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This summer we released our first, full on artist collaboration for a line of merchandise. Beyond lending us some fresh eyes and new takes on some classic items, we were thrilled for the opportunity to highlight the work of a local artist we've long admired.

Landon Sheely is, in his own words, a "classically untrained and foolishly optimistic" artist based in La Crosse, Wisconsin––a stone's throw from our roastery's hometown.

Landon's work draws you in with its saturated colors, playful quality and sometimes nostalgic-feeling aesthetic, building upon a visual vocabulary of old time signage and folk art. Working primarily in print, but also experimenting in "any medium that doesn't require patience of precision," Landon's work is often rooted in social commentary. From the poignant to the more tongue-in-cheek, Sheely's pieces offer a clear articulation of his perspective on the world we live in, and the inequities and absurdities to be found there.

This past July, Landon was generous enough to chat with me and offer a few more insights into his process and his approach to collaborations.

How did you come to be based in La Crosse? And how does place inform your work?

I was born in La Crosse, lived and traveled away from the area, and ended up back here because of family. The Driftless Region has a lot to offer someone who finds nature fulfilling. And although people wouldn’t necessarily spot nature's influence in what I do, it’s influencing me constantly and probably making it’s way into my work here and there.

What drives your work? 

The state of things, childish hope, and a desire to use anger productively.

Who or what have you been looking to for inspiration lately?

Always folk art, ephemeral art, secret art, street art, and propaganda.

Your work moves from the playful, to the political, to the absurd––how would you describe your style?

I try to act on a thought or a feeling with as little effort as possible. When you create ephemeral work, you are free to respond to anything, in any way. I don’t ever think of my work as more important than it is, so while I care about what I do, and peddle propaganda, I am also free to be absurd.

We've been big fans of your work here at the roastery for a while now. We've also seen all the great things that have come out of your collaboration with our longtime customers at The Root Note. Doing art for yourself versus collaborating with a company or a business are clearly different processes, so I'm curious how you approach doing work for others? What needs to be in place for you to consider a collaboration? 

I have to be, at least now while I'm privileged enough to say so, into and excited about what the business is doing, and, generally speaking, they are probably somewhat into what I’m doing as well which makes for a nice comfortable partnership. It’s a very different thing to just create whatever I want, versus making myself...but it's a challenge I occasionally enjoy.

You play a lot with folk art-inspired faces in your work––you can see that in the enamel mug you designed for us. There's something so simple yet emotive in them. I'm curious if these faces are part of a more extensive exploration in your work, or if it's a series you've just been having fun fleshing out.

They are definitely a constant and repetitive part of my work. They are everywhere and always slightly changing, sometimes changing in ways I don’t even notice myself until I find one that I forgot about. The faces are something I can always go back to whether or not I’m feeling productive, and they can keep my head and hand active.

Last question: what coffee drink pairs best with your art?

Black coffee almost always. A plain white mug of hot black coffee is timeless and perfect.

To find Landon's designs for our collaboration, head to  our online store.

A big thanks to Ray and Kelly Siler, for use of their photos. You can find their full photo essay on Landon Sheely here.