Kate Spade says to live colorfully, and judging by her other inspirational nuggets, we know she errs on the side of genius. Whether you take it literally or figuratively, life is guaranteed to be just a little bit brighter and as far as I’m concerned, that’s only ever a good thing. And Callen Thompson – the remarkably (insanely, outrageously, extraordinarily) talented painter and textile designer behind BEAM prints – agrees. Her inspired collection is bursting with gorgeous colors and textures, fit for anyone looking to take a page out of Kate’s playbook and live colorfully.
NAME Callen Thompson
LOCATION Austin, Texas
EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND BA in Studio Art from Dartmouth College, studied at Cranbrook Academy of Art for a semester, graduate of Austin Center for Design’s Interaction Design and Social Entrepreneurship program.
Tell me a bit about yourself & what inspired you to start BEAM. I’m a painter and textile designer based in Austin, Texas. I’m originally from a tiny town in North Florida and grew up in a home my parents built by hand. I’m a sixth-generation Floridian but always joyful to be so conformist that I get to re-define what that type of ancestry means. I started BEAM because once I got to Austin in 2008 I started realizing I wanted to be a textile designer. I had no experience in designing for fabric but loved fabric and sewing and knew my patterns could look amazing on fabric.
Is there a story behind your company name? BEAM stands for both strength and structure (e.g. a support beam in a roof) and the process of broadcasting something out into the world (e.g. a beam of light) and being so happy and smiling so broadly that one is radiating goodness (beaming).
Your work has been featured by West Elm & you also participated in a West Elm, Austin pop-up shop last year as part of a group of local Etsy sellers hand-picked by Camille Styles. How does it feel to have your work recognized like this? It’s always lovely to get to share my work with the world. The opportunities that I’ve received through Etsy, west elm, Camille Styles, GirlsGuild, Apartment Therapy and others have been really meaningful. I only do what I do because I love making things and contributing to a world that is more colorful, more playful and more alive. Getting to share this kind of stuff with others through the aforementioned platforms means that I’m not making out into a void- there’s actually an audience there who can see things, receive inspiration and enjoy it in their lives accordingly.
I was immediately taken with the soft colors & beautiful patterns of your fabrics and scarves. Where do you draw your inspiration? Has it changed at all since opening your shop? The deserts of the Southwest inspire me a lot. I tend to paint in colors that I see around me. I end up soaking up the colors and shapes of this land in the Southwest when I’m out camping and on road trips and then organically pouring it out of me when I paint.
What has been the best part of having a home studio? If there is one drawback to working from home, what is it? The upside is that I’m able to paint whenever I want and also not pay rent for another space. The downside is it’s easier to get distracted by wanting to hang out with my wife or our dogs.
When you’re not creating stunning pieces of art, what are you doing? I’m a User Experience Designer (also called an Interaction Designer or software designer). I do research to find out what can be designed to improve software, services and products and then make things based on that. Some of my projects are here: callenthompsonUX.com
If you could share one pearl of wisdom with fellow creatives considering turning their passion into a career, what would it be? Make friends with other artists, keep growing, take classes, refine your skills, read about the lives of artists from history and their work. I see artists as a lineage. When you’re an artist the people in your ancestry are all the other artists who have come before you. Your family tree is composed of those who were not your blood relatives but share something deeper- they too knew what it was like to have to make yourself find a tangible, physical outlet to express the intangible, the inexpressible, emotion, feeling, experiences. That’s a shared history- an experience all artists share.
Cake or pie? Tomato pie (especially the tomato, balsamic, oregano one my mom used to make in the summers)
Item you can’t leave home without? My dang phone sadly.
Favorite local eatery? East Side King, Sway, Ramen Tatsu-ya
Most inspirational trip? Many: My first trip to Marfa (TX), my first trip to Santa Fe (NM), my first roadtrip through the Southwest, driving through Utah on the way back to Austin from Northern California and camping in Moab among the red rocks and alongside the Colorado River. Visiting White Sands for the first time. Going to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The west is exquisite! When I first drove west to west Texas and New Mexico my eyes had to adjust to the vast wide open spaces and I loved it. All emotional worries dropped out and dissipated into those giant expanses and rarefied desert air.