When Juliet Meeks took the plunge to start her own freelance design business (www.julietmeeks.com) last year, one of the first things she tackled was designing a space where she felt inspired. "It was always a part of my plan to branch out on my own," says the New Orleans native. "I wanted a space that was very clean, bright and conducive to painting without being distracting, sort of a blank canvas for the day."
Ever since Meeks was a child, she's possessed a blend of artistic flair and entrepreneurial spirit. As a teenager, she made vintage-inspired jewelry and sold it in a French Quarter gallery. After taking sewing lessons as a teen, she began stitching clothes and selling them at Funky Monkey.
After Meeks graduated from Lusher Charter School, she enrolled at Loyola University in New Orleans. She majored in English, although she was always drawn to visual arts. By the time she graduated, she knew art was in her future.
After a year of interning and waiting tables, Meeks landed her first full-time job as a graphic designer for Gambit. While working there and honing her graphic design skills, Meeks set long-term goals. She saved money and she took a business class that forced her to put her career plans on paper. During her off hours, Meeks planned her office and perfected her website.
It didn't take long to land her first client: a childhood friend who had started a hand-embroidered T-shirt company in Paris. Meeks created the company's logo, hang tags and custom designs sewn on T-shirts. Soon after that, a London company hired Meeks to help redesign its company logo and brand.
While her work life was taking off, Meeks set a goal related to her art. She had heard about the 100 Day Project, during which participants challenge themselves to create something for 100 days straight. Last October, Meeks committed to 100 days of painting. "I didn't necessarily get it done in 100 days, but I did finish," Meeks says. "The project was so simple yet effective, and it was key for me to get over my self-doubt."
Meeks posted her 100 Day Project creations on Instagram. A New York blogger with a huge following took note and shared Meeks' art with her followers. Her number of Instagram followers tripled during the project, and today her account has more than 5,000 followers. "For the first time, people started responding to my art," Meeks says.
In April, she launched an online shop that carries her stationery, paintings and hand-sewn pouches. The 26-year-old also sells her creations at local pop-ups and art markets. "So much has changed in the last year," Meeks says. "I knew I wanted to make my own art with patterns and that's what I've been focusing on."
Meeks filmed a demonstration on painting with basic watercolors for the website SkillShare, which went live last month. Icanvas.com recently licensed one of her patterns to sell on its art-focused website. These projects and working with two local clothing lines keep her busy, but Meeks wants to explore different directions.
"I'd love to get into licensing my designs," she says. "You could do cool projects that way, like wallpaper and fabric."
Here, Meeks shares a few favorite locally made accessories.