The Women We Love: Cait Courneya
I first discovered Cait Courneya’s work in 2018. Since then we’ve been pairing her prints and textiles with MATINE handbags non-stop, simply because they look so damn good together. Honestly, I’ve yet to find a combination of scarf/bag between our two collections that isn’t perfect.
So you can imagine my delight when Cait agreed to collaborate on a new design, which we are thrilled to be launching this month. The process was a fun one and certainly proved the non-linear tendency of creative work. Over the span of several months, Cait painted new images for each concept we tested and ultimately we chose the moth as a tribute to a special book from Cait’s childhood (more on that below).
Cait painted more than a few moths to begin with, which we are also excited to be offering for sale in a special mini show now on view in the shop.
From those paintings we played with scale, pattern, color and ultimately landed on our beautiful Luna scarf. I love the how the dusty rose border plays off of the greens and how the colors catch your attention before you quite notice the details of the pattern.
To coincide with the launch of our collaboration, the Luna Scarf, I’m also launching a new story series that I’ve been brewing for a while: The Women We Love. I’m imagining this as a place where you can come to regularly discover women doing inspiring things, and feel as inspired by them as we do every day.
Without further ado, meet Cait!
Carolyn: We've been collaborating for quite some time now, but for those who are just discovering you and your work, do you mind introducing yourself and sharing a little bit of your story?
Cait: My name is Cait Courneya, and I am a Minneapolis-based Artist and Designer. I design textiles and textile goods that are created via a process of hand-painting and digital manipulation. Much of my inspiration comes from the 6 years I lived in Los Angeles. My degree is in apparel design, and I had the opportunity to work for some really great companies, like Vera Wang and Monique Lhuillier. In 2013 I transferred to Minneapolis with the company I was working with at the time, but the position ended up getting eliminated and I struggled to find work as a creative here in the midwest. For years friends had encouraged me to start my own business and I decided to start freelancing as an illustrator, while looking for a full-time job. People responded really well to my work and it has evolved over the last 6 years into what it is today. I eventually stopped looking for a job and focused on building my own business. I still take freelance projects but my time is now divided between that and my goods-based business.
Carolyn: In your multi-hyphenate life, what do you think of yourself as first—artist? Illustrator? Designer?
Cait: Oh boy, that is a tough question. I feel like those titles are so closely connected. I think I would classify myself as a designer first, because my process is very end-game focused. I love to create, but because this is my business I am always thinking about the end product before I start creating something new. The artist in me loves the steps that take me through the process, and often that inner artist directs and highly influences the end product, but the designer in me is always pondering, seeking inspiration, editing, and questioning what my customers want next.
Carolyn: How has the business influenced your direction as an artist?
Cait: There is a tension that you have to live in as an artist and business owner. As an artist we want to just move in whatever direction our inspiration is taking us, but as a business owner it's vital to offer relevant work within the parameters of what consumers are drawn to. I try to live that out by keeping tabs on current trends, and then allowing myself to play within certain boundaries that I set after doing my research. I have also learned (and am still learning) how to edit my work and not utilize and/or show everything that I create. In today’s instagram-heavy marketplace it is important that I have a strong, cohesive voice that helps my followers and those who are looking at my work quickly understand what I do.
Carolyn: I'm always fascinated to hear about how other creative entrepreneurs incorporate their personal practices into the day-to-day hustle of running a business. Where does painting currently fall into your routine?
Cait: To be honest, I don’t paint as much as I want to. So much of my day to day is spent on other things. I currently have to schedule time into my week to paint. I am always painting for freelance work and commissions, but new abstract work is created quarterly and always falls in line with my current textile collection in terms of color and inspiration.
Carolyn: Tell us about your influences. Where do you turn when you're starting out right at the very beginning of creating a new collection?
Cait: Often I find a single image somewhere that encompasses the feeling I want the new collection to have. I will start by creating a Pinterest board and then add to it over the months leading up to when I need to create a new collection. I also draw heavy inspiration from the art world. I study artists that are current, as well as artists that have passed. I study their techniques and try and figure out how to incorporate similar methods into a textile format.
Carolyn: Each season you seem to be able to edit just the perfect assortment of new patterns and colors—out of all the options you create, how do you decide what to keep and what to toss?
Cait: This is one of the hardest parts of designing a collection! Sometimes I create up to 50-75 different patterns and color-ways before choosing what will make it into each collection. I strive to create balance by thinking about what people are currently wearing and decorating their homes with. Then I offer the products in colors (within the color scheme for that collection) that I think will resonate with the most people. I try to have one or two “star” patterns each season, and these are often patterns that are a little riskier. The ironic thing is, those “star” patterns are often the ones that sell the best! So maybe I need to re-think my method!? ;-)
Carolyn: We're (finally!) launching our new moth pattern. Can you explain a little bit of the back story and inspiration behind the design?
Cait: Growing up, my family didn’t have a t.v. so I read books like crazy for entertainment. One of my favorite books was an old book called A Girl of the Limberlost. It was written at the turn of the century, and tells the story of a neglected and poor girl, named Elnora, who wanted to go to school, but whose mother refused to pay for her books and clothes. So she started collecting moths from the Limberlost forest in Michigan to sell and earn money for school. The book was written by Gene Stratton Porter, a female self-taught naturalist whose mission was to blend beautiful literature with educational books about nature. The story itself is romantic and beautiful, but I connected with Elnora’s resiliency and hunger to learn. Through reading A Girl of the Limberlost, and other books by the same author, I learned about different moths and their habits, as well as how beautiful and inspiring nature is. Our new moth pattern depicts the Luna Moth, a moth that is rarely seen here in the midwest. It flies primarily at night, and often in places where humans are more scarce. Its such a beautiful and exotic moth for the midwest, and I love the feeling of mystery that comes from it.
Carolyn: Ok, we both agree your scarves look beautiful styled out on our MATINE handbags, but what's your personal favorite way to wear a scarf?
Cait: As a girl who grew up watching old movies I personally love wearing them tied around my neck. There’s something so sophisticated about a woman who is confident enough to wear a neck scarf. It’s the perfect way to take your style to the next level.