The Celtic nations are ripe with rich and robust creativity. Recently we spoke with author and artist Leslie Lee of Lee studio about her passion for her profession.
What is you background?
I have a deep interest in language and linguistics, travel, ancient history, and art. When I was young, I hitchhiked more than ten thousand miles around the United States, backpacked for a summer, and continued to free rock climb when I was with other rock climbers in good territory for it. For several years, I worked temporary jobs for six to nine months of the year in order to travel in the balance. A nature-lover and adventurer, I have lived outdoors, kayaked, biked, and cross-country skied a fair bit. In my middle age, I helped start a data communications company called U.S. Robotics that broke new ground developing, manufacturing, and selling great modems. There I learned about business and eventually made enough money to raise my family, start and run a charitable foundation, and retire to write books and illustrate them. Travel, linguistics, ancient history, and the DNA of ancestry share a theme of movement, development, and the timeline of who we humans are and how we got here. Those ideas are explored in the books I write and produce through my self-publishing company.
What is the company’s mandate?
Over the years of my life, I have learned much, experienced much, and wrote much of it down in journals. The goal is to sift and refine that life experience into products – books, art, notecards, puzzles, and travel gear – that might help give other people a zest for life, reverence for the natural world, laughter, and hope.
How has it evolved over time?
When I was twenty-one, I came close enough to death that after I was grateful for all good things, small and large, that came my way. I believe in returning the favors of life, and bountiful support as much as possible.
What are the challenges of the job?
There aren’t enough hours in the day. I am not proficient at self-promotion, selling my products, or making phone calls to strangers. I am an introvert trying to do an extrovert’s job.
What are the rewards?
Besides sales, which help to defray the costs of the enterprise, I enjoy hearing from readers when they appreciate some part of the books. More importantly, I am gratified to share with anyone who might benefit from my words, art, and experiences, now and in the deep future.
What are your core products?
My books include Backcountry Ranger, The Diaries and Photographs of Norton Pearl in Glacier National Park, 1910-1913, published 1994, Sacred Space, Pine Hollow, published 2014, We Are the Land, Ireland, published 2019, and Leslie’s Field Guide to Ireland, published 2020. Other products of my illustrations include folding note cards, postcards, travel puzzles, coasters, fine art reproductions of note cards, and custom frameable art. I am currently working on an illustrated book about traveling in Ireland and Scotland -with the working title Erin and Alba – to be published in 2021-2022. After, I will be editing the rest of the illustrated travel journals, and writing my memoir, and poetry. Although I am not a formally trained artist, writer, teacher, historian, linguist, or geneticist, I am a student of those subjects and use that knowledge in my traveling experience to create unique and insightful books and art.
How do you reach my potential clients?
Via my website, where I sell everything to end users, as well as retail outlets. I have been known to hire a table at local events, and do book signings, and talks. I drive around in my travel van loaded with books selling them out the back. My books are carried at the local bookstores in Traverse City, Michigan where I encourage people to go so that the stores will stay in business. In a year or two, I may open a tiny retail store in Traverse City. I may decide to sell my books on Amazon.
What are your future plans for the business?
I will keep producing new books, art, and products, and continue to search out marketing venues, including conventions, shows, the internet, talks, and presentations. I may hit the road in my travel van with my journal and paint kit, products, and a few friends for companionship to adventure around, and sell direct.