Launching Claudia Pearson's Ebb + Flow as a Moroccan rug
Oct 30, 2020
I'm so thrilled to have teamed up with the talented illustrator Claudia Pearson to produce this beautifully balanced Moroccan rug, based on her Ebb + Flow series.
I've had the pleasure of getting to know Claudia over the last eight months. I've watched the transformation of the Ebb + Flow collection. It started as an idea and an artistic drive in the early days of the pandemic. Now, looking back over the last year, it's clear that it has legs of its own as it has born several new products lines and collaborations along the way.
Over the summer I had a chance to sit down and interview Claudia about her genesis as an illustrator. Continue reading below to hear more about Claudia's journey as an artist and illustrator.
An illustrated journey with Claudia Pearson
In March 2020, New York City ground to a halt, shocked into a sudden stillness brought on by a rapidly spreading Covid-19 pandemic. With uncertainty looming, Claudia Pearson packed up her studio and brought her supplies home, unsure of what the future might hold.
Until that point, Claudia had worked her entire career as a successful commercial illustrator. Claudia’s designs are iconic and ubiquitous. The designs are playful potpourris of philodendrons and California wildflowers. They’re cornucopias of mouth-watering cherry tomatoes and summer squashes. They’re nostalgic vignettes that pay homage to our favorite US cities -- from brownstones in New York to the pier in Santa Monica; from DC’s cherry blossoms to Seattle’s Public Market. You’ve probably seen her work. Chances are you have one of her mugs in your cupboard right now.
Claudia traces her love of art back to a very young age. Every summer her family would travel to the South of France and Claudia would find herself wandering through the fields, sketchbook in hand, drawing sunflowers, and the landscapes around her. In the French cafés, no details went unnoticed as Claudia would sketch everything she saw. It was a meditative and therapeutic process that allowed her to hone her artistic eye and cultivate the beginnings of a life-long path filled with art, creativity, and illustration.
And yet, throughout her life, Claudia always distinguished herself as an illustrator, not a fine artist. “I knew at the very beginning that I didn’t want to be a fine artist. I wanted a skill that would connect my art and creativity to being hired to make money,” she said. And as a teenager in the UK, it all clicked into place for her. One day in high school, she visited the studio of her best friend’s father, who was a graphic designer. It was there that Claudia came face to face with his wall of pantone markers and it suddenly all made sense. She knew in an instant that there was a world in which she could turn her love of art into a commercial endeavor. And she did.
We could say the rest is history but 2020 has been a year of seismic shifts that have caused each and every one of us to reconsider our relationship with our work, our communities, ourselves, and our identity. For Claudia it was no different.
It was the early days of the pandemic and she had just closed her studio and relocated to her new work-from-home reality. For continuity’s sake, Claudia decided to continue an artistic process that she had begun back in 2019, where she dedicated Fridays to painting. She would turn off her phone, shut out the rest of the world, and paint.
And then, suddenly, she wasn’t just painting on Fridays, she was painting throughout the entire week. It was something that seemed to have a life of its own.
It started as a meditative practice, as a way for her to release her feelings of stress tied up with the uncertainty of Corona. This was a time when there were more questions than answers -- “what is this going to mean for all of us, our businesses, our lives, our loved ones, our health?” In a very real way, Claudia found that painting was one of the only things that allowed her to release these fears. As she said, “In a sense, it didn’t really matter if anyone liked the paintings. In the beginning, they were just for me.”
With these paintings, Claudia harnessed a vision that had been percolating in the back of her mind for a couple of years. Ever since she did a four-day silent meditation retreat in upstate New York, she had been struck by this image of balanced rocks. She had recalled a hiking trip she took with her family and a moment when her young son plopped down in the middle of a fast-rushing stream and began to slowly, methodically, build a rock tower.
In a practical sense, these rock towers, or cairns, are used as wayfinders in the wilderness to let hikers know they haven’t strayed from the path. To Claudia, they represented a beautiful tension between the force of the river and the sturdy, yet precarious nature of the delicately balanced rocks. She was fascinated by the idea of finding balance and stability, in spite of the apparent vulnerability of the rock formations.
It seems only apropos that Claudia would be struck by this image two years prior, and yet it would take this current upheaval of the pandemic for her to tap into her raw creative power to breathe life into the vision. If anything, the quarantine allowed Claudia to go inwards, to quiet the stimulation and outside chatter, and to give herself permission to create something new.
And she did. Over the first few months of the pandemic, the paintings poured out of her.
What ensued was a deep dive into a creative practice that gave way to an exciting new collection. This collection of limited edition prints and home goods is called, Ebb + Flow. As the name suggests, it is inspired by personal moments in nature, meditation, and the balance of life’s forces.
Claudia may have never thought of herself as a fine artist, but these paintings belie that notion. In her new collection, we feel the same organic shapes and gentle curves, reminiscent in her most classic illustrations. We are moved by the relationship between these shapes, painted meticulously with traditional Chinese ink on watercolor paper. And we are mesmerized by the contrast between the shapes and their negative spaces, black on white, and white on black.
One thing the last few months of this pandemic have crystallized for Claudia is the importance of experimentation, incubation, and, ultimately, action. She’s tapped into the confidence that she can do whatever she wants to artistically. As she’s embarked on this journey, she has dismantled all of the boundaries and walls in front of her, most notably the boundaries that distinguish between artists and illustrators. Ebb + Flow makes it clear that Claudia is both an accomplished illustrator and a perceptive artist.
Thus, the story of Ebb + Flow is a story of how we make subtle shifts in our day to day to respond to, and to make sense of the chaotic world around us. As Claudia says, “ these ebbs and flows in life have been a constant reminder to me to accept the rhythmical patterns, the comings and goings, the decline and regrowth.” Ebb + Flow is the story of how we quiet the noise for a heartbeat, while we simultaneously distill the meaning and transmute it into something new and transformative. In that sense, may these rock towers serve as a beacon for all of us as we chart a new path through 2020, forever reminding us that it is possible to find stability and strength within the uncertainty.