If you’re looking for that little spark to inspire your 2020 design goals, our first Artist 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!

Louise Margaret portrait
Dana Duncan portrait
Vivian Hasenclever portrait
Allison Romero portrait

Meet January’s Featured Artists

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.”

Louise checks a fabric Spoonflower color map against a design on her tablet that has large pink and bright blue flowers growing on black stems with green leaves
Louise Steven of louisemargaret checks a Spoonflower Color Map against her design in progress

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.”

A look at Dana's sketchbook, from which watercolor mermaid cats have been cut out of, along with small fish and small stars.
Dana Duncan of pinkowlet has almost any cat design you may ever want

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!”

Allison's designs shown on a laptop screen. There is a finger tapping a phonescreen, a calendar being filled in, journals with washi tape and stacks of books. There are books stacked around the laptop and a small succulent to its left.
We love the whimsical nature of Allison’s illustrated designs

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.

A close up of Louise's design Bohemian Paradise Monstera, which has a pink background and large hot pink, yellow and red monstera leaves throughout.
Bohemian Paradise Monstera by louisemargaret
A close up of Louise's design Australian Abstract Banksia, which has a repeating design of banksia flowers and nuts.
Australian Abstract Banksia by louisemargaret

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!

A close up of Vivian's design Modern Desert, which has a light pink background, and reddish pink and green cacti dotted throughout.
Modern Desert by vivdesign
A close up of Vivian's design Maximalist Peony, which has a cream background and large bright pink peonies with green leaves.
Maximalist Peony by vivdesign

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.

A close up of Dana's design Cactus Cats in progress, being drawn on paper. The cacti have plant shaped cacti bottoms and tops shared like cats heads, with two ears.
Sketches for Dana’s Cactus Cats collection
Dana's design Mystical Cats in three different colorways on 3 different small zippered change purses. The top purse has a black background and a cream cat wearing a witch hat and small green witchy things around it, an owl, some candles, a spellbook. The purse to the right has a light green background with a darker green cat and yellow witchy things. The bottom purse has a white background and a pink cat and purple witchy things. All of the purses are sitting on a brown rattan mat.
Mystical Cats design collection by pinkowlet

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!

Allison's Hot Air Balloons design on cocktail napkins. The design has a pink background and has hot air balloons floating through the air, some are red and white, some are green and white, some are light green and dark green, some are pink and green.
Hot Air Balloons napkin set
Allison's design Birthday Bash seen on cocktail napkins. The design has a pink background with orange and yellow balloons, a cupcake with a mint liner and vanilla frosting with sprinkles, presents and a piece of orange cake with vanilla frosting and sprinkles and a pink center layer.
Birthday Bash napkin set

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.

Louise's design Kangaroo Paws on a pillow. The design has a green background and kangaroo paw flowers with pink stems and orange petals.
Kangaroo Paws – Green on a Spoonflower throw pillow
Louise's design Kangaroo Paws as it would look as wallpaper. The design has a green background and kangaroo paw flowers with pink stems and orange petals.
Kangaroo Paws – Green on Spoonflower wallpaper

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.

A photo of one of Dana's cats. Dots of colors, taken from the actual colors of the cat are highlighted.
Dana Duncan of pinkowlet getting color inspiration from one of her cats!

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.

A close up of Allison's design Viva Las Vegas, which has a black background and bright pink, red, green and yellow Vegas neon lights saying things like 'gambling,' 'jackpot' and 'get lucky.'
Viva Las Vegas by allisonromerodesign
A close up of Allison's Mystical Dark Blue design, which has a navy background and white and gray blue things you might find in a magic shop, including a crystal ball, a Ouija board, a candle and some crystals.
Mystical Dark Blue by allisonromerodesign

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!

Vivian's Tropical Flamingo Forest design as seen on a makeup bag. The design has large white birds and large blue, white and pink flowers among large green palm fronds.
Tropical Flamingo Forest collection by vivdesign
An in-process drawing of a flamingo next to large flowers and a palm frond. Small swatches of several colors, purple, yellow, dark blue, light blue and green, lie to the top left of the piece of paper. A small case with eyes drawn on it holds pens to the top right of the piece of paper.
Viv dreaming of the tropics in her early planning stages

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.

Louise at work in front of a tablet on a desk lying in front of a computer screen with a design with a bright blue background and large green leaves, along with red and dark purple flowers, on the screen.
Louise working on Tropical Abstract – Light Blue

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.

Vivian's design Papercut College is on a laptop on a desk with books around it. The design has light blue, dark blue and white flowers and pink berries on it, with a navy background.
Papercut Collage by vivdesign

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.

Louise's design Ripped Paper made into a shirt. The design has a pink background and jagged drawings of navy shapes with turquoise sections cover the fabric to represent ripped paper.
Ripped Paper by louisemargaret
Louise's design Kangaroo Paws & Blossoms made into a shirt. The design has a white background and hot pink petals emanating from dark blue sections of the flower. Geometric shapes in light blue, pink and yellow are scattered throughout.
From Louise’s Kangaroo Paws & Blossoms collection

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?

Dana's design in progress of Art Nouveau Cats. Four cats appear in circles with flowers drawn between them.
Early stages of Art Nouveau Cats
Dana's design Art Nouveau Cats. Four cream cats appear in dark turquoise circles with white flowers drawn between them.

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.

Allison's design Stationary Love as shown on a small zippered pouch. The design has a white background and small pieces of items used to send mail on it in yellow, pink, blue and orange. There are small manual pencil sharpeners, scissors, clips, envelopes, washi tape, stamps and more.
Stationary Love by allisonromerodesign