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Daily Inspiration: Meet Leann Carlson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Leann Carlson.

Hi Leann, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
Growing up, I’ve always had a strong interest in two things: art and clothes. I originally wanted to major in fashion design, but I grew up in a low-income area and my options for higher education were limited. I knew I wanted to be an artist in some capacity, so I figured I could just go for Illustration and see where that takes me. Halfway through my college career, I took an Intro to Printmaking course as an elective and since then things have been slowly falling into place! I began taking more classes and building new skills in relief printing, etching, and screenprinting. In the Spring of 2019, I was awarded a scholarship to study abroad at Studio Arts College International in Florence, Italy, where I was academically introduced to textile design. I fell in love. All I wanted to do was print! But then Covid-19 hit my area shortly after I moved home. I started printing my own apparel out of my home studio as a way to comfort myself, but when I realized how I can connect with others through my artwork, I began pursuing it full time. Whether it’s taking week-long workshop courses, teaching myself through “youtube university”, or collaborating with fellow printmakers, I feel like I found something I’m truly passionate about and a community I can be a part of. I’m about a year into my small business journey now, and I feel so grateful to be able to wake up every day and create something I love that also joy and comfort to those around me.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Some days I feel like I’m on top of the world, and other days I feel like I’m swimming against a strong current. That said, I’m simply riding the wave! Do I face struggles? Yes! Several. But I think it’s important to understand that even if you’re struggling, that doesn’t mean that you’re failing. I’m slowly learning the ways around social media algorithms, taxes, and finding my target audience. Putting yourself out there in the real world is brutal. I often sell my artwork at craft fairs and there really is no way to prepare for the emotional rollercoaster that it can be. For some markets, I do really well, and in others, I feel completely invisible. The same thing when posting online- spending hours editing Tik Tok videos or thinking of the perfect Instagram caption only to get a couple of views can be very discouraging. People will discourage you from being an artist too. They might think it’ll only ever be a hobby and that it isn’t a financially sustainable career. You never know unless you try. I didn’t exactly have a plan when I dived into my business, but I knew that if I kept pushing it back for the fear of failure, I would never get to do it. We only have the now, the today, and tomorrow is never guaranteed. The struggles are merely life lessons to help you get better at what you love to do.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
People know me by my business name, Leann, the Illustrator, but really I’m a printmaker who makes illustrations and hand-printed patterns. Both the subject matter and the physical practice of my work come from a very deep place in my heart. I’ve faced several hardships throughout my life on top of my internal struggles with mental illness. I carry so much anxiety over what I can’t control that having jurisdiction over what I make brings me a lot of peace. Creating visual imagery of what I’m going through aids me in expressing the feelings I cannot put into words. As a printmaker, the process of creation acts as a metaphor for my growth as a person. Each layer of the print represents a stage of my healing journey. For some people, a job is just a job, but for me, my job (my art) is my life. It’s everything I am and continue to grow into being and I really pride myself on that commitment. I seek to create work that is not only comforting for myself but for others as well! By utilizing the principles of digital technology and traditional craft, my illustrations and textile patterns navigate humanity’s connection to the higher forces of the universe. I have a deep emotional connection to my work, reflecting on my dreams, childhood memories, and emotional well-being. Between alternative realities, communication with the spirit world, and reconnecting with my inner-child, I use the stories of what was to influence what will be.

How do you think about luck?
It sounds kind of crazy, but I feel thankful for all the bad luck I’ve had to face throughout my life. Without it, I probably wouldn’t be the person I get to work on being today. For example, last year before I started my business, I was applying for as many jobs, artist residencies, and juried exhibits as I could. I got rejected by almost all of them. I was feeling really down on my luck and worthless, to be honest. And it doesn’t help when it feels like everyone around you is getting their definition of success either. I eventually got to this point where I was like, “why am I waiting for somebody else to give me the success I desire when I could just make it myself?” I feel like luckiness plays a huge role in my business. Especially when it comes to things like online engagement and sales, but I’m slowly learning how to navigate it and keep that power within my own two hands.

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