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Marnani Design for PSxIndegoAfrica

Martha Napier is the lead illustrator behind the fashionable, sparkly, and whimsical illustration brand, Marnani. She is also the artist behind the gorgeous watercolor illustrations that come with our PSxIndegoAfrica patch sets! We chatted with her to find out more about her creative process, what she’s inspired by, and why she supports Indego Africa. Here’s what she had to say:

How did you get involved with the PSxIndegoAfrica project? 

Actually, this was completely a chance of fate. I have always been a fan of P.S. I Made This (I’m an avid crafter myself, and obviously love to work with my hands), and recently had the pleasure of connecting with Erica. She was really the brainchild in asking me to come on board with the collaboration with Indego Africa. Needless to say, an instant love-affair was born. I was so pleased to be introduced to the Indego team and it's mission. I also just adore the patches (I’m still coming to grips with the concept that they’re handmade), and what they represent.

Word on the street is that you used to work in the fashion business, at one point serving as Senior Designer in womenswear at Michael Kors. What inspired you to pursue your love of illustration full-time?

Ah, well I love fashion, and I always will. I guess the best answer for this is, to me, illustration, art, fashion—they are all so related. I don’t necessarily feel like I am no longer a designer, though I am obviously not designing clothes anymore (not to say this isn’t in the plans for the future!). Right now, what I love about illustration, is I feel like it’s the link between fashion and art. It’s a commercial form of art, and I’m able to paint for a living. I truly could not be more grateful.  My experience at Michael Kors was amazing, and a fantastic education. I had the pleasure of working with the top people in the fashion industry, and to be a part of a brand that just continues to grow its global presence. Ultimately though, I really missed working with my hands, and getting them dirty painting and creating—it was time to launch my own illustration business, Marnani Design! Working for myself has allowed me to pursue the clients I used to dream of working with—the possibilities are endless—now, I just need more hours in the day!

So you’re a fashion-lover, designer, and illustrator. How would you describe your personal style and how does that influence your artwork?

Whimsical, Colorful, Sparkly and TEXTURED. My personal style totally influences my work and visa versa. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t put anything out there for my brand, Marnani, if I don’t like it. That’s the beauty in working for yourself! I think so many designers feel the need to dress in all black, or fit into a mold (chic, minimalist, etc), but I’m just me.  In today’s over-saturated market, I think the more you can stand out, be authentic, and even be “colorful”—literally, and in spirit, the stronger your point of view will be.

We absolutely love how fun, whimsical, and electrifyingly colorful your illustrations are. Walk us through your creative process. 

First of all, Thank you!—My goal is to always make colorful, charming, and whimsical work that put simply, just makes people happy.  I want to create joy with my work.  Living in a city like New York, the air is just so rich with inspiration. I know it sounds like a cliche, but it's also the undeniable truth. New York has it all--I find myself walking everywhere, more recently, I ride my bike.  As I ride, and as I walk, I am constantly an active, observant sponge. I soak up colors, textures, sights, smells---anything and everything, to eventually put them to the paper with watercolors (I try to bring paints with me, at the least, I always have a sketch book). Whether I am working on a client project, or personal work, I usually try to educate myself on the subject by gathering “visual ephemera,” and then I usually sketch a few times before working on the final piece. My iPhone probably has one too many pictures on it (I’m always snapping “visual notes). Recently, I have challenged myself to only sketch with paint (no pencil first), as this really unleashes my personal style, and results in a fresher, more authentic end result.  I have been illustrating “live” much more at corporate and private events, which also encourages this, as I am forced to capture the subject in a matter of fleeting seconds. Oh, and Instagram! My creative process always involves instagram!

We are inspired by the vibrant colors, patterns, and landscapes of Rwanda. What inspires you?

Color, color, and more color!  Truly-- anything unique, or just happens to catch my eye. I think this has a lot to do with an emotional response—I seek art, products, clothing, which tell a story, and which I can connect to. In today’s mass-produced and over-consumed world, the precious nature of the handcrafted good is so special. That’s what I think is so great about Indego Africa—you empower women across the world in Rwanda by showing them their skillsets are valued, and even desired. The fact that many of these women have these skillsets, which are rare today, and almost a dying art---their work is inspiring to me as an artist! I am so glad their skills are being celebrated in a significant way.

Personalize & customize – these are two of the main tenets of the DIY lifestyle that P.S. I made this… is innovatively spreading around the world. So, what would you do with PSxIndegoAfrica’s collection of hand-embroidered patches?

It’s funny you should ask-- Erica actually asked me this exact question when we first met in her studio to discuss the project. I love the ideas that the P.S I Made This team put together—but if I had to come up with one on my own, I would love to take two and make earrings! I am all about things not matching. One day, I would love to start a line of shoes that don’t match—so why not start with earrings that don’t?  I think I’d probably start with the teal bananas and the rainbow elephant. Who wouldn’t want those as fun earrings?

You, like many of our artisan partners, started your own business. What do you think it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?

Oh gosh, what a tough one. There is so much that goes into running a successful business, and honestly, I am still figuring out a lot of these things myself! However, I would say what I think what sets people apart is just good old-fashioned hard work. Living in New York, I have met so many wonderfully inspiring people, all with great ideas. However, ideas are nothing, without some real sweat and persistence. You many not figure it out right away, but I truly believe if you keep going, stay the path, and surround yourself with good mentors, and positive thinkers, you can have a successful business.

At Indego Africa, we are all about empowering women. What in your life has empowered you to become the person you are today?

My best friends and I always remind each other of what was told to us on our college commencement day -- we have won the “lottery of life.” This is so true in so many various ways. While like anyone else, I have faced my share of adversity in my life, I have also been amazingly blessed. I have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends -- and now a husband -- whom all believe in me and cheer me on. I truly don’t know where I would be without their support and energy. I also come from a long line of strong and successful women. It was just in my blood to grow up, utilize my talents, be thankful and humble, and always challenge oneself to strive to measure up to your potential. 

Why do you support Indego Africa?

As I mentioned before, I am so thankful to have been introduced to Indego Africa by the PSIMT team. I can say I will definitely be an avid supporter moving forward. I think working on the PSxIndegoAfrica project definitely inspired me to connect with other artisans, and appreciate handmade goods. I also firmly believe in the importance in supporting female artisans and entrepreneurs.  In a way, I rely on this myself.  If I didn’t have an audience, clients, or customers, I would not be in business. As an artist, I also think what separates Indego Africa, is their ability to curate these truly stunning pieces -- they are works of art, in my opinion. There isn’t a single piece that I wouldn’t absolutely adore in my home or closet. Usually a procrastinating shopper, I am thrilled it’s July, and I already know where I’m doing my holiday shopping this year!  The best part -- I will be pleased to tell the recipients about the women who made them.

See more of Martha's beautiful watercolors here >> 

& grab your patches to get down & DIY! >>>