In this month’s Designer Spotlight, we’re especially happy to introduce four designers from our diverse Marketplace that have (at least) one thing in common: They all submitted their best work and stories via our Featured Spoonflower Designer interview questionnaire. Interested in submitting your application to be a featured designer? Follow the link at the end of the interview to learn more.
Meet September’s Featured Designers
Monika Suska from Poland: My style is fun and cute with just a touch of nostalgia here and there, and very character-driven.
Jay Trolinger from the United States: My work is textural, abstract, and painterly, with a strong undercurrent of geometry.
Kim Johnson from the United States: My style is fun, bright, nature-inspired and hand-drawn.
Vivian Ducas from Canada: My designs are original, vibrant and a fabulous mess.
What’s one design tool you can’t live without?
Monika: I work in Photoshop using a tiny Wacom Bamboo tablet, but I do also sketch with regular pencils that I buy in bulk whenever I’m in Bangkok. Those pencils have cutest kawaii prints on them and somehow never break.
Jay: In the digital world, I’m most at home in Photoshop. I also use SketchUp, which is useful when I want to work with 3D shapes and unusual geometry. I also use it to mock up physical spaces for sculpture and installations. For physical media, I love block printing, natural dye, embroidery, and ink on paper.
Kim: Watercolor, inks, my iPad and various other art tools. I love to sew and knit, and I’m just getting into weaving.
Vivian: Well, I can tell you about tools (and the role of good health) but really, SPOONFLOWER is the HUB my designs cannot live without. Thank you to all the good folks at Spoonflower for making a place to meet human connections, and for making creative transformations accessible for all.
Aw, shucks, Vivian. You’re making us blush!
What inspires your work?
Monika: I travel quite a lot, so that is my main source of inspiration. I love folk art from around a world and I create a lot of patterns loosely inspired by things like Mexican Alebrijes or Chinese cut paper. From a different angle, my fellow artists inspire me to constantly work on my craft, push my boundaries and grow as an artist. I’d call it positive envy. 🙂
Jay: I’m no scientist, but I’ve always been drawn to scientific imagery; bubble chambers, x-rays, antennae, microscopic animals, fractals, tilings, and so on. I love the natural elegance of Japanese textiles, the opulence of Indian fabrics, and the bright, structural pop of Scandinavian design. Architecture always interests me. I love to see the bones of new buildings as they go up. I also enjoy the frayed, decaying textures of old buildings as they return to earth.
Kim: Nature, music, vintage art books and pattern. I am also in love with Art Deco right now.
Viv: I’m inspired by the sun, gardens, water, and all the things that interrupt passing time…and the misunderstanding of chaos.
Share a defining moment that shaped your creative path:
Monika: When I was 16 my friend gave me a children’s picture book illustrated by Delphine Durand. It was a bit of an inside joke but I remember very clearly that it hit me: “This is what I want to do! I want to illustrate awesome books like this one.” Nineteen years and over 60 books that I have illustrated later, this is still my “day job” and I love it! My background in children’s publishing strongly influences what I do as a surface designer. My patterns are usually full of fun characters that tell a story.
Jay: In 2000, I got a job at a small architectural firm in Berkeley, California. I had no formal education in architecture or computer graphics, but I loved playing with Photoshop, so I handled a lot of their digital graphics and also served as printer-whisperer. That meant I could also print my own designs on the wide-format printer when nobody else needed it. I got really into making custom gift wrap this way and, when I left in 2005, I felt I was ready to start selling my own gift wrap. Turns out, I had a lot to learn about starting my own business, but I kept working on digital repeats and eventually got a degree in Textiles from California College of the Arts in 2015.
Kim: About 10 years ago one of the felt pillows I made was featured on the Today Show, later followed by several magazine features. That was my first taste of selling in the market and I was hooked.
Viv: I’ll tell you about the defining moment of how I got the name C’est la Viv. When I travel, I make my own postcards—usually out of found cardstock—and after writing my message, I top it off with a big colorful stamp to mail off to friends and family back home. On a long and bumpy bus ride through France in 1995, I decided to paint with my Aquarelle (watercolor) paints on beautiful french Arches 130lb paper to make picture-perfect postcards of what I could only see through the windows. Well, needless to say, the wet colors spilled and splat all over. “Well, such is life,” I thought, so I signed my cards C’est la Viv, a more personalized twist on the french idiom, c’est la vie.
How do you get out of a design rut?
Monika: For me, that’s an easy fix—I go outside. Nature or city, alone or with company, it doesn’t matter. The point is to take a break.
The second thing that works are Spoonflower’s Weekly Design Challenges—those themes are usually not my typical go-to and very often outside of my comfort zone and that’s very refreshing. Pinterest also works!
Jay: When I get stuck, I always go back to basic geometry. I get up from my computer, pull out a pad of graph paper, a compass, a straight edge, and a good black pen. Sometimes, I will try to learn one of the old-school tricks for constructing sacred geometry. Before long, I usually find myself riffing on the original shapes and then I’m back in the game. Color usually comes after shape for me. When I want to break away from my go-to palettes, I find a photograph I like and isolate a few key colors from it. I’m also a big fan of chance in design, so the “Randomize” button in Photoshop’s Gradient Map tool is always my friend!
Kim: I usually grab a blank piece of paper or my iPad and start scribbling. Once I get in the flow something usually emerges. If that doesn’t work I watch old movies, especially from the 1940s. The fashion and furnishings always have unique and interesting pattern and design.
Viv: Go outside.
Share three fun facts about yourself:
Monika: I can pack my bag and be ready to travel anywhere in 30 minutes (that includes makeup), I can’t drive and I lost my last baby tooth when I was 18.
Jay: I’m a drummer who spent years playing for dance classes. I love to cook international cuisine—Korean is my current obsession. Lastly, I got my BA in Textiles at age 50.
Kim: I have lived in 2 countries and 6 states. My great-great-aunt was commissioned to paint a miniature portrait of The Duke of Windsor. Milk is my favorite drink!
Viv: I make homemade yogurt, I once won a dance contest and I spill and splat (watercolors)!
Which color best expresses your personality?
Monika: Pink. It’s playful, not very serious (in a good way) and I draw cute animals for a living so…
Jay: Orange. It usually stands out, can occasionally be loud or obnoxious, but can also be deeply nourishing, like citrus or sunsets.
Kim: Yellow. I’m a happy person, a Leo and I love the warm sun on my face. I’m from Toronto, Canada originally and am now living in South Florida.
What advice would you give to new designers in the Spoonflower Marketplace?
Monika: My advice is more about a creative career in general: Don’t give up too easily or too quickly! When you feel like it’s really time to give up that means that you still need a couple more years of work to succeed.
Take care of yourself. Exercise, eat well, meditate, sleep enough, be social, etc. Artists tend to neglect this far too often. I believe that being in shape—both physically and mentally—helps me be more creative and more prolific.
Jay: Learn to make a good repeat. Mirroring tools are helpful in a pinch, but the kaleidoscope look will never be as compelling as a well-designed repeat. And if you really want to do a deep dive into how symmetry works, check out Peter S. Stevens’ classic, Handbook of Regular Patterns. It’s also really helpful to enter the Design Challenges. You may never win, (I’ve only made the top 10 once!), but it stretches your boundaries and gets your designs in front of other people.
Kim: Just have fun! Don’t worry yourself with what other designers are doing. Create from the heart, and create what makes you happy. That’s all that matters.
Viv: Be original. Be creative. Be fabulous! Support your fellow creative. When a customer or client asks you to do something “like this” or “like that“, offer to do it authentically with original work. Or refer them to the original artist/designer. When someone copies, they cheat themselves and lower their value. Put value on your special twist. Those that can see it will find you.
Want to know more about how to be a featured designer? Learn more here.