From desert flowers and cacti to skulls and roadrunners, these are just some of the things incorporated into the designs of local artist Keena Wolff, who recently started an online apparel business called Skulls and Succulents.
Along with apparel for men and women, including t-shirts, tank tops and long-sleeved shirts, and Hoodies the website, skullsandsucculents.com, also offers art prints, posters, and mugs featuring Wolff’s southwestern-themed geometric and nature print designs.
“While I do see a lot of New Mexico t-shirts around, I want to get into the niche of more ‘trendy and cool,’ because I feel like my designs are (two words) you don’t hear a lot together, which is contemporary southwestern,” Wolff said.
Wolff said while she likes the traditional New Mexico and southwestern t-shirts, she thinks younger people are looking for a more modern way to showcase their New Mexico pride.
“Yes, it’s southwestern, but I don’t want you to think, ‘cowboy hats,’” she said. “Not that that’s bad, but the newer generation that’s coming up, they have pride, but they don’t want to wear the yellow shirt with the red Zia symbol. My designs are a little more special in the fact that I try to do eye-catching designs — just trying to (create) that contemporary vibe a little more.”
Wolff said the tagline for Skulls and Succulents is “Amazing Apparel for Desert Dwellers,” and that she hopes her designs give customers a new way to show others that they are proud of where they come from.
“I was born and raised here in New Mexico, and I’ve also lived other places as well,” she said. “I came back because nowhere else has the culture and the pride that (New Mexico) has. This is a really beautiful place and there’s really nowhere else like it.”
A collection of designs featured on the website is called the Gold Series, which includes a little bit of the color gold in each design. A wide range of colors and sizes are offered for each piece of clothing. All t-shirts and tank tops are sold at $20 and long sleeved shirts are $25. Other products range from $10 to $16. Shipping is free for all products.
Wolff said she picks out all the colors and clothing styles for her designs to ensure that customers are getting a quality product.
The newest series is called the Copper Series, each design takes roughly 2 weeks to complete and is researched heavily by Wolff herself.
Bottle: A cute little succulent in a bottle!
Dream Catcher: Dreamcatchers originated with the Ojibwe people and were gradually adopted by some neighboring nations through intermarriage and trade. It wasn’t until the Pan-Indian Movement of the 1960s and 1970s that they were also adopted by Native Americans of a large number of diverse cultures.
Jackalope: The jackalope is a mythical animal of North American folklore (a fearsome critter) described as a jackrabbit with antelope horns. The word “jackalope” is a portmanteau of “jackrabbit” and “antelope”, although the jackrabbit is not a rabbit, and the pronghorn is not an antelope. Many jackalope taxidermy mounts, including the original, are made with deer antlers.
Snake: The rattle is composed of a series of hollow, interlocked segments made of keratin, which are created by modifying the scales that cover the tip of the tail. The contraction of special “shaker” muscles in the tail causes these segments to vibrate against one another, making the rattling noise (which is amplified because the segments are hollow) in a behavior known as tail vibration. The muscles that cause the rattle to shake are some of the fastest known, firing 50 times per second on average, sustained for up to three hours
Zia: The Zia regard the Sun as a sacred symbol. Their symbol, a red circle with groups of rays pointing in four directions, is painted on ceremonial vases, drawn on the ground around campfires, and used to introduce newborns to the Sun. Four is the sacred number of the Zia and can be found repeated in the four points radiating from the circle. The number four is embodied in:
- the four points of the compass (north, south, east and west);
- the four seasons of the year (spring, summer, autumn and winter);
- the four periods of each day (morning, noon, evening and night);
- the four seasons of life (childhood, youth, middle years and old age); and
- the four sacred obligations one must develop (a strong body, a clear mind, a pure spirit, and a devotion to the welfare of others), according to Zia belief.
The symbol is featured on the Flag of New Mexico and in the design of both the New Mexico State Capitol and New Mexico’s State Quarter entry, as well as the state highway marker.
Wolff said she has been creating art her entire life and that she was initially trained by her parents. She also took a graphic design internship in St. Louis, Missouri and has worked at several studios. The designs featured on the Skulls and Succulents website are the finished product of drawings that Wolff has been hard at work on in her spare time.
“All the sudden, it hit me,” Wolff said. “This would be an amazing t-shirt design. When the Gold Series was born, it was just a collection of designs focusing on the desert and the flowers and the animals.”
Wolff said as her business expands, she hopes to sell additional products online, as well as branch out, selling her apparel and products through other outlets.
“Right now, I wanted to see if people would be interested (in my products), but in the very near future, I want to look at doing the farmers market and reaching out to local retailers and giving them a small supply station to sell directly to customers,” she said.
Wolff, who thinks it's important for people to follow their dreams, said she has put other things in her life on hold to focus solely on growing her business.
"Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something!" -Keena
“It’s amazing apparel for desert dwellers, so anyone interested in art and (southwestern) pride should definitely check it out," she said. "You’ve got to wear something so you might as well make it something cool that makes a statement about you.”
To make a purchase, visit skullsandsucculents.com.