Meet the Artist: Carleigh Courey – Solly Baby

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Meet the Artist: Carleigh Courey

Meet the Artist: Carleigh Courey

Residing on the shores of Lake Michigan, Carleigh Courey is an artist, designer, and Solly mama of three. We sat down with her to chat all things motherhood and art, including how each impacts the other, her process for creating, and what she would go back and tell herself in those early days of motherhood.

Woman sits on chair with arms crossed over the back and smiles in artist studio

Could you kindly introduce yourself for anyone not yet lucky enough to know you?
Hi, I’m Carleigh! I am a multimedia artist and designer, working from my home studio in Holland, Michigan, with my husband Aaron and our three children. I specialize in gouache, watercolor, and graphite botanical paintings as well as pattern design, incorporating my work into wallpaper, prints, and a calendar of collected work each year. 

Black and white image of woman sitting on a bench kissing toddler child and holding baby in a Solly Wrap

Tell us your Solly Story—how did you become connected with Solly Baby? 
I found out about Solly when our second was born! I never found a carrier I loved with our daughter so I was looking for something new and I think every mom friend I knew recommended a Solly Baby Wrap! It became a quick favorite for those snuggly newborn days and now I tell every new mom about it. 


Can you share the story of your journey as an artist? 
My journey as an artist began when I was very young. I remember feeling a special kind of joy and energy in creating, whether it was drawing, molding clay, arranging flowers, or sewing clothes for my dolls. It came naturally and I think I just always knew it was something I was meant to do.

One of the greatest gifts of my childhood was my parents’ encouragement of our creativity. They provided us space and materials to create freely, and much of our time was spent experiencing God’s creation together in nature. They recognized my love of art early on and always believed in its value. Looking back, I can see how this laid a foundation for me to follow my path as an artist into adulthood. I never doubted that it was a career worth pursuing, and I’m so grateful to them for instilling that belief in me.

The dream of this art business began while I was studying art and design in college, and Aaron and I were making plans to get married and start a family of our own. I launched my stationery shop back in 2016, and while my work has changed and evolved so much since then, the heart of it all has remained: To raise our children at home, and to put all of the beauty into the world that I could.

As for inspiration, it is endless! But at its roots, it has been and always will be the flowers—they are an endless source of joy and inspiration to me! Right now the majority of my work involves creating new pieces for my calendar each year, running the print and wallpaper shop from home, and pattern design work in collaboration with a handful of really wonderful companies like Solly Baby. 

What was the inspiration behind your print, Strawberry? Can you share a little bit about the process of creating it? 
This print was so much fun to design! When we started talking about a strawberry motif, I was instantly flooded with images of sweet, nostalgic, summery patterns with a nod to vintage fabrics. I envisioned soft lines, warmth, and something that felt whimsical, fun, innocent and childlike, so I wanted to capture that feeling in the design. I always start by sketching whatever comes to mind and then choosing a few of my favorite concepts to move forward with in detail and paint. I ended up with five or six finished ideas which I’ll then scan to my computer where I do the rest of the pattern and color work. The design we settled on felt like the perfect fit for an early summer collection and I just love how it turned out!

This new collection leans into the nostalgia of simple moments and carefree summer days. What's something you remember from your childhood that you want to continue with your children?
I can’t think of anything more nostalgic than the carefree summer days of childhood. We are a beach family through and through, and spending our summers on the shores of Lake Michigan is a love that runs deep! I remember spending hours back and forth between playing in the beautiful water, and laying on a warm towel while my skin tingled in the sun. I have so many memories drawing pictures in the sand, listening to the waves, and thinking there was no place I’d rather be. It’s already our children’s favorite place to be and it’s a really beautiful thing to experience all over again through their eyes. 


What's something you've been savoring lately? 
Early mornings! And the littleness of my children. Not at the same time. :) I am not naturally a morning person but this year I started waking before the kids for an hour of quiet coffee, reading, prayer, and meditation. It’s truly been a life-changing new habit to prioritize that time alone with God, to see Aaron off to work each day, and to be more present and awake when I hear their little voices and feet coming down the steps. And they’re so very little.

They’re 6, 4, and almost 2, which sometimes feels so big! But I am reminded daily of their littleness, and how this season of being so intricately woven into each other’s hours goes by so very fast. It is an incredibly demanding season of motherhood, but it is also beautiful, joy-filled, and holy. I consider motherhood my highest calling in life and I’m doing my best to savor these tender days. 


How does motherhood impact your art? 
Motherhood has impacted my work in so many ways! What first comes to mind is how quickly it changed my perspective on time. Nothing marks time like watching your children grow, and when our daughter was born I not only had a lot less of it, but the hours of the day became more precious to me with her in my world!

I wrestled a lot with whether or not my work could (or should) fit into this new, beautiful, all-consuming life of motherhood. If I were to continue my art career, it felt more important than ever that the time dedicated to work was more focused, life-giving, and purposeful in serving my family well, and I made some big changes during that time with the end goal of simplifying.

It’s something I think about often and am always reevaluating, but I’m so thankful to see the way God has used these years of early motherhood to help clarify my direction, prioritize what’s most important to me, and trust that I’ll be given what I need to do both things well if my heart and mind are in the right place.I often feel I am doing neither thing well! But I know with more certainty now, that I was created to be both mother and artist, and I’m finding more peace in how those callings can be intertwined as a really beautiful part of my story.

Now when I lose creative energy or inspiration, my children are what bring me back to myself. Time spent pouring love into them, learning from them, and seeing the world through their sweet eyes, reminds me what’s most important in this life, and before I know it my mind is filled with flowers again. 


Favorite way to eat strawberries?
Mmm probably over waffles or pancakes! I love a good breakfast out every once in a while, and nothing beats fresh strawberries over some kind of decadent cream-filled sweet. 


When you reflect back on your early days of motherhood, what do you remember most? Anything you wish you could tell your new-mom self? 
I remember being so incredibly happy and overcome with how precious and beautiful and fleeting those first weeks were, and also more exhausted than I had ever been in my life. I remember relying on my support system and my husband like I never had before, and feeling a new depth of gratitude for the people in my life—and for mothers! We spent so many hours just holding her and staring at her in wonder. I remember learning more about her each day, and falling more in love with her as I got to know who I was as a mother myself for the first time. We lived near the lake and some of my favorite memories of those first days are of walking her stroller down the road to the marina every day where the sailboats chimed. We just marveled at her and were so proud she was ours.

I wish I could tell my new-mom self to slow down even more. I thought I was slowing down, but I mean slow all the way down; put it all on pause for as long as possible, and that work could wait another six months! The work will always be there, but that first year of life is magic and it goes by all too fast.

 

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