Woodland creatures blooming with color and life. Blackberries so plump and purple you want to reach out and harvest them to taste their sweet nectar. A darling bunny standing on his haunches patiently waiting for you to share your bounty. Dandelions floating on the breeze, and tea cakes smothered in pink buttercream ribbons displayed on giant toadstools.
Welcome to Hazelwood Forest, the enchanting world created by the lovely Sarah Hartsig. Hazelwood was a world created for the love of the little things in life that should be treasured. The smell of hibiscus tea brewing on the stove, adventures big and small, fragrant seasonal pies baked with friends, the smell of roasted chestnuts. Sarah has always been fascinated by the way little creatures scamper and create magic wherever they go.
When I first entered Hazelwood Forest I was instantly enamored. Sarah’s paintings and drawings reminded me of a modern day Beatrix Potter. Every little creature holding their own tale to tell, their own adventure. Magic laced within every brush stroke. A child’s imagination brought to life. Sarah’s use of color is astonishing. She creates vibrancy that is both teeming with life, while remaining calming in its nature. It is my absolute honor to be working with this incredible artist, and I am thrilled to give you an inside look into her wondrous imagination! Enjoy! <3
Hello lovely Sarah! First off, what kind of tea are you drinking whilst responding to these interview questions? Any characters sitting nearby?
I am going to pretend that we are sitting together drinking tea al fresco surrounded by fragrant roses and wild mint. I am enjoying a cup of earl grey tea with a hint of lavender and a splash of almond milk at the moment. Hazelnut Squirrely just pulled a batch of vanilla rose shortbread cookies out of the oven and Pepper is sitting next to me excited to begin answering your questions together.
Where did the inspiration for Hazelwood Forest come from?
The inspiration for Hazelwood Forest began back in 2010 while I was visiting my cousin and her family down in southern Oregon. We spent our days working in the garden, picking blackberries, swimming in the river and visiting antique shops along the winding country roads. The happiness I felt waking every morning to make tea and breakfast with my cousin and her children filled me up to the brim. I loved every minute. Even hanging the laundry out on the line was a treat; especially the way the fabric smelled of sunshine and earth once it was dry. I found myself dreaming up little forest friends and when I returned to Seattle I felt a strong impulse to create and draw scenes from the little world that was quickly forming in my mind. It wouldn’t become ‘Hazelwood Forest’ for another four years.
What is your favorite season?
I love them all so much but my favorites are March-May and September-December. Spring and fall respectively. I find my creativity to really flourish during those times of year. The rituals of fall into Christmas are dear to my heart and help me capture the essence of what Hazelwood Forest feels like to me... Community, family, giving, kindness, caring, and being cozy with lots of treats. Springtime expands my horizons and also
If you could go back in time in history and wield your brushes and pens of today to capture a moment in time, when and where would you go back to and why?
So many thoughts flashed through my mind with this question. I think I would go back in time to Seattle before any humans had ever settled there and (I would be able to fly) would visit the rainforest, paint it, visit the islands and the sound where downtown Seattle is now and paint it, then go to the ocean. Then I would zip over to visit Beatrix Potter and ask her if I could go walking through the Lake District with her and sketch side by side. That would be heaven.
Touch, smell, sight, taste and hearing, out of the five sense which would you say you adore most?
Ah Michelle, this is the impossible question for an artist! I am such a full sensory type of person that it makes this so hard…let me think…
I would have to say sight, touch and taste.
Do you by chance have a character that is very close to your heart?
Absolutely. Pepper and Hazelnut Squirrely. So I suppose I have two characters that are close to my heart but in my mind they are like one because Pepper feels like me at the age of 3 or 4, loving to explore and a bit cheeky but totally sweet and sensitive. Hazelnut Squirrely is me as I am now, loves a cozy nest, like to bake treats and host tea parties etc.
You have a book out, A Party for Pepper! Do you have plans for more books in the future?
Yes! A Party for Pepper was a chance for me to get my feet wet and experience the whole process of making a book from scratch. Now I am ready for the next one! I have a feeling there are going to be quite a few books about Pepper. I intend to create books for as long as I can hold a brush and paint. I would also like to make a woodland inspired cookbook for little ones. There are all kinds of ideas simmering in my mind. I have big plans for Hazelwood Forest.
What do you want others to take away from your artistic creations?
This is a beautiful question. In the beginning, before ‘Hazelwood Forest’ had a name there were many little sketches of a mouse and a squirrel. (They would eventually become Pepper, Earl the Gray and Hazelnut Squirrely) These drawings with their sweet, smiling faces and bright eyes that seemed to say “You are loved” warmed my heart and comforted me during a hard time in my life. I hope other people who look at the characters and begin to know them as friends will also feel loved. The joy that I feel when I am drawing them is so full and warm, like a hug from a dear friend. I want others to feel this love too and if there is a chance that I can somehow translate that through my art to the viewer then I would be overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude. I also hope to inspire others to create and follow their dreams, make something, sing loudly, make messes with paints and colors and get back out into nature and frolic with the birds and squirrels! Oh, and have glorious tea parties with decadent treats out side in the sun or by the light of the moon.
Scent and color to me brings back memories. Are there any scents or colors that bring you back to your childhood? Or any other special memory? Do you utilize the color or the image of the scents that evoke these memories in your work?
One scent-memory I have is coming home from school, 5th or 6th grade, it must have been about 4:30 and dark out because it may have been Jan or Feb. I remember the smell of spaghetti(homemade from scratch) that my mom was cooking. Then as I was almost to the front door, bathed in warm golden light from the kitchen window, I could see my mom in the kitchen stiring the pot of spaghetti. I felt so happy and comforted, totally loved by the feeling of a soon-to-be full tummy of my favorite food.
This memory connects to me know by inspiring me to make spaghetti. The smells are such an inspiration and seem to set the mood for a productive evening of drawing and painting. It's just pure happiness.
What 5 places in the world would you like to visit right now and why?
I would love to visit The Lake District in England where Beatrix Potter lived and wrote her stories. I have always felt deeply attached to the English countryside ever since the first time I stepped foot there. 2. Forrest Row, England. The first place I spent on one of my many visits to the UK. My goddaughter lives there. 3. Woodstock Vermont. I've heard it is one of the most beautiful woodland areas in the States and most like the English countryside.
4. Prince Edward Island. My love for Lucy Maud Montgomery and her book Anne of Green Gables. I've always wanted to frolic through the woods and pretend I am with Anne and Diana.
5. Paris. Because it's magical and love it. Sean and I both love Paris but we have never visited together, so it on our Honeymoon list! :)
What is the future of Hazelwood Forest?
Sean and I hope to build a future for Hazelwood Forest together. Ideally it would be both of our full time jobs and we would work from home somewhere in the countryside. I would like to see this take off in a big way. Building a solid brand known for quality and creativity. I am not interested in tends so much. I love the idea of slowly building onto the stories by merchandising like Beatrix Potter did. Creating quality products that offer people a chance to incorporate Hazelwood Forest into thier daily lives, perhaps clothing, tea, dishes, paper products and of course, more books! :)
As the business grows I want to give back to my little Forest friends by donating to land preservation groups and organizations that help to restore habitats for displaced wildlife.
I'm excited and hopeful about the future. I love my work and feel so much joy and gratitude for all the people who have supported me. My Instagram community is amazing. I feel so blessed to connect with such wonderful people everyday all over the world. What a remarkable thing!
Thank you for taking the time to get to know me a little bit more. I love hearing from fans of Hazelwood Forest so please don't hesitate to drop me an email or connect with me on Instagram! @hazelwoodforest
Pepper, Hazelnut Squirrely and Earl the Gray.