Our latest Handmade Holiday features Virginia-inspired prints (and printed material) and the artist who makes them.
Clara Cline of The Wild Wander Co. makes nature-inspired illustrations that she then transfers to various products (think greeting cards, shirts, tea towels, prints for your wall, etc.). They do that thing where they inspire both a sense of calm and a sense of humor.
What is that thing, exactly? And how do you get it?
Clara takes her cues from the ol’ commonwealth–that big natural beautiful thing that’s always surrounding us. And sometimes there’s a corgi butt thrown in, no big.
Here, she talks about learning how to turn art into a business, how she gathers her inspiration, how she makes it into a thing, and what’s next for Wild Wonder.
1. Who inspires you? What inspires you? Where do you look to get ideas?
I feel really fortunate to have grown up in a time where I could see what other creatives and makers were doing through social media and sites like Etsy. It was so inspiring to see their development as artists, businesses, and voices for the handmade community, and I never would have considered working for myself as a viable option if not for them. The maker movement as a whole is a constant motivator for me, and I’m always blown away by the innovation, hard work, and dedication to craft that I see in our community.
In terms of aesthetic influence, I definitely have a strong curiosity for forgotten history and the natural world. During the Victorian era it was popular for amateur scientists to have rooms called “curiosity cabinets” where they’d display tiny artifacts, curiosities from their travels, and their personal libraries. It was a really wonderful crossroads between science and whimsical interest, and in many ways I think of The Wild Wander as my own curiosity cabinet. I feel lucky to be in Richmond where we’re surrounded by rich history and natural beauty, so I never have to go too far to stay stoked.
2. What materials do you like working with best? A certain kind of ink? A certain kind of paper?
Like all artists I have phases where all I want to do is play with something new, but most of my work is pretty bare bones. My illustration work almost always starts with micron pens or sharpies on computer paper, and for color work I love using layers of watercolor, gouache, and colored pencils. That being said, I feel most at home with a piece of chalk and a chalkboard – starting a new board feels like sitting down with old friends.
3. What can we expect from you in the future? Any new media on which your illustrations will be featured? Those tea towels are pretty sweet–will you always have Virginia themes, or do you think you’ll expand to different states?
Lord knows I love a chart, so you can count on more of those–I’m currently working on some Appalachian Trail and Eastern Seaboard themed ones. And there will definitely be more Virginia themes! From a business perspective I should probably branch out to other states, but as a born and raised Virginian I love that I’m still finding out things I didn’t know about our state. I want to get to the rest of the United States too, but you do your best work where your heart is, and for now that’s right here at home.
In terms of new media, my husband, Tristan, and I are expecting our first baby in a couple of months, so that will probably have an influence on what we make next. I’ve spent a lot of time recently sketching out ideas for a solar system mobile and screen printed nature blocks for our little one. It started out as a personal project, but I’ve been so excited with the plans I’m hoping to be able to put those out as products.
4. Can you describe your process for creating what you do? You obviously have a natural talent for art–was it difficult to learn the production and business side?
Most of my work is screen printed, which we’re able to do in our backyard studio. We start by printing my finished illustration on a piece of film, which is then exposed using UV light on a silk screen coated with emulsion. After it’s burned, we wash away the remaining emulsion which creates a sort of stencil version of the image on the screen. Once the screen is ready to print we use a squeegee to push water-based inks through the stencil on the screen, which creates the image on the paper or textiles.
Sometimes it feels like after becoming a full-time artist, my job became 90% business and production, and it’s a challenge. I love drawing and printing, but most of my time now is spent cutting down prints, packaging, accounts, and inventory. We have so many incredible makers in the area that it makes handmade look almost easy, but I really encourage people to talk with crafters and learn about how we work–we wear a lot of hats, most of us are self-taught business people, and it can be a bit of a labor of love. I have so much more appreciation for small business owners than I did before!
5. Who are your other favorite local makers?
This is so hard! Jason Lefton at Big Secret is doing amazing things with lasers–their studio is always pushing the edges of what’s capable with different materials, and that’s something I really admire in makers. I also love Carla Pillsbury from Lifeware‘s pottery; it’s simple, beautiful, and functional, which is about as good as a craft can get as far as I’m concerned.
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Handmade Holiday is an actual event that features the actual Clara Cline, her actual products, and a bunch of other crafters for you to meet (and their wares for you to buy). Stop by on Saturday, December 5th at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery (2408 Ownby Lane) from 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM. If you can’t make it, be sure to visit her online shop.
For more makers, crafters, and artists, check out our ongoing Handmade Holiday series.