Leah Duncan wants sugar in her tea and is darn proud of the city she now calls home: Austin, Texas. Her eye-catching prints and folksy illustrations are what initially pulled us into her shop, and her plethora of inspiring new designs is what keeps us coming back. We thought it only right to feature one of our favorite artists in our new interview series, and we are sure you will love her and her work as much as we do (if you aren’t already in her shop daily)!
When did you first become interested in drawing?
I spent my days in school daydreaming and doodling, but drawing was never something I saw myself as particularly good at. I remember loving my art and English classes the most and looking back I feel like I’ve always known deep down I would do something creative with my life. I worked for a screen-printing company as a graphic designer after college where I slowly started to get back into drawing. When I moved to Austin in 2008 I began to screen-print my work and put it on Etsy. Luckily, after a lot of hard work my business took off. I’m ever-so-grateful.
For many, it can be a challenge to continually come up with new and fresh ideas. Where do you find your inspiration?
Color, nature, animals, and the small moments in my life are what inspire me the most. I love taking a moment of my life and translating it into my artwork by humanizing a creature or just capturing something I see from day to day. I think my style comes from several different influences that include children’s illustration, folk art, my east Austin neighborhood which is predominately Latino, and the fact that I’m part Cherokee. If I’m feeling a sense of panic from a lack of inspiration I find spending time outdoors helps me cope and brings me back with a different perspective so I can regroup, focus, and hopefully look at everything with new eyes.
Who, would you say, is/are the biggest influences of your work?
There’s so much talent out there. It’s hard not to be inspired by every single piece of it. Beyond that, I picked up a love for Frida Kahlo from my sister that has never faded.
What piece of work are you the most proud of?
I’m very proud that I took the leap to attend Surtex, an art licensing show, in May. It’s an enormous undertaking and I jumped in with both feet, regardless of how overwhelming it felt at times. I spent day and night for three months straight creating new work. The only way I survived is that my husband threw pizza in the studio from time to time! Looking back, I kind of can’t believe I did it and I’m still not really sure where it all came from. But I’m glad it happened.
You are launching a new fabric line, Maya, in February. What sparked your desire to do a line? What’s the story behind Maya?
I’ve dreamed of having a fabric line for some time now and since I work so closely with textiles it seemed natural. Maya was inspired by my neighborhood and my morning walks with my dog, Oslo. I hope it gives a sense of the festivity and vibrance that I see in Austin day to day, from brightly colored, quirky buildings to piñatas and amazing mexican food. Maya is purely a reflection of that spirit and I hope the feeling it brings is quirky, beautiful, and vibrant – just like the place I call home.
What is your favorite part of working for yourself?
I’m in control. It’s all up to me and my determination. And I can dance whenever I want to.
What are three things you never leave your house without?
Burt’s Bees chapstick, a Bic pen, and my keys + iphone. That equals four, but the last two seemed equally important. : )
You live in a city I’ve always wanted to visit, Austin, TX. I hear so many wonderful things, what do you love about it?
You should visit! Austin is quite a unique place. There’s a weird sort of cowboy meets liberal hippy thing going on that makes for an interesting dynamic. The hike and bike trails which wind through the city are probably my favorite thing since I often go for a run or walk on them. It keeps the stresses of owning a small business at bay. There’s also an attitude here that is unlike any other place I’ve been. It’s perfectly OK to go to the grocery store in your pajamas. In fact, people probably won’t even notice. I kind of love that. The breakfas tacos, sunny weather, and cowboy boots don’t hurt either.
Photo credits: 1 & 2: Leah Duncan, 3 & 4: Paige Newton