The year after I graduated college, I drove cross country with my high school best friend (highly recommended) from California to Maine in 2.5 days (the timeline is less recommended, but I had a scheduling crunch). During our journey, one of the things we decided we wanted to do was learn the nickname of every state we passed through - the road signs made it clear that Utah was the “Beehive State”, we asked a waitress in Wyoming to learn it was the “Cowboy State.” We passed though the “Hawkeye State” (Iowa) , the “Keystone State” (Pennsylvania), the” Empire State” (New York) and the “Bay State” (Massachusetts), among others before finally arriving in The Pine Tree State (Maine), but the land I left behind in 2005 was the “Golden State.”
Since moving out east, I’ve been a regular visitor to California about ever other year, but I’ve been thinking a lot more about California recently. 2019 marks the year that I’ve lived outside of California longer than I’ve lived in it. It’s the 15 year anniversary of my father’s death. It’s the year I went out to show Little Miss Cleaver my hometown for the first time and to see my mother for what is likely the last. I came back from my most recent trip with two shoeboxes full of family photos. I’m feeling a little nostalgic to say the least.
So, as is only natural for a creative, I’m digging into that nostalgia and reflecting on the Golden State in my designs. Exploring bits of my person history and the history of the state at large, considering how the 31st state in the Union shaped me and shaped the country. There’s a lot to mine there (pun intended!) and honestly, a lot of emotion, so instead of trying to pull together a collection with a set deadline, I’ll be working on this project over the course of the year, releasing things as they are ready and telling the story in bits and pieces as I go.
I’ll start with the first release in the collection - “All That Is Beautiful.”
When I chose to focus my next batch of designs on the Golden State, I knew that John Muir was going to show up somewhere.
My dad and brother, both Eagle Scouts, were/are outdoorsy people with a particular love of the Sierra Nevada, so I grew up well acquainted with the legacy of Muir and once visited his homestead when my brother was doing research for a school biography project.
For those unfamiliar with Muir, he was a Scottish-American naturalist and writer who championed preservation, was instrumental in the establishment of Yosemite National Park, and co-founded the Sierra Club. Unfortunately, Muir also prioritized natural preservation over the native people who lived in those environments and the creation of Yosemite evicted the Ahwahneechee and other portions of the Southern Sierra Miwok from their native lands. An act that was repeated with other National Parks.*
Muir was a prolific and often poetic writer, and this quote from a state promotional brochure published by the California State Board of Trade, particularly struck me in several ways. It is important to examine the full impact, both positive and negative, of the people and places we respect. I look at this quote and it serves as reminder to me that there is beauty in all nature (which I take to include all life, including human and animal), but also that we can overemphasize an unrealistic idea of “wild” - since there are very few places not impacted by humans and that not all human impact is negative. It’s part of reason I chose a brown for the text rather than a sharper black, because not everything is black and white. It was only natural to pair the text with the California Poppy - the state flower that grows wild in profusion in the state.
The design is available as a complete kit, printed panel, or PDF pattern in my shop.
As a small acknowledgement that there were many other residents of California before the Americans arrived, a minimum 15% donation of profits from any Golden State collection item will be donated to charities that support self-determination and community/economic development led by and for Native Californian and Latinx peoples, including the Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples and the Dolores Huerta Foundation.
*For more on the Native American History of Yosemite and the displacement and erasure of Native Peoples from National Parks, check out the following resources as a starting point: