Visiting Atlanta’s artists, makers, and doers in their creative spaces often involves meeting their furry friends. In the same way that animals comfort and soothe us when we are sad, they can also inspire and energize us when we are in the mood to create… I’m not sure if little Maebe had much to do with the spectacular designs and hand-carved rubber stamps that Native Bear’s Leela Hoehn uses in her block printing, but I do think she approves of the process. Here you’ll see a glimpse of the goodness Native Bear offers (cards, calendars, custom address stamps, and tea towels to name a few… just in time for the holidays). After you’ve read about the lovely Leela, make sure to click on over to her Etsy shop and see what you can find for the hippest ones on your Christmas shopping list!
Name and age: Leela Hoehn Robinson, 29
Current neighborhood: East Lake
Hometown: Augusta, GA
What brought you to (or kept you in, or brought you back to) Atlanta?
I knew that once I was finished with my bachelors that I wanted to move to Atlanta. I was ready to live in a bigger city again, and it’s close enough to my home town so that I can still visit family. My husband plays music and we’ve both been able to launch ourselves with the help of Atlanta’s creative community.
How do you pay the bills? What is your “slash”? (i.e. teacher/ amateur cupcake baker)
I can joyfully say that I am able to pay the bills with my art! I started the NATIVE BEAR line of block printed goods and custom stamps a little over 2 years ago, and I’ve been full time for over a year. It’s stressful at times, but nothing makes you feel more fulfilled than being able to pay the bills with the (sometimes measly) fruits of your labor.
What do you create?
There are really two parts to NATIVE BEAR: custom hand carved stamps, and my own line of block printed paper and cotton goods. My custom stamps include anything from wedding invitations, logo stamps, return address stamps, and pretty much anything a person would like to make into a stamp… I can carve it. My other items include printed notebooks and stationery, tea towels, art prints, wall calendars, and the occasional tote bag.
What do you collect?
Lately I’ve been really missing my rock collection that I had as a child, so I’m slowly trying to rebuild it. Whenever I go on a trip somewhere new I make sure to bring back a rock, feather, or some other natural treasure. I just got back from a trip to Oregon and Northern California and I was able to find some lovely quartz and river rock.
Your favorite artist now and as a child:
These days I am mostly inspired by the artists that are within my family and local community. Anyone who is making a living with their art and enjoying their ‘job’ as an artist is infinitely inspiring to me. As a child you could definitely say that my favorite artist was Mary Cassatte because I loved her brush strokes and the way she could convey femininity through everyday scenes.
Last memorable home-cooked meal:
I love to cook (when I have time), and I just made one of my favorite fall recipes: African Groundnut Stew. It’s seriously the most amazing thing to eat when it starts to get chilly. It’s also super healthy and loaded with sweet potatoes, carrots, ginger, curry, cilantro…. just a few of my favorite things!
An only in Atlanta moment:
One time while selling at a local outdoor market, a huge bread truck type of vehicle pulled right up to the market. It was covered in promotional decals for some local aspiring pop singer who’s face took up pretty much the whole side of the truck. Then all of a sudden this aspiring pop singer jumps out of the driver’s seat, gets onto the roof of the truck, sings and dances for about 5 incredibly awkward minutes, and then jumps back in and drives off to the next block to do it all again. Apparently he was a contestant on ‘The Voice’ or something. It was the very definition of shameless self-promotion, and could not have been more ‘Atlanta’.
A favorite local business:
I have to say two places because they sort of go hand in hand for me. Aurora coffee and Highland Row Antiques. A good day for me is getting a ginormous coffee and going vintage shopping for home decor.
Favorite way or place to unwind:
Put me on a porch with my husband and a couple of friends and I’m a happy girl! Add a delicious beverage and I’m even happier.
What is your favorite dessert?
I’ve never met a cookie that I didn’t love.
What is your favorite artifact, heirloom, or art piece in your home?
I have a great print of Elvis that I found while walking around Brooklyn years ago. It’s a subtle drawing of Elvis in his more dreamy years, and the print had been run over a couple of times giving the print a nice rugged texture to it. It seems perfect for such an angelic image.
What song do you love most (or what’s on your playlist now)?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Kurt Vile lately. One of my favorite albums of his is Smoke Ring for my Halo and I highly suggest everyone download it.
Sweet or savory (or your favorite brunch menu item)?
I am definitely more of a savory eater. If there’s a good eggs benedict on the menu, I’m definitely ordering it.
A lesson you’ve learned the hard way:
Never sell yourself short. While building your creative business it’s important to get the word out about your brand, but it’s never OK to give too much away for free. When starting out I was very low on my prices, and I didn’t understand the value of my own time. It’s so important that artists recognize their own worth before putting themselves out there.
Favorite dog breed:
I have to say that I’m rather partial towards French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers. So much so, that I have a Frenchton…