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.
Nadine: I tend toward a light-hearted simple approach, but at times I switch to intricate realistic art.
Mary: Food and floral engravings with a bit of a digital twist.
Sarah: I like to tell a story with my designs; I love novelty and fun when it comes to creating a pattern.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.