meet the maker: leah duncan
I’ve loved Leah Duncan’s work for a while now — I have two of her prints hanging in my house and I love a tea towel of hers so much that I refuse to actually use it in the kitchen. Her creativity and use of color inspires me and I am delighted to share more of her story here today.
Name: Leah Duncan
City/State: Austin, TX and Brooklyn, NY
Amy: For folks who aren’t familiar with your work, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Leah: I’m an illustrator and designer. I have a retail line that includes textiles, home goods, and stationery. I also license my work to companies who produce products for commercial ends like wrapping paper, bedding, journals, fabric yardage, cell phone covers, and other things they fancy.
A: How did you get your start?
L: I think deep down I’ve always been an artist but I never saw it as a logical path. I worked as a graphic designer after college for a screen-printing company, which is where I started drawing again and learned the essential design programs I use now like Photoshop and Illustrator. When my husband and I moved to Austin in 2008, I knew I wanted to give working for myself a try so I taught myself surface pattern design and starting sewing accessories like throw pillows and scarves.
A: Where do you find inspiration?
L: Bits of nature I see from day to day, animals, color, and the small moments in my life.
A: How do you find time to nurture your creativity?
L: It’s a tough balance when juggling it with a small business! I think the most important thing I can do is take time away. Whether it’s a day trip out of the city or a quick run in the park — these things help me clear my head as well as inspire me so it gives me a good starting point for coming up with new ideas or focusing on the ones at hand. I also think it’s important to just absorb. I think all artists are sponges in that way — taking in all we experience around us. Ideally in the end we’re squeezing things out in a new perspective.
A: What’s a typical day for you?
L: It starts with morning coffee and ends on the sofa catching up on email. Between the two I normally head to the studio. During the slower seasons I try to have at least two days a week of design and art time, depending on what projects I have. As I’m heading into the holiday season it leans more toward production and filling orders, but I’m ever so thankful for that!
A: What’s a favorite project/craft/creation that you’ve made lately?
L: I currently love my cactus tea towel, which I recently released in my fall collection. It’s probably because we recently relocated to NYC from Austin and I’m missing Texas a bit more than I expected.
A: What’s the best part of doing what you do?
L: This has all been a dream come true for me. I think the most important aspect is it puts a smile on my face, whether I’m packaging a print to ship off to someone in Singapore or I have a day of drawing… knowing my work is out there and that people relate to it is the only thing I could have ever asked for. I also think having full control over my own line, from start to finish, allows me to put things out there that I personally love. When working with clients and licensing your work there’s always compromise. I love that I can be confident in what I do and put it out into the world and the only person I have to answer to is me.
A: What’s up next?
L: Hammering through the holiday season! Then a nap.
And now for fun, please fill in the blanks:
I desperately want a: haircut! I finally scheduled one today after months of delay.
Every day I look forward to: morning coffee.
If I wasn’t doing this work, I’d be: working in animal rescue.
For breakfast today I had: granola, yogurt, and blackberries.
I can’t wait to see/experience: NYC during the holiday season.