Olivia Mew is a Montreal-based entrepreneur and self-taught illustrator. She has a keen appreciation for drawing flowers, creepy animals and angsty people. Sites such as the Juxtapoz blog, the Urban Outfitters blog and Design*Sponge have featured her work. She also owns a company called Stay Home Club where she works with a number of illustrators designing and selling textile goods.
Olivia will be designing an installation for Citizen Vintage and a limited edition t-shirt for The Main MTL, both of which will be launched in a vernissage at Citizen Vintage on Thursday, May 9th from 6-9pm:
EVENT DETAILS HERE!
We talked to Olivia about her company, her angsty characters and her collaboration with The Main and Citizen Vintage. This is what she had to say.
You say in your blog you’re a self-taught illustrator. How did you stumble upon illustration? What made you engage in it?
I’m self-taught in that I didn’t go to university for illustration; however, I do have an education in fine arts so it wasn’t that much of a stretch when I decided to pursue it. I very much like the idea of being able to support myself through my creative endeavours, and the immediacy of illustration suits my personality. I like putting something on the Internet and selling it right away, or working for a client over a day or two and getting paid for it. I don’t have the patience for spending months toiling over work and then going through a gallery.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Myself and my friends ages 14-17, fashion, cool stuff in nature.
Some people have specific rituals involved in their creative process. Do you have any of your own?
Not really! I change my process quite often as I discover new tools and ways of doing things.
What do you think of Montreal as an artist’s habitat?
One thing’s for sure: the cheap rent can’t be beat for those of us determined not to work a “day job”. I’m a bit of a loner, but I do love the creative pals I’ve made here in Montreal. Luckily lots of them like to hang out by themselves too. We’ll see each other every now and then and bitch about weird Etsy customers. It’s nice to have like-minded people around every now and then to reassure you that you aren’t insane.
You like to draw angsty animals and people. Why is that?
I’m fascinated by ridiculous, over the top teenage emotions. I had a whole lot of them and these days I’m pretty placated, so what seemed horrible 10 years ago is hilarious to me now. Laughing at myself is somehow empowering for me, and lucky for me a lot of other people see themselves in my drawings too.
What would you say is your trademark in your work? What sets your work apart from other illustrators?
I would much rather have that question answered by people looking at my work. A bitter hatred of writing artists statements is one of the reasons I steered clear of the fine arts world!
Do you seek to send a message through your work or do you do it purely for yourself?
In all honesty, most of what I do is a pretty selfish endeavour. I don’t have any kind of notion that my drawings of girls and cats and flowers are going to change the world.
Can you tell us about how you started Stay Home Club and how you choose which artists to work with?
I decided to start Stay Home Club one day while doing the dishes (I usually come up with weird business plans while I’m walking to bus stops and doing household chores, for some reason). I’d been having my own images printed onto fabric for various small products for a few years and thought it would be fun to get a bunch of artists on board and make some cool textiles. I’m lucky enough to have forged internet friendships with lots of the illustrators and artists whose work I really love, so I started by asking some of my favourites to take part. As the website and customer base grew, I received some great submissions as well as reached out to more artists as and when I came across their work. The products we sell now reflect a pretty large spectrum of people who I think are making great stuff – I’m glad it worked out in a way that everyone’s work is really different.
From day one Stay Home Club has been run by me and financed out of my pocket, which is incredibly stressful but also something I’m pretty proud of. It helps a lot having this little community of collaborators for moral and artistic support.
The theme for the window display in Citizen Vintage is “teen angst” and the colour palette is black and white. Can you expand on that theme and why you chose that colour palette?
Making the overblown emotions of my teen years into something funny and tongue in cheek is a favourite pastime for me. I especially like it when other people can see their past selves in the work and then we can all laugh at our silly young selves like we’re part of a big inside joke. Black and white is purely an aesthetic choice in this case to keep everything aesthetically cohesive.
Tell us about the limited edition t-shirt you are designing for The Main MTL and how the collaboration came about.
The Main came to me and said they wanted something for the theme of “sex month”. I think the idea was that in May flowers start blooming and folks start baring skin after a long winter. So, naturally, I drew them a guy in a BDSM mask wearing a dainty flower crown.
How would you describe the t-shirt in one word?
… And, how excited are you to launch it at the vernissage on May 9th?
Super excited! The ladies at Citizen said there’s gonna be candy.
-Interview by Giselle MacDonald