Top of Mind
A Conversation With Carly Kuhn
By Crown Affair
Miami-based artist and illustrator Carly Kuhn—formerly known as The Cartorialist—has garnered a dedicated following over the past decade. When we were thinking about our holiday collection and how it might come to life, Carly almost immediately came to mind, since her work captures a whimsical, nostalgic element that is exactly what we love about this time of year.
Now the collection is live, and it’s even better than we imagined. (You can shop it here). We chatted with Carly about her career, her creative process, and how this collaboration came to life. Read the interview below:
- How did you get started as an illustrator, and what about it brings you the most joy?
My path to art/illustration was a happy accident. I never set out to become an illustrator, but the power of the internet had other plans! I was working in television comedy at the time, and loved aspects of it, but knew I was still searching for my path. I tried out a lot of different things, even had a comedy food blog at one point!
So, what started out as doodles at my desks for friends and bosses turned into something way bigger once I started an Instagram account (originally The Cartorialist) and posting regularly. One repost by this big blogger, or this big actor, and as they say, the rest is history (in short). I've been an illustrator now full time for almost 10 years and have had such an array of incredible projects, partnerships and jobs. But what I truly love most about what I do, is that I get to explore new worlds through my art and then share it with people who connect to my lines on a page—whether it's a drawing that makes them smile, think and the best, maybe even giggle a little bit.
- Tell us about the collaboration—what was the original vision and inspiration behind it, and how did it come to life working with Dianna?
The collaboration with Dianna truly came about in such an organic special way. My husband and I moved to Miami during covid, August 2021, when I was pregnant. I didn't know many people there, and I think I had stumbled onto Dianna's instagram one day—sharing that she too had moved to Miami. I saw we had mutual friends in common and may or may not have slid into her DMs! We hit it off instantly from our first coffee date. We shared a lot of the same interests, from comedy to the nostalgia of children's book illustrations.
At the beginning of this Summer, Dianna threw out the idea of working together on a Holiday collaboration. It was an opportunity for Crown Affair to tap into a bit of Holiday fun while still remaining true to the brand's overall clean and timeless identity. I like to believe my work embodies an appreciation for the past with a distinctly modern perspective. What made our collaboration work so seamlessly, and something I look for in a partner, is that Dianna and the Crown Affair team trusted my vision and style. I was able to transform some of the iconic Crown Affair products and other ritual/beauty related drawings into hopefully nostalgic timeless illustrations.
- What is your typical creative process like? Did you do anything differently while working on this particular project?
It usually starts with research and image sourcing. I had the Crown Affair products that I was confidently able to transform into my style of drawings, but for the other objects, I did a long search for images, old paintings, photographs that stood out to me. Dianna and the team expressed how they loved how I drew hands (which is ironically always the trickiest body part for an artist to capture!). I loved that they loved my perfectly imperfect renditions of hands. They also wanted to of course include images related to hair and even perhaps a crown. Additionally, they saw my love of writing out actual text, so we incorporated that as well.
Again, as mentioned above, the process was seamless because both sides, myself the artist, and the Crown Affair team understood each other. There was maybe one round of edits and then the magic was complete!
- What drew you to working with a brand like Crown Affair? What aspects of it resonate with you most?
I'm pretty sure I stumbled upon Crown Affair even before meeting Dianna. I was postpartum, so you can imagine even the smallest act like washing your hair can be overwhelming. But, first and foremost, I loved the product. It was a bonus that I would later meet Dianna and connect with her so effortlessly.
- Do you have a personal philosophy about hair or beauty in general? How does it tie back to your work?
I don't know if I have a personal philosophy about hair per se, but I do think that when my hair looks good I feel better. And when I feel just a little bit better (especially being a mom of a toddler) it translates into a bit more confidence and energy that helps with motivation. I am a bit lazy when it comes to my hair [Laughs] and I know that in order for my laziness to translate well into having my hair look good, the products I put into it have to be good.