you’re already behind.

Mary: Minimalist lines and brush marks, kid-style drawings and animal prints.

What influences or inspires your work?

YingChen: I’m inspired by my childhood memories and the children’s books I read in my young age. I lived in a house with a lot of patterns—my room had a cute panda wallpaper, our living room had bold blue floral wallpaper, even the floor had Mexican cosmos flowers tiles.

I also lived near the zoo since I was a kid. I guess that’s one of the reasons I love to draw animals so much!

YingChen's sketchbooks: on the left, watercolor pansies, bees and leaves. On the right, red pansies and a peach flower and a yellow flower, all with green leaves, made from construction paper.
Pattern play with paper cut outs by YingChen of canigrin

Nadine: I’m constantly in awe of the beauty and grace of the natural world. It makes me want to tap into its energy and create something from it. I’m also inspired by the posts of so many talented and creative people on Pinterest and Instagram. These sites are invaluable to me because they bring to light thousands of artist’s and illustrator’s work that I might not have ever been exposed to. I see different styles, perspectives, and color combinations. I’m constantly learning from them.

Three images in one: Close ups of Nadine's design Pomegranates on the left and right. The design has a white background with dark red leaves and halves of bright red pomegranates scattered throughout. The center image features a table runner with the Pomegranates design on a wooden table with eight place settings, complete with places, napkins, glasses and utensils, four settings on each side of the rectangular table. A row of small white votive candles run down the center of the table runner and small springs of greenery with dark red and white blooms run along each side of the table.
Nadine’s design, Pomegranates, from our Elegant Holiday Design Challenge was hand-picked by stylist Tina Dahl for an exciting project with the party planning experts at Black Twine.

Sarah: My work is mostly inspired by animals, storytelling and my childhood. I get a lot of inspiration from being outside—I think when you work from home it can be tempting to stay in for days and I always feel much more inspired after being out and taking in the different colors, patterns, people, activities. I like to come home and put a few of the things I’ve been inspired by into a story and create a collection from there.

On the left, Sarah's design The Night Sky shown wore as a jumpsuit by a small child on the left and a larger child on the right, wearing the design on a short-sleeved shirt and shorts. On the right, a close up of The Night Sky design, which has drawings of constellations, pink planets with a white ring around them, a white planet speckled in black dots, a yellow moon and yellow, pink, green and blue stars dotted throughout.
The Night Sky by sarah_knight | Childrens’ clothes by 2 Little Legs

How do you get out of a design rut?

YingChen: I take a shower or write down all the ideas in my head. Sometimes we artists have too many ideas that we get overwhelmed. My technique is to do things irreverent, such as washing the dishes, cleaning the floor or even doing some crafts.

A design by YingChen on a growth blanket. The blanket has a cream background and the numbers 1-12 written in blue, pink, red, green and black. The words Days, Weeks, Months are written underneath the letters. A strip of fabric is encircling the letter "1" and a strip of black-and-white fabric is encircling the word "months." Next to the numbers is a sleeping baby lying in the center of a drawing of red, black, green, yellow and blue flowers.
Find this sweet growth blanket and other one yard projects in YingChen’s Spoonflower shop

Nadine: There’s hardly a time when I’m not in a design rut! I can spend a lot of time going in the wrong direction. Sometimes, I think I know what I want to create but no matter how hard I try, I’m not happy with it. After I’m thoroughly frustrated, I give up. Then I relax and usually, the solution arises. I was just looking for it in the wrong place.

On the left, designs from Nadine's Kids collection as shown as kids' clothing. A graphic mix of butteries hearts, dots and leaves on a cream colored background is made into a dress with small black shoes placed underneath. A tumbler with the same design is placed to the dress's right above a small black bow. A pillow is made from Nadine's design Cheetahs, which features smiling yellow cheetahs covered in black spots and with pink rosy cheeks relaxing in repose and sleeping on a white background. Underneath the pillow is a pair of small pants made out of Nadine's Checks, design which has a checkered pattern of blue black yellow pink and cream. On the right designs, a small top is made from Nadine's design Shell Collection, a jumbo scale seashell collection in muted pastel colors on a cream colored background. Under the top, a pair of small pants made from Nadine's design Starfish, which has aqua starfish motif on cream colored background.
Left: Shop designs from the Kids collection, right: Shell Collection and Starfish by nadinewestcott

Sarah: I like to get out of the house for a bit and do something completely different to reset. I go to boot camp and boxing classes, it’s so different from my job it helps me to change my mindset and start over. If I’m struggling with ideas for freelance or portfolio work I take a look at the current challenges on Spoonflower and create a design for the weekly challenge. I like to set a time on this and I find once I’ve done that, I’m back on track with new ideas.

Two pillows by Sarah, on the left, Sarah's design Marrakesh Festival, which features camels, an oasis with a palm tree, lanterns and more on a peach background. On the right, Sarah's design Garden Butterflies on a pillow. The design has blue and peach butterflies floating around a meadow amongst blue, red and peach flowers.
Marrakesh Festival and Garden Butterflies by sarah_knight

Share three fun facts about yourself:

YingChen: I can’t sleep with even a small sip of coffee, I’m a volleyball player and lastly, I won 1st place in a Chinese Calligraphy contest while in my junior high school.

On the left, YingChen's design Navy Camo made into a dress. The design is a brown, navy and cream camo design. On the right, YingChen's design Retro Swan Lake on a small zippered makeup bag. The design has a blue background with white swans with black and yellow beaks swimming through it. Two makeup brushes and a small NARS makeup compact are next to the bag.
Navy Camo and Retro Swan Lake by canigrin

Nadine: I’ve illustrated dozens of children’s books, wrote and illustrated hundreds of greeting cards, and I love doing botanical art and bird paintings.

Mary: I squat more than I weigh, I collect postcards and vintage Christmas ornaments, and I can’t tell what I love more: to draw tasty food or to eat it.

Mary is standing next to a painting of two people walking, one with a child on their shoulders who is holding their hands in the air. Mary is standing with arms up in the air like the child.
Judging by this photo, Mary may also be a big fan of roller coasters!

Sarah: My own style tends to be very minimal with lots of plain colors. I love astronomy and I have collected pigs since I was a child and have lots of tiny pig ornaments.

On the left, a close up of Sarah's design Hanging Out, which has a blue background with gray sloths sleeping on bright blue branches. The sloths and branches are surrounded by orange, pink, blue and cream flowers. On the right, Sarah's Hanging Out design as seen on a small dress. Several large pink flowers with hot pink stripes are next to the dress.
Hanging Out by sarah_knight | Dress by Puddin’ and Pie Shop

What advice would you give to new designers in the Spoonflower Marketplace?

YingChen: Be you! My best selling design is the one that took me the shortest time to make. You never know what will sell, just keep creating!

On the left, YingChen's design Pomegranate and Bees as seen on fabric. On the right, a close up of the Pomegranate and Bees design, which has pomegranate halves showing their seeds on a white surface with gray lines. Small red flowers with leaves and a yellow-and-black striped bumblebee are dotted among the pomegranate halves.
Pomegranate and bees by canigrin

Nadine: I feel I’m somewhat of a new designer, at least as far as the Spoonflower community is concerned. I’ve used Spoonflower for years, but I didn’t always have my patterns for sale. I had fabric printed and I sewed my own creations to sell. When I tired of that, I just deleted those old designs form my shop and started over in fresher direction. What you see in my store now, with few exceptions, are designs created in the last few months. So I’m open to any advice!

A close up of Nadine's Jungle Black & White design, which features elephants, giraffes, alligators, flowers and birds hanging out together and outlined in black on a white background. On the right, Nadine's design Jungle as shown on wallpaper. Gray elephants, orange giraffes, green alligators, pink flamingos, black-and-white striped zebras and yellow cheetahs with black spots run through a jungle with greenery on a white background.
Jungle Black & White and Jungle by nadinewestcott | Pro Tip: Print black and white designs on woven wallpaper for the perfect coloring surface for kids and adults alike!

Mary: Draw a lot, paint a lot, look at other artists’ works, get inspired and, of course, choose your best works and upload them to your shop on Spoonflower. 😉

Mary's design Exotic Flowers and Leaves shown on a duvet set, which includes a duvet cover and two pillow shams. They are shown on a wooden bed frame with a wooden desk to the right of the bed with a plant on it. On the right, a close up of the Exotic Flowers and Leaves design, where red birds of paradise flowers and large clusters of small pink and red flowers pop out from green palm fronds and dark green monstera leaves.
Exotic Flowers and Leaves by adehoidar

Sarah: Just give it a go! Creative work can never be wrong, so just create something and enjoy it, the rest will fall into place. My Grandad always told me “there’s no such word as can’t” and it’s so true, even if you don’t love everything you’re doing, it nearly always leads to something you will love.

A close up of Sarah's Summer Floral design, which features pink, green, yellow, gray and teal flower pots with flowers in that same range of colors sticking out of them.
Summer Floral by sarah_knight