If you’re looking for that little spark to inspire your 2020 design goals, our first Designer Spotlight of the year is the visual feast you’ve been looking for. This month’s artists show us how a heap of color, fun and hard work are the key ingredients to kicking off a career (or side gig) in surface pattern design. We hope their stories, experiences and design tips will inspire you to take your ideas to a whole new level in the months ahead. Read up, then let us know your 2020 design goals in the comments section below!
Meet January’s Featured Designers
Simply put, Louise Margaret from Australia calls her work, “bold and colourful abstract art.” We asked Louise to share 3 fun facts to help us get to know her better and she shares, “I’m an INFJ-HSP personality type, my husband’s pet name for me is ‘carebear’ and I loove Rothy’s! They’re the only shoes I wear so I’ve got 6 pairs on constant rotation.”
Vivian Hasenclever from Luxembourg describes her style as, “simple and colourful with a hand-drawn feel.” Vivian’s fun facts take her on a world of adventure: “My family left Norway when I was young and Singapore became home for 20 years. My husband and I (and our 3 boys) have shared 14 homes in 5 countries.”
Dana Duncan from the United States explains, “my pattern designs illustrate themes like cats, animals, food, and nature with a colorful retro style that is whimsical and fun.” We asked Dana to share 3 fun facts to help us get to know her better: “I have had many pets besides cats like dogs, reptiles, fish, birds, and rodents. I once rescued a wild owl during a photography day trip. I am an avid amateur photographer.”
In her own words, Allison Romero from the United States has a style that’s, “colorful, whimsical, and a little bit retro.” We asked Allison to share 3 fun facts that give insight into her personality: “I used to sing in talent shows as a kid even though I’m a total introvert who can’t sing, I collect vintage radios and lastly, I could spend every day in an antique store!”
Share a defining moment that shaped your creative path:
Louise: I have always enjoyed being creative and working with computers, so naturally I gravitated towards graphic design and digital media as a career. What got me on the path of fabric design was having a market stall; Through another one of my creative outlets, I was selling earrings, headbands, clutches, etc and thought about how much I would love to be using my own Australian designs for the things I made. I remember seeing some of Lily Pulitzers designs around that time and falling in love with the bright colourful prints. The designs from her fashion collections really inspired my love of textile design and to start doing some of my own.
Vivian: Two years ago I came across a sewing blog about designing fabric on Spoonflower! I had never heard about seamless repeats or print on demand, but I just thought ‘this is for me!‘ In February 2018 I made my first pattern and entered the Spoonflower Origami challenge. Since then I have taken countless hours of Skillshare classes and just kept entering the Weekly Design Challenges. I just love this new creative path!
Dana: That moment was when I decided to completely delete my online graphic design portfolio. I had been working as a corporate brand designer for over 25 years when suddenly my main client decided to sell his company and retire. Yes, it could have been a bad thing to lose a client of so many years, but secretly I felt happy. At first, I did not understand why I was so happy, but then realized I was free to start creating the work I wanted to make. The important thing in life is to always see each moment as a way of inspiring change. I started embracing the illustration side of myself and let that take over. Fast forward to now and I have launched my own brand of illustrated accessories and apparel and created a body of pattern design work for my portfolio.
Allison: I started working for a crafting company and was tasked with creating a few repeat patterns for a paper collection. Creating those designs introduced me to the world of surface pattern design and seeing some of my first patterns on a physical product in stores was a huge moment for me! I’ve been making patterns ever since!
Which color best expresses your personality?
Louise: Pink. I’m a bit of a girly girl and often get described as sweet.
Vivian: Probably blue as I tend to be calm and optimistic, and I usually wear something blue!
Dana: I would choose teal because it is a versatile color that sits in a lovely place between blue and green. It can be warm and fun, or cool and dark. Teal is a color that can be used for so many parts of my patterns.
Allison: All the colors! I’m super indecisive and have a hard time picking just one.
What inspires your work?
Louise: I’m influenced by what’s around me at the time. It could be something in the garden to a recent holiday. I love plants so I do find a lot of inspiration from flowers and foliage.
Vivian: Everyday life! Colours often inspire new design ideas as does interior design images on Pinterest or Instagram. The art of other designers is truly inspirational, I am amazed at all the beautiful work created by fellow Spoonflower designers.
Dana: I guess the number one thing that influences my work is animals, and of course my pets. My two cats keep me company and provide hours of inspiration. But I simply find the animal world to be so amazing and full of inspiration. I also love to research art history and I get a lot of visual influence from modernism. My illustration style tends to be quite graphic and flat, and I find that looking at modernist art gives me new ideas and shapes. When I really need inspiration, going on a road trip where my destination leads me to a hike in the forest, a walk on the beach, or a tromp through the desert will always give me many interesting subjects to draw.
Allison: I love vintage style. I often find myself gravitating towards mid-century and vintage illustrations and patterns when I’m searching for inspiration. I try to keep a bit of that retro vibe in every piece I create. I’m also inspired by my fellow designers and creative friends. There are so many talented people in this community that it’s hard NOT to be inspired by them!
What do you listen to when you’re creating?
Louise: I actually really like silence a lot of the time and find music distracting. I do occasionally listen to a podcast or non-fiction audiobook while I’m doodling on the iPad, currently, it’s ‘The Compound Effect’ by Darren Hardy which I’m finding very motivating.
Vivian: I often work best in silence, but sometimes I like to watch an interior design show or historical drama.
Dana: Right now I am kind of obsessed with 80’s Japanese City Pop stations on YouTube.
Allison: Music is very important to me and I have it playing no matter what I’m doing! My taste is very eclectic. I have a few favorite artists that are constantly in rotation but right now I’m into 50’s instrumental/lounge music and 80’s new wave.
How do you get out of a design rut?
Louise: I find it best to drop all my expectations and just create, without any pressure that I need to use what I create. Creativity begets creativity, so for me, I have to stop analyzing and overthinking everything and just have fun.
Vivian: Try not to overthink, maybe browse Pinterest or watch tv. Sleep usually works wonders for me, new ideas often come at night!
Dana: When the block is caused by external sources I try to distance myself from the drama, stop overthinking it, and try to get some space to clear my head. I find that going out and getting some inspiration always helps. I will go on a museum trip or take a walk somewhere that has lots to see. I will take photos of things that appeal to me because bringing a sketchbook is too intimidating and will simply make my creative block worse. I will then make image boards of the subjects I liked. I group the photos by themes such as style, color, and ideas. Then the little thumbnails start. No pressure! I allow myself to think of ideas and not pressure myself to make anything final. Only when I have a bunch of ideas can I then start to work them into some real projects.
Allison: I have to step away from the computer and any projects I’m currently working on. Getting out of a rut is something I struggle with. I’ve found that taking a break from the computer helps me refocus—or I will often turn to a small group of creative friends for inspiration. Getting together with fellow artists to chat and brainstorm can be very inspirational!
What are your favorite design tools?
Louise: I work digitally the majority of the time and usually start off with something rough on my iPad Pro. Then, to create the final version with a repeat, I bring it into Illustrator (my favourite program) or sometimes Photoshop.
Vivian: I like large A4 sketchbooks to draw and jot down ideas, Illustrator is indispensable to make my patterns, and lately I am using my iPad to draw in Procreate before image tracing in Ai.
Dana: My absolute favorite design tool is Adobe Illustrator. I have been a digital artist since the beginning. I think I was the only kid on the block back in the day who only had digital drawings on the refrigerator at home. I do love pen and ink, and watercolor, for hand drawing and I have done some pretty intricate work using these mediums—but thank goodness Illustrator can convert pen and ink to vectors!
Allison: I’m a digital artist so I can’t live without my MacBook and Adobe Illustrator. I also love my Wacom tablet! I create almost everything with Illustrator’s brush tool.
What are your current design goals?
Louise: I set a goal for myself to create at least 3 patterns a week. At the moment my goal is to be consistent in creating so I can develop my style and hopefully look back in a year’s time and see the progression in my designs.
Vivian: Continue to make more designs, learn new skills (like Photoshop), explore new colourways, and further develop my personal style.
Dana: My current design goals are to continue to create more pattern designs and more accessories featuring my illustrations. I am also ramping up my show schedule for this year and I will be exhibiting and selling my accessories at conferences including CatCon. This is the year when I feel my portfolio is finally ready to start searching for an agent or find some new ways of licensing my patterns.
Allison: My biggest goal is to continue to develop pattern collections. I love creating hero prints (these usually include the most imagery and are the star of your pattern collection) but I don’t often create blender prints to go along with them. My goal is to create more coordinating designs that can work alongside my more popular prints.
Advice for designers who want to create new collections in the coming year?
Louise: I tend to design more one-off patterns than collections, but my advice would be to research the trends and incorporate the ones that gel with you into your work, but also stay true to your style. I find my favourite patterns are the ones I create from the heart without feeling that I have to follow what’s in fashion. I think the main thing is to enjoy creating and just do you.
Dana: My biggest tip would be to pick a theme! Look around you, choose a story, go on a walk somewhere cool with your sketchbook. Just keep drawing until you have sketches related to your theme. Don’t even worry about how to put them into a pattern while you are creating, the pattern and flow will come later. Color palettes are magical. I often use a reference image to create a mood and sample colors directly from it. I like to use non-realistic colors too. Like who says a cat can’t be cotton candy pink or a sky can’t be lemon yellow?
Allison: My biggest tip is to think about the customer and how they might be using your prints. I’ve learned that it’s important to have a variety of scale within your collections—even varying scales for the same print! Someone purchasing your fabric could be using it to make something large like a duvet cover or something small like hair bows. It’s important to vary your scale so there’s something available for every maker.