This week we are showcasing Milwaukee's own Leslie Phillips, creator of Orange Pops. Her line of tile coasters, prints and towels are all completely handmade and feature her bright, cheerful style. With designs going from celebrities, to local love, to collage pieces, it is impossible not to find something that speaks to you. Leslie kindly answered some questions for us about her story and what it means to be a maker.
1) When did you start being a maker and what inspires?
I have been a part-time maker since I was a kid. I used to draw pictures using the Sunday comics as inspiration, and also made pot holders with a loom kit and gave them away to family members. In January of 2012 I became a full-time artist, the best decision I have ever made.
2) What is your creative background?
Immediately after high school I attended a trade school for graphic design. I attended that program for one year and then decided to pursue other interests. I realized that traditional graphic design was too confining for me, I wanted to have greater artistic freedom. Now, I am mostly self taught. Oddly, forums like YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest have all been great for helping teach and inspire me.
3) Where do you see Orange Pops heading?
Just a couple months ago, I look a huge leap and moved into a 1,000 sq foot studio space in Riverwest. I always felt like I couldn't grow to the point of my wishes, without having the proper space. I feel like I am living a dream and now have lofty goals for my small art business. I have a new studio assistant that has been a HUGE help, allowing me to focus some of my time in places that needed attention. Currently, I have my work in 12 shops around the state and now in both California and Arizona too. By the end of 2017, I hope to double this number, moving into larger metropolitan areas like Chicago, Denver, and Buffalo. The best thing about my work is that I can tailor it to fit any city in the country. This year I am also tackling Summerfest, which is on my artist bucket list!
4) What is your inspiration?
I get inspired by everything! Nature. Pop Culture. Other Artists. Like I mentioned before, YouTube, Etsy and Pinterest are great resources for artistic inspiration. Also, one thing that has to be considered if making art a full-time career is creating what is trendy. Trendy things sell and that is how I keep my bills paid. I don't always make the things I like the best, but what I know will sell as well.
5) What is your favorite part about being a maker?
Doing what I love every single day! I feel so grateful that I don't have to answer to anyone else and that if I want to take a long lunch or start work later certain days I have that freedom. Honestly, though, since I became a full-time artist I probably work twice as many hours as I did when I had a "normal" full-time job. I would NEVER trade it, though. :) I also LOVE all the fantastic, creative, and inspiring artists I have met while doing my craft.
6) Do you have any advice for other makers?
If anyone wants to do art for a living they have to work really hard, not only on finding those things that sell well, but making sure you keep your passion alive in the process. The more excited I am about my work, the better it sells. Sure, most of us just want to make the art we want to all day long, but that isn't the reality. The reality is that you have to schlep your stuff to art events, even in bad weather. You have to branch out, and talk to people and pimp your work to strangers. You have to have a good business sense, get over any fears about reaching out to shop owners and making good connections. Every single job has elements that we don't particularly care for, but sometimes you have to just suck it up and get it done! There are times when I wanted to give up, but I am SO glad that failure just wasn't an option.
We have a constantly rotating stock of Leslie's work, as well as many designs and styles that aren't shown here. Stop by sometime and check out this amazing artist, or you can find out more about Orange Pops and request custom work at Orangepops.com.