Guest Expert: Laura Coyle

Laura-Coyle-Textile-Design-LabThis month we have the privilege to welcome Laura Coyle to the Textile Design Lab as our guest expert. In addition to being a talented illustrator and working with clients such as Target,, Disney, Laura is also a fantastic teacher. On Tuesday, July 31st, Laura will be in the Lab demonstrating Illustrator’s fantastic Recolor Artwork feature, but she is here today to tell us about her work and tips for using Adobe Illustrator!


Can you remind us of your design background and tell us about what you’ve been up to since you were last a guest expert in 2015? How has your business grown and changed over the years?

I have been working as a freelance Illustrator for almost 25 years with an array of editorial and book publishing clients (Better Homes and Gardens, Wall Street Journal, Scholastic), advertising clients (Target, American Express, Amazon) and greeting card companies (Papyrus, Hallmark). Looking to expand my range, I exhibited at Surtex for art licensing and later started teaching Adobe Illustrator online, which I’m still doing now. Last year I was a speaker at the Creative Pro conference in Atlanta and later this year I’ll be speaking at Adobe Max in LA. The biggest change in my career recently is that I am taking more time to work as a musician, something I have been doing part time for the past 10 years, but now am finally starting to give more attention to. So while I’m doing less illustration work and teaching than I have in years past, I’m learning a lot from the creative parallels I’m discovering between my music and art careers.


What does a typical day look like for you running as well as your own freelance design business? What are the different hats you wear?

My typical day is a lot different than it was just a year ago, because now I try to start every day by getting my vocal warmups and music practice taken care of in the morning before I do any other work. When I need to work on learning new Photoshop skills, I include a set amount of daily practice time for that too, and it can be so helpful. Even 30-45 minutes a day will bring results when you are trying to learn new software skills. It takes repetition and training to foster muscle memory, just like with music. You don’t have to create anything amazing, just show up every day for a little time in Illustrator or Photoshop.


Can you tell us a bit about some of the latest updates to Illustrator that have made the program more useful to surface pattern designers? What are some of your favorite changes or additions in the last few years since your last guest expert training?

Sometimes it’s the little things: In the most recent update Adobe made it possible to adjust the size of anchor points and handles, to make them easier to see (Preferences > Selection & Anchor Display). The new Properties Panel is something that can be very helpful for newer users, because it gives some good contextual menus and options in one handy panel, depending on what you have selected. The Puppet Warp feature is worth exploring for bending and tweaking objects and type.


What are some of your favorite tools in Illustrator? Are there any tools that are less known or don’t get as much use from designers that you think should get more love?

I’m always talking up the Appearance Panel, because the goodies are not readily apparent, but the more time you spend with it, the more you will be rewarded. Whenever I’m adding effects to vector objects (or groups, or type), I do it via the Appearance Panel, it’s like a layers panel for objects, and you can stack effects and other appearance attributes like strokes and fills. Then, you can save what you created as a Graphic Style and apply it to other objects with a single click. I have a fun tutorial on my blog that demonstrates creating a scalloped border that is great for Appearance Panel beginners.


Some designers love the clean vector look and others are more drawn to more textural, layered looks. Do you have any words of encouragement for those designers who tend to shy away from Illustrator? Perhaps unexpected ways they may not know you can achieve looks with a more textural feel?

Brushes are great for adding texture, and it’s fun to make them when you are out and about on a texture hunt with your phone. Using the Adobe Capture app, you can snap a real world texture, refine it into a brush, and see it pop up, ready to use in your Library inside Illustrator.

I encourage all designers to learn Illustrator, especially if you are more Photoshop-centric, because the 2 programs compliment each other so well. For textures, you can use Photoshop to edit a texture from a photo, turn it into a black and white bitmap, and save it as a tiff. Then, place it in Illustrator, give it a color, use the multiply blending mode, adjust the opacity percentage, and use it to overlay your design with texture. Alternatively, you can take any scalable vector art from Illustrator and use it in Photoshop as a Vector Smart Object, where it retains some Illustrator scalability and editability, while you add painterly Photoshop touches. There is tremendous power in knowing both programs. Illustrator’s unique superpower is the unlimited scalability and flexibility of the art you create, and it’s so much fun to explore!


Do you have any tips or resources to share with surface pattern designers who are ready to start learning Illustrator or improving upon what they already know? How much of a time investment do you think a newbie needs to spend to become well-versed in the program?

I have classes and tips on my blog, including a class called Pattern Power that breaks down the Pattern creation mode in Illustrator (CS6 through CC). It explains the basics, but it also goes in-depth to show how to layer patterns and upload finished art to Spoonflower. I created the classes on my blog years ago for an online school that no longer exists. The classes are mainly for older versions of Illustrator, but the information in many cases is still useable in CC, and the pattern and ink brush classes are great examples of that. All the classes are free to explore, once you subscribe to our email list. I also have classes available on

As for the time it takes, I think a little bit every day can go a long way. So much of what you are doing is remembering where things are and what they do, so it’s important early on to try and make it a daily practice. Then, if you have an opportunity to do a full scale project and throw yourself into it fully, you will gain some serious skills before you know it. Everything I learned about Illustrator came from trial and error over years of developing my style, working for clients, and teaching. My Photoshop skills lag behind because I don’t use it as much, but whenever I set myself a daily practice routine, I get better at it, and them I’m ready to use it when the right project comes along. Those marathon project sessions are where you can really cement your skills. Or take a class – there are so many great project-based classes available that make it easy to home in on what you really want to learn.


Can you give us a quick preview into the training you will be offering in the Textile Design Lab? What can people expect to learn?

I’ll be demonstrating Illustrator’s fantastic Recolor Artwork feature, which allows you to try out a new color scheme on any artwork you select. For those who are new to it, the interface can look a little complex, so I focus on the most useful aspects to get you up and running. For those who are already using Recolor Artwork, I’ll demonstrate a few tricks to help you get more out of the feature.

Textile Design Lab members can find a link to Laura’s Live Training in our Member Dashboard. Not a member? Get started here.


Featured Designer: Jenny Bova


I am thrilled to share the work of Jenny Bova with you today. I have known Jenny for quite some time through the Textile Design Lab and I am so excited to share her story with the larger Pattern Observer community. Jenny creates modern patterns with a dash of organic sophistication. She starts her work off the computer, which I believe allows her artistic style to shine. This is her story.

“When I was a child my mom would sew my outfits and went to great lengths to make sure that the tops and the bottoms matched. To this day she will tell you I never once wore a matching set. The top to one and the bottom of another. I guess I started out seeing things my own way. My poor mom—I now know how much work it was and how frustrating that must have been!

“My education is a BA from Bates College where I studied Art and English. My Master’s degree is in Industrial Design from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. I decided that I wanted to be a designer on a family trip to England while I was in college. I distinctly remember standing in the Collier Campbell shop in London thinking, “THIS is what I want to do.” I returned to school in Maine and promptly switched my major from English to Art.

Jenny Bova studio wall

“It has taken me a long time to get back to that initial inspiration. I’ve worked in retail design, advertising, and interior design. I even designed a line of handbags that were sold in boutiques throughout the country. My long experience in interior design finally led me back to surface pattern design. I constantly wanted to change colors and designs that I was specifying, which led me to start creating repeat designs. From there my product design background kicked-in and we’ve begun to develop our own product line featuring our surface pattern designs.

“My husband, Clint, is my business partner in our company, Bova Creative. We are moving away from providing design services and are focused on art, surface pattern licensing, and developing our line of products. We both love to work with our hands so some of the pieces we sell are crafted in our studio, such as the glass trays that we sell on our site.

“My inspiration for these designs came from nature and the fleeting, changing essence of our daily surroundings. I studied different buds, blooms, leaves, petals—some on a macro level. I love texture and color, and nature has an abundance of both.


“In general, I follow fashion and the overall trends to influence my work. Even if the project isn’t fashion based, I believe that a lot of the design we live with originates in fashion. My process always begins with a tone of voice board or back beat so that I am clear on my vision. Then I start sketching and expand the motifs and ideas I’ve developed in watercolor, ink, and lino prints. By using multiple mediums I’m able to develop my designs in ways that I wouldn’t get with just a single exploration. Finally, I scan everything and develop my layout and colors in Photoshop. Depending upon the market and the style of the print, I will index the color. Sometimes that’s my favorite part.

“My best advice is to connect with people. Don’t wait. Connect with other designers in the Textile Design Lab. Get in touch with the companies and studios with whom you want to work. Make real connections with people and your art and career will progress. It may not happen overnight, but it will never happen if you don’t try.”

You can explore Jenny’s beautiful portfolio and product line on her website,

Textile Design Lab Member Highlight: Cape Cod

Last week we kicked off our third annual Summer of Creativity in the Textile Design Lab. This year’s theme is travel and we will be exploring a new “destination” each week for the next eight weeks.

Our first destination was Cape Cod, a peninsula that extends off the state of Massachusetts. Cape Cod is a popular summer tourist destination in the Northeastern U.S. Strewn with idyllic villages, historic lighthouses, and coastal dunes, Cape Cod is known for its fishing, whale watching, and the artistic mecca of Provincetown at the tip of the peninsula.

Our Textile Design Lab members were given a design brief based upon this destination and we were blown away by what they created in just seven days! Congrats to all the members who completed last week’s brief and I look forward to sharing more work with you next week!


(L) Collection by Sonya Percival (R) Collection by Manina Harris


(L) Collection by Beatrice Kim (R) Collection by Susanne Mason


(L) Collection by Marit Cooper (R) Collection by Fiona Cowell


(L) Collection by Jenny Bova (R) Collection by Kelly Lahl


(L) Collection by Karen Avila (R) Collection by John Wylie


(L) Pattern by Tina Doyle (R) Pattern by Toile de Lina


(L) Pattern by Christine Gibson (C) Pattern by Sandra Moura dos Santos (R) Pattern by Sandy Laipply


(L) Pattern by Claire Mounier (C) Pattern by Dora Font (R) Pattern by Susan Brand


(L) Pattern by Terry Stone (C) Pattern by Gisele Mozes (R) Pattern by Stephanie Nehme


(L) Pattern by Meredith Gain (C) Joslyn Werner (R) Sarah Didion


(L) Pattern by Nooraya Sophia Wales (C) Pattern by Carrie Esplin (R) Pattern by Julie Saunders

Textile-Design-Lab-Cape-Cod(L) Pattern by Leigh Cornell (C) Pattern by Christa Schoenbrodt (R) Pattern by Batoul Yazdanian

We Want To Share Your Story


We have a number of new readers in the Pattern Observer community so I wanted to repost my call for submissions.

If you are a designer, artist or maker we want to hear from you! We want to feature your artwork, your story, and what inspires you on a daily basis. By sharing we can all learn ways to improve and will meet some pretty cool designers in the meantime.

If you are interested, please submit your work here.

Recharge, Create, and Cultivate Your Creativity

Recharge-Your-CreativityCreative exploration is an essential component to being a thriving artist. It is through trying new techniques, playing with interesting color combinations, and exploring new motifs that we can push our work forward. This allows our creativity to blossom, helping us to reach our amazing potential. This feels great to think about, doesn’t it?

But what happens when difficulties arise?

Life is busy. Our time and attention are pulled in many directions—not just our work. It is these demands on everyday life that quickly grow consuming. Suddenly time and energy are at a premium, and the first casualty is the “forward thinking” work of exploring anything new. When this happens, creativity goes into hibernation. Suddenly, new creative sparks are smothered out by the weight of other obligations. This is when community becomes so important.

Community is important and it helps us in various ways if we allow it to. I’m sure you’ve heard the emphasis on the power of community before, right? One of the most important aspects of a community is how it helps to lift you up during the low points. You know those times when you feel paralyzed by overwhelm, self-doubt, or frustration.

Thankfully, life is not just low points. I’ve also discovered the power of community during times when things are just “OK.” What does okay feel like? For “creatives,” it could be creating artwork, but the process feels difficult and lacks flow. Or, ideas are there of what you’d like to create, but they feel too familiar. Then there are those maddening times when you are going through the motions, hoping that at some point the stars will align and the magic will return.

All these things happen for a variety of reasons. It could be due to stress or isolation, or maybe you really just need a vacation.

I know these feelings so well because this is where my creativity has been for the past few months. Trade shows, marketing, house sales, life changes…it has taken a toll on my creativity. These things aren’t bad and gratitude for my life exists. But creatively—I’m living in a mediocre place. Actually, it’s not very unfamiliar.

There have been other times when I’ve worked through these situations. I realize I owe it to myself – and my creativity – to push some things aside for a period-of-time so I can recharge my creativity.

This need was my inspiration behind this year’s Summer of Creativity. Selfish, I know! But I also know that I am not alone in needing a virtual “vacation.”

Virtual vacation? What?! Here’s how it is going to work: for the next eight weeks we will be exploring a different pattern style from around the world. Each Monday participants will receive an email and design brief describing our new “destination.” Some history of the style will be shared, as well as its relevance in today’s marketplace. Participants will have one week to create a pattern or collection based upon that weeks destination and we will meet on the following Monday to share our work and discuss the process. Along the way, we will explore design tutorials and enjoy small creative exercises to feed our creative spirit and explore new ways of creating patterns.

The Summer of Creativity is held within the Textile Design Lab and starts on Monday, July 16th.  The cost to join the Textile Design Lab is $49/ month, and includes countless other courses, tutorials, and community events. There is no additional fee for the Summer of Creativity—it’s all included in this monthly price.

This summer, give yourself the gift of a creative “virtual” vacation. Join myself, and our Textile Design Lab community, as we explore fresh ideas, new design techniques, and our own creative impulses. Grab your spot here.

Sending you lots of love,



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At Pattern Observer we strive to help you grow your textile design business through our informative articles, interviews, tutorials, workshops and private design community, The Textile Design Lab.