Meet Chiho Watanabe of the Zazzle store NamiBear, named after her rescue pooch. You’ll see she captures the hearts and souls of animals with her warm, kind-hearted designs. Enjoy getting to learn more about her.
Tell us about yourself! Where is your hometown? Where do you live now? Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of design?
My name is Chiho and I am the founder and artist of NamiBear. I am from Japan, currently living stateside in Minneapolis, Minnesota with my husband and two dogs. Both of our dogs are rescues, and one of them, Nami, came to us with some kind of trauma (we don’t know the details of her previous life). It has been difficult but at the same time a profound experience to train her from the basics (she wasn’t even potty trained). Parallel to that time, I personally was going through a tough time in life, and I’d like to think of it as we got through it much like running a two-legged race. She definitely helped me pull myself out of my sunken place, and Nami has learned to adapt to her new life with us. Therefore, when I later decided to open a store on Zazzle, I immediately knew I wanted to name it after Nami. Animals, in general, bring so much joy and love to me and that’s why they are the main subject of my artwork. Besides my artwork and dogs, I enjoy reading books and am focused on living a healthy life; physically and emotionally. I also deeply care about social and environmental justice issues.
Tell us about the space where you do your work. Do you have an official studio or have you carved out a nook in your home?
I have an office at home with two desks. One desk is for paperwork and other is for painting and drawing. I also have a large dog bed in the room so my pups can hang out with me.
What is your background in art/design? What got you started creating?
I am a self-taught artist. I learned to paint with watercolor from watching YouTube videos, tutorials on Skillshare and reading books. I enjoy the process of learning, so I am constantly trying to brush up my skills while trying to expand my medium. For example, I recently started studying hand lettering. I started creating when I left my 9 to 5 office job and was feeling a bit lost. I started drawing with my patient husband’s help (he has a degree in art) thinking it will be therapeutic. However, I started enjoying it more than I had expected! It’s just pure joy to paint animals and see how it comes to life on paper.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I sometimes have a concept already in mind, but when I don’t, I look through pictures to find inspiration. As for pictures, I occasionally go to museums, zoos, conservations to take photos myself. I also have used pictures from websites such as Wildlife Reference Photos and Pixabay.
When do you feel most creative? Your least?
I feel most creative when my mind feels refreshed. I try not to push myself when I am not in a mood to design or paint. Instead, I read, meditate, or go for a run. I also intentionally take breaks during painting because when I come back from a break, I tend to have a fresher perspective and notice something I’d like to fix or proceed differently.
What are your favorite products to design on Zazzle?
Address labels! I’ve purchased the labels before and they are in such great quality and so practical. Since I know how great of a product it is, it gives me more motivation to design. 🙂 I also like designing for all the paper products such as Post-its® Notes, notebooks, greeting cards by adding names, initials and messages so people can personalize them.
If you could wish for one new product on Zazzle, what would it be and why?
Stickers and/or enamel pins that are cut out to the shape of your design. Just because they are so trendy right now. Also, doggie bandanas that are in a triangle shape that can be snapped on, so I can design and purchase for my dogs. I’m sure a lot of pet owners would love that too.
What was the very first Zazzle product that you sold?
A coffee mug with the logo of my store. My dear friend purchased it from my store. <3 Shout out to Marina for being there for me throughout my journey and being the #1 fan of my work!
What Are Your 5 Favorite Products in Your Store?
Do you have any advice for new Zazzle Designers?
-Set up achievable goals for yourself
-Know that someone will like your artwork
-Don’t try to aim for perfection
-Appreciate each sale you make
-Surround yourself with positive people who can inspire you
The best advice I received was to treat your art as a business. If you keep treating it like a hobby, people aren’t going to take it seriously either! It’s really important to have that right mindset.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you?
Please check out my website at www.namibear.com and follow me on social media. If you are fellow Zazzle designers be sure to mention it so I can follow you back! I also do custom pet portraits 🙂