As an illustrator, letterer, and entrepreneur, Chandler O’Leary lives, works, and creates beautiful art in the city of Tacoma! You may have spotted some of her work around town; Chandler’s public art, branding for local companies, and cards and prints can be found all throughout Tacoma.
So what’s it like to be an artist in Tacoma? Read what Chandler had to say:
Why have you decided to make Tacoma your home?
Chandler: Moving to the Northwest was planned, but Tacoma was something of a happy accident. Eight years ago, my husband and I were living in Minneapolis. Neither of us was from there (I’ve lived all over the place, but consider Massachusetts to be where I’m “from”), and we were ready to move back to one of the coasts. I really wanted to try the Northwest, and I wanted to run my business full-time. We had assumed we’d live in Seattle, just because it was the biggest city, but when we were getting ready to move, my husband had a job offer in Tacoma. He came out here by himself for his job interview, and that night called me up and said, “I think we should live in Tacoma instead of Seattle; I think you’ll really like it here.”
I agreed, sight unseen, and a few months later we moved, and we both completely and immediately fell in love with the place. In 2014 we bought a house here, and we’ve decided to stay permanently. As someone who’s lived in all sorts of places, I never thought I’d put down roots anywhere—but I’m so glad we picked Tacoma, and I hope it likes us, too, because it’s stuck with us.
Do you have a favorite place in Tacoma to create?
Chandler: Well, I have to say that my studio is my happy place. It’s got great light, a bit of a view of the water, and there are lots of gorgeous historic houses right outside my window, so it’s pretty inspiring.
But I also like to mix things up and work elsewhere on occasion. When that happens. I like to go to Pt. Defiance Park and sprawl out somewhere quiet to hash out ideas in my sketchbook. I also like working at Corina Bakery, where I am pretty much guaranteed good treats and running into someone I know and like. When I’m looking for inspiration outside, I head to Browns Point Lighthouse, or walk along Ruston Way, or seek out really anywhere I can stare at a view (luckily for me Tacoma has tons of spots like that!).
What advice do you have for a new artist in Tacoma?
Chandler: Get involved! There is a huge and very welcoming artistic community here, with a lot to offer—get out and meet some fellow artists, talk to people who like to buy and collect art, go to events and shows, volunteer to help at an event. It’s really easy to become a part of the artistic community here, and there are a lot of opportunities for artists here, but you need to put yourself out there a bit to take part in it. And don’t be afraid to be yourself and do your own thing! There’s room for all kinds of art and artists here, which is one of the things that makes Tacoma so great.
How does Tacoma inspire your artwork?
Chandler: It helps that this place is unbelievably beautiful. It’s hard not to be inspired by amazing architecture, Mt. Rainier, the Sound, the islands, our incredible parks, etc. Our city has a really interesting history, and I love being able to explore some of it through my work.
There are also so many talented artists and interesting art events here that there’s a constant stream of inspiration and ideas being exchanged—it really spurs me onward and pushes me to do the best work I can. Tacoma is also extremely supportive of the arts—the Tacoma Arts Commission has created countless opportunities for artists and helped foster an arts-friendly economy here; and so many people appreciate the arts and actively support what we do as artists. Over the years I’ve come to know and admire a veritable army of enthusiasts, supporters, well-wishers, customers and clients who support not just me but many Tacoma artists.
Where can we see your art in Tacoma?
Chandler: The Tacoma Art Museum shop carries my cards and prints, I’ll be vending and producing a steamroller print at the Tacoma Wayzgoose at King’s Books on April 30, and I have a solo show coming up in May at the Feast Arts Center.
I also participate in the Tacoma Studio Tour every October, and this October I’ll be publishing a book with fellow Tacoma artist Jessica Spring, which you’ll be able to find at King’s Books and at various events we’ll be doing around town this fall.
Can’t make it to an event? You can check out Chandler O’Leary’s online shop here for all kinds of beautifully designed goodies!
You can also follow Chandler’s blog and learn more about her work, shows, and upcoming projects here.