Profile: Native Bear's Leela Hoehn Robinson

When I first saw Native Bear’s pieces on Etsy I couldn’t take my eyes away. They are intricate, organic looking pieces with gorgeous hand-carved lettering and designs that can only be unique – there is no way anyone can produce anything exactly like these pieces. I have nothing but respect for Art that can be used in many different ways. These pieces are total beauties!

Read on for more about Native Bear's Owner and Creative Director, Leela Hoehn Robinson's inspiration and creative journey:

Native Bear Profile
Native Bear Profile
Native Bear Profile
Native Bear Profile

Native Bear is a paper goods, home decor, and seasonal accessories line based out of Atlanta, Ga featuring the designs of Leela Hoehn Robinson (but you can call her "Bear"). Native Bear produces hand stamped stationery and cotton goods using carved linoleum blocks of Leela’s original designs. Each print is unique and one of a kind.

Native Bear started started on Etsy in 2011 after Leela carved her first stamp of her beloved dog, Maebe, to use for her own DIY wedding. All it took was one stamp, and she was hooked! Since starting her etsy shop then the brand has expanded from block printed stationery to art prints, soft cotton goods, digital art prints, and specializing in custom hand carved wedding stamps.

Native Bear Profile

Where you always hands on when you were younger? What clues did you have about your natural tendencies that led you do be a Creative?

I take after my mom who's an oil painter, so luckily I was exposed to painting and drawing at an early age. As a child I was always drawing and I would make picture books (or zines, if you will) of stories about my family or my dog. At some point I started trying to sell said zines to my family for a quarter or a dime, and it wasn't until I was an adult that I realized this was probably the first sign of what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Native Bear Profile

When did you decide to start your own business? And why this business?

I decided to start my own business when I admitted to myself that I was never going to feel excited, inspired or fulfilled by working for other people. I had spent a long time avoiding making art because honestly I was in a bit of a mental and creative funk, but I knew I wanted two things: the freedom to make my own schedule and to work in my underpants.

My husband and I got married in the spring of 2011, and I carved a linoleum stamp of our dog Maebe to print on some wedding favors. I decided to carve more stamps and start printing my own cards because it didn't require much start up cost, and I could do it in the spare bedroom of my house. It's definitely not a technique I would have ever have imagined getting so involved in, but it has taught me to be a lot more methodical with my designs and business growth.

Native Bear Profile

What was the best piece of advice you were given as you were starting out?

Don't be too shy (or too good) to put yourself out there. If you are open and welcoming with what you create, then your brand will resonate that, and hopefully, inspire others to be more open with their creativity as well. I know many talented artists can be introverts by nature and I feel like it can get in the way of success. I still have to remind myself to be open in moments of insecurity.

— Leela Hoehn Robinson
Native Bear Profile

What do you do behind the scenes?

Everyday I wake up at 7 or so, make lots of coffee, and make a todo list. When I'm not working on new designs or printing I'm mostly likely plotting how to streamline my processes without sacrificing quality. "Work smarter, not harder" is a phrase that runs through my head often, which is quite ironic when you're a block printer...ha! Even when I'm relaxing or hanging out with friends, I'm still thinking about how to improve my branding, change up packaging, or planning what markets I'm going to participate in.

What is your inspiration for your work?

nature, good vibes, and 1970s interiors/graphic design.

What is your goal during each project?

I'm always trying to come up with new images that are bold, balanced, and radiate energy. I also try to stay away from following too many trends these days because it only leads you in circles, but it's impossible to avoid all outside influence. I want to stay current with the times, but also remain true to my style.

What are a few things people don’t know about you?

I'm ambidextrous, I love to dance, and I've never met a cookie I didn't like.

Native Bear Profile