Gem City Style: Makers Edition with Curtis Waidley of Natural States Collective
A Q&A with Curtis Waidley of Natural States Collective
Jessica Hunter: For those who don't know about it, please tell us about Natural States Collective.
Curtis Waidley: Of course! Natural States Collective is my original collection of National Park posters and apparel. More than that though, its artwork is meant to promote preservation and respect for our iconic National Parks and really just our natural landscapes in general. A lot of the posters that I create have influences from the era of psychedelic design. Others are made using a digital photo collage technique. I use photographs that I take within each park and composite them together into original works that embody a lot of visual energy and unique forms.
JH: Can you share your experiences behind the idea of your brand?
CW: This actually originally began as my senior thesis at Mercyhurst University. That summer I had just returned from being on the road for six weeks visiting a lot of these parks for the first time and I was so enamored by them. My thesis was creating a reimagined series of National Park posters. The reception I received from my designs was so uplifting, I began to develop more ideas and expand. This eventually led me to begin selling them in an online store. Now, I'm traveling to new parks every year and developing new designs.
The name "Natural States" comes from a quote from the first director of the National Park Service (NPS), Stephen Mather. He said that the primary duty of the NPS is to keep these unique landscapes in their natural state. That means protecting them from private development and other destructive advances. That idea really resonated with me because just knowing the history of industrialization of the United States, these incredible places like Yellowstone, the Redwoods, and Yosemite, could have only been seen for their economic potential and they'd have been devastated by development. But thanks to early conservationists, these sacred places were spared.
JH: How do you practice a conservation model in your business?
CW: Well as you can imagine, I go through a lot of paper. Because of that, I am adamant about using environmentally conscious paper stock for my prints. The one I use is actually made of 100 percent cotton. The paper mill uses a cotton by-product from the textile industry. This is waste that would have been discarded anyway, but the mill turns it into paper. It has the look and feel of a fine art paper and the surface is like velvet; it's fantastic! Plus, knowing that it was made with the environment in mind is even better.
JH: What are you giving back to the national parks that inspired Natural States Collective?
CW: I donate a portion of every sale to the National Parks Foundation. They're the official nonprofit of the National Park Service and they use these funds to improve park infrastructure, lead conversation programs, and create education programs aimed at sharing more inclusive stories that haven't been previously told. To date, I've donated close to $2,500 to the National Park Foundation through selling my artwork.
JH: What is next for you and your business? Do you have any plans for Small Business Saturday?
CW: There are always new designs cooking and being added to the store. There's fresh apparel on the way. Small Business Saturday is the start of my 12 Days of Christmas Sale, with different prints going on sale each day. Follow @naturalstatescollective on Instagram to get in the loop about that! I will also be selling prints at the Holiday Market at the HandMade Arcade in Pittsburgh on December 3.
For more information or to purchase art or apparel, visit: naturalstatescollective.com
Jessica Hunter can be found at jessicahunterphotos.com