Each month Millenniella will feature an inspiring, talented, or just plain badass female, millennial or not, to showcase why they are one of the “Cool Girls We Look Up To”.
This month, I spoke to my amazingly talented friend, Katherine Wehde, graphic designer and artist extraordinaire who started her own business, Weeds and Whimsy. She creates beautiful and unique pieces for her friends, family, and clients including wedding or party invitations, decorations, personal cards, gifts and more.
1. Tell us a little about your background and how your childhood shaped you into the woman you are now, professionally and personally.
I was lucky to grow up in Carmel, California, which is a gorgeous fairy tale of a beachfront village, made up of houses and businesses that either look like vintage gingerbread houses or authentic mid-century modern bungalows. Remember the season finale of Mad Men? That was filmed in Big Sur, and that’s still what Big Sur and Carmel look like, blissfully locked in the 1970s.
Carmel is a tight community of people who make and/or sincerely appreciate art and beauty. Rare is the event that you go to the market and don’t see someone you know. Growing up, my friends and I played outside. We tried to sell lemonade and brownies (not the special kind); we’d glue Popsicle sticks together and call it a Ferris wheel; we’d tear our tights climbing trees and falling off bikes. We were adventurers with big imaginations and poor coordination.
My family has played a huge role in where I am now. I’m lucky to have had parents and two older siblings that celebrated my passions, whether they were sports, or art, or even pre-meltdown Britney Spears. My siblings and I were each born with a creative muscle – Kent, the musician; Kersten, the writer; and me, the artist.
In 2014 my entire world changed when my brother Kent suddenly, tragically died. I went from never having experienced any loss to experiencing an earth-shattering loss that completely shifted the way I think. It created this internal dichotomy between feeling a chaotic urgency to hurry up and live!, and understanding the importance of being present daily, because you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. That’s when I decided to make my vision of Weeds & Whimsy a reality. Because why not?
2. How did you get started in design?
I never thought I could actually do something this creative for a living; I just knew loved to do it. The only art class I’ve ever taken was the one my high school required, and it was great, but I was so focused on taking hard classes to get into a good college that I didn’t think twice about pursuing creative studies. I’m happy with the way things went because I went to the best school ever, UC Santa Barbara, but I look back and wonder how I missed all the signs!
Senior year of college, after studying sociology for four years and studying abroad in Barcelona for one, I realized I wanted to create the displays at my sacred place: Anthropologie. I spent a semester depleting my bank account interning there. That’s when I realized no matter what I did for a job, I wanted to do something creative. I moved down to San Diego and got a job in marketing for American Specialty Health (ASH), and that grew into what I do now for my day job: user experience design. While UX and Weeds & Whimsy use very different mediums (one is digital and the other is tangible), the two work together to exercise my creative muscle in different ways. How someone feels when they get your invitation, or see the signage at your event, or when they open the very personal gift you give them is the user experience. My disciplines encourage each other, and solving design problems is basically what I live for. That and hot tamales.
3. Who has influenced you in your career thus far?
Oh man, I look up to so many talented people. Gaudí and Salvador Dalí and Vincent Van Gogh are some of my favorite artists. Michelle Obama, Tina Fey, Beyoncé and Robyn are some strong women I look up to. I look up to the creative team at Pixar and the dedication they have to the story. Wes Anderson. Jenny Slate and Gabe Delahaye and their spot-on senses of humor. The Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Avett Brothers. Jessica Hische and her amazing lettering and illustration skills. San Diego creative director Michael Soriano who was the first one that made me realize that being reserved is boring and lame. My mom who is the most thoughtful person I know, and my dad whose dad jokes are just like normal jokes. Creativity comes in and is inspired by many mediums, not just artistic ones.
4. What would you say is the most important piece of advice you’ve been given in starting out your business?
In college I emailed a family friend who is also a local college professor, and asked for career advice. He just said, “Do what makes you feel alive.” When I was in high school, I think society was just starting to accept the merge of career and passion. It sounds cliché, but it is possible to turn what you love to do into a career. Facebook made the world exponentially smaller. Etsy came along. Instagram. Supply, meet demand.
Millennials should be aware of how lucky we are to have been born in a time that offers so much opportunity. You don’t have to hate your job anymore! However, that doesn’t mean you have the right to be a jerk if you don’t like your job. If you’re unfulfilled, work to get to the point where you are fulfilled. That part is up to you. If you can’t do your exact hobby for a full-time job, do it on the side, or find elements of it in your day job. Find ways to infuse your talents into your work. You know you’re passionate when you want to make time for it, and then you’ll promptly lose track of time and stay up till 3am doing it, like I do. As my amazing, inspiring uncle says, “Find your goodness and share it with the world.”
5. Do you have any particular stories about being a female and how it may have hurt or helped you in becoming a graphic designer?
I don’t think the fact that I’m a woman has hurt or helped my career in a superficial way. I do believe that being a strong person means being clear about your beliefs, having an opinion with evidence to support it, and being open minded and respectful. As you grow up, your female bonds become stronger, and as competitive as I am (I played water polo, so that should tell you something), it makes my heart happy to see other women doing well.
When I feel particularly energized and powerful and shamelessly badass, I blast Beyoncé’s “Run the World”, or play rap songs by Nicki Minaj that I know all the words to and I feel a strong girl-power pride. Can we all agree that knowing all the words to a rap song is one of the best feelings in the world? Now if I could only master twerking… just kidding, I rock at it.
6. What is your favorite type of art / design to do?
It depends on what mood I’m in! I love doing watercolors while listening to Vince Guaraldi with a glass of wine. Wine and Guaraldi go well with calligraphy, too. I love working with individuals to come up with something totally unique that makes them feel something. Everything is best when it’s personal. Think about the best gift you’ve ever gotten. Most of the time people won’t say it was their car, or some trinket, or a sweater. It was probably something sentimental. Something the gift giver put time into. There’s a reason behind it – something that proves to you that that person knows you. It creates a connection between you two that you can’t totally put into words other than “heartwarming”. I like making people feel special, and helping other people make their friends and loved ones feel special. People feel special when you listen carefully enough to understand who they are, and then execute to show them you do.
7. What are your future goals for your career?
I have goals for Weeds and Whimsy, but I don’t have expectations. Above all, I want to keep on enjoying the process. If I’m not having fun doing it, it’s not worth it. I’d love to continue making more personal pieces for more people, as well as cards and prints that everyone can relate to. I have made so many amazing connections with wonderful people since I started it up, and I hope to continue to make more, and help brighten people’s days as long as I can.
Life is too short to spend time in an isolated bubble, nose in phone. The interactions you have with people, the positivity you surround yourself with, the joy and generosity you share – that’s what life is all about.
8. Where can I find Weeds and Whimsy?