Local artist and designer Jenny Wantland is a Tucsonan through and through.
She starts every morning the same way: waking up around 5 a.m. as the sun begins to rise and peeks through a window in her Tucson home. She then makes her way to the desert area surrounding her home to take in the fresh Sonoran Desert air and the warm Arizona sun.
“I just sit out there and I just let that sun heat me up and it's just impossible not to feel inspired,” she says.
She uses the inspiration from the Sonoran Desert to design and hand-paint wool hats that she sells through her online shop, Luna Bloom.
The boho wide brim hats feature paintings of the fauna and flora of the Sonoran Desert, including saguaros, snakes, coyotes and even the moon.
“Everything is inspired, even things that don't look inspired, by Tucson,” Wantland says. “They're somehow inspired by the desert. So, I would say the desert is kind of my girl, she kind of does most of the work.”
Since the shop’s start nearly three years ago, Wantland’s following has grown from 300 Instagram followers to more than 30,000 followers and has caught the likes of locals and star-studded celebrities like Heidi Gardner from "Saturday Night Live" and Jillian Rose Reed from MTV’s "Awkward," who have both donned the desert-inspired hats, according to Wantland.
Wantland started Luna Bloom after she decided to leave her job in education and follow her lifelong passions for fashion and art.
“It started from a whole life of really loving fashion and really loving art, that's the two things I did my whole life,” she says. “As I got older, I would be commissioned to do work here and there and just, eventually, kind of blended the two worlds together and just had this creative idea. It was something that I hadn't seen and wasn't being done. And I thought, ‘OK, this could be something cool’ and just felt drawn to.”
But the idea of making the change was inspired by someone close to Wantland who wanted to see her utilize her art and fashion skills — her mom.
“I remember talking to my mom one day on the phone and she's like, ‘It's a shame you're not painting more and using your talents,’ you know how moms are,” Wantland says. “And I had just bought a new hat and then I remember looking at it like ‘Man, it'd be so much sicker if it had like a snake wrapped around the top.’”
One of Wantland's signature designs is a hand-painted snake that curves around the wide-brim hat. But, Wantland’s favorite creation is a red wool hat with hand-painted black coyotes and white moons.
In true artist style, many of Wantland’s creations are one-of-a-kind designs that come from her experiences of living in the Old Pueblo, meaning that she often retires designs after one of her bi-monthly online hat drops.
“When the first drop sold out, I was kind of like, ‘Well, that was weird. I wonder what that was all about? Like, that was so strange, that shouldn't have happened,’” she says. “Now we're coming on three years and to have this following that not only appreciates your art and wants to support you, I think I'm very lucky.”
The desert-inspired hats range from $230 to $250. Luna Bloom’s next hat drop featuring around 10 new designs is at 10 a.m. on June 3.
‘A labor of love’ 🎨
Wantland sometimes spends 10-hour workdays, working until 3 a.m., painting the intricate designs on the Luna Bloom hats with paints and colors she manufactures at her home studio.
“Every hat is different,” she says. “They all take a while, but some are definitely a labor of love. I always say I can't guarantee I'm going to ever do a design again because, you know, I go off a lot of the experience of it and if the experience of making it doesn't just feel right, I retire it right then and there, after that day.”
Regardless of what design you choose, Wantland hopes that its wearer feels confidence, happiness and the “love from the hat pouring back in,” she says.
“I just feel so honored that they're allowing me to be a part of their trip to the grocery store or walking down Congress (Street), you know, or whatever it is that they're doing,” Wantland says.
As the shop’s customer base began to grow, so did the amount of work that needed to be done. Initially, Wantland handled all aspects of the business, including designing, painting, steaming hats, checking for quality control and all logistics like checking emails and shipping out hats.
The shop was primarily a one-woman show until about a year ago, when her husband, Nick, joined the shop full-time to help with the business side of things. But despite his helping hand on the administrative side, he says that Jenny is the “mastermind, artist and everything else.”
“Everything is so effortless and seamless,” he says. “There’s no downside to it (working together), it's all upside. It's all super fun. We get to hang out together all day and she has her little office, her art area and I get to stand next to her all day and pack and answer emails and do all those fun things.”
‘A Tucsonan to the bone’ 🏜️
Despite Luna Bloom’s growing success, Wantland wants to keep the business operating from her at-home studio to remain close to what matters most to her: her family.
“I try to get in touch with myself and remember the purpose of it,” she says. “And a lot of the purpose is to be home and be there for my children growing up and be a part of their daily lives and their education. And also, for them to be a part of a creative world, you know, I think is a cool thing that a lot of kids don't get to grow up to be a part of.”
With no plans anytime soon for a brick-and-mortar shop, Luna Bloom’s online storefront will continue to sell specially designed and painted Sonoran Desert-inspired hats for the foreseeable future and even possibly have a label of unpainted Luna Blooms hats to come in the future.
“She's a Tucsonan to the bone,” her husband says. “It's not like some sort of marketing trick. The whole desert thing, that's who she is to the core. And all of this stuff, all the artwork, everything about her business is just a way of representing Tucson.”