How one pack of gum accidentally unlocked a dream business by Meredith Wing

I believe in karma and luck, but not in a vacuum—rather as the outcome of nurturing social and professional environments that welcome these phenomena. Creating my own Onni means facilitating new relationships and opportunities. It means getting better at looking inwards for...

Meredith Wing, founder of Meredith Wing Design, LLC 

Hi Meredith, thank you for taking time out from your art and the gorgeous Australian sun to inspire women like us. I’ve enjoyed watching your journey from Columbia University to MooMooi. How did your journey begin? What got you to where you are today?

My MooMooi™ journey began during a layover with my now husband, Mike. We had a pack of Chiclet gum and I was sketching, as I often do. To be funny he placed a piece of gum on a page where I was making a fashion sketch. We positioned it as her handbag and I posted the image to Instagram. To my surprise, people reacted quickly to it, so I posted another image with a flower as a dress. The more positive feedback I got, the more I was encouraged to keep on creating and sharing.

Fast forward a few months, and people started commissioning works for themselves. Eventually, companies approached me to create illustrations for their digital campaigns. Before I knew it, a business was born!

I have done work for Tory Burch, Grey Goose, Coach, Soho House, and Patron among others which allowed me to grow a global audience.

I am obsessed with your artwork and your Instagram (@moomooi) is beautiful!

My Instagram has become my vision board. I’m really glad that you appreciate it.

Seeing that you mostly draw girls and women, would you say your products are created specifically for women?

I feel my products are designed for women first and foremost. If men like them too, all the better! There is no denying the femininity and fairy tale quality to #SomeFlowerGirls and I like to think that a community is building around them. I love hearing from Instagram followers and visitors to my website that they have purchased a piece for their daughter, or that a mother and daughter enjoy looking at the drawings together. That sense of female bonding is so encouraging to me!

 

That’s beautiful. I get teary-eyed thinking of moments like these. I’m looking forward to having a drawing done of my daughter. Continuing with the spirit of giving, can you share with us an experience of giving that you found particularly rewarding?

One woman asked for a custom birthday illustration for her daughter. While I didn’t have time to do a whole new one, I wrote her a little note on one I already had that she could post for herself. She was so grateful! It really warmed my heart.

Seeing your work, we think you are tremendously gifted. What would you say you are most passionate about? How do you incorporate your passion into your work and everyday life?

I am in pursuit of the aesthetic every day. I think life deserves a healthy dose of something whimsical and beautiful. I don’t think possessions and environments need to be fancy, but the details of the things we eat or the paper we use can be thoughtful and enjoyable. This sense of playfulness comes through in my drawings and I hope they provide the viewer with that momentary sense of escape.

That leads me naturally to my next question. When I say, #CreateYourOnni what does it mean to you? Onni is luck and happiness in Finnish*

I believe in karma and luck, but not in a vacuum—rather as the outcome of nurturing social and professional environments that welcome these phenomena. Creating my own Onni means facilitating new relationships and opportunities. It means getting better at looking inwards for validation in work and life, rather than outwards.

With your experiences thus far, what advice would you give your younger self?

It’s a cliché because it’s true: do what you love and follow your instincts. I completed a grueling, 3-year Master of Architecture at Columbia only to figure out that what I really loved was the drawing and working-with-my-hands part. Instead of the scale of a building, I wanted to work at the scale of a sheet of paper. I began to do more of what made me happy, and it shows in the work. I believe you can only really be great at something when you are passionate about it. Also, as the wise Lucille Ball said: “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.”

What challenges have you faced as an illustrator? Have there been struggles that have altered your perspective?

Most people give me creative freedom when they commission an illustration. On a few occasions, though, a client has had a different vision of what a drawing should look like. It has taken time, but I have learned to provide the client with as close to what they want as is possible. I am providing a service and I want the client to be 100% satisfied. I used to get upset when this was not the initial outcome, but I have learned these moments are opportunities to communicate anew and innovate upon the work that has already been done until we reach an image that everyone is happy with.

That’s a great perspective. What advice would you have for other creatives on negotiation?

Be clear about terms of use. If you are creating original content, my advice is to educate yourself on copyright law, seek good counsel, and make sure compensation is commensurate to intended usage.

 

Even working in a role you love, sometimes we don’t utilise all of our talents or explore all our interests. What other outlets do you have that give you a sense of wholeness?

I think about this alot. When you pursue something wholly, sometimes you neglect your other interests but this is really a disservice to yourself and your product. There are so many things I am interested in. It can be difficult to find a balance and not feel like I’m sacrificing one thing in pursuit of another. I think maybe ‘inlets’ rather than ‘oulets’ are the key to feeling wholeness. I feel most complete when doing things that are ultimately for myself—a drawing that no one else will see, or some writing that I don’t intend to publish. I would like to work on prioritizing personal projects that I do just for my own enjoyment instead of seeing them as unproductive uses of time.

With all your success, would you say you have insecurities? Would you mind sharing them?

My little business is growing and there is still plenty of time for insecurity in that department! I want it to be successful and well received, reach a variety of markets and develop in the years to come. I want it to develop MooMooi™ in a way that feels organic and has a clear narrative. I get anxious when people call my work ‘art’ so I am quick to qualify it as ‘illustration’ because it is so often girly and whimsical—something I think of as lighthearted. I am still not comfortable owning the word ‘art’. That is an insecurity I am working on!

Well, for what it’s worth, our team here love the work you are producing and we are excited to participate in your narrative. A part of your journey that I really love is the travelling. What does it mean to you to be a global citizen?

Being a global citizen means finding identity first and foremost in being human. Identifiers like nationality, race, and religion become secondary to the importance of contributing to a community and our immediate environment, no matter where that is.

Where has been your favourite place to travel to?

The Luberon region in the South of France. My husband and I did a two-week holiday there on our first overseas trip together. We drove around visiting one vineyard after another, foraging the morning markets for olives, cheese and a good bottle of wine, then exploring until we found a quiet picnic spot with a view. It was so simple but so complete.  

Who are your favorite designers?

There are so many. But I love what you are doing with Onnix bags. I’m crushing hard on your Onni clutch in Peach, right now. Fo' real.

 

What’s your best buy ever?

Probably that first pack of Chiclet gum!

Thanks, Meredith! I really enjoyed getting to know your story better and now I need to go run and buy a pack of gum and see what I can create with that. We wish you the greatest success with MooMooi™. We know you’ll continue to #CreateYourOnni

 

Onnix at Work interview series: Here at Onnix we celebrate women, high-achieving women, women that create their onni (luck and happiness in Finnish). We define achievement and success as a goal met that is set by oneself. So if you set out to be a mother, an entrepreneur, a partner at a firm, a judge, to be single, to be without children, this is your decision and choice, and you have achieved it!
We want to spread this imagery of success. All these roles and routes required you to overcome the pressure of society and the pressure of being a woman. Your journey is not over, but we want to share your success thus far. We believe in the power of vulnerability and the strength in sharing stories. For Women, From Women, By Women."

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