Illustrator Claudia Pearson has a work space many would be envious of. While most of us find a chunk of our weekdays consumed by the commute, Pearson’s journey to her studio consists of a leisurely walk—downstairs from her family’s apartment to another unit that she shares with a live-in roommate. If there is something charmingly New York about this whole situation, it wouldn’t be the only thing about Pearson’s life that is. Located in Brooklyn’s historic Clinton Hill neighborhood, both Claudia’s studio and home have been housed in the same corner lot for nearly two decades. While it is typical for New Yorkers to live almost nomadic lifestyles, shifting residences as neighborhoods evolve, Pearson has had the somewhat unique pleasure of watching her surroundings change through the windows of her home. Perhaps it is this tie to place—both in terms of history and the inevitability of change—that gives her work its nostalgic, rosy-tinted point of view. From popsicles and bicycles to landmarks from her own neighborhood, the line drawings that populate Claudia’s work and products act as love letters to the quirks and charms of city life. Her studio is in many ways the same—amidst paintbrushes and work samples are various keepsakes and mementos: seashells, postcards, photographs, the occasional tchotchke. The day we visited Claudia’s studio, snow still blanketed the streets, providing a picturesque view of her Brooklyn block from her desk. Surrounded by Claudia’s work, her collections, and the objects that make up her home and work space, it becomes apparent why she has yet to leave this place. Why would she?
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Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
I moved from London to New York in 1994 to pursue my dream of becoming a commercial illustrator. I began my NY adventure in a 6th floor tenement walk up on the LES painting illustrations for magazines and advertising agencies on my kitchen table. My work back then was very hand created as computer technology wasn’t so readily available. I moved to Brooklyn in 1996 and my new neighborhood felt a million miles from the downtown NYC I knew so well. My commercial career grew and my style started shifting towards hand drawn work with added touches done on the computer. I loved getting editorial briefs and having to turn projects around in a really short time frame. A very organic shift happened around the time my first son was born and in searching for the best food possible for our family, we started to shop at the
farmers market as much as the seasons would allow. These themes crept into my work and I embarked on drawing fruits and vegetables in a variety of mediums – pencil, ink and watercolor. This in turn brought about new commissions in the cookbook publishing world and food magazines. In 2008, I realized I might be on to something and opened an Etsy shop selling a small selection of prints. This slowly grew to tea towels and before long I had a fully fledged product line also consisting of aprons, tote bags, calendars, notebooks and soon trays, kids backpack and cushions. I continue to collaborate with large retailers and often do licensed work in Japan.
Tell us about your studio space.
I’ve lived in the same 1880’s townhouse in Clinton Hill for 18 years. Our home is on the top floor and when the apartment below became available 4 years ago, I knew it would make the perfect studio space. I have large windows and beautiful light which really helps with my
creative process. The studio is divided in to 2 rooms but open plan. At the front is my work space where I draw, paint, scan and finalize pieces at my computer. I also have a cozy seating area for client meetings and when I just feel like a change of scene. At the other end of the room, we have walls of shelves that hold box upon box of products and this is where online orders get packed and shipped. Just this year we moved all our wholesale fulfillment to the mid-west and this frees up so much time and space. My studio manager Venetia works from this end and keeps everything moving along smoothly.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
Once my kids have been fed and left for school, I do either yoga or exercise in my local park. This little bit of “me” time to kick start my day is crucial for my mental clarity. Running your own business is no small task so having the time to meditate and breathe has become essential. By 9, I’m back in my home with coffee answering emails and checking Instagram. At 10, Venetia arrives downstairs so we usually start her day with a quick meeting and figure out what needs to be done. I then sit at my desk, and depending what’s on with commercial deadlines or developing new products, I hope to spend part of my day creatively. Another factor of having your own business is that my days aren’t always creative and I can get bogged down with admin and finances. By 1:30, I’m ready for lunch so I make sure to take a break, come upstairs, eat and make a nice cup of green tea. From 2:30-6:00, I’m usually back downstairs at my desk or possibly having a meeting. At 6, I wrap it all up and return to my home for the dinner/evening routine with my family.
Where do you seek inspiration?
Travel has always been a huge part of my life and immersing myself in new places definitely provides me with enormous inspiration. Whether it’s the rain forest in Costa Rica or Arabic architecture in Marrakech, seeing life in a new way sparks my imagination. Of course, I spend most of my time in Brooklyn and that feeds me with plenty, too. From the brownstones to the farmers markets to all the diverse cultures this borough has to offer.
Why do you love Brooklyn?
I’ve certainly seen Brooklyn change in 20 years and that’s been both positive and negative. However, I feel that the old Brooklyn and new has settled alongside each other respectfully. Each neighborhood has such a different vibe and I can only speak about my own but, it feels like a small village. To find a community like that within a huge city is priceless. It’s a great place to raise children with so many parks and outdoor activities. It comes alive in the summer and we love sitting on our stoop watching the world go by. The Brooklyn Flea, where I sell, is 2 blocks from my house, so on Saturdays there’s always great food to be had and friends to visit. At this stage in my life, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.