Why I feel called to craft

Why I feel called to craft

It all became much more relevant when our writing intern, Rachel, found the book Craftfulness, which we then selected as our book club book for this month. It’s a perfect fit! In fact, it was the book I’ve been thinking about writing for the last couple of years, but didn’t know existed (it was published just one year ago, so I guess that’s fair!). I’ll be writing more about the importance of crafting and making things with your hands, but first, I wanted to write about my journey to the handmade and how I’ve felt called to do so.

Yes, I know “called” is such a hot word right now and with all this self-motivation, “go live your dreams” time we’re living in, I would prefer to call it something different, but now that I’ve had quite a few years of seeing things in hindsight, I can’t call it anything else.

I’ve addressed it a number of times at lectures I’ve given or conferences, but I realized I hadn’t discussed it outright here on the blog when I received this message:

Fair enough 🙂 I will try to do just that!

Here goes.

The history of Lars

I was pursuing a master’s degree in interior design and started The House That Lars Built on Blogspot.com for a residential design class. The project first started when I created a fictitious family for the house I was designing. I named the dad Lars and then the story just kind of spilled out from there pretty naturally (you can read more about that here). I didn’t overthink it because well, I never intended it to become anything other than a school project. Once the class was over, I kept it up as a receptacle for my school work, a visual portfolio if you will, and would offer it as a resources for potential internships and future employers.

Studying and living in Denmark

The following year I studied textile design in Copenhagen, Denmark where, yes, I met Paul, who is now my husband. We got married in 2010 and my mom, sister, and I created a craftacular wedding made up of oversized paper flowers. You can see some of the pictures here. Mind you, this was before Pinterest and Instagram and all that jazz, but people started to come to Lars and request tutorials from the wedding. At that point I was living in Copenhagen with Paul and I couldn’t get a job while awaiting my immigration status so I had plenty of time to oblige. It kept me busy at a time when I could have just remained with my back to the radiator all winter, which I also did.

Before moving abroad, my dream was to work for Martha Stewart and lead the city life. I had gotten a taste of the Big Apple during my internships and I LOVED IT. Everything about it (besides being so poor!). I had built a good network when I lived in both Washington, DC and NYC but I lost it all once I moved to Denmark (as well as friends and community, etc–It was a tough time!) But that’s a pity story for another day.

I hadn’t ever thought of pursuing DIY or crafts professionally because…well, I was now a trained interior designer and really, besides Martha, it didn’t really exist in the way that it does today with anyone being able to take their own stab at. Had I known what I know now, I would have dug in deep then so I could have spared a few years of standstill.

Being Fearless

While I was in Copenhagen I read all the great design magazines and noticed that they included the direct phone numbers to all the editors. Cha ching! I started calling them up and asking if they needed any help. No, of course they didn’t need a newly graduated American interior designer, they said! They have the best designers in the world, silly! But, I was pretty fearless and reached out cold to anyone whose contact I could find in any design capacity. I identified designers whose work I liked and emailed them. I met ONE friend this way but she was wonderful and took me to Formland, Denmark’s annual gift fair every year that I lived there so we can stake out the latest design trends. Through her I also assisted on a few photoshoots and she hired me to make props.

My work in Denmark eventually led me to working more on The House That Lars Built due to ummm, lack of things to do. And I knew that this time would probably never happen again in my life so I treated it as a special time to dig into Lars. Eventually, I got a studio (read more about it here and check out my pixie–ha!) in downtown Copenhagen with a few photographers who are wonderful and I love them so much. I started writing for a few other blogs and websites as a craft contributor and writer and learned a lot (you can read about some of it here). Yet, I still didn’t identify as a crafter or DIYer. It was just something to do in the mean time.

No one would take me – ha!

Paul and I decided to move back to the US, Provo, Utah in particular, where he would go to school and I would provide for our family. I suspected my time with Lars was probably going to come to an end soon. I started putting in applications EVERYWHERE and you know what?! I received a job offer within 2 days of arrival! At a company that I thought was going to be a great fit!

They sent me the salary and it was extremely low, but I was willing to work with it after a little negotiating. Instead, I never heard from them again.

Truly! To this day I don’t know what happened. I mean, I’m kind of left to think that they weren’t used to women negotiating for a higher salary, but I guess I’ll never know.

And you know what the weird thing is? This happened to me TWO more times. I would receive a job offer with a salary and then never hear from them again. Well, the second one I did 6 months later, but yeah, not a helpful road to employment.

But it was for a reason

ANYWAY, all throughout this job hunting I kept on working on Lars and started getting paid for this and that and then more of this and more of that. I was hustling to get jobs and people were responding positively to the projects I was putting out into the world. Again, I was pretty fearless about reaching out and not afraid to put in the overtime (Paul might say that’s all I did). After a couple of years it took my dad coming to me and saying “It looks like things are working out for you” to make me realize, “Oh, I think you’re right. Maybe I should stop looking for a full time job.” I mean, at one point I was applying for banking jobs. HAHAHAHAHAHA! Could you imagine? What a nightmare they would have been in for!

The ah-ha moment

Cut to a few years ago when I was sitting in a blogging conference for women of my faith (I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have been known as “Mormon”) and I came across this scripture:

For Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea, verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments.

I received a profound impression that day that this is what I am supposed to do and how I’m supposed to spend my time right now. And I take it quite literally, to increase the beauty around me through teaching people how to do that in their own lives. The way has been paved to make that happen for me, though I didn’t always understand why–from not getting jobs for who knows what reason to people coming into my life to help me accomplish this goal (I owe a lot of this to my business partner, Mary who came on board 5 years ago), and now a team who shares this vision with me.

This mission does not come without its share of struggles and challenges of course, but it does keep me focused when I question why I should keep on doing what I’m doing even when I…don’t get paid enough…or I could get paid so much more if I went and got a job somewhere else or…the list goes on and on (and it’s now always about money 😉

As you can see, my journey to making a life from crafting/making is a bit different than most because I was hustling to make ANY sort of living for our family. And then the making, the handmaking rather, became the avenue by which to accomplish it. It came naturally to me and people, you, responded well to it, otherwise I wouldn’t be here today. And now that I’ve been in it professionally for about 11 years, (or about 5 if we could the time I came to terms with it!) I’ve learned a lot about it.

There’s more to this story and I will be sharing it next week in part 2. Stay tuned! 

Top photo by Chaunte Vaughn from Craft the Rainbow

In The Mood For: Iris Apfel

We are such big fans of Iris we have this print of her by Rosie Harbottle in our shop! Rosie is a UK based illustrator with a passion for travel and culture, has a knack for prints and textiles, which made her the perfect person to illustrate Iris Apfel. Last June, we read Accidental Icon, a collection of Iris’ musings, for our book club! If you are new to the eclectic and patterned-filled world that is Iris Apfel’s, we recommend starting with this post about her here, and grabbing your own copy of Accidental Icon! It’s a very entertaining read, packed full of photos that will make you want to avoid anything that is a bore and live like Iris does!

Decorate like Iris

“I am inspired by everything around me…I’m just inspired by being alive and breathing and meeting people and talking to people and doing things and absorbing what’s happening. I think if more people did that, there would be better fashion. “

Iris Apfel is iconic for her fashion sense, but her taste spills over to her interior design in abundance. With references to 18th century France and Italy, vintage monkey sculptures everywhere you look, hand-painted chinoiserie patterns, and bold prints that somehow just work, Iris Apfel’s homes are strong evidence that self-expression is the way to go!

 

Dress like Iris

“You have to look in the mirror and see yourself. If it feels good, then I know it’s for me. I don’t dress to be stared at, I dress for myself.”

Below you will find chunky acetate chain necklaces (an absolute Iris staple) paired with patterned blazers, hot pink head wraps, and thrifted finds but with a wink in Gucci’s direction. If anything we just said feels overwhelming, don’t worry, take a note from Iris’ playbook and start wherever feels right. But trust us, you’ll be surprised how good an eyebrow-raising day of fashion can feel.

 

“There’s no how-to road map to style. It’s about self expression and, above all, attitude.”

Photo Sources 1 | 2 | 3

Featured Artist: Abby Clawson Low

Get to know Abby Clawson Low

What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, art director, designer, illustrator, maker, business person etc.?
So, I went to school for and worked in the art direction / graphic design world, but over the years I have done illustration work, artwork, product design, run a business, and made a whole lot of stuff. I wear many hats!

Who helped you “become” who you are?
Definitely my parents and grandparents get credit for planting the creative seed. They all had a hand in some sort of creative pursuit, so it was just a matter of time before some of it rubbed off on me. Especially my mom—she is a type of creative super-hero / MacGyver character—she can make/do anything with any available materials. She helped my siblings and I paint our own rooms bright colors on a whim when I was a kid, she refinished and reupholstered furniture, sewed clothes and costumes, did watercolor painting, took stained glass classes, floral arranging, worked in interior design, etc. So I was always watching her and learning from her.

And when I was in grade school, my dad bought an Apple Macintosh computer (the first retail model). Each Saturday, I would sit at his desk at the computer and draw and paint using those early computer programs (MacDraw and MacPaint). I loved that you could create anything on screen and then print it onto a piece of paper. It was incredible and completely addicting. My dad noticed that I loved drawing and creating on the computer and told me I should be a graphic designer. I was eight years old. I thought that sounded cool, but didn’t really do anything with that until much later.

Do you feel like you’ve arrived at what you set out to do?
I feel like my career and experience in design is in a constant state of evolution, so no, not really! I’ve seen big and little changes in the 20+ years I’ve been working in the creative industry—with each job change, each child we’ve added to our family, each move, and each big project and life experience I’ve had to modify how I design and make art, and approach my work. And this is good for me. I like change. I want to keep learning and seeing things in a new light.

Where did you study, and what did you study?
I attended Brigham Young University’s Visual Arts Department where I received a BFA in Graphic Design. I think my education really helped in producing work from a broad array of assignments similar to those that one might find in an advertising agency or a small design studio. The BYU design program also has a field trip to New York City that every junior class takes in the winter. It was during this field trip that I was able to meet with some of the nation’s most notable designers and art directors, tour their studios, and most important, set up an internship for the following summer. This was where my career in New York City began.

What’s your dream job? What’s your goal with your work?
I think I’m doing it! With the way things have worked out so far, I have been able to be selective about the projects I work on—I am also a mother of three young sons—so my free time is valuable to me—I only take on work that I really want to do and feel is a good challenge. Lately, I have been doing a good mix of pro bono work in the community and at large along with some paid projects that come in organically. I like that. And I love working with organizations that are doing good in the world and making a positive and meaningful difference in peoples’ lives. I feel good about the charitable work and am happy to be involved in it. I also loved working on my book This is Mexico City while we were living abroad in Mexico. It was such an intense project that really pushed me out of my comfort zone as a designer—since my role was threefold: author, photographer, and designer. I’d definitely love to do another book project in the future. We’ll see! I do thrive with a flow of varied and interesting work!

What are you most proud of in your career?
I’m proud of the talented and generous people I’ve been able to connect with through my work. That has been the biggest gift of what I do.

[Brittany’s note: I had the immense honor to attend Abby’s book signing in Mexico City in October of 2018 and she brought together a wonderful group of creatives. It was such a treat for me!]

How did your childhood influence what you have become? 
I had a lot of freedom and independence as a kid. Back then, kids would walk to and from school at a young age, on weekends play outside from morning until night with no one hovering over them. I could explore the neighborhood, build forts, start clubs, make and sell stuff, and figure the world out. And my mom was very resourceful and made everything. Watching her make and create through my childhood it was evident that I could make or do anything, too with some practice and creativity. So, I think I learned to approach life with that same creative confidence.

Did you have anyone along the way that was instrumental in the trajectory of your life? What’s a piece of advice that you’ve carried with you and who is it from?
Design MW, where I got my start, was a fantastic learning environment. I often refer to the time at my first job as a type of grad school because JP and Allison Williams were great teachers as well as being amazing designers and art directors. They travelled quite a bit. And when they returned from a trip they would bestow us with amazing finds (unusual office supplies, beautiful papers, and obscure examples of design from distant places: books, magazines, ephemera). Needless to say, they were very generous and loved sharing what they saw and found.

One thing my first boss, JP Williams, always said was, “You’re only as good as the obscurity of your sources.” I think this is some of the best advice. Almost everything has been done already, yet, there are resources out there that aren’t known, that haven’t been used, that inspire, that are fresh and new – it is important to be constantly looking at new, old, and different things. and not necessarily items that fall within a designer’s world. Visit an office supply store, go to a hardware store, peruse flea markets, travel, look for different ways of using everyday objects and apply that knowledge into your design solutions – this is where great design can happen.

As far as advice for designers starting out, I would recommend being very wise about how you choose your first job. As I found, sometimes the better paying jobs aren’t the ones with the best experiences or work. The best choice will be one where you will walk away with a great book of work you did which will allow you to work almost anywhere.

Having grown up in a large family, there was nothing I wanted more than independence. However, when I started working at Design MW, I quickly learned that collaboration was the best way to creatively solve design problems. Whether it was through shared pieces of inspiration (a book, a vintage magazine, a piece of art) or through a a brainstorming meeting, the best solutions always came through some kind of collaboration. We all have our strengths, but one of the greatest strengths is the ability to recognize that others have strengths and viewpoints that we can also benefit and learn from.

I think it is important to surround yourself with people who challenge and inspire you; people who can teach you how to approach your work and solve problems in new and different ways. It is vital to always be open to learning from others. Everyone has something to teach and share that can make you a better designer. There is always something new to learn, see, do, hear, etc. Many of my favorite projects were ones that evolved over time, that came together as I was designing them. I also recommend not being afraid to step away from the computer. And enjoy the process.

What’s your work space like?
I work from home in a home office. I’ve had the same desk chair since I went out on my own in 2007 — a vintage Herman Miller desk chair with an emerald green upholstered seat. I think it came from the IBM offices. My desk is one that I had custom made by a local metal worker while we were living in Mexico City. I use the same model desk lamp I had at my first design job at Design MW — a Tolomeo Mini Table Lamp. I keep my desk pretty tidy or else I get distracted and cannot focus. I am proud of my office supplies: stapler, tape dispenser, etc.—all are sturdy workhorses! I definitely nerd out on office supplies. I like working in this particular space because it has three tall windows and gets great natural light with a street view. I can always see what’s going on in the neighborhood while listening to tunes or a podcast and jamming away on a project.

What does your dream retirement look like?
I don’t think I’ll ever want to stop designing or making things. As long as my hands still work I want to be involved in great projects that keep me challenged and engaged in the creative world.

 

What artists/designers/creatives do you look up to? Both historical or present.
I love the work of Mexican architect Luis Barragán — his use of color, light, texture is sublime and incredibly inspiring. Seeing and experiencing spaces he designed for the first time changed how I see everything. I also really look up to the body of work Fredun Shapur designed for Creative Playthings. I’m a big fan of Canadian designer Don Watt and the branding work he did for Loblaw’s generic product line “NoName” or “SansNom.” Some present design icons I look to for inspiration are friends and designers: Alex Lin Blair Richardson, Erin Jang, Fabien Cappello, Mary Matson.

How has social media influenced your work?
I know a lot of people are down on social media—I mean there are some pretty compelling reasons to dislike it. But, for me, it has been a lifeline during a time in my life where I have been in the trenches as a mom with young kids—with nap times and schedules that don’t permit a ton of cross-pollinating with other creatives. Especially through Instagram, I have been able to connect with people whom I would have never met otherwise and have made good good friends through those online connections. Once I started my blog and studio (Hi + Low), almost all of my press and work opportunities came exclusively through people finding me through some kind of internet portal. So, I am grateful for these technologies. I do wonder where I would be in my career or what work I would be doing if I didn’t have this instant access to so many creative and like-minded individuals and work through the internet world.

What’s inspiring you lately?
It’s ever-changing, but now that we live in Texas I have become completely fascinated by this part of the United States since I have spent the majority of my life on the two coasts and in or near big cities. As a family, we’ve done some long weekend road trips visiting the surrounding states like Oklahoma and Arkansas and New Mexico. There’s so much to learn about and see. I also am a sucker for 1950s and 1960s brutalist buildings, churches, and homes. I think living in Mexico City really gave me a taste for the unconventional and interesting architecture that is so abundant there and now I’m hooked. I also get really excited about books and have a good number of them! A few recent favorites: “Rosey Grier’s Needlepoint for Men” by Rosey Grier, “A Final Compilation of Books from the Simpsons” by Yellow Pages, “What Do You Mean, I Still Don’t Have Equal Rights??!” By Cathy Guisewite, and “Playgrounds del México Moderno” by Aldo Solano Rojas.

You can find Abby

Instagram @abbyclawsonlow

Website of Abby

Thank you, Abby, for this wonderful interview! And stay tuned for her collection in our Print Shop soon! 

A few of our favorite creatives in honor of Black History Month!

Alvin Ailey Plush Doll

Alvin Ailey was a dancer, director, choreographer, and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, one of the most successful dance companies in the world. His work fused theatre, modern dance, ballet, and jazz with black vernacular, creating hope-fueled choreography that continues to spread global awareness of black life in America. We are inspired by Ailey’s movement, creativity, and motivation to create such meaningful and beautiful movement that leaves one feeling so inspired.

One of Paul’s favorite experiences was seeing the Alvin Ailey Dance Company when he worked at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. He still talks about it to this day!

Alma Woodsey Thomas as a Plush Doll

Alma Woodsey Thomas was an Expressionist painter and art educator best known for her colorful abstract paintings. We find ourselves in awe of her exuberant works, which are nothing short of noteworthy in their pattern, rhythm and color. There is nothing not to love about Alma’s work. Her ability to mix patterns and her eye for color are something we strive for in our own work here at Lars.

Beyonce as an Embroidered Plush Doll

Clearly, we had to create Beyonce in plush form. It was a given. Mostly, we wanted to bedazzle her in embroidery even more than she already is. Her raw talent and unstinted work ethic demonstrate to women of all walks of life that we can too. We look up to her ability to inspire others with her music, and that her creativity instills self-love, wonder, strength and an undeniable excitement and joy at being a woman. Beyonce is nothing short of pure magic!

Jean-Michel Basquiat as an Embroidered Plush Doll

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an artist most famous for his Neo-Expressionist paintings. Before Basquiat found his fame, he was using graffiti as an outlet of his artistic expression the name “SAMO.” His work was groundbreaking and addressed by the social and artistic elite. He took the consumerist pop model of the time and transformed it into a social commentary that spoke against systems of racism and power structures. We admire Basquiat’s persistence in creating work that held such powerful messages. Plus, we love his work!

We have even more plans for these dolls coming up, so feel free to comment below of people who want to celebrate. Who knows, they may just make it in a post! Stay tuned and be sure to make your own while you’re at it! You can find our tutorial here. Tag us with #larsmakes so we can see your creations!

Interview with Sofia Vusir Jansson

Interview with Sofia Jansson of Mokkasin

What do you consider yourself? 

I used to say that I’m a creator and a photographer mainly.  I’m not sure if creator is a commonly used word in English, but I am a person who does a lot of creative projects. My focus is often on prop/set design and DIY. And my job as a photographer, which I am almost exclusively doing these days, includes building the scene for the photos and hand making all of the props. Absolutely not a business person, that is the last I would call myself.

Who helped you “become” who you are?

I would say that my four kids have made me into the person I am. Their free way of seeing the world and their never ending fantasies have influenced me so much. In their minds they’re not so anxious about their worlds, it’s true and imperfect which, for me, is a very perfect way of being. 

Do you feel like you’ve arrived at what you set out to do? 

Yes I think so. Nowadays I do so many different things. No two days are alike, and I love it that way. It’s very easy for me to say YES even if I didn’t know if I could manage the project load. Maybe it is for this reason that I love my job so much, it is never boring and makes me stretch and develop every minute to meet the needs of each project. 

What more would you like to “become”? 

I would like to work more with set design. If I could do it all again I would probably go receive my education in art directing, that’s a dream of mine. Nowadays I work on projects within this spectrum, but I dream about the big traditional theaters and doing set design and art direction. It would also be very fun to be really good at building things, like a carpenter. Or a glass artist! Ohh there are so many things I would love to learn.

Where did you study, and what did you study? 

I haven’t studied more than high school, and after high school I studied to be a hairdresser. I worked in this field for 10 years and loved every day. But, one day I decided to quit, and I have never looked back. I think, if you do something creative you must have some fire inside you, you must love your work.  If you don’t, as it was for me that day, it’s better to find another path. 

How did you get started doing what you do? 

Actually, everything began when I started to run a little shop. I built all the marketing with my own pictures. The same day I started the shop I also started a blog, and THAT is where everything started. The blog transformed from a business blog that connected to the shop, to a lifestyle blog featuring almost exclusively my own pictures. People found me that way and the blog continued to live as a sort of portfolio. In that way, beside running the shop I got more and more assignments with focus at photography, styling and DIY. One lead to the other. 

When did you discover your love for your work? 

I think I have the blog to thank for that, I love the format. I love to tell stories with words and pictures. The blog has let me create my own universe that only my way of seeing things exists.

Were you scared when you first started looking for jobs? How did you overcome this? 

This sounds like some kind of humble brag, but I’m so lucky that the question of “will I have work?” crossed my mind but was never an issue, I have not had to ask or go looking for work. However, I’m not a nervous person in general and I say “yes” without thinking if I can really manage the job people are asking for. After I have said yes, I sometimes can doubt myself. But I’m lucky to have a husband that always gives me encouragement time and time again. 

What’s your goal with your work? 

To always do jobs that follow my gut feeling and heart. And to always have the work have as much of my personal touch on touch in it as possible, not to follow some others. To constantly be true to myself even in the work I do. 

What are you most proud of in your career? 

I am proud of many things! That Numero 74 chose me as their photographer many years ago and that I still get to work with them, they are always passionate their work and their way of seeing the world. This has helped me to develop myself and my vision.

I am always proud when people ask for props/set design and use them in theater and books. These occasions make everything seem so real. That someone would choose the things you have made by your own hands to achieve their dreams.

And, of course, I’m proud of the book Hidden Places. I’m so proud that that book is exactly as I want it to be. I wished to create a kind of book that hadn’t been done before. Something new and more than just a DIY-guide. During the whole process I wanted the book not to be anxious and stacked in norms and structures. I wanted the photographs to have big spaces and to let the text take space and be grounded in the amazing fantasies of my children. I wanted the illustrations and format to be skewed in a good way. When viewing the book you shouldn’t have the feeling that everything is perfect, things are not always but rather creative and full of fantasy and life. Every time someone gives me feedback about the book I’m so very proud and it makes me really happy!

What is it like working with your family? 

So many projects during the year have involved my family. My husband and my four kids. I really love this and for me it is a huge gift, that everything is like a family affair. My kids have helped me relax and let go of control in a very good way. Before, when I was younger, I was a person that wanted control of everything and everyone. When they were born, 4 kids in 4 years I couldn’t live up to this perfect surface anymore and I think that was my rescue. My husband always saves me, both in life but also with jobs and projects. When I am lost he always has a good idea. He is hugely creative and I trust him one hundred percent. I think many people perceive us as quite a messy family with a thousand projects that go on. And, maybe our house is a little bit different but I think it is only in a good way. 

How did your childhood influence what you have become? 

I played a lot and fantasy was always intense, close and felt very real. I remember when I and one of my sisters ventured into imaginary lands years after our friends had stopped. We built our own worlds and a with games we loved we could continue for weeks, nobody was allowed to clean it away. Every summer we stayed at my parents little cottage in the woods, there was no electricity and the TV was from a car battery which meant that we just had TV for a short moment in the morning. We played from sunrise to sunset during those endless summers, our stick horses took us around in the woods. We had our own fun fair, where the old stroller doubled as the roller-coaster. 

Did you feel pressured in any way to pursue a certain career path? 

Not at all, my mom and dad have always encouraged me and my two sisters to go our own way and told us that the future is ours, exactly equal as it is for everyone else. 

What’s your work space like? 

We live in a big house built in 1913, the whole house is my work space. It’s my photo studio and it’s a space that makes it possible (for everyone) to be creative all over the house. Every part of the house, from cellar to attic, is filled with things and ongoing projects. 

What’s a piece of advice that you’ve carried with you and who is it from?

 I think it comes from when I was little – to always believe in myself. Always go with your gut feeling and to follow your heart. And as I have grown up my husband has always supported me in this. It is so important to have someone by your side, that believes in you. I think one should “collect” people that follow their own paths in life, people that are beyond over thinking and that are not afraid to be themself.

What artists/designers/creatives do you look up to?

Both historical and present, my list holds so many but it’s always women and especially those that have always followed their own path and weren’t afraid to be different. One historical figure that inspires me a lot is Karin Larsson, the wife of Carl Larsson, who is Sweden’s most famous artist. Her way of looking at life and things is very inspiring, things don’t have to be so finicky “the hand should be seen” was one of her saying – that means that you should see that the craft is made by hand. She designed a lot of her own furniture that the carpenter thought was so ugly so he delivered in the night. Another inspiration is the illustrator of the book Hidden Places, her name is Maja Sten and I love her way of painting and her way of seeing artistry and creativity. She always makes everything by hand instead of using a digital program and you can really feel the life in her art. My Feldt – she’s a writer (and running a café, and a ecologic apple farming, and a TV personality ) soon releasing her second cooking book. I love her way of being herself , she is one of the most transparent people I know.

How has social media influenced your work? 

I think I can thank my blog for almost everything, and of course also Instagram in the latest years. I have used it like a portfolio and in that way it has been so important. And of course also the people who have I have crossed paths with on social media.

Who is your work intended for? 

I hope I can inspire people and give them another way to look at the world. Everything doesn’t have to be so perfect and correct. I hope people feel that and also are inspired to be creative. I think people have so much to win in being creative in different ways, everyone should be creative in the way that suits them. I think the future will require us people to be more creative, dare to think outside the box in so many ways. To use the creative part of the brain more often. Nowadays, when so many things are served in front of you is it so easy to forget that you have so much creativity inside yourself. 

What’s inspiring you lately?

Actually, Swedish glass. We have had a long tradition of glassmaking, with lots of glassworkers in a particular part of Sweden.  Unfortunately, this is a craft that is disappearing, more and more every year. That is really sad, so I am reading everything that comes around. I am also planning to visit one of the glassworkers that still practices the craft. 

You can find Sofia:

Instagram @sofiaatmokkasin
Website of Sofia

Photos of Sofia by Kristen Krickelin

Featured Illustrator: Becca Stadtlander

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Interview with Becca Stadtlander

What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator, maker, business person etc.?

All of the above!  I usually tell people that I am an Illustrator when they ask what I do, but I think all of those titles apply to what I do on the daily.  I think the term artist is the most important and I don’t see any difference between illustration and fine art. I also enjoy making lots of things that have nothing to do with my job.  As a business person, I run my online shop and perform all of the boring bits of freelance work like invoicing, contracts, etc.

Who helped you “become” who you are?

Sometimes I can’t believe where I am in my own life and I think about all the decisions I made and things that had to happen to get me here. I’m not done with becoming who I want to be, but for now, I think  my family, my husband, myself and a little bit of luck helped me become who I am.

Do you feel like you’ve arrived at what you set out to do?

Yes and no.  I feel completely at peace with the career I’ve chosen, but there are still a lot of things I want to achieve within this career. I’m always looking toward that next thing, and working on getting better and better for the next project. Of course it’s all in my head, but I prefer feeling like there is always more to do. 

What more would you like to “become”? 

I want to write and illustrate my own books, be the best version of an artist and person I can be, and I want to become completely comfortable in my own skin. 

Where did you study, and what did you study? 

I went to the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore where I got my degree in Illustration. 

How did you get started doing illustration?

After I graduated college, I did a lot of work for free.  I also posted my work online everywhere I could. I submitted work to every blog, website, magazine, and art director I could think of. Work trickled in very slowly.  I took a long time before I could be comfortable working as an Illustrator full time. 

When did you discover your love for illustration? 

I was very into art and the idea of becoming an artist since I can remember. I always loved children’s books, which I looked at primarily for the art. My first real love affair  was with Lisa Frank! The crazy colors and patterns really appealed to me. I was very art focused all though my childhood and teenage years but I didn’t think of Illustration as a career until I graduated high school. 

Were you scared when you first started looking for jobs? How did you overcome this? 

Yes of course!  I wanted to be a working illustrator so bad, it was all I thought about. I was terrified that no one would ever hire me and that I had made a big mistake going to art school. I just kept my focus and tried not to think about the “what if’s”. I just told myself that it would happen and I made up assignments as if I already had my dream job.  I think it helped that I got excited and stayed motivated about everything that came my way even things that were so small. I didn’t want to put anything out there that I wasn’t proud of.

What’s your dream job?

I would love to write and illustrate my own book that is crazy and wonderful.

What’s your goal with your work?

I want everything I do to be successful on its own. If you were to take it away from the text it’s next, it still communicates what it needs to.  I try to think of that, especially for children’s books where it can get tricky. I want everything to be beautiful all the time which is probably not the best thing. I’m trying to introduce more room for looseness.  I want there always to be a good balance between detailed and painterly.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I’m most proud of the children’s books I’ve illustrated.  I get nervous for every project and with every manuscript I think, “how an I going to come up with all these paintings?”. But ideas come and time passes and before I know it all the work turns into a bound book in the bookshop.  It still shocks me to see it in print. 

How did your childhood influence what you have become? 

I think that my parents and my grandmother (who was my nanny for the most part) were supportive and they let me do my own thing.  I was always one to entertain myself and I was usually drawing or painting or making something. I was encouraged to be different and made to believe that I could do whatever I wanted when I grew up.  My family also has a love of art and interiors and I think that had a huge influence on my aesthetic. 

Did you feel pressured in any way to pursue a certain career path? 

I feel very lucky that I always knew I wanted to be an artist and everybody was okay with that. 

Did you have anyone along the way that was instrumental in the trajectory of your life? 

My grandmother was very special to me and probably the biggest influence on my life. She died when I was in my twenties and living away from home. She helped raise me so I spent a lot of time with her. Her house was beautiful and filled with old things that I was fascinated with. She was fiercely independent, graceful, stylish and very warm. Everyone always commented on how elegant she was and how much they loved her.  I try to be more like her every day.  

What’s your work space like?

My studio is at the top of the stairs on the second floor of my house.  It’s situated right at the peak of the roof so it has an angled ceiling.  I have a double window over my desk that looks out over the entire city. I use an old farm table from the flea market as a desk and I love that it’s covered in my paint marks from the past 10 years. I read somewhere that purple is supposed to promote creativity so I painted the room a pale lavender pink.

What’s a piece of advice that you’ve carried with you and who is it from?

“Fake it till you make it”  I don’t remember where it came from but I bet everyone has heard it. It’s great advice! It’s gotten me through a lot. 

What does your dream retirement look like?

Doing huge abstract paintings with a cup of coffee in some crazy over the top pajama robe. 

What artists/designers/creatives do you look up to? Both historical or present

Edward Gorey, Grandma Moses, Daid Hockney, and Van Gogh are some of my all time favorites. 

How has social media influenced your work? 

I have seen a lot of things that inspire me on social media and I also use it as a tool for my own work to be seen. I think there are ways to make it work for you, but at the same time I hate feeling obligated to post things, and I don’t like the nagging feeling I get to check my Instagram.  It’s a fine line for me between enjoying it and feeling like a slave to it. It can also be intimidating and discouraging to see other people doing what you do and doing it better. It has done good things for my career but I don’t always like what it does to my mentally. 

Who is your work intended for? 

I want my work to be for everyone all the time.  I want people to get something out of it whatever that may be. 

What’s inspiring you lately? 

Lately I have been very into portrait paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries, also this book “The Shortest Day” illustrated by Carson Ellis and written by Susan Cooper.  It’s gorgeous and perfect.

What did you want to be when you were young versus when it was time to decide what to actually do?

I always knew I wanted to be an artist. I didn’t even consider anything else!

You can find Becca:

Instagram @beccastadtlander

Website of Becca