Lucy Wanchun Leith is a Vermont-born and raised, Chicago-based artist and designer who spends most of her time making comics and climbing rocks. She admires quilts, plants, zero-waste design thinking, and kids’ big imaginations.
As a cartoonist, my greatest inspirations are quilting and plants.
I learned about quilts at school for fashion design, where I focused on childrenswear and zero-waste design. Quilts, like comics, tell stories, and are the ultimate zero-waste item. Traditionally made by many hands, with scraps of old fabric from clothes and sheets, all quilts come with an inherent history. The stories of the hands that made them, and the many hundreds of years of social and political practices and protests that come with the crafting tradition. A patch in a cotton quilt was once a rag, worn down from clothing, cut from cloth, woven by threads, spun from fibers, grown from a plant.
I learned to love plants while working as a gardener. While I deadheaded daffodils, I listened to stories about design, the news, and people, and gained an appreciation for the beauty and resiliency of the slow-paced natural world. Later, in my first two years out of school, I worked as a technical designer for a children’s clothing company that advertised sustainability, while overseeing massively unsustainable processes across the entire production line. Unlike the slow, loving, necessary, community based craft of quilting and gardening, this job typified “fashion” as fast-paced commercial design. From the inside, I felt hopeless trying to use my knowledge of craft to advocate for sustainable practices. I recorded my frustrations through words and pictures to share with people on the outside.
Feeling trapped in the industry and the city, I started drawing the things that I missed: connecting with people and nature. I am finding my voice in comics by stitching together pieces of my life and my admiration for the natural world. I can only hope that others receive these stories like a warm, colorful blanket clearly made with care.