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.

Calling all Creatives - It's Time to put your Art to Work with the Handcrafted Hustle

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As surface designers, we create a whole lot of artwork. Like, a lot. And while much of that work is picked up by art directors, there is just as much (if not more) that ends up on the cutting room floor. Why not put it to work?


Kimberly Shrack of Manayunk Calligraphy has started a new online course called designed to help artists and makers turn their skill into a retail business, just like she did. The course is called the Handcrafted Hustle, and it's designed to give you everything you need to launch your creative business in just 4 weeks. Over the course of 4 weeks, you'll have done everything you need to launch your maker business. Paperwork? Filed. Products? Perfected. Website? Ready to go. Under the guidance of successful maker business owners and experts, you'll enter the world of creative entrepreneurship with confidence.


While the legal and tax elements of the course are U.S.-specific, the rest of the information is applicable no matter where you are located. This includes topics such as creating a business plan, choosing your sales channels, pricing your products, branding, social media strategy and more. And bonus? All students who complete the course will have an opportunity to get their work in front of boutique retailer Homespun: Modern Handmade -- and one talented boss will have their products sold in the flagship store during this upcoming holiday season. Pretty cool, huh?

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To learn more, visit the FAQ section at Kim is offering our subscribers $50 off the class price. Just use code RISEDESIGN50 at checkout. Class starts Monday, October 1, so don't delay!

Be Inspired by Work from our First FolioFocus AW Week

Christine DeCarvalho

Christine DeCarvalho

Last week marked the start of our September FolioFocus session, with a solid design foundation setting focus, to set us all up for the coming creative weeks in the best way. I couldn’t resist also setting a quick turnaround brief with new trend info and boy did classmates rise to the challenge!

Have a gander below and enjoy the beauty and talent.

Youngsun Kim

Youngsun Kim



sinead hanley

sinead hanley

Enrolment for the current session is still open, so feel free to jump in if you can. Follow along on Instagram @RiseDesignandShine for more stunning work.

FolioFocus Lush Lettering

Anne Côte

Anne Côte

Last week's assignment revolved around hand lettering and typography. Have a read to see how Lauren took on the task and some great sources of inspiration from Annie!

Lauren Hamil

"I really enjoyed this week's brief as I don't often work on lettering. I decided that I wanted to create something fun that could work for greetings/stationery as well as children's wear so I started by finding a quote that I felt could work - "Today is the beginning of anything you want" as well as and vibrant colour palette.

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I then started roughly sketching out the words in different styles and planning the layout on paper before using a fine liner to draw final lettering.

In addition to the words themselves I decided to add decorative elements to my design and therefore drew a variety of motifs - mainly flowers but also arrows and swirls. I also did some mark making with paints to later use as textures.

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I scanned everything in and used Illustrator to trace my designs before colouring and adding texture to the various elements. I like to do this initially in one file as sort of an index of motifs which I then pull from to make my designs.

In a new document I then put together the basic layout of the lettering and began adding the decorative elements to them.

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Overall, I am really happy with my final design as well as the patterns. I might try experimenting with a completely different colour palette as I think I could possibly achieve a very different feel with different colours."

Annie McGee

"First up I sketched out my initial thoughts to work out my target audience/client, best places to do research & my theme. I’ve been wanting to do something around roller skating for awhile & my son loves his skates so a young lad’s art print for the bedroom it is! 😊 We’re looking to decorate his room as he moves from that little boy stage to almost teen, so I’m thinking a funky street/graffiti vibe influenced by the skate parks. Gone are the Thomas the Tank Engine curtains! 😆

"When it comes to lettering there’s some fab Instagram accounts out there. Definitely check out Lauren Hom, she has a fun weekly lettering challenge on Instagram & provides great tips in her newsletters.

One of my favourite lettering books is the one pictured here by Dina Rodriguez of Very thorough, fab examples & encourages you to develop your own typography. Her live videos are great, check out her YouTube & Instagram (word of warning - don’t watch when the kids are around due to swearing)." 

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Thanks for the insight Annie! 

More Lush Lettering!