Greetings Cam aka Baomii! Thank you for your time doing this interview with our online/content director Monk.
You're a prominent illustrator on multiple channels of the internet, who's designed loads of cute and cozy goods from phone grips, keychains and plushies, to stationeries like stickers and memo pads, and icon packs for phone and desktop. By trade you're a designer at Disney TV, and it seems that making baomii moniker goods is your creative pet passion, which many of us collectors of cute *have* to thank you for.
If I remember correctly, you reached out to us and sent over a few of your memo pads and stickers, which the staff instantly gravitated towards and asked if we were going to carry. Omoi staffers, however they dress, love cute stuff especially character goods, but for years we had to avoid ~selling~ overtly cute goods because of a detrimental association that, because we sold some choice cute things, our entire store ought to be a low price novelty shop. I don't know if you've ever had difficulties like that, but luckily for us those times are over. It seems that there's a larger awareness of cute culture in general, so that our interesting and fashionable customers shamelessly stock up on cute stationery right alongside their cool lifestyle picks.
With cute design lifestyle on the mind, let's get to these questions. =)
1) What kind of environment did you come up in, and what kind of environment do you like to make for yourself today?
Middle class, east coast, suburban farmland. Something funny I always love to tell people is that I’d pass by cows and horses on the bus ride to school! I grew up in a culturally diverse environment which I’m so grateful for as an adult because it definitely helped shape my outlook by learning more about my own culture or “world,” other people’s worlds, and the world that exists around us. Currently, I love decorating my space with all kinds of cute collectible knick knacks and being able to create art and merch inspired by my interests in Asian culture and fashion.
2) What kind of stuff were you into when you were around thirteen? Any advice for thirteen-year-olds today?
I was sooo freaking obsessed with Maplestory, this super cute pixel side scrolling MMORPG, Neopets, a virtual pet site, Adventure Quest, a flash-run RPG, and this avatar forum site called Gaia Online. That being said, I wasn’t any good at gaming - can you be a bad at being a nerd?? Is that a thing? Anyway, I really loved fantasy games with fun character customization so I think that really influenced my work today. Advice for 13 year olds: GLOW UPS ARE REAL!! Also, it’s okay to feel like a weirdo or an outsider sometimes. Enjoy being a dumb silly kid!! Most people feel awkward in different ways and you are not alone.
3) What's your stance on magic?
Yes. Magic exists all around us. It’s in the quiet moments, the loud laughs shared with friends, and the vibrancy of life itself. Also, from an artist’s perspective, to be able to create ~*something*~ from “nothing” is truly extraordinary magic (and of course, years of practice and hard work).
4) I notice you avoid the use of black outlines in your work, making your illustration style soft, ephemeral, and maybe almost creamy. Motifs of foodstuffs and sunset skies recur. Can you talk about your baomii style?
Hmm art style is always a fun topic to discuss, because I think a lot of young artists often worry about having a voice and being unique… Personally I think having a “voice” is just something that happens over time, and it’s also something that continues to evolve. ~*baomii style*~ is really just a mixture of all the things I love and gravitate to: food, fashion, manga and anime, vinyl toys, original mascot characters, playful graphic design and cute stationery.
It’s funny you brought up my lack of black outlines in my art because it’s actually a decision I made out of feeling like I wasn’t very good at drawing, so I just gave up lineart! Ironically though, most of my favorite artists use lineart and black outlines in their work, and it’s something that I’d love to get back into in the future. Every now and then I try it out again, but it hasn’t really stuck. I think I’ve just accepted that lineart isn’t something that has to be “my style” and that’s ok. In the end, I love trying new things and part of baomii style is definitely just experimenting all the time.
5) Do you have any deep thoughts about character goods or the use of cute in design that you wish to share?
Like you brought up, cute character goods and art styles that come from cute culture, or more specifically, kawaii culture, has often had negative associations with being childish, kitschy and not something to take seriously. However, thanks to the recent y2k trend in media and fashion, many millennials and Gen Zs are looking back with childhood nostalgia toward characters from Sanrio, San-X, Studio Ghibli, etc., which has really helped create a revival for cute and adorable things - making them cool and trendy. Personally, I think that a lot of this nostalgia also stems from a desire to return to simpler times. Cuteness is comforting, and comfort is healing.
Fun Fact*: Hello Kitty’s face, made of two black eyes, a yellow button nose, and no mouth is meant to be a blank slate. Her lack of expression allows the viewer to project their own emotions onto her being. Similarly, the way cute characters simply *are*, people are able to feel and express in a different way. I hope my own characters will also bring people comfort and joy. ^__^
*I learned this fact writing a 20 plus page thesis paper on Hello Kitty in college from the book Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific by Christine R. Yano
6) What's something you'll spend money on, and something you refuse to spend too much money on?
Anything I fall in love with that I know will have a long life in my closet! A unique Vivienne Westwood corset or vintage graphic tee… But I would never, EVER splurge on basics. I think I only own a single white tee in my closet?? And I bought that shirt like, a few months ago, just last year. It’s called basic for a reason!! I respect that some people are minimalists but there is simply no need for expensive ~luxury~ basics. Maybe I’m just salty over a super cute basic cropped hoodie that was a tad too pricey though… Ugh, rude!! >:-( (Will I stay strong or will I cave? Only time will tell…)
7) Area fashion trend you wish would come back? (Or, what's cute lately?)
90’s and Y2k fashion has been coming back for a while now, and I’m just really in love with finding deadstock pieces from that era like a rare Hysteric Glamour tank or skirt and mixing it with modern pieces from today. I also love the whole maximalism trend and the way people have been expressing their interests thru collecting things like keychains and charms and showcasing them on their phones or bags!! Everything feels so personalized and fun.
8) Area fashion trend you wish would retire? (Or, what's NOT cute lately?)
Mmm… I feel like I’m *finally* over high waisted jeans… Or maybe not, I dunno! I just want my food baby to be able to breathe after a big meal LOL.
9) What's something you wish people engaged with more?
There’s been a lot of new changes with social media and AI technology these days that make being an artist very discouraging. I hope it doesn’t deter young artists from creating and sharing online and I hope more than ever that people will support artists, engage with their work and show some love.
10) And, any shout outs?
Shoutout to my partner Max, my family and friends, and anyone who’s helped support me as an artist by purchasing from the baomii shop or sharing my work online~ Thank you so much for the love! And of course, special thanks to Omoi Zakka for being the best <333