Making art with The Wells Makery

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

Annie Brooks, founder of The Wells Makery, was raised by a family of traveling illustrators and musicians – so naturally she grew up to be a creative herself. The Wells Makery produces watercolor illustrations, logo designs, calligraphy, invitations, drink menus, maps, an upcoming children’s book and more. Brooks also plays music and takes photographs on the side. She travels constantly (most recently to Berlin, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Iceland) and broadens her expressive horizons around the world. We spoke to Brooks about her company and why parents should allow their kids’ artistic ambitions to flourish.

How did your childhood inspire you creatively?My parents were always so supportive of me. They were living an alternative lifestyle, and always said, ‘Instead of buying an apple, plant an apple tree.’ I never saw them doing “normal” jobs. My mother was an artist, she was always illustrating kid’s books and raising animals to sell. My dad was a musician and a cartoonist on the side. Generations back, we’re all artists and musicians in our family. It’s all I know. I thought you grew up, and that’s what you did! It was incredibly encouraging for them to see my artistic endeavors as job opportunities. They encouraged me artistically in the way that some parents encourage good grades. Like math skills … they knew this was also a practical way to live. Art isn’t just dreaming. There’s a big need for it in the world; especially now, with the Internet and graphic design.

A lot of parents tell their kids that being an artist is impractical. Yeah, like ‘You can’t make money off of it.’ I think that was more true years ago. But now there’s such a need.

What’s it like making a living in Durango with your art?When I first moved here, I worked for a school and taught art classes. As our photography started to take off, I had to quit, since there was so much travel involved. As I was already a part of the wedding industry through photography, once I decided to make the switch to illustration, all the vendors and bloggers already knew about me. So it was a pretty easy switch. And Instagram! Probably 80 or 90 percent of my work comes through Instagram.

How did The Wells Makery start?Whitney and I met dissecting a deer skull when we were 8 and 10 years old. We were homeschooled, and grew up in Cedaredge, which is a tiny town pretty close to here. We’ve been making art ever since. It was last year that I was able to hire her; we got busy and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, let’s make our dreams come true and do this for a living.’ It was just me for about the first year, and I was very overwhelmed. Whitney is an incredible artist. I spent a lot of my time developing music and photography, while she’s been focusing more on art her whole life; so her illustrations are a bit more refined than mine. She’s very meticulous with pen and ink, and has a really good eye for color palettes. I’m thrilled I get to have her onboard. It has also always been my dream to write kid’s books, and I thought it was something I’d do in my late ’60s. But I’m going to do that one a little sooner.

Calligraphy is a dying art form, but you’re doing a lot of it. How did you learn? It’s sad! I don’t think they even teach cursive in schools anymore. My parents would go on tour and leave me at home sometimes, and my mom’s mom would occasionally come watch me. She would force me to sit down at a coffee table and practice. She’s an incredible calligrapher and fine artist, the most classical artist in the family. So she taught me and I loved it. Since that age, I’ve been making up fake alphabets and writing out different autographs.

How does traveling inspire your art, and what are the most life-changing places you’ve visited? I had no interest in style or trends of any kind until I was in my early teens and I went to Japan. I came home and I was like, ‘Mom, oh no, I love fashion.’ Fashion there is so fun and playful and over-dramatized. After that, I started sketching little rabbits in outfits. And places like Cuba, with all the texture, dilapidated buildings and bright colors. The elegance of Europe. Krakow in Poland, all of the folk art, the fun and playful florals. Seeing the origins and the cultures that have birthed some of the people I follow and admire is such an honor.


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