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Conversations with Kyria Smith

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kyria Smith. 

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
Wolf and Bear began as a dream to pursue a simple life fueled by creativity. Before we even met, my husband, Nigel, and I had each considered what it would look like to live a different kind of life — one defined by working to live rather than living to work. When Nigel moved from Ireland to Northern Michigan, we realized we had an opportunity to try starting our own small business. We built a small house on my parents’ farmland and began building our art and design business. 

Shifting to a lifestyle of growing our own food and living a little more simply gave us the time and resources to pursue our art full time while still being provided for. Between Nigel’s chronic fatigue and my anxiety, we have found that the flexible schedule and flow of life on the farm has allowed us to find a beautiful balance between play and work. We’ve entered into a space where the pace of life is slower… we work and rest in equal measure… and our health is benefitting from it. I find so much joy in walking down to my studio in to the morning to create and then being able to step outside my door into our gardens and get my hands in the soil when I need to get grounded and move my body more. 

We’re experimenting with what it means to work so that we have enough rather than so that we have more. What we have here on the farm, the lifestyle we live is such a gift. Our life here provides so much fulfillment that we don’t feel pressured to make our business grow every year so that we make more money. We already have everything we need to be happy. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to create art, something that I have always loved and that it provides everything that my husband and I need to be content in life. 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It has not always been a smooth road. As we’ve built our business, we’ve wrestled with what it means to grow, and if that is ever at the expense of our mental and physical health. Over and over again, what we’ve come back to is that if our business is causing more stress than joy, it’s ok to do a little less. We live in a society that preaches productivity, often at the expense of mental health. It says that if you can be making more money by working harder, you should. Nigel and I are journeying with a paradigm that productivity doesn’t have to be the bottom line. If our needs are met (and those include emotional and mental needs — fulfillment and joy in life), then why should we push ourselves harder to achieve someone else’s idea of success? We get to do work that we love, which is fulfilling in itself, and we get to set our own pace, which our bodies and minds can only benefit from. It’s not always easy to live this way. I still struggle with guilt when I take a slow morning, even though I’m trying to listen to my body because it feels like I’ve wasted time on rest rather than productivity. It takes time to shift that mindset that elevates work above other areas of life. 

Another thing that has really complicated our journey has been running a small business in a time when social media is the driving force behind connecting with clients and getting my artwork out into the world. On the one hand, I have really enjoyed making connections in the wider world and working with all kinds of people. On the other hand, social media is such a fast-paced medium. It’s constantly driving content creators to increase engagement and post more frequently. It can really play head games with me when my financial stability is dependent on algorithms that care nothing for me and a platform that is more concerned with keeping consumers glued to the screen and scrolling than creating a space for genuine engagement that supports small business owners. It’s such a juxtaposition to the slower lifestyle we are trying to embody and something I wrestle with on a daily basis. 

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
My husband and I are artists and designers. I specialize in gouache and ink illustrations, and he specializes in logo and branding design. I’m proud of building a business that works for us and provides for us, even in the midst of health (and other) challenges that at times have felt insurmountable. 

When it comes to my illustrative work and my presence on social media, I feel that I have a unique experience to offer my followers. As someone who has struggled with anxiety most of my life, I use my art to create contemplative and peaceful spaces. I post my artwork with thoughtful quotes that encourage discussion and thoughtful dialogue. I also post calming videos of my gouache painting as a sort of visual meditation. Sometimes the process of creation itself has something to offer, not just the final result. I have found calming visual media to be a source of peace when I’m feeling anxious, and it feels incredible to hear from my followers that they experience the same thing from my art videos. 

As for Nigel’s side of the business, I feel that we provide a pretty unique design service to clients which draws on both my illustrative experience and Nigel’s design experience. Not many design companies can provide both of those things in one package. We are also selective and try to only take on clients that bring out the best in both of us, which is good for the work/life balance we try to create and benefits the client as they are getting the best of us. 

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
Yes. We’ve learned that we can survive as a business even during a pandemic. A large percentage of our income used to come from art markets, which take a lot of work and travel. We’ve learned that we can depend a little bit more on online sources of income, which allows us to be more present on the farm (especially in the summer when we need to shift our work to the gardens more than the studio), and supports our simple lifestyle even better. 

Pricing:

  • Original Artwork: $200 – $700
  • Art Prints: $10 – $75
  • Branding Package: $2000+
  • Apparel Design: $500
  • Book Cover Design: $1000

Contact Info:


Image Credits

Kyria Smith

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