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Do Your Thing: Color and Comfort with Juliet Meeks

An interview with the artist and surface pattern designer from New Orleans.

Photo: Michael Tucker

An interview with the artist and surface pattern designer from New Orleans.

Juliet Meeks is an artist and surface pattern designer from New Orleans. She paints with watercolor and acrylics, and makes patterns for other companies' products as well as her own.

How’d you get started, and how did you get to where you are now?

I started out as a graphic designer right out of college, interning at a couple of local branding agencies and then moving on to work in-house at a weekly newspaper. I was actually an English major and didn't really think I could make a career out of visual art. I realized my senior year I didn't know what to do with my English major either, and started taking more design classes. After a couple of years at the newspaper I fully accepted what I really knew all along: I wanted to run my own design business. It's been almost three years since I left my job to work on Juliet Meeks Design full-time. I love the responsibility of owning a business, and the challenge of trying new things while keeping some consistency.

What pushed you to accept what you really wanted? And what was holding you back?

During my stint at the newspaper I turned 25, and it was then that I realized I needed to get going on realizing my dream. That birthday just felt like a significant milestone, and I signed up for a business class that same month. I think the confidence that comes with getting older is what held me back before, but I don't regret the experiences I had because I needed them to feel ready.

How would you describe your work/style?

My work is colorful and organic, often with a sense of movement. I'm always trying to come up with unique color palettes, and painting florals is the perfect avenue for that. I enjoy using watercolors because it's an intuitive and emotive process for me.

What’s your favorite type of collaboration?

I love working with textiles - there's something really special about seeing your artwork come alive in such a tactile form. And anytime a client seeks me out for my particular style for their product is a lot of fun, because it means I have more free rein.

What’s it like for you working in such close proximity with your husband Michael and his work?

That was one of my favorite things about leaving my previous job. It meant we could hang out more, bring our dog to the studio, and in general have what feels like a more well-rounded lifestyle. We do very different things, but still creative, so I think what's often helpful is being able to ask each other for feedback on our projects.

For you, what constitutes a well-rounded lifestyle? And what kind of feedback are y’all able to give each other?

Simply being able to create my own schedule. Of course I'm bound by some deadlines, but personally I work better and feel more inspired when I can shape my everyday. Michael has a great visual eye and is able to give me opinions on certain patterns or artwork I don't feel right about. I think he would say I'm able to give him constructive feedback on his music, but I'm not so sure that's what I'm best at. So I stick to mostly designing things for him when he needs it. But most importantly, we can encourage each other to get the work done.

What have you learned from all of this that might help others on a similar path?

I think what's encouraging to know is that it is possible to sustain yourself with a creative career, and after some time, even earn a better living than a desk job. But it's definitely not easy. The hardest part for me is checking out when it comes to thinking about my art and business. So doing things to break up the routine is key.

So how do you break up the routine?

Going out of town even for a couple of days is always refreshing.

What do you have coming up?

I'm getting ready to move to a new studio space, still in Mid-City, later this summer. I'll have more room for making larger paintings and hosting some workshops and pop up shops. I can't wait! I'm continuing to work with clients on custom patterns, teaching online watercolor classes, and working on original paintings.

“I think what's encouraging to know is that it is possible to sustain yourself with a creative career, and after some time, even earn a better living than a desk job.”

How does New Orleans influence your work?

New Orleans is a comfortable place for me, and for now that works. There are so many variables with running a business, so it helps to be in a place where I feel rooted. The creative community here is a great and also a manageable size - you feel like you know almost everybody and have a support system.

Do you ever feel like you might need the discomfort that comes with a new place? If so, do you ever seek that out? Or might you in the future?

Yes, so travel is the best way to harness that. I don't see myself moving away from New Orleans anytime soon, but you never know. Michael and I both grew up in New Orleans, and we're pretty fascinated by the landscape of the West Coast. That's definitely an option for us one day.

Whose work are you enjoying right now?

I've been into finding abstract painters lately as I am exploring that myself. I recently discovered Anne-Sophie Tschiegg and love her style because she combines abstract with natural elements so well.

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