The tables are turned: my design process

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Hi Guys – Big news! This week is Swatch & Repeat’s one year anniversary! I’m eating pizza to celebrate…I also eat pizza when I’m working hard…or bored. Or just because it’s a Tuesday. Anyway, I digress.

The big news is not that I love pizza but that I’ve been blogging for a whole entire year! I really can’t believe it. And I have all of you to thank for reading the blog and being a part of my creative community. I never in a million years imagined I would connect with so many amazing folks through this blog!

Today, in honor of Swatch & Repeat’s one year anniversary, I’m doing things a bit differently. Usually I’m the one interviewing designers for the blog. However, today the tables are turned. I’ve asked Jen Pollard, the amazing interior designer behind Park Place Designs, to interview me instead!

Oh boy, now I’m in the hot seat! I hope you enjoy getting to know me better and hearing a bit about my design process. Enjoy!


What started your interest in pattern design?

When my son was 2 years old I quit my job to become a stay-at-home Mom. While I loved being home with him, I quickly discovered that I needed something that was my own. So I decided to returned to a previous love – painting.

When I started painting again I discovered that I was naturally drawn to creating abstract paintings that resembled textiles, rich with texture. I decided to research textile design and that’s when I came across surface pattern design.

At that point I did a lot of digging, and while I learned quite a bit about the field, I could not find much on how to actually create a pattern, a technical repeat. So, I backed-off on the idea. It just seemed like too big of a lift to figure it out on my own. To learn Illustrator and Photoshop, two programs I had never used.

Fast forward a few years. I was visiting with a friend, and we were talking about what we might want to do once our little ones were older and didn’t need us as much. I told her that I had always loved the idea of designing patterns. Lucky for me, she had heard about an online surface pattern design class and encouraged me to sign-up. That is when I discovered the world of Skillshare and the wealth of information available for wanna-be designers. I took Bonnie Christine’s Intro to Surface Pattern Design class and was hooked. Since then I have been plugging away, experimenting and just having fun.


Which designers inspire you?

Oh man, this is a toughy. My short-list would include:

  • Surfacephilia – The details in Helen Steven’s wallpaper designs are amazing and she is a master with color. I love how she’s using hand painted mixed media and screen printing to create her current collection of abstract artwork.


  • Eskayel – I love how subtle Shanan Campanaro’s designs are, and how the colors in her work bleed and flow. I’m so inspired when I visit her website and she how many different products she has applied her patterns to. So exciting.


  • Isabelle Menin Photography – Isabelle Menin’s work has a huge influence on the patterns I’m designing right now. Everytime I look at one of her disordered landscapes I just swoon. The flow of her work is perfect and the dark almost tragic influence in her work is right up my alley. Not girly at all, just right.


  • Abigail Borg – Who doesn’t love Abigail’s work! She has a beautiful illustrative style, and does a great job of mixing her florals into beautiful patterns that flow. She is another designer who has done a great job establishing themselves in the industry and running a successful business.


  • Rebecca Atwood – Beyond her designs, which have an effortless, authentic feel, I feel inspired by Rebecca because she put a lot of value on the design process. She really thinks through how she creates each of her products and is very forthcoming about her design process. I love that she creates products that can blend in to any interior and that are ethically made.


  • Woodchip and Magnolia – I love the direction this family run business is taking how they are creating wallpapers and designs that use wallpaper as a canvas for self expression. The textures on their patterns, and the photo-based designs inspire me to no end. I appreciate that they are unabashedly embracing their style and running forward with their own vision.

My patterns

When you’re stuck creatively, how do you get yourself restarted?

Well, usually when I’m stuck creatively it’s because I’ve exhausted a theme or a specific approach to pattern building. I tend to be the type of person that, when settled on a pattern building technique, will push that technique and make patterns over and over using that same approach. For example, for awhile I was into using the rotate tool in Illustrator to create symmetrical flower patterns. But then one day, I was just over it.

Usually when I’m a bit bored and am stuck I’ll turn to SkillshareI’ll find a class that will teach me a new pattern building technique or a new approach for creating motifs.

I also get energized and excited to design again when I browse Pinterest. I have several boards there that I revisit when I’m stuck. I love to find inspiration from modern art and sculptures. It’s so fun to take something that is 3D and think of how it might be reinterpreted in 2D. And of course, nature always gets me reinvigorated. I’ll take my camera and start snapping photos of flowers and interesting shapes.


What product(s) would you love to see your patterns on?

To be honest, I don’t know. I really design from the point of view of wanting to create a piece of art and just following my passion versus trying to think what will look nice on a pillow or wallpaper. I do think that the surface designs I’m creating currently, which are a bit ethereal and have shaded layers over flowers, might look nice on paper products. I may at some point decided to try selling my patterns and putting them on products. But for now I’m content just designing and writing this blog. I’m very protective. I want to make sure that this venture comes from a place of true enjoyment.


How do you juggle mama and professional life?

Well, it’s all a balancing act. Some weeks when my son is in school and I can focus I’ll get a lot done, and other weeks when he has a snow day or I have to run a lot of errands, my design work and the blog get left on the back burner. I’m very careful to make sure that I have enough blog content ready to go so that when I have weeks where I can’t focus on it I’m covered and don’t have to scramble.

For the most part I work on the blog and write during the day when it’s quiet. Writing does not come easy to me so I need to really focus. Then I’ll design and experiment with patterns in the evening for a bit after my son goes to bed. I find the design process relaxing so it’s a nice way for me to settle down after a long day.


Do you have a color palette you keep returning to? Is there one you might have to stretch yourself to use?

Yes! I’ve found that I tend to be drawn to pinks and purples and then greens and blues. The pinks and purples just lend themselves to the floral pattern work I’ve been doing lately. The greens and blues really come in because I love those colors and just find them soothing and relaxing.

As well, I tend to always incorporate white into my work to create lightness and then contrast it with black and smokey gray.

It would probably be a stretch for me to design a pattern utilizing primary colors. I have seen so many patterns I love by other designers that utilize bright red, yellow and blue, but I just don’t naturally gravitate to designing with those colors.


Products with my patterns
Left: mock-up of one of my patterns on a notebook. Right: a pillow I designed.


Where is someplace you’d like to visit for inspiration?

I would love to visit Japan. I am so inspired by Japanese art and fashion. I love the simple beauty and how the fold of a garment or light marks on a canvas can create something so beautiful and powerful.

I’d also love to go the other extreme, and visit the bright, and oh so colorful, Coast of Italy. I spent a semester in Rome during college and was fortunate to spend time on the Amalfi Coast…it will always hold a special place in my heart.


What do you listen to while you’re working?

I know this is crazy, but I’m not really much of a music person. I will sometimes play jazz in the background while I work to help me relax. A little Ella Fitzgerald. But for the most part I just listen to Podcasts. I love podcasts that focus on the creative process, such as ‘After the Jump’ by Grace Bonney or ‘Magic Lessons’ with Elizabeth Gilbert.




Park Place Designs New LogoMeet Jen from Park Place Designs

Hi there! I’m Jen, and I am an e-designer who specializes in comfortable, useable and, oh yeah, GORGEOUS room designs for families. E-design gives me the opportunity to work with you regardless of where you live. You’ve got access to a computer and a room you’d like to improve? We’re golden. I’ve got two boys and 14 years of working with families in the early childhood field….I’ve seen a lot! I know what you need, what you don’t, and how to make it work

Curious to learn more? Head on over to learn more about what it’s like working with me.


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  1. It has been so much fun to watch you grow and develop your craft! I also love your conversations with other artists. Personally, I’ve been challenging myself on upping my vulnerability, so reading your blogs on other artists’ approaches towards that has been very interesting and helpful!

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