This is the seventh article in a seven-part series interviewing independent small business owners in the apothecary space.
Linda and John Meyers are the epitomai of post-painterly cool. Their work with Wary Meyers can be found almost in every store in the U.S. and around the world, and their sophisticated taste (in combination with an enviable wealth of knowledge in art and design history), make them a power duo worth studying. Linda and John are also artists in the purest sense: they have a tremendous library of inspiration that takes the forms of Color-aid books, back issues of design, fashion, and lifestyle magazines, and live in an environment of colorful splendor (check out their amazing home on Curbed). Moreover, Linda and John’s story is a treasure trove of inspiring success in building a life that translates to more time spent with family, finding true autonomy in creativity, and contributing to a more beautiful world — one soap and candle creation at a time.
Take us back to the beginning: what are your backgrounds and how did you two meet?
I was working as a graphic designer at an ad agency in New York City and John was the Corporate Display Director for Anthropologie. We met a party in Brooklyn. John was also a painter and artsy and had a cool belt buckle on and I had a trompe-l’œil dress on and we hit it off talking about vintage things and flea markets.
How was Wary Meyers conceived?
Once we got together and became a couple, our friends in New York sort of wanted the same aesthetic, which we were cultivating, so we said okay, we’ll design your apartment, your shop, your windows, your whatever! This then led to a magazine column, then a book, then more “location” work: installations, interior design, consulting. We decided to make candles because it was really one of the most fun parts of an interior decorating job — that last, objet, which personalizes the space. Plus, making candles meant we could work from home, and utilize our love of graphic design as well, with the packaging.
In what ways do you collaborate and marry both worlds of graphic design and fine art when working on the Wary Meyers product and brand?
When we started making soap, John took over the candle production so I could make the soap. We collaborate on everything, and share the same aesthetic, so luckily it all gels together. I think the most obvious “marriage” of those two worlds, graphic design and fine art, is the bright colors and bold stripes of the soaps [that] inspired the “hard edge” school of painting (Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, Josef Albers). The candle packaging is a little more 70s-inspired: a swashy font and the sunrise over the water graphic (although sometimes I look at it like a moonrise, or the moon through clouds … it’s open for interpretation!
How did you choose Portland, Maine as a home for your life and work?
My parents live up here in the summer, on an island, and each time we visited we liked Maine more and more: the woods, the sea, the islands, and a refreshing lack of anxiety that city living created. We’ve since moved out to a house in Cumberland, Maine — the previous owners built a beauty salon addition for the lady of the house, so we work from there now. Occasionally, we still get walk-ins.
“We collaborate on everything, and share the same aesthetic, so luckily it all gels together.”
What does your creative process look like when working out new ideas for Wary Meyers?
A lot of brainstorming, post-its, drawing, Color-aid packs … we have a pretty big design book library, and we look through those all the time. Mostly it’s just bouncing ideas off each other. But we have things we’ve always wanted to do: colorways, scents, candle names — its just a matter of finding the time.
When searching for inspiration and an aesthetic closest to what represents your taste and Wary Meyers, do you look to the past or current trends for creative stimuli?
Usually we look to the past: artists, interiors, objects, designers; but we’re working in such a basic motif that we could really look to that Color-aid pack and that would be enough!
What have been the biggest challenges surrounding running Wary Meyers as a business?
Not having enough time. I make the soaps and John makes the candles, and we also need to package them all, put the decals on the boxes, do ordering, inventory, answer emails, maintain our website, etc, etc.
What are your favorite things right now (designers, artist, music, food, etc.)?
I love ceramics by Ben Medansky; the “shimmer” glass tables by Patricia Urquiola; paintings by Greg Bogin; paintings by Kirra Jamison; t-shirts by Monogram Studio, vintage jewelry, music by RAC, protein bars by RXBAR, and matcha lattes.
Happiness is ______________.
… a day off.
What’s next for Wary Meyers?
New colors and scents for our existing line and some collaborations and surprises toward the summer!
Favorites piece of furniture you own (or would like to own)?
Favorite piece we own is our sofa, custom made for a woman in Santa Barbara in the 1970s. Favorite piece I’d like to own is a Pratone (“Big Meadow”), a giant polyurethane foam grass sculpture by Gruppo Strum, 1970.
What awesome item in your closet do you practically wear daily?
My “Tangerine” t-shirt by Monogram Studio.
Thank you, Linda and John for sharing how Wary Meyers was devised (and for giving us large doses of culture and art history folded into your meticulous responses)! Readers can purchase their own gorgeous Wary Meyers products from the team’s online store and in select stores and boutiques globally.