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Meet the designer behind Jollie, a seamless and natural collaboration

An Interview with Kristen Leigh Studio

Can you give us an introduction about yourself? How and why did you become a designer?

My name is Kristen Steen, and I’m a watercolor artist and pattern designer in Houston, Texas. My first job out of college was as an elementary school teacher, and while I absolutely loved it, I decided to stay home to raise my kids when they were born in 2015. I quickly realized I needed a creative outlet, so I taught myself calligraphy during nap times and started a small Etsy shop. It eventually grew into a small wedding stationery business. As more brides requested custom watercolor designs for their invitations, I fell in love with painting. I was encouraged by my incredibly supportive family and friends that certain paintings could be fabrics, or wallpapers, or wrapping papers, so I immediately ran with it and haven’t looked back. I love being able to create pieces that make people happy and just bring a little lightness to their day.

 

Did you always want to be a designer? 

I’ve always loved to draw and create, but I never dreamed I would make a career out of it. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Tell us a little more about your illustrations? How did you team up with Jollie? 

Working with Jollie has always felt like the most seamless and natural collaboration. I’ve been friends with Hilary for years, since before we both had children, which I think has been so helpful throughout working together because we know each other so well. When she first pitched the idea of Jollie to me and I met Elizabeth for the first time, I think I said yes before they really even asked me. I just knew their mission of encouraging mindful and joyful movement was something I wanted for myself and my own family, so I jumped at the chance to be involved. Plus I was incredibly flattered that they trusted me completely with the designs and illustrations. They gave me their ideas and their inspirations, and let me run with my own thoughts as well, so it really was a true marriage of both our styles.

How did you come up with the designs for the mat prints/what was the inspiration behind the collection?

When we first started, Hilary and Elizabeth gave me lots of mood boards, inspiration pictures, and ideas they had for their mats. They knew they wanted to have a variety of prints so there was something for everyone- they truly understand that everyone’s tastes are different, so it was important to them to create a collection with variety. 

I went with their ideas and began brainstorming. We were at the beginning of the pandemic quarantine, so I spent a lot of time with my small children and also outside on runs through the neighborhood. I think that our collaboration started in such a unique time that I was able to really appreciate the creativity and imagination of my own kids, and also the natural beauty of being outdoors. I would feel stuck and then spend time with my children, who would snap me out of it by pointing out flowers in the neighbor’s yard, zig zag patterns in the sidewalk, playing rocketships with paper towel tubes. For the yoga poses and breath cards, I wanted to make sure that there was diversity through the illustrations so when children look at these cards, they can not only see a version of themselves,but also their neighbors, schoolmates, people from all over the world. I took all of these ideas and tried to translate them into pieces that would just make people smile, make them excited to move their bodies and unroll their favorite yoga mat or play games with their pose cards. 

What has been your favorite part about the process?

So many things have been wonderful about the process. I’ve really enjoyed being stretched creatively to make designs and illustrations that were maybe out of my comfort zone. I’ve loved getting to spend so much time working alongside  and being inspired by Hilary and Elizabeth. And I think most of all seeing all of the hard work and long months of planning all come together has been incredible.

What are some ideas you can share to stay creative and inspired? 

Get outside, go for a walk or run, and just spend time with a clear head. I always find that the inspiration comes when I’m not looking for it, and I always just feel better after I’ve been moving. 

Tell us 3 fun quick facts about yourself? 

  1. I have such a love for the movie Mean Girls, and probably quote it at least once a week. 
  2. My perfect morning is waking up early around 5:30 before everyone else, making a big Nespresso coffee in my Yeti mug, and reading the New York Times on my phone. I’m basically 80 years old.
  3. I grew up wanting to be a Broadway star. I love musicals, but I think my entire family can agree that singing is just NOT my calling.

 

How do you balance having your own business and being a mom to two littles?

The great thing about having my own business is being able to have more control over my hours and structure my day around their school day. But there really are only so many hours in a day, and I sometimes struggle with trying to fit too much into those few hours that they’re in school. For me, it’s all about perspective and deliberately blocking my time. I work early in the morning before everyone is awake and when my kids are at school. When they come home, that’s our time to spend together making memories laughing and playing. Of course sometimes there’s overlap, it happens, but setting boundaries and being intentional with my time has really helped.

Thank you Kristen for taking the time to share your story and we are forever grateful for your part in the Jollie brand and our journey to bring more mindfulness and activities to families all over. We are thrilled that your creative outlet has brought you so much joy and meaning.

You can learn more from Kristen’s site by clicking here and following her on instagram here.

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