Hi all! Before I ask you to drink some hobbit juice and join me on my travel blog adventure, I wanted to take the opportunity to appreciate the work of other amazing artists and entrepreneurs around the world. What fun is it if you don’t share the love?
Some of these small businesses have thousands of followers and some are just getting started out. Many of them I know personally or have met during my travels. But some are fellow artists I’ve found on Spoonflower or Instagram and admired along the way. The one thing that they all have in common is that they are AWESOME innovators, storytellers, motivators, and creators.
I invite you to take a peek at their work, follow them, and spread the word. From the senior director of graphic design at Patagonia to my favorite yoga instructor in Chicago, these badass humans live incredible lives and inspire me on the regular.
Note: The views expressed here are my own! I was not compensated to highlight any businesses or artists.
Illustrators and Surface Pattern Designers:
I first bumped into Geoffrey’s art when I worked for Patagonia several years ago. The second time I saw his work was at the incredible Fresh Coast Film Festival. Today, this Michigan-made artist has risen to the Senior Art Director at Patagonia, where he combines his passion for art and environmental advocacy to produce truly incredible products and campaigns. In addition to his rad background as a Great Lakes surfer (yes, we can surf here in the winter), his love for all things mid-west shines through, and that’s probably why I admire his work so much.
I found this artist by accident while wandering through the colorful, graffiti-inked city of Valparaiso, Chile. She was sitting behind her desk, completing one of her iconic, cosmic watercolor paintings, and she invited me in to her studio. Moca uses bright colors and ink to complete her designs -- which typically feature planets, infinite dimensions, the desert, lush jungle leaves, and strong female figures. Definitely check her out! I bought so many of her stickers.
Ola Volo is a Canadian Illustrator and muralist from Kazakhstan. She draws inspiration from folklore and nature, and her massive murals have covered the walls of Starbucks, Lululemons, and cities around the world. She brings beauty wherever she goes, and her intricate, quirky artwork (packed with little mushrooms, wild loopy trees, birds, and wildlife) always tells a story.
This mountain lady is one of my favorites to follow on instagram. Based out of Seattle, she specializes in alpine themes and animals. She paints in broad sweeping acrylic movements and depicts mountains with a passion and soul we should all be envious of! Watch a video of her process here!
Spoonflower is an amazing community of independent surface pattern designers, and it’s where I sell most of my designs. There are so many talented folks on this platform that it’s hard to keep up, but here are a few that I especially enjoy following and collaborating with on Instagram and the weekly Spoonflower challenges.
Nouveau_Bohmian’s dreamy alpine adventure patterns do it for me everytime. And Gaia Marfurt’s zen yogis and happy people always make me smile! Vincent Desjardin’s dreamy forests delight me, and Rebel Challenger’s Wyoming design captures my wanderlust. Dan Lehman's Wes Anderson Film fabrics capture my inner film nerd. Camilla Laub’s succulent gardens make me want to buy 100 billion plants and b0rwear’s gummy bear design makes me want to be a kid again. Little Knid’s really crushes the arctic animal game, and Monika Suska’s colorful monster world puts my imagination into overdrive. There are so, so many more that inspire me!!
My Favorite Small Businesses:
Worthington Art Gallery:
This is my absolute favorite gallery anywhere in the world. Located just outside of Zion National Park in Springdale, Utah, this art mecca is packed with dramatic red-rock scenes, etchings, and beautiful ceramics (all made by local artists). Last year (about the same time I started drinking coffee) I decided to collect a ceramic mug from a local gallery after each of my running races. This one was my favorite! My mugs from Openwings Pottery in the UP and Bier Gallery in Charlevoix, MI are right up there too! Ahh they are all so beautiful.
Le Mouton Vert:
This high-end sustainable wool shop at the Southern tip of Chile is so INCREDIBLE. I found it while exploring the coastline in Puerto Natales a few days before running at Ultrafiord. It’s a tiny space located inside of this weird industrial building, but the roughness of the industrial space (think tired wooden boards and metal rigid walls) juxtaposed with the brightness of the studio (blankets of glorious white wool basked in natural sunlight and surrounded by green plants) makes it all the more special. I think I could happily pack up all my things, move in, and make the coziest wool bed out of all the soft materials and textures in there. Anyways, what I admire most about the business is that they are a 100% natural and renewable value chain, meaning that everything from the animal care to the spinning is done locally and responsibly. I didn’t have enough room in my small backpacker’s backpack to buy a table runner from here, but I will be ordering one ASAP (or a cozy cozy hat for the winter!).
Hayley Jones Yoga:
Hayley is easily my favorite yoga instructor, and I admire her entrepreneurial spirit to no end. She brings energy to every class and a playful attitude that makes each session a blast. For the unfortunate few of you that have seen me do yoga before, you know that I have a serious case of runner’s hamstrings (Tight. Tight. Tight.) But Hayley is a people person. She knows every student by name and finds a way to adapt her classes to meet her student’s abilities and challenge them appropriately. If you are ever in Chicago, you have to attend one of her classes or book her for a private. Find a way to meet up with this yogi or fly her out to teach a class. She is truly excellent!
Side note: she showed me this acoustic version of the song The Gold by Manchester Orchestra the other day that is so amazingly chilling. Take a listen!
Raxeira Candle Co.
Hannah is a badass traveler, Survivor lover, and a talented human that I relate to on so many levels. She’s been around the world: to Bali, New Zealand, Romania, Colorado, Bonaire (just to name a few) and has developed an amazingly successful candle company around her adventures. Her small-batch, soy-beeswax candles are each scented according to a different destination that she has traveled to. My personal favorite is the Colorado Fir + Balsam, which transports me back to the Rockies and lights up my room on the regular. The best part about the candles is her quirky wicks (I don't wanna give away the secret, but they take candles to a whole 'nother level). She is both an amazing friend and an incredible candle maker. With fall coming up, I’m going to be needing some more.
Stonebelt Supply Co.
I think it really says something that so many of my former co-workers from Patagonia are now creating awesome products of their own. It probably has to do with the fact that we used to read Let My People Go Surfing on the regular or that Yvon Chouinard’s story of entrepreneurship and sustainability is ingrained in our DNA. Stonebelt Supply Co was started by my former coworker and friend, Joe. His midwest born company produces rad, colorful socks and also donates 10% of all proceeds to kids and adults with special needs. Joe’s socks have traveled all over the globe, and are perfect for athletes (Joe is a big biker) or those who just want to add a little cozy color to their lives. Check ‘em out.
Never have I seen a small business grow so fast! My good friend Mimi, a pediatric nurse by day, and a skilled jewelry-maker by night is pumping out orders for her earrings like crazy. Relying on turquoise tones, soft pinks, and warm golds, her chic earrings are perfect for bridal parties, long summer nights, and just about every occasion in between. I’m BEYOND excited to watch her business continue to grow!
Artisan and Sage + Abodeacious
The Cramers are life-long friends, and I admire them tremendously. Growing up, I always found myself at the Cramer's house for playdates and mac ‘n cheese Wednesdays. Today, this incredibly talented family (seriously all four of them are amazing!) is churning out awesome pieces. I visited Liz Cramer’s pottery studio a few weeks ago, and she showed me how she spins her colorful ceramics. Her husband, Ron Cramer, (who built the two-story turquoise playhouse that I spent most of my childhood playing imagination in) runs a reclaimed-wood furniture business called Abodeacious. My favorites are the ones that have turquoise running like veins through the grains of the wood. And let's not forget @alpine.sunrae, one of my best friends in the world (a skilled climber and environmental agriculture student at UBC) who made me the most beautiful hand-painted christmas card I have ever received. You have to check out their work!
Lauren DanilEk Photography
I first met Lauren at an Arc'Teryx photography exhibition in Wicker Park. She had her big pup Kodak with her and was exhibiting a few shots from an alpine trek she did in France. Hayley Jones (my favorite Yoga instructor mentioned above) introduced us. Lauren and I had both worked for Patagonia...but at separate times. It was a collision of worlds, and our friendship was fast. Now a Colorado resident, this rad outdoor photographer is crushing it and is seriously one of the most talented (and badass) photographers out there. Her alpine imagery captures the serene beauty of earth's ridges and always gives me a serious case of wanderlust. DEFINITELY FOLLOW HER INSTAGRAM. You won't regret it. She reminds me a lot of my friend and former co-worker at the Road Less Traveled James Roh, another seriously RAD outdoor photographer you should follow.
Fun story: Lauren's work reminds me a lot of Chris Burkard, who incidentally was in El Chalten, Argentina at the same time I was this spring. We were both stuck in town during a terrible snow storm and his video of the experience makes me laugh...because yes...that happened.
A Drink With
Based out of Detroit, our good family friend Hillary owns a rock-star digital media company called A Drink With! She interviews celebrities and industry leaders over drinks and produces exceptional content and inspirational conversations. She’s interviewed celebrities like Chelsea Handler, Chrissy Teigen, and John Legend, and conducted heart-warming conversations with athletes like Anthony Rizzo and Justin Abdelkader. It takes grit and perseverance to create anything close to what she has created (she built this company from the ground up!), and I have a lot of respect for what she has created. She’s calm, cool, intelligent, and I always enjoy meeting up with her for girls weekend. It’s no wonder her business is so successful.
Note: She recently added a podcast called A Drink With Detroit to her site. It highlights the groundbreaking industry leaders who are reshaping and bringing innovation to Detroit. Check it out!
I hope that you've enjoyed reading about these talented entrepreneurs, industry leaders, and artists. They are all so special to me and inspire me on the regular. I hope you'll take a moment to follow them on Instagram or connect! And as always, you can find me here, on instagram, or on Spoonflower :)