The colder seasons are rolling in, and that means Christmas is on its way! I’m sure most of us are starting to think about how we’ll decorate for the holidays. As you think back about some of your favorite décor setups or imagine what you’ll do this year, have you ever considered that there's an artist behind each flag, doormat, rug, and planter?
Every design starts with a passionate artist that has a story to tell. Today, we're sitting down with well-known Christmas artist, Wendy Wiinanen. You’ll be hearing from Wendy herself, plus a few of us from Studio M who work closely with her. Let’s dive in, friends!
How would you describe your art style?
“I love telling stories with the characters and critters I paint. Even with a tilt of the head or a sweet smile, my characters create a moment that way.
I love to design nature-inspired art, which is outside of my usual creative box. Whenever I can, I try drawing an atmosphere that puts my characters in nature like under a moonlit sky.”
What are your favorite winter designs that you've created this season?
“It’s a toss-up between the Forest Night Gnomes and Christmas Elves. I love that I put them in fun scenes like skiing in the night. I also like how they look so playful and mischievous. I come from a Scandinavian heritage, and gnomes are woven into Scandi culture. I enjoyed incorporating a little part of my background into this collection.
But the Christmas Elves are also dear to my heart. The idea was birthed out of watching my little niece and nephew playing. I thought about what they would do as Santa’s helpers, and those ideas came through in my designs. Looking at these elves is very sentimental for me.”
What inspired the colors and themes for your winter collections?
“From all my years creating Christmas décor, I've learned using red and green is always a smart approach. But I also like to try different shades of those colors to keep things interesting.
My main inspiration comes from nature. Most of my designs look more natural and include an earthy color scheme.
The question I always ask myself before designing for clients is, ‘How do I create a group of characters that are cute, sweet, and inviting?’ All of my winter designs have the thread of something endearing that customers will be drawn to. I enjoy it when I hear clients and customers say, ‘Aww! That’s so sweet! That reminds me of my kids when they were little.’ Creating something that people can connect with is the best feeling ever.”
How did you get your start?
“I’ve been an artist my whole life, but getting my Fine Arts degree in painting set the stage for me. One of my first gigs happened in 2002 at Department 56 as a Christmas Product Designer for items like ornaments and figurines. My main goal was to create moments for Christmas that shined through my artwork. By painting special holiday moments through the years, I was able to find my stride and style.”
What attracted you to work with Studio M?
“I love the colorfulness of their products. People who have garden spaces or patios or any kind of outdoor space may not be able to create grand gardens, but they can bring in a lot of color with their products.
I first saw their showroom in Atlanta (January 2016) and was wowed by splashes of colors across their items. I could see my artwork fitting in with their current designs but also bringing something different.
I soon met Sue and Curt (owners of Studio M) and felt like we knew each other for a long time. I loved the possibility to partner with them as a licensed artist, and that was a dream come true!
Our partnership has become a fun, working friendship. They are so wonderful to work with during the process of creating the templates and files that become the product.”
Any advice you'd like to share with aspiring artists?
“Try to always keep your art fresh and new. If you’re in the position where you're hired to create the same type of character each year, come up with a new twist and infuse a trend that’s happening.
Do a lot of online research to get an idea of trending colors and characters that are popping up on the scene. But here’s the tricky part: thinking ahead. What I create now won’t be in the market for a year and a half from now. Ask yourself, ‘What will be meaningful for customers in a couple of years?’ It’s an art and science trying to figure out how to be prepared for what customers are going to want to buy. But I enjoy the challenge.
It's helpful since I’ve been creating for many years and the traditional and classic holiday designs are what resonate with many. I don’t have to change my artistry too much except for colors or themes, but my style stays consistent.
Most of all, it’s important to stay true to your style and your own way of interpreting things.”
From the Team
Vivacious. Delightful. Professional. Those are just some words that describe the lovely Wendy Winnanen – artist, colleague, and friend. Let’s hear some snippets from two Studio M team members who know her well.
Sue Todd, our Co-Founder and Director of Product Management, loves Wendy's unique style and warm personailty. “When Wendy shows us artwork for each season, she always brings a fresh twist to traditional themes. I also love how super friendly and vivacious she is. She’s the type of person that you can easily sit down with and have a cup of coffee like old friends.”
And our Director of Product Design & Innovation, Margo Tantau, appreciates that Wendy is always offering something new. “Her style is always her own – welcoming and relevant to today’s trends. She has great ideas and creates looks we weren’t expecting but fall in love with. One of my favorite things about her is how professional she is. Her experience is relevant to what we’re looking for in a partnership. Everything she brings to the table is a delight.”
Thanks for stopping by the blog! I hope you enjoyed getting to know the artist behind some of our adorable designs for the upcoming holiday season. Check out Wendy's full collection of winter products on our website!
To a wonderful and joyful Christmas ahead,
Ashlee Xavier, Studio M Marketing Specialist