When it comes to I Heart Indie Markets (I.H.I.M.), it has always been immensely important to me to build a company that values independent artists and their work first and foremost. I envision a company that helps promote artists work and ultimately gives them a platform to help expand their creative endeavors. So last fall, when I started thinking of new qualities I wanted on the I.H.I.M. website, my first thought was that I strongly wanted to reflect that mission. I wanted I.H.I.M. to be more than just a cut-and-paste stock website; somewhere that could become a gallery of artists artwork as well.
The Event Finder section of the website stood out as the first place to tackle. It was, after all, the catalyst for I.H.I.M. and continues to be an important part of the company. I decided what better way to bring more art and life into the website than to show what these sections of the website are all about through commissioned art from an independent artist.
The mission was to create a six headers, one for each section of the Event Finder section: the Pacific Coast, the Mountain States, the Southwest, the Midwest, the South, and the Northeast. I wanted artwork that would capture the essence of what makes these areas of the country so vibrate and wonderful. I just needed an artist who could take that very general statement and bring it to life in their own creative and unique way.
Illustration artist T.L. Luke made that happen and I am blown away with what she came up with!
The Pacific Coast encompasses Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington.
The Mountain States encompass Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.
The Southwest encompasses Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma.
The Midwest encompasses Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
The South encompasses Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia.
The Northeast encompasses Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington D.C.
A Bit of Background
The amazing part of running a company like I.H.I.M. is that I get to work with many artists. The downside to running a company like I.H.I.M. is that when I want to commission work, I know so many artists, the possibilities are endless. I can be an indecisive person at times and have many ideas that go in complete opposite directions. However, in this case, the decision was actually quite easy; one artist continually came to mind every time I envisioned the I.H.I.M. website. The minute I thought of her work I realized it just fit my brand. I even tried to play devil’s advocate and think in another direction, however my mind was already made up. The artist I had in mind, T.L. Luke, was perfect for this project!
I contacted T.L. and I was ecstatic when she happily agreed to the commission!
I first met T.L. in early 2019 when she was at one of my events in Madison, WI. It was her first makers market ever, which automatically meant I was cheering her on hardcore. Anyone who knows my passion for this business knows that one of my worst kept secrets is that I have the biggest soft spot for artists who choose one of my markets for their first makers market event!
I love helping artists with those first time vendor questions and being there to let them know I think their products rock. The truth is, we have such a loving and helpful community, here in the handmade world, but those first few shows, before you make other maker friends, can be super tough! Especially when you're doubting where you fit in and the imposter syndrome is at its worst.
T.L. slammed it out of the park her first year out of the gate with doing makers markets, gaining commissions and other achievements throughout her community. Now she’s an independent illustration artist full-time!
T.L. Luke's first booth at the 2019 Valentine's Makers Market & Pub-Crawl in Madison, WI, built by her talented partner Andrew Park.
Q & A With the Artist
Me: How did you go about choosing the scenery for each regional image you designed for the Event Finder section?
T.L.: “So, I wanted each region to be framed by local plants and wildlife (for example, you'll see Iowa's Wild Roses in the Midwest, Hibiscus and White Sea Bass in the Pacific Coast, and Oranges and Alligators in the South). Then, within each piece, I wanted to include scenery each region is known for (Yellowstone National Park in the Mountain States, the New York City skyline in the Northeast, and the Arizona Canyons in the Southwest). Finally, I wanted to add something that was common between each region and I've always loved the idea that there are strings of fate that bind us together. So, playing off that idea, I added knotted ropes to the top of each frame because each region historically uses knots in different ways. The regions on the coasts all have boating knots, the mountain regions have climbing knots, and the midwest has a hunting knot. I like to imagine that the rope of the knots are connecting each region together!”
ME: Which illustration is your favorite and why? Is it the one you expected to be your favorite?
T.L.: “Oh man, I gotta say The South ended up being my favorite, which both is and isn't a huge surprise haha! I grew up part-time down in Florida, so the Everglades and Florida oranges were featured prominently. I also just reeeeally enjoyed drawing a New Orlean's building, which is one of my favorite styles architecturally speaking. I have a lot of friends from the South, my partner is from South Carolina, my biological father lived in Tennessee and Georgia for a long time, and I feel like my heart is always kind of longing to be down there, even though I grew up and continue to live up in Wisconsin. I thought the Pacific Coast, especially when I was done drawing it, would be my favorite because it's so light and fun, but I think I'll always love the grit of the South, even when it manifests as a regional illustration!”
ME: What does being a "maker" mean to you?
T.L.: “Being a maker...that's such a great question. I generally define being a maker as anyone who imagines something that doesn't yet exist in this world the way that they want it to exist, so they create it themselves. From every maker I've talked to at art and/or craft markets, that's usually the catalyst for opening their business. ‘I really love soap but I couldn't find the scents I really liked so I started making my own,’ or ‘I kept looking for greeting cards that were my type of humor but when I couldn't find them I started designing my own.’ It's why I started my business as well; I was so inspired by other creators who were sharing their cute, dark, and meaningful stories in this medium, but I wasn't seeing my story being told so I changed that.
“I think being a maker goes beyond simply making something that didn't exist and now it does. Being a maker means you're also making yourself extremely vulnerable. You're sharing an extension of yourself with someone else and that's really scary. Sure, it might "just" be a hat you knitted your sister or it might "just" be a drawing you're giving your co-worker, but it took time, it came from your brain, and now you're giving away this thing that only exists because you made it. And maybe they'll give it to someone. And maybe that person will give it to someone else. It's in the universe now. That's so beautiful and, while it maybe doesn't always feel as grandiose as I'm describing, the thing you made connected with someone else. Every time someone buys a print from me, I feel like they see me and I see them. I would have missed those moments completely if I hadn't decided to be vulnerable and that's what being a maker means to me!”
Interested in learning more about this talented artist? Check out @iheartindieMAKERS on instagram as we post about her and her work for the next week!
All Illustration and images, © 2019-2020, T.L. Luke Art