We’re super excited to welcome Caitlin Wallace Rowland to the Dear Stella family! Her first collection, Among the Wildflowers, features gorgeous hand-painted blooms that remind us of that first picture-perfect spring day in the park. Continue reading to get to know more about Caitlin and her amazing work!
Watch this video for a behind the scenes peek at Caitlin’s process:
Q: How did you get started as a designer and illustrator?
A: I had a really creative childhood that helped foster my artistic path. I spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s house, painting at their kitchen table overlooking my grandpa’s huge garden. Even though my grandma wasn’t an artist herself, she saw my love of painting and always kept paints, brushes, and paper stocked up and ready for me to use on a daily basis. My mom is also really creative in the fiber arts — sewing, embroidery, smocking, quilting, cross-stitch, tailoring, upholstery, knitting, crochet, basket weaving (she can do it all!) — so I also grew up watching and learning from her (and surrounded by beautiful fabric!)
All that eventually translated to digital design as I got older, finding my painting roots again in college, working in graphic design for a while, and then going to grad school at the Savannah College of Art and Design for Fibers/Textile Design. At the same time, I was always crafting, quilting, crocheting or doing some other creative/DIY project. What I do now perfectly brings together my love of fibers, painting, and design!
Q: Where are you from, and where are you currently based?
A: I’m originally from a small, rural town in Southern Illinois (fun fact: I was actually born in Paducah, KY (quilting capital of the Midwest!) because it was the closest hospital to where my parents lived that would deliver babies!) and moved to New Orleans, LA for undergrad. Other than a short stint in Savannah, GA for grad school and a summer in Pennsylvania to work at Lilly Pulitzer’s headquarters, I’ve lived in New Orleans since then — almost 10 years!
Q: Tell us a little about your creative process. Do you have a process? What are your sources for inspiration?
A: My process varies a bit depending on what medium I’m working in (painting, block printing, digital illustration/patterning, etc) but my favorite and most consistent working process is something I started in grad school and I refer to as my “field guide” sketchbook process. I love taking walks around my neighborhood (or wherever I am!) and either painting en plein air (which I do less of now that I have a baby!) or taking photos of nature, color combinations, architectural details (whatever inspires me!) and then returning to my studio and referencing those photos to paint in my sketchbook with whatever colors I’m currently feeling. My work always looks the best when there is at least some element of it that is based in real life — from something I’ve seen or experienced. It always feels more true and resonates with me because it has a memory embedded in it.
Q: What is your favorite medium to work with?
A: Forever and always PAINT! I’ve painted since I was really young and ended up getting a Bachelor’s degree in Painting. I use mostly gouache and acrylic.
Q: How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
A: Years and years of practice, letting go, and listening to what really moves me! When I studied painting in undergrad, most of my work was abstract, but still very colorful. I look back at those paintings and I see them almost as color studies for the work I do now. Even though I grew up in the country, surrounded by nature, for the longest time I think I told myself I couldn’t paint florals because they were already everywhere, they were already being done. I remember one of my professors in grad school made a comment one day that ninety-something percent of all patterns sold were floral, and hearing that was the permission I needed to worry less about what others were doing and focus on what I really loved! When I finally let go and started painting the work I wanted to paint, that’s when I really found my stride.
Q: What colors are you drawn to right now?
A: I always have a soft spot for jewel tones and will always love teal, raspberry, mint, coral, and olive/chartreuse. For years, I stayed away from yellow, but I’m really loving mustard right now. Also loving several blue shades — a rich almost-purple royal, cornflower, navy, and peacock. Maybe it’s the painter in me, but color is such an important and inspiring part of my process. Living in New Orleans, there is never a shortage of interesting color combinations — people are so bold with color choices here and I love that!
Q: When you’re not creating designs, what can you be found doing?
A: Currently, trying to figure out motherhood! My daughter, Laurel, is ten months old and since I work from home and also take care of her, I feel like life is a never ending juggle of trying to figure out how to do literally anything other than hold a baby all day! Other than painting and parenting, I love cooking, DIY home projects, and spending time outside. In my pre-parent life, I also made time for reading, quilting, and wheel-throwing ceramics.
(Flip through Caitlin’s sketchbook in the video below!)
Q: Do you have a morning ritual?
A: My life lately is mostly defined by my daughter’s schedule! I need my sleep, so my mornings start whenever Laurel wakes up. She’s always so bright eyed and happy in the mornings and our current morning ritual is to start the day slowly — getting us both dressed and ready and playing with her before she takes her morning nap (when I can start working!).
Q: How do you take your coffee?
A: I don’t! I know I must be crazy for not drinking coffee, especially as a new mom, but caffeine gives me headaches! I mostly stick to water, or juice or a green smoothie in the mornings, and hot chocolate with almond milk or occasionally herbal teas for an afternoon treat.
Q: We can’t wait for your fabric collection to debut! What sorts of projects do you hope to see made?
A: EVERYTHING! I have a soft spot for quilts, and now that I have a daughter, I love seeing cute children’s wear. Of course, I also love home goods, pillows, zip pouches —really you can’t go wrong with adding a little color and pattern anywhere! I can’t wait to see what amazing things people create!