The Etsy Blog

Featured Seller: Leah Duncan

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Leah and I’m an illustrator, textile and surface pattern designer. I live in Austin, TX with my husband, our two cats and our pit-mix, Oslo. I love sunny weather, Topo Chico and chocolate. I don’t care for shoelaces.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?
On the off-chance I’m not making something, I’m doing yoga, running, hiking with my husband and dog in tow, sipping coffee on my back porch, riding my bike, dancing while I clean, trying to put together an outfit, and keeping my toenails painted bright red.

What would be the title of your memoir? Why?
I Want Sugar in My Tea. I love this phrase and have used it as my part-time motto for years. A lot of people ask me what it means, so I’d like to take a moment to explain.

If you don’t recognize it, it’s a lyric from Weezer’s “The Good Life,” which is the band that single-handedly got my sister, myself and our small group of friends through the awkwardness of high school. Secondly, I’m Southern and I like sugar in most things, tea being the best of those things. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, is what the song means to me. I’ve made a promise to myself to live my life in pursuit of my “sugar”: my hopes, my goals and ultimately my happiness. It means living life with courage and going for everything I want so, at the end of the day, life feels sweet. It’s what keeps me going as I run my own business and as I make my way through life.

Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m mostly inspired by the small moments in my life; I love recreating those moments or humanizing a creature as I portray them. Also, my neighborhood in East Austin has piñatas, brightly colored buildings and great Mexican food, so you can often find traces of it in my work. I also love folk art and children’s illustrations. I’m part Cherokee, so those influences sneak in from time to time. Other things that always provide inspiration are color, animals and interesting pieces of nature I see from day to day.

What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade means sharing a small piece of yourself with the world. It’s creating a connection between yourself and whoever wants to take a peek.

Who has been most influential in your craft?
My friends, my family, the creative community around me and anyone who has ever supported my work, because it gave me the confidence to do it. Looking back, I can see all of the pieces falling into place and how each moment of my life, good or bad, has led me to this path.

When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I’m rather sure I came out of the womb this way. I was alway a dreamer, I was always making things, and my favorite classes were art and English. Having the courage to make a living doing it was an entirely different story. I only took one art class in college and strayed for a few years, doing work that I was less than excited about. It was never enough for me and I felt my creative roots tugging at me. Luckily I found my way.

How would you describe your creative process?
It’s messy, sometimes agonizing and almost makes me lose my sanity. Sometimes it comes naturally and sometimes it needs a lot of nourishment. It starts with a thought or an idea and almost always grows into something unexpected.

If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
Frida Kahlo. She was brave, quirky and a tremendously unique lady. I inherited a love for her from my sister and it has never faded.

What handmade possession do you most cherish?
I have a quilt from my great-grandmother that she made from pieces of my family’s clothing. It has scraps of pants my grandfather had grown out of, pieces from my my great-grandfather’s jackets, and dresses she no longer wore.  Each piece of fabric feels like history, and as I look at it I wonder about each piece and what stories she might tell me. I hope to continue the tradition when I have a family of my own.

Where would you like to be in ten years?
I’d like to grow my retail and wholesale line, as well as have my own brick and mortar store. I’ll definitely have my own family and hopefully a great team working with me, which means I’ll have time to spend with my family chasing monsters, building tents, drawing in the sand and making moments and memories.

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