Meet the Artist: Phoebe Wahl
How did you get started with designs/illustrations?
I’ve always been obsessed with drawing, ever since I was little, and I was unschooled which allowed me to really dig in and have a time intensive art practice from a young age. I ended up going to RISD for college, and majored in illustration, which is where I learned that surface design (that’s art that goes on textiles, clothes, home goods, any object’s surface, really!) was a thing. I’d always known I wanted to do children’s books, but learning how to make repeat patterns and designs for products really opened a new and exciting can of worms that I’ve been exploring ever since!
What’s your main inspiration for your designs/illustrations?
I’ve always found myself repeating a lot of the same themes, ever since I’ve made work. Domestic scenes, nature/botanicals, and the fairytale fantasy world. I think for a long time I felt like I should push myself more to explore other subject matter, things that felt edgier or less rooted in my childhood, but at some point I just decided I’d rather just dig in, instead of resisting my natural inclinations. I grew up an outdoorsy, bookish kid in the Pacific Northwest, where I live again now, and the landscape here definitely inspires my work a lot. Most of my imagery is a kind of composite of things I loved or was fascinated by as a child, and a manifestation of the life I want to lead now and in the future. I’m endlessly inspired by flora and fauna, by folklore and simple every day moments of comfort.
What’s your favorite thing about creating illustrations?
I think my favorite thing is just having a world to get lost in. Even though I’m a full time illustrator and can get tired of the grind occasionally, it still is a big source of pleasure for me, and one of the main activities that takes me into a flow state. When it’s good, it feels as satisfying as putting together a puzzle, and as immersive as reading a good book.
How has becoming a parent shifted your artistic view?
I think just practically, I have experiences that inform my work better now. I’ve always illustrated a lot of mothers & children, and there’s things like babywearing and nursing that now I’m like…oh I was drawing that all wrong. Ha!
I don’t know if being a mom has shifted my viewpoint at all, at least yet, but it definitely has made my time to work feel a little more precious and escapist. I feel grateful that I’m able to have a job that not only supports my family but brings me pleasure and satisfaction too.
How did you decide to start babywearing your little one?
It didn’t really feel like a conscious choice I suppose…I think it was just something I’ve been exposed to for a long time, both in my own childhood and beyond, and so it felt like a very logical way to be mobile with a new baby while still maximizing bonding time. I don’t know what we would do without it—it’s allowed me to get back to work quicker and have so much more ease in getting the baby soothed and napping. The baby is napping on me write now as I answer these questions! My partner also has a 15-year-old who he babywore with, so even though it had been a while it was something that wasn’t new to him. Instagram accounts like @plussizebabywearing, @doulakaytee as well as Hope & Plum have definitely taught me a lot and given me more confidence on where to begin, it’s been so wonderful to have good resources on what carriers will work best for what purpose and be most comfortable for my body.
What’s one piece of new parenting advice you could offer someone?
Try to give yourself grace wherever possible, instead of being hard on yourself (a hard one for sure…!) Give yourself permission to advocate for and center your own needs and COMFORT and surround yourself with a support team who will do the same, because ultimately it will help you be more present as a parent if your cup is filled first.
Can you give us some insight into what inspired the designs behind this collection?
I played around with a few different patterns before I landed on doing gnomes. I like having opportunities to create imagery of them doing all different kinds of activities that feel like parts of their world, it gives me an opportunity to develop their characters and the universe I’ve created. To me there was no question that babywearing is a part of their lives, right?? They’ve got all kinds of errands to run in the forest so they need an easy way to bring those baby gnomes along! The timing of the release informed my use of florals, as well as my palette. I wanted something that felt fresh and spring-y but still with an earthy vibe.