My Journey into Selling (and Competing) on Spoonflower

Mar 31, 2019

Last year, I set about learning how to do surface pattern design. Specifically, I started plowing through Bonnie Christine’s massive Skillshare course on Adobe Illustrator. It took me six months to complete the class but by the end, I produced by first pattern repeat. It was ugly, but it was a real, technical repeat.

Since then, I’ve slowly been working my way into pattern design using my paintings and work I’ve done on my iPad using Procreate. My goal was to start selling my patterns on Spoonflower and to enter at least one of their weekly design challenges. Here’s how it’s going so far!

West Coast Spring

All the birds and botanicals for West Coast Spring were painted in acrylics. One of the things I love about this pattern is that the illustrations were created for my newsletters or for other projects. After several months of work, I had a lovely flock of birds just waiting to be turned into a pattern!

I scanned all the illustrations in at 300 dpi and removed the backgrounds using the techniques I teach in my Skillshare class, How to Remove Backgrounds Using Photoshop. Using Photoshop’s extension, Project Paras, I assembled the repeat. (I learned how from Mel Armstrong’s Skillshare class.)

After uploading the design to Spoonflower, I entered the Feathers Design Challenge. To my delight, my design came in 57th out of 756 entries. I even made their “Shop the Top 50!” This is a huge deal because I went from being invisible among a huge ocean of designers to being a tiny but visible speck on the ocean and I got my first sale! Yay!

Repeating pattern of Oregon birds. Surface design. Home decor

Once my pattern was ready for sale on Spoonflower, it was added to my Roostery shop where you can purchase it on home decor items from pillows to curtains and much more.

Coati Fest

I created my second pattern based on an illustration I did for my #28daysofkidlitart challenge. The idea behind this illustration came from a conversation I had with my friend and mentor, Dylan Mierzwinski. As I was exploring how to take my work to the next level, Dylan pointed out that the illustrators we both admire really know how to fill whole space. That inspired me to illustrate a whole coati troop.

Coati Fest is a large-scale pattern that was created for home decor like pillows, curtains, and wallpaper. This was also the first I ever entered into a Spoonflower design challenge. I came in 340th out of 758 which is not bad for a first try! I found it really encouraging because I wasn’t last and I enjoyed receiving support from the Spoonflower community. I also put this design on Roostery and ordered myself a pillow as a prize!

Hummingbird Garden

My third pattern, hot off the press, is Hummingbird Garden. This is my first half-drop repeat and wowza, there’s a learning curve there! I really tried to stretch myself on this design and focused on being more expressive and less tied to realism.

My goal was to give the viewer a sense of the colorful blooms and the birds darting in and out among the flowers. This design is entered into the Pollinators challenge on Spoonflower—voting starts on April 4!

Have you done any designs for Spoonflower? I’d love to hear about your experiences! Leave me a comment!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on a link and make a purchase. I only link to my own products or stuff I really care about.


  1. Rebecca
    May 21, 2019

    My journey to you has been through Spoonflower! I’m about to purchase curtains for my new house with your West Coast Spring (once the samples arrive and I decide which material I like best! I liked your design so much, I googled you and here I am. I too am an older artist, just retired from being a nurse-midwife, and planning on “getting more serious” with my art. I’m very excited about the Skillshare courses you mention and will be taking them as soon as I’ve moved and have my art room and computer set up. I plan on entering the Spoonflower tea towel animal design competition and I’ll tell you how that goes… Thanks for so graciously sharing your journey.

    • Tara Rodden Robinson
      May 22, 2019

      Rebecca, you made my day!! And I used to be a nurse in my first career (which was like 25+ years ago now). If you take it, I’d love your feedback on my Skillshare course–I felt so nervous while I was recording it. I feel so blessed to meet you and hope you’ll keep in touch.

      Lotsa love,


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