A Q&A With Featured Spoonflower Independent Artists From Around The Globe

Behind many of the beautiful, unique designs you see on Shutterfly.com are Spoonflower Independent Artists who live for expressing their creativity and sharing their diverse designs with others. To get an inside look at these artists’ creative inspiration and process, we recently interviewed four Spoonflower Independent Artists from around the globe — Cecilia Mok, Kate Rhees, Fern Leslie and Claudia Soria — who create designs for home decor and wall art to drinkware, tablescape pieces and beyond, perfect for any space in your home.

You can explore all Spoonflower Independent Artists’ designs here. Or, if you’re just beginning to explore your own personal style, check out our handy-dandy step-by-step guide.

Meet Cecilia Mok (she/her)


Cecilia mok head shot with her wearing a a white floral shirt

Sydney, Australia

How would you best describe what you do as an artist?

I create repeat designs for fabrics used for quilting, apparel, home decor, upholstery and wallpaper in residential and commercial spaces. I also make art and illustrations for prints and wall art. My work is available internationally and is licensed for clothes, stationery, art prints, accessories and much more.

What is your background, and how does it influence your art?

I studied fashion design which gave me an appreciation of color theory, traditional textile printing and pattern design. During my fine art studies, I established foundations in classical painting and composition. My mother was a seamstress, so I grew up surrounded by fabrics, sewing and lovely handmade clothes. I also feel my heritage as a Chinese Australian continues to influence my work, drawing inspiration from traditional Chinese art, painting and symbolism.

When you first realized you had this talent, what did you do to develop that talent into a skill?

I’m not sure if I believe in talent as much as I believe in passion and hard work. My passion for art and design drew me to study, and my passions fueled personal projects that excited and challenged me. I committed to creating new designs every week and, in time, the steady practice honed my skills. [To continue honing my skills], I love taking classes, online lessons and workshops, reading books, and trying new materials and mediums. Appreciating different artists and artforms can lead to explorations in new directions — painting, sculpture, printmaking, paper, wood, clay — the possibilities and opportunities are endless!

Cecilia mok product silos in a serving plate, wall art and mug

What inspires you?

I am excited by Australian native flora on a bushwalk, vivid skies, classic and modern picture books, and visiting local galleries and museums. [I’m also inspired by] Art Deco and Art Nouveau design, hand-painted chinoiserie, mid-century modern [style] and the brilliant array of beauty and color in nature.

How has your style changed over time?

My style has evolved as I’ve worked and learned what speaks to me and makes my heart leap. I do not have one singular style, but move between work that is hand painted, richly decorative, or boldly abstract. [I’m also drawn to] color blocking and narrative illustration — it all depends on what I want to express.

What process, materials and techniques do you use to create your artwork?

I use a wide range of mediums, including traditional painting, watercolors, gouache, brush and ink, nibs, brush pens, papercuts, collage and digital drawing. Every design starts off as a series of pencil sketches. Those dynamic first lines often continue through every stage in order to keep the life of the drawing, whether they are inked over in a brush, or scanned and brought into Illustrator to turn into vectors.

What advice would you give aspiring artists and how have fans of your work influenced your artistic process?

My advice for aspiring artists is to create what brings you joy and lights you up. Create what you wish you could see out there in the world. You’re not making art for everyone. Your work will be found by the audience who loves the world you create. Your art will be as meaningful to them as it is to you. I am delighted and humbled by customers who let me know how much joy my art brings them. When someone mentions a piece that I consider a passion project close to my heart, and not necessarily a popular design, I feel like they understand what I am trying to say. It fills me with the resolve to keep making work that means a lot to me.


Meet Kate Rhees (she/her)


Kate rhees head shot with green background and striped black and white shirt

Salt Lake City, UT, USA

What is your background and how would you best describe what you do as an artist?

I make bold, colorful eye candy, with a bit of whimsy and retro love. All of my schooling was in accounting and finance (I am an accountant) so my art is very clean and ordered — just like a spreadsheet.

What inspires you?

Absolutely everything! I’ll see shapes and colors of random objects and I wonder how I can use them in a design.

When you first realized you had this talent, what did you do to develop that talent into a skill?

I took online classes! I took free classes from my public library to learn Adobe Illustrator and then I learned extra design skills from my favorite artists on Skillshare.

How do you continue to develop those artistic skills?

I still take classes from Skillshare, and YouTube is amazing for learning the things I don’t know how to do in Illustrator.

Kate rhees product silos with blanket cup and notebook

How do you define success as an artist?

When someone says that my art makes them feel something, I feel like I succeeded. Also, anytime someone is willing to use their hard-earned money to pay for something I made…that is the best!

How has your style changed over time?

Although my style has stayed relatively consistent, I can see a change when I stopped trying to fit in and follow a recipe, and I started to follow my heart instead.

What process, materials and techniques do you use to create your artwork?

I draw everything with my mouse in Illustrator — even my sketches. I don’t use pencil or paper.

What advice would you give aspiring artists?

Make art every day. Something, anything — but seriously, every day. Everyone is an artist — some people just have more practice.


Meet Fern Leslie (she/her)


fern leslie head shot photo in front of a brick wall in a black shirt

Massachusetts, USA

How would you best describe what you do as an artist?

Drawing and coloring brought me so much joy as a child … so, I am drawing and coloring again, except this time there is a lifetime of learning behind me, and I have technological tools that my young mind couldn’t have ever dreamed of. I draw on my iPad now and then vectorize those drawings in Adobe Illustrator to create designs that I often envision as wallpaper. It blows my mind how much fun it is.

What is your background, and how does it influence your art?

I am a life-long artist. I’ve dabbled in every form of art you can think of. Again and again, I’ve returned to sewing and drawing — which is the base of what I continue to do. I came to pattern design through quilt making. I was frustrated at not finding the colors and designs I wanted in fabric stores, so when print on demand was born, I was determined to learn pattern design so I could use my own designs on fabrics. Little did I know how much I would love using the computer to make my drawings into repeat patterns.

When you first realized you had this talent, what did you do to develop that talent into a skill?

I remember when I first consciously tried to improve my art. It was in first grade when I realized my simple lollipop trees could be drawn with limbs and a cloud atop them to look more natural. The next year I learned that a mouth was more than a curved line and that eyes were not dots, but rather dots within circles within ovals. I haven’t stopped paying attention to art and artists ever since.

Fast forward forty years (and after raising four children), I rented a studio which forced me to stay on track in order to pay the rent. I evolved as my customers led me in directions I would not have thought of by myself. I listened to them, said yes and kept growing. I’m still doing it.

How do you define success as an artist?

Success to me is first defining what values are important in life, figuring out what makes you happy and then finding a way to turn that into a job. If you can do the thing you love while maintaining your personal values and making enough money to pay the bills with some left over — that to me is success.

Fern leslie product silos with wall art plates and pillows

What process, materials and techniques do you use to create your artwork?

I used to live among disorganized piles of drawings. I tried to discipline myself to draw in pads, but when an idea struck me, I just seemed to grab the closest piece of paper. My iPad has revolutionized my organization. I pick it up every morning and draw along with my morning coffee. It is a storehouse of drawings that I can peruse, and use, when I am looking to make a pattern. My drawings now are all in one neat place.

I send the drawings digitally to Adobe Illustrator where I vectorize the lines. Then I color the images and form them into patterns — all on the computer. I am very picky with the colors I choose. I will tweak and tweak until the color is just right.

How has your artistic process been influenced by your connection to customers who are fans of your work?

I have had many customers request that I do one thing or another. If the direction they are asking me to go in resonates with me, I will say yes and go there. This has led me to doing things I never would have thought of. But I have also said no when requests did not align with who I am or what I want to put into the world. It is the requests that I have said no to that helped me to understand my boundaries and my own standards.

What advice would you give aspiring artists?

If I were to give aspiring artists advice, it would be to make a daily practice of their art. It doesn’t matter what other people are creating. What matters is making what your hands want to make. You will never be able to sustain the spark that lives in another artist. Likewise, you will never get away from the spark that lives inside of you. So create with it. Practice will hone your inner artist over time, and you will be amazed at what evolves. Give yourself wild abandon. Create crap. It’s okay. We all do it. Along the way gems will emerge.


Claudia Soria (she/her)


Claudia soria head shot n front of a white background and a patterned blue and white shirt

Rotterdam, The Netherlands

How would you best describe what you do as an artist?

I express myself by creating images that make me and other people happy. You can say so much with a print and I like designing prints that give you a nice feeling. You can create your own world/style by combining the right shapes and colors and I love that!

What is your background and how does it influence your art?

I studied fashion and afterwards I worked as a print designer in the fashion industry where I gained a lot of experience designing and working with fabrics. I developed a good feeling for which prints and colors work well together.

What inspires you?

Everything around me inspires me, mainly nature, flora and fauna but I also find inspiration in museums or in color combinations.

When you first realized you had this talent, what did you do to develop it and how do you continue to develop those artistic skills today?

I create and draw a lot! For me it feels very natural to design images. I also get a lot of satisfaction from it.

I continue to develop my artistic skills by looking around me a lot and paying attention to what is going on in daily life. I try out new drawing programs, watch tutorials, view a lot of art and keep designing, of course.

Claudia soria product silos with rug wall art and pint cup

How do you define success as an artist?

I experience success when I can make others happy with my work.

How has your style changed over time?

I personally think that my style has changed a lot over the years and actually continues to change because of what happens around me and in the world.

What process, materials and techniques do you use to create your artwork?

I mainly work digitally. Usually I start drawing/sketching in Procreate and when I’m happy with the result I make a repeat in Illustrator or Photoshop.

What advice would you give aspiring artists?

Be yourself and do what you love.