The work of Charleston-based artist Lulie Wallace blooms with talent and possibility.
On the journey of her life, the winding roads to Lulie Wallace’s current success have been peppered with detours, pit stops, and welcomed hitchhikers. A native of Columbus, Georgia, Wallace ventured over to South Carolina after high school to attend the College of Charleston. Initially, the plan was to major in Studio Art, minor in Spanish, and attend grad school for a masters in Social Work or Graphic Design, but a post-undergrad summer painting session threw a wrench in the plan to go on to even higher education.
“I spent a few months painting,” Wallace remembers, “And one day I looked at a painting and thought, ‘I would hang this on my wall. Maybe people would buy these.’ And then they did.”
Abandoning her plans for grad school, Wallace began creating. With an intense focus on still life floral arrangements on wood and paper, her signature impressionistic style blossomed, and interest in her paintings skyrocketed. Wallace quickly decided to eschew a physical gallery presence for an online one, and took to social media, tightly curating her collection and exploring the format of web-based art selling and buying. The experiment was a success, with Wallace appreciating the low overhead of direct-to-client art sales and the ability to communicate daily with those interested in her work.
Before long, Lulie Wallace’s online presence caught the eye of a big player in the indie art space: Anthropologie. Executives at the upscale retailer had fallen in love with many of her paintings, and inquired about featuring them on a line of home decor products. Though thrilled at the prospect of her work being taken to such a national level, Wallace couldn’t shake the idea that her still life paintings belonged on canvas, and went back to her easel for inspiration. With the help of her graphic designer, Megan Simon, Wallace created a portfolio of 80 patterns – painted by her and turned into digital, repeatable tiles by Simon – and brought them back to Anthropologie. The retailer loved them, and soon began turning out shower curtains, planners, fine soaps, and more emblazoned with Lulie Wallace’s signature patterns. From there, a domino effect of interested companies rolled in: the patterns of Lulie Wallace can now be found on anything from bathrobes and baby blankets to lunch boxes and ladies’ scarves. A recent collaboration with local candle company, Rewined, even found Wallace matching patterns to scents, resulting in a line of home fragrance candles that smell as good as they look. Most promising, though, is her future with interior design – stacks of her patterns can be found on upholstery-weight textiles in showrooms across the nation, and they are often chosen for furniture, wallpaper, and heavy linens such as bedskirts. Her prints are particularly popular with nurseries, but she has seen them utilized in many applications, which she says “never stops being exciting.”
Throughout her product-line successes, Wallace continues to paint at her studio in a shared artist space downtown Charleston, pulling out her acrylics, neocolor crayons, watercolor pencils, and gouache whenever she has a spare moment. Nearly all of her collections are unique floral arrangements, either still life or collage, though her “Southwest Scenes,” “Landscapes,” and “Bugs” are distinct departures from her norm. Patterns abound within the paintings themselves, lending an air of whimsical order to the finished works, which often sell as quickly as they are created.
Recently, Wallace took some time off to focus her attention on her newest inspiration, a darling new daughter. Though it remains to be seen how the presence of her little one may influence her painting style, subjects, or collaborations, the work of Lulie Wallace remains a Lowcountry design staple to be sure. Throughout everything, the artist says, her ultimate goal is to bring brightness to people’s lives.
“The best compliment I get is when someone says, ‘Every time I pass your painting in my house, I smile,” says Wallace. “That just brings me such joy to hear that. If my work makes people smile and brings them a little bit of happiness, then I think I have done my job.”
By Jana Riley