This month we’re intoducing three designers who share at least one thing in common; all of their names begin with the letter C! First up is Cristina CM otherwise known as sombrasblancas. Cristina visits us from Spain and says she loves to use as many colors as possible in her playful and surrealistic design work. Next, you’ll meet U.S. designer Caleb Luke Lin of caleblukelin whose design style was heavily influenced by nature and intricate illustrations found in old botanical hardback books. Lastly, we hear from Canadian designer (and July birthday girl!) Cynthia Frenette of cynthiafrenette. Cynthia’s signature style and color choices are truly one of a kind, but it’s her “all-in-good-fun” yet snarky lettering work that really resonates with many of the Spoonflower audience. We hope this month’s feature will inspire you to spend the next 6 months of the year fulfilling all of your creative dreams!
How would you describe your design style?
Cristina: My style is colorful and fun to look at. My aim is to brighten up people’s days and social media feeds.
Caleb: I use cute colors paired with inspiration from science, nature, and fantasy.
Cynthia: Happy, colourful and quirky!
Share three fun facts about yourself:
Cristina: I could live on sushi for the rest of my life, I love pet rats and I spend my weekends playing board games.
Caleb: I’m obsessed with Waffle House, I once got in big trouble at a bar for playing Madonna’s song Holiday too many times, and as a kid, I wanted to become a paleontologist.
Cynthia: I love brussel sprouts. My husband and I got married on Halloween; our wedding march was The Monster Mash. Lastly, I didn’t learn to drive until I was 40!
What’s one design tool you can’t live without?
Cristina: My graphics tablet! It is a Huion KAMVAS GT-221 Pro and I’ve had it for a couple of years now. It makes my design life much easier and fun.
Caleb: In a humorous way, I’ve been using an iMac with a broken, half-dim screen for 7 years now. My friends always ask me why I make artwork on a screen that’s darker on the left side and my only excuse is that I’m cheap and I’ve gotten used to it.
Cynthia: My iPad! I seriously wasn’t even really thinking of getting one but I kept hearing about Procreate. I very hesitantly bought my iPad and an Apple Pencil, downloaded the app, and wow. It has changed my work a million times over. I couldn’t live without it now!
Share a defining moment that shaped your creative path:
Cristina: It all started while I was studying my major in Industrial Design. I had always had a very big interest in graphic design and illustration, so I took a course in order to learn the basics and I’ve never stopped since then. My first job came when a friend of mine asked me to create a logo for a fair trade campaign he was preparing for our university and that was a very defining moment.
Caleb: Honestly, learning how to make repeating patterns was a pivotal moment for my development as an artist! I had spent a large portion of college focusing on making editorial illustrations, which can get tiresome for me personally. The process of making a pattern puts me in such a different headspace and it was very freeing for me.
At this same time, I took a screenprinting class and that helped me think about simplifying my visual language. Working digitally we have an entire rainbow of colors available to us and it really helped me to be limited to 3-4 colors and having to make the most out of that.
Cynthia: A turning point for me was when I finally started my own design business after many years of working in agencies and studios. It was really scary but the best thing I ever did. I had a roster of regular clients that I already worked with so it was amazing to take it on my own and do business my way, with kindness and love. It also gave me the freedom and headspace to explore other things I wanted to do, like fabric design. I started on Spoonflower pretty much right at the very beginning and was found on there by a rep from Robert Kaufman Fabrics: what an exciting email to get, I must say! I’ve now had several collections with RK and am now building my licensing work with my agent, creating greeting cards, calendars, homewares, and more!
Top three design trends you’re noticing:
Cristina: Monstera leaves, witches and the slow life movement.
Cynthia: Animal prints rendered in an unusual style or colour combo, artistic, painterly, or hand-drawn motifs that are almost abstracted and make use of metallics or gold leaf. I’m seeing a lot of 80’s & 90’s surf & skate graphics, too.
What influences or inspires your work?
Cristina: I find inspiration in everyday life, situations and objects: from a YouTube video to a song or a children’s book. Other creators inspire me the most. I love scrolling through my Instagram feed to see what everyone is creating. I also find Instagram stories of fellow artists super motivating; seeing other people’s behind the scenes pics and videos puts me immediately to work.
Caleb: I watch a lot of David Attenborough nature documentaries and enjoy exploring Wikipedia for interesting pages about the natural world. When I learn something new and mind-blowing, I like to incorporate that into my artwork. Sometimes I just draw things because they’re pretty or cute, and sometimes I end up spending hours researching obscure dinosaurs, poisonous plants, or animal migration routes.
Cynthia: I love vintage and retro styles, flowers, bold or unexpected colour combinations, music, tv and movies. I love checking out the set design or backgrounds in tv shows. Every object, colour, and item was placed there purposely to create a mood.
Fashion inspires me, too. The trends, colours, and styles, new and vintage, and magazines of all kinds. I have a collection of French Marie Claire Idées magazines that are a treasure trove of colour, pattern, and inspiration. I always scour the thrift stores for old magazines for fun vintage weirdness!
How do you get out of a design rut?
Cristina: Whenever I’m stuck, I go to Pinterest for fresh ideas and color palettes. If that doesn’t work, I use a random word generator to combine two or three concepts and try to work from there. If none of that brings new designs to my mind, I take a break and come back after a while with renewed energies. I don’t think it is a good idea to force creativity. When I’ve done that, the results have never been that great.
Caleb: If I can afford to do so, I think the best thing to do is just *stop*. If something isn’t working for me I try to put it down for the time being and there’s a good chance that in a few days I’ll be in a better place to continue working on it. It could be that I found some inspiration on the internet or in my day-to-day life, or I’m simply in a different mood.
Cynthia: Back away from the computer! Go outside, go for a walk. Read a book or do something totally different. I also like researching colour palettes on Pinterest (I’m such a colour junkie!) to see if there are any combinations of colours that I don’t normally use and that spark my interest. And you know how Pinterest goes, it’s a rabbit hole of inspiration, you never know where you’re gonna end up but you’ll probably find some interesting things to inspire you.
What advice would you give to new designers in the Spoonflower Marketplace?
Cristina: Start designing and uploading your designs even if think you are not ready yet. The best way to learn and improve is to actually do it.
Caleb: People seem to have really good reactions to my designs with subject matter that’s a little off the beaten path. Before starting on a new pattern, it might be worth searching for similar designs on Spoonflower and doing something that really shows off what makes you unique.
Cynthia: Just do it! I know it can be super intimidating and easy to compare yourself with other designers, but you just gotta put yourself out there and design, design, design! It takes time to build up your shop and sales, entering the weekly contests are great for that, plus for challenging you to create something you might not have otherwise.