Inspired by the beauty of nature and a desire to bring a touch of handmade warmth to everyday life, Blakely Little’s creative outlook and energetic personality shine through in her work. We had the pleasure of interviewing Blakely, the talented artist behind Blakely Made, in our creator interview series. You might recognize her work from #mgdxthecottage — we couldn’t resist incorporating a piece or two of hers in our own home! We chatted with Blakely about her creative background, the process of starting her own business, and her tips for living life more colorfully. So, without further ado, let’s dive in and hear from Blakely herself!
01 / Could you share a little about your creative background?
Growing up, I was a very creative kid. Building, crafting, and decorating my room kept me busy! It wasn’t until high school where I honed in on my love of painting. Then, College of Charleston’s Arts Management program was the perfect segue for me to continue my studio practice, while learning the business side of the arts. But, my most formative moment as an artist came from my season of studying abroad in Florence, Italy. My painting professor, Lorenzo, encouraged me to find my voice as an artist. For the first time, I had a coach, who knew me well enough to make sure you could see my personality and style come out in my artwork. To this day, I reflect a lot on the words he said to me.
02 / How did growing up in Annapolis, Maryland and your lifestyle on the water influence who you are today?
Growing up in Annapolis meant a lot of time on the water. There was nothing more happy to me than a boat ride down the river with my family. But, of course, you don’t realize how special something is until you might not have it? Well, as I was applying to colleges, College of Charleston was the only school near the coast. While visiting, I remember my dad and I mapping the distance from my potential dorm room to the Charleston harbor… 1 mile. Suddenly, it became apparent that all those days on the boat, the walks by the river, the swimming, the sailing, had a huge part in what made me feel at peace. It felt like home. It’s how I knew Charleston could be home too. I always come back to that love of being on the water in my artwork. For me, any day is made better on the water. My husband and I even included it in our marriage vows, a promise to live near the coast always.
03 / Many of your paintings are inspired by marshland settings and the precious nature that inhabits them. In what ways does nature inspire you artistically?
When I am outside, I feel a combination of peace and overwhelming excitement. The fresh air and ability to see far and wide makes me feel like I can take a deep breath. I love how nature is constantly changing, yet feels familiar. I think I will spend my whole life trying to capture the coast in new ways.
04 / You started Blakely Made back in 2014. What did the process of starting your own business look like?
In the beginning, I was working at a floral design company here in Charleston and painting at night and on the weekends. My easel was set up in our living room and my husband would watch movies and while I would paint. Slowly but surely, I began to sell my work and gain a following. After about a year, I felt like I could afford to go part time with it — then full time. It was more of a process, less of a leap of faith. One of the hardest parts was being an extrovert painting alone in our apartment all day. So, a few months in I landed a studio at Redux where some of my closest friends had studios and the painting (and chatting) began!
05 / Many of your pieces take place in particular locations throughout the world. Your Summer ’22 Al Fresco collection was inspired by a trip you took to Greece that we can only imagine was nothing but a dream. How does traveling inspire you?
Though I love Charleston, I can sometimes get a bit restless when I’ve been in the same place awhile. So, how do you experience new things and places, while putting down roots and becoming committed to a community? You travel! There is nothing more inspiring to me than stepping off a plane in a country full of places I’ve never seen, people I’ve never met, and a whole lot of adventure ahead. Especially when somewhere new, I like to be acutely aware of my senses. What am I seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting? And how can I wrap all of those senses into a visual painting or drawing. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the inspiration, but I try to capture as many little pieces as I can in my sketchbook, and then go back to my studio to put all the pieces back together.
06 / One of our favorite things about your work is that you revisit the same subjects year by year to create evolved collections. You articulate your process and approach to each collection beautifully and continue to push your creativity to make art with a new story behind it. Do you have a favorite collection you’ve made?
Thank you! As long as I feel like the subject matter still means something to me, I like to continue doing it yet, reinvent it every year. The past few years, Al Fresco has been my favorite collection. I love hosting friends and family for meals, so that collection has meant so much to me. However, I think this year I felt very connected to Sun Moon + Sea. I tried to loosen up and work with the flow of the paint rather than completely controlling every stroke. I was tempted to keep two or three of those pieces for my own home!
07 / When you’re not working, what does your day-to-day look like?
I am a bit of an energizer bunny, and love a packed day of activity. We live near a huge park in Charleston, so I love taking my dog Posie for walks, playing tennis or pickleball, and of course the boat. If I had my way, I’d be on the boat everyday, rain or shine. Also, art and home feel very connected to me, so I love a house project, always painting rooms new colors or dreaming up things I could build. Finally, I love being with my friends and family – we host a lot of gatherings at our home, and while not the best cook… I try! Most recently I made beer bread that overflowed in the oven, and smoked up the entire house while all our friends were there. We all ended up on the porch dying laughing while trying to breathe.
08 / What piece of advice would you share with aspiring artists?
Paint your insides. Whatever your heart leaps at, whatever you are drawn to color wise, the place you feel at home, the people you love, paint it all. It’s the honest you! Most likely, your insides will resonate with someone else, and suddenly you’ll have captured a moment that is important to you and others. It’s the most magical part of painting, to make something that feels like home to someone else.
09 / Your paintings have a unique vibrance to them that draws the viewer in. Could you share 3 tips with our readers on how to live life more colorfully?
1. I have a palette of go-to colors, bright blue, grayed aqua, creams and white. But, I always try to have a new color I am noticing and incorporating into my work, home and wardrobe. This summer it was a cool lemon yellow, and for the fall/winter I’ve been exploring a bright cherry red. Even if I don’t like the color to begin with, I try to push myself to find a pair where I might like it. It’s a fun challenge.
2. I try not to worry too much about matching artwork to a room. I think the best rooms have a feeling, and the colors and artwork come together not because they match, but because the framing choice, patterns of the pillows, wall color all just sort of meld.
3. Okay… this one might sound a little crazy, but I really do this all the time. With your hand or hands, make a circle or rectangle and look through it. Move your little hand made ‘telescope’ of sorts around the room or space until you find a little mini combination of colors that resonate with you. I like to call these mini plein air paintings. It is a way to find colors out in the world and take away the distractions of everything around you.
10 / What are you working on at the moment, and what’s next for Blakely Made?
Right now I am working on a collection of coastal UK paintings. We spent some time this summer in Cornwall, and I fell in love with the incredible coastline. These pieces will release sometime early 2023. Next up for Blakely Made, aside from our usual art releases, I’m hoping to host some more events and workshops in the future (maybe in Greece again!). Also, my team is growing come January, so we will have the band width to release more products. It’s going to be a fun year!
We’re so grateful to have had the opportunity to talk to the mastermind behind Blakely Made, and we can’t wait to see what she creates next. Follow along with her on Instagram to stay up to date on her work and head to her website to shop her beautiful collections of fine art, prints, and objects. For more creator interviews, check out our recent sit-downs with Riley Sheehey and Jeffrey Dungan. Thanks so much for tuning in – Let us know who you’d like us to interview next in the comments!