We interviewed artist, entrepreneur, blogger and Positivity Pro, Kathy Weller to learn about how she uses her talents to spread positivity though art and mugs. Get inspired by Kathy’s interview, and gain an new perspective on how you can use your creativity to impact others.
Tell us a little about yourself; where are you from, what do you do?
Hello! My name is Kathy Weller. I am an artist + hand-letterer. I have many creative avenues I work in! The connectivity factor in just about everything I do is positivity —I am a Positivity Pro! Also humor, and emotional support, and encouragement. Hand lettering also plays a big role!
The logistical details, in no particular order: I license my art to manufacturers for use on their products. I design and sell my own line of mugs. And I do a daily comic called Cats@Work. I also consider myself a Creativity Crusader! that’s a term I created to describe myself, because it really fits me. What I mean by that is, I share my experience, wisdom and guidance with other creatives through my blog as well as downloadable printable content. Additionally, I offer one-on-one consulting for artists and I also teach and write about the creative process, positivity, art, and building a career as an artist / creativepreneur.
What is your art background?
I have drawn all of my life. There really was never a question of whether I’d be some sort of artist person. It was just who I was and what I was, even if I didn’t end up having a career in art— which, thankfully, did not happen! For school, I attended Art Institute Of Boston (now a part of Lesley College) as well as Massachusetts College of Art and Design. I was always an illustrator at heart, but I majored in Fine Arts 2d / Painting. I craved the freedom to creatively explore, and focusing on Painting and Fine Art really delivered on that score. I am very glad I had the foresight to go the way I did, because that experience gave me a different type of creative educational foundation than I would have received in any other program. And, that experience really compliments and directly informs so much of the work I do today. It’s actually kind of spooky, when I think about it!
What inspired you to create your illustrations and put them on mugs?
I am huge into functional art. By functional, I’m talking about the art on the objects and products that you use every day. When the ritual of using your functional things (with cool art / sayings on them) is repeated day in and day out, those small, seemingly superficial moments you spend with your stuff can be deeply introspective and, dare I say, influential! (Can a coffee mug change your perspective for the better? Maybe so!)
It is a big responsibility for an artist to bring positivity, joy, insight, and humor through the art that we design for products. I honor that responsibility, and I want to do it proud in all that I create!
How my own products started: I’ve licensed my art to manufacturers for many years now. I love almost everything about the process. But, because I create art for other companies’ products, and I am not the end seller of those products, there is a disconnect between myself and the end buyer.
Customers of my licensed goods can find me online. They can say hi, email me and ask where they can find the licensed products to purchase. I love that! But ultimately, in those situations, I’m directing traffic. This is totally understandable, I’m not complaining— it is just the way licensing works. But, in these instances, I’m not building community, I’m not learning about my customers wants, needs and interests, and values, and I’m not providing customer care beyond helping them locate an item or line of goods.
I had a desire to create more of a connection to my community. I wanted to provide a product that I sold myself, direct to my customers. Something that spoke to my own communication style, sensibilities, art style, my own values, and my customers’ sensibilities, values, and needs and wants (we are similar!). Mugs were a natural fit! And, I am a mug collector as it is— I love mugs. So, I began doing my own line of mugs about five years ago. It was a very slow build. But little by little, I tweaked my offerings, all the while my own mug style also developed. Looking at my mug style and my process from five years ago, and today? Things have really evolved.
When did your love for art start? Is there a specific “aha” moment?
I’ve been drawing ever since I could hold whatever pen, pencil, crayon, or whatever I could find around the house! My parents were (and are) both creative individuals. My father was an editorial and advertising illustrator and a graphic designer back in the day. My sisters and I spent summers with him and my step-mom. I got to spend days soaking up the excitement of a real, bustling commercial art studio, as well as their gigantic library of typography, illustration, and design magazines and books. It was heaven!
My mom was sort of a renaissance woman— always very creative! Fun fact: When she bought us art supplies, she would always give my three sisters and I the EXACT same sets of sketchpads and pens. She reasoned that, if we all got the same thing, we wouldn’t fight over stuff. It was brilliant tactic, and it worked! My mom loved to paint, and she loved art and music. Those things were important to her, and of course in turn, they were also very important to my sisters and me. She was always moving around the furniture, and blasting great music. I guess she was into interior design, too. Oh, and I wish I inherited her green thumb. She was great with plants!
Can you tell us about your process?
Almost everything I draw starts on paper, in pencil. Sometimes, when I am concept-sketching for a project where I am the end client, my sketches will look messier or more “bare bones” than you might expect they would, based on seeing the finished art.
This is because, when I do client work, the sketches need to tell more of the story to the client, about what the final will look like. I like to deliver a more robust, literal visual to clients, to illustrate an idea.
But, when I’m the end client, I already have the story mostly developed in my mind’s eye. Because of that, my sketches can sometimes function as a wire-frame. They do not have to be so literally developed in the same way as I will do for a client.
Hey, sometimes a more developed sketch emerges, and sometimes it’s one that’s less developed! (I don’t dictate nature!) But regardless, I really try to stay away from overworking an idea when it’s in the raw sketch phase. I like to save some of the magic and surprises for the final art!
What is your favorite Bee Paper sketchbook? Why?
I am torn, honestly. (No pun intended. Ha ha.)
I am EXTREMELY fond of both the Hampton Sketch mini 3.5×4.75” size, and the Big Yellow Bee 9×9”.
The Hampton Sketch is just the right size to sneak a sketch in, anytime, anywhere. I find that the size, the paper quality, and the binding are perfect in my hand, perfect to tote. It’s an irresistible package!
I am in love with the Big Yellow Bee 9×9” because it is the perfect size to design my mugs with. I designate half of the page for my mug layout. The other half of the page is used for brainstorming and thumbnail ideas. I also love the big coil binding. There’s plenty of room for flipping pages without pages catching on each other, or the binding. The super-thick hard cardboard cover is really attractive but it’s ALSO super protective and supportive! And, who can resist the cute little bee on the cover? I am a big fan of bees and honey! Sold!
What is your favorite mug? Why?
That is a toughie!! There are a lot of mugs I love, for various reasons. However, I will pick my “Be Brave” mug. The design started out as a personal sketch in my sketchbook. I was not thinking “mug” when I drew the initial sketch art. I was thinking about changes in my life at the time that were happening, and I had to buckle in and ride the roller coaster. Through that drawing, I was giving myself a really kind, very important pep-talk.
Almost immediately, I knew that it would make a great mug design. But it took me several months of procrastination before I finally reformatted the sketch and designed a mug from it.
I cannot adequately describe just HOW excited I was about the final mug. I was THRILLED with the design. Might be uncool to admit that— but, there ya go.
For one thing, it was my first “wraparound” style mug. It was also a sort-of stylistic evolution for me as well as a conceptual one. With this mug, I was really taking both up a notch from previous ideas I’d executed. In terms of the content, it clearly exemplified my core values— it was straight from the heart. I knew this mug would comfort people emotionally and support them creatively, if given the chance.
Which current designers, artists, thinkers, and makers have the greatest influence on you right now?
I am a huge Instagram fan. I discover tons of new artists and creatives there, of all kinds! It’s too hard to name just a handful! Especially when I discover new artists every week! But if you would like to check out a few of my faves, search the hashtag #KWShareOut on Instagram!
ETSY SHOP: https://www.etsy.com/shop/kathywellerart
CATS@WORK FACEBOOK: facebook.com/catswork
KATHY FACEBOOK: facebook.com/kathywellerart