Designer Spotlight: Jen Koym

Hello, please introduce yourself:

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Hi!  I’m Jen Koym.  I am a surface pattern designer, wife, and mom who lives and works in the beautiful Appalachian mountains of Virginia.  I am also one of the admins for the Surface Pattern Design Community Facebook Group, which is an amazing online gathering place of some of the most talented and inspiring designers around.  I am so thankful to be a part of it and to help other designers in their creative journeys.

Have you always wanted to be a designer/illustrator?

I have always loved creating.  I grew up with a mother that was a DIY queen.  She made my clothes, dolls, dollhouse, linens, etc.  (She even made me a Cabbage Patch Kid doll!)  Back then, I didn’t think there was anything she couldn’t make!  When I was old enough, she taught me how to sew and knit and that is when I first fell in love with textiles.  In high school, I really enjoyed my art classes, but I didn’t think I was a very good artist and pretty quickly gave up drawing.  I went to college, earned a BS in Biology, a Masters in Education, and then taught high school biology in the public schools for ten years.  During that time, I still really enjoyed sewing and went through a phase where I tried sewing all of my own clothes.  It was in that phase that I discovered Spoonflower and fell in love with textiles all over again.  My curiosity was piqued when I heard about their weekly design challenges.  I had learned Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator in grad school and so I thought, “Create my own fabric? Yes, please!”  I really enjoyed it, but I wasn’t very good at it.  Life was busy, so it didn’t really “stick.”  Soon after, our first child was born in with a very rare congenital heart defect and our lives were turned upside down.  We spent the majority of her first year in the hospital.  It was a very scary and isolating time.  I entered more Spoonflower challenges, because it provided me with a respite from a very difficult time.  Through the challenges, I heard about Skillshare and was able to start taking classes, improve my technique, and learn about the world of surface pattern design.  I was hooked!

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How did you come to the current point you are at in your career?

I learned Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator in grad school, but I am mostly a self-taught pattern designer.  I spent a lot of time watching Skillshare classes, Lynda tutorials, and YouTube videos.  I am still a relative newbie to the surface pattern design world.  I have spent the last four years learning, making connections, and building my portfolio.  This year my focus is on getting my work out there!

What is your design process?

I used to work exclusively with a Wacom tablet and Illustrator, but I got an iPad and Apple pencil over a year ago and it has rocked my world!  I now have lots of different workflows.  While vector patterns will always have a place in my heart, I have really come to embrace working with raster graphics. My favourite apps currently are Procreate and Photoshop.  Procreate is just so amazing and convenient.  I can take it with me wherever I go, which I love, and can even complete patterns in it!Recently, I have also dabbled in Affinity Designer and it has some great potential too!

Do you have any favourite design tools?

I love my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil.  I rely mostly on Illustrator and Photoshop for putting my patterns into repeat.  A rather awesome and under-utilised tool that I use all the time is Adobe Capture.  It is amazing for putting together color palettes, creating vector shapes and textures, and gathering pattern inspiration.

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What does a typical day/week look like for you?

I’m a mom to a special needs kiddo and also have a full time job, so it’s challenging to find time to design.  However, I try and schedule in at least an hour or two each day, usually in the evenings after the husband and little one have gone to bed, to devote to my design career. I’m a totally night owl and that is just when I do my best creating.  Recently, I have been really enjoying designing in collections.  So, I will spend a day or two brainstorming and creating a mood board.  Then, I will spend a few days sketching/foraging/painting.  Once I feel like I have a decent amount of motifs to pull from, I will start working on digitizing them and arranging them into patterns.  Some collections I can finish in a week and some take me much longer.  I’m a perfectionist and it’s a constant struggle!  :)

How much time do you have dedicated to your business? 

I would say that I dedicate about 12 hours a week to my design business.  I spend about six hours on designing, four hours on administrative tasks, and maybe two hours on marketing and self-promotion.  I’m really bad at the marketing and self-promotion!

When you feel stuck or in a design rut, how do you get yourself out of it and back on track?

I am really lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world.  Usually, all I have to do is take a walk or hike and some crazy flower or mushroom will catch my eye and the design wheels start turning.  If I am really stuck, I try and take the pressure off and focus on creating something other than a final pattern.  So, I might go out on a trek just to find some interesting things to photograph to make a neat vector texture or I might just break out my sewing machine and sew something fun.

What are some of your favourite designs to date?

These were some of my absolute favourite patterns to create.  The first two are vector patterns and the last is one of my more recent explorations with the iPad.

If you could go back 10 years and give your younger self one key piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t listen to art teachers who tell you that you aren’t good enough.  There is a valuable artist inside of every one of us.

what would be your dream project?

My dream project would be to design a fabric collection for a big fabric company.  I love seeing my fabrics sewn up into lovely projects.

There has been an art supply sanction imposed and designers are only allowed to possess 3 items, what do you choose?

Ahh!  That is a hard question!  I think I would have to choose my iPad, Apple pencil, and a digital camera.

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Where do you find inspiration?

My biggest inspiration is definitely the natural world.  I have always loved spending time in the outdoors.  There are so many levels of beauty – from microscopic to macro!  I have also always really loved the Art Nouveau period, which was also heavily inspired by nature.  Those organic lines and colors just give me all the feels.


Where you can find Jen:

Still working on my portfolio site (so close!), but you can find me over on Instagram, Facebook, or in the Surface Pattern Community.