me, hanging out the house gnome laundry, Vermont, 1973My father is a writer, my mother a painter, so its not surprising to me that I am just as fascinated by the story that a drawing tells as the art itself. We always lived in the country, in northern Vermont, and our house was always filled with art and handmade things. We rarely had a television or telephone, so my sister and I turned to making things and drawing as a way to keep ourselves busy during the long winters. I learned to sew and to knit before I turned six, and began designing clothing for myself and others when I was 8 or 9. Summers would find us outside, roaming horse meadows in search of wild strawberries or jumping off rock ledges into a nearby swimming hole. The memories of these days continue to shape much of my work.

After college I found work as a naturalist and wilderness guide. As a teacher and leader, I spent long summer months in the Sierra Mountains and Cascade Range and winters on the northern California coast. I was fascinated and inspired by the lives of the tiny creatures that I would come across, and by the way they interacted with one another and with the world around them. In my mind, wilderness was a secret garden of sorts, holding mysteries, societies, and dramas that could hardly be imagined. This was the world that I tried to introduce to my students and clients.

I began to use textiles and artwork to capture this world, and soon became interested in printing fabric with my own illustrations. In 1996, when I was 26 years old, I founded the brand Munki Munki. Largely Inspired by the print designers of my childhood, Lily Pulitzer, Marimekko, and Vera Neuman, I wanted to make very basic and simple clothing sewn from fabric printed with my own illustrations. The collection was an instant hit, and the brand enjoyed several years of success and growth. Within only two years, my designs appeared in hundreds of stores nationwide, and graced the covers of magazines. There was, however, less time for art and much more time spent running a company and managing a brand. In 2003, I introduced a women's pajama line under the Munki Munki label. In 2004, I sold the brand, which today exists as a women's sleepwear line and is sold in department stores and boutiques.

In 2005 I also introduced my first line of printed fabrics, again focussing on themes of childhood. Home sewing was now a growing trend among American women, especially young mothers and homemakers. The line was well recieved and led to several more collections with both Westminster and Kokka of Japan.

To compliment my lines of printed fabrics I wrote the how-to book “Weekend Sewing” (Abrams/STC Craft, 2009), which is meant as a guide to integrating sewing into ones home and lifestyle in a stylish and modern way. I have continued that theme on my blog, where I am building a collection of projects, recipes, resources, artwork, and essays meant to inspire and empower young women (the first generation of American women for whom home EC was not a requirement) to live creatively. I also began to teach and lead weekend retreats, which has evolved into some of most favorite and satisfying work.

Today I work both as an illustrator and author, with clients in publishing and manufacturing. I thoroughly enjoy small collaborations with companies and causes that I feel passionate about, such as a current project creating artwork for a line of hand-shaped surfboards for little girls. In 2007 I was invited by join Polar Bears International as an Artistic Ambassador to Churchill, Manitoba, where I witnessed and recorded by way of illustration the effects of climate change on Polar Bears and their environment.

Three years ago I married and moved to New York City. While it still feels strange to not live in the country, I love the energy and excitement and inspiration that the city and its community of designers and artists offer. My heart, however, will always be on the edge of a deep, lush forest on West Hill, Vermont, and I look forward to returning for good someday. I have found, surprisingly, that nature plays an even more vital role in my work now.  Having been removed from it seems to have only made my love for it more powerful, my sense of wonder more pronounced.
-Heather Ross