LFM #24 – Emmaline on Creativity, Cat Mugs, and Inspiration from Nature

I’ve been fortunate enough to know Emmaline for most of her life. She’s been a bonus little sister and a bonus aunt to my kids—and her creativity, vision, and zest for all that life has to offer have inspired me for years. I’m beyond excited to know her and share her story. 

Emmaline is about to start her final year of attending the University of Illinois for her Bachelor’s degree, double-majoring in photography and graphic design. She is a photographer, designer, artist, candle-maker, crafter, and guinea pig mother, among other things. 


“Here’s the thing,” Emma confesses. “I’m not a morning person… I wish I was a morning person, but I’m just not. My ideal morning, I’d wake up around 9:30 or 10. Earlier than that? Just… no.” Emma then will make coffee (preferably out of a cat mug). “My mugs just make my day happier… you can’t go wrong with a good cat mug. I have lots of them,” she shares. 

She has three guinea pigs that need tending when she wakes up—Guggenheim, Salvador, and Guillermo. “My guinea pigs are my best friends,” Emma laughs. The pigs have to have hay at all times, guinea pig food pellets, and veggies. “I’ll usually go out onto the balcony, where I have basil, chives, lavender, and tomatoes growing… they love having a little basil for a treat.” 

 She also listens to podcasts while getting ready. “Press Send, with Chinae Alexander, is my favorite… I also love What We Said with Jaci Marie Smith.” Emmaline usually has somewhere to go in the afternoon each day—whether meeting a client for coffee or another creative friend. “Pekara in Champaign has been a current favorite; great coffee, great snacks, and parking! I also love Avionics… their rosemary mochas are amazing.” Then she’ll either work on freelance graphic design, a school project if it’s in session, or her new endeavor—Mint & the Moon candles, she and her boyfriend, Alex, have started. “I feel like all my days are different, but I love it.” 

 “I light a candle each morning—I love smells,” she laughs. “My mom always had candles going, and if we were shopping, we would go to White Barn Candle Co., Bath and Body Works, and smell everything… in my dorms, I couldn’t have candles, and that was upsetting to me, for sure. Now that I’ve had my own apartment a few years, it makes it feel like a home, like it’s actually your space.”


“I’m such a night creative,” Emma says. “That’s when I get my crazy ideas. We’ve been implementing art night with friends, where we have wine and do art. Just having a set time when. You know you’re going to work on it… someone to hold you accountable to really have that time and just work on it, not just watch TV, is so important.” Emmaline will even FaceTime with friends while they both paint. 

The candle company came from one such night creative session. “I had to do a project for class, re-making a brand, but ethical. So I chose a candle company… making it sustainable, switching out paraffin wax for soy.” Alex is a chemical engineering major, also at the University of Illinois, and offered to help mixing the scents. “Alex was like… we should just do this! Really do it! It’d be a really fun hobby to do together… and so I did all the branding; Alex is so good at the measuring, testing, and science side of getting it right… and that’s how it came to be.” 

They currently have three scents: Dusk, Garden, and Rain. “The dusk scent is my perfect candle,” Emma says. “Alex prefers clean and airy smells, and I want those really masculine scents. A lot of candle companies just order a scent, use that fragrance, and name it that fragrance. I knew I wanted to mix scents, make them our own, and be really creative with them… like with dusk, this is exactly what dusk should smell like, in my mind. It creates that feeling.” 

Emmaline says her main inspiration for everything in art is the human connection with nature. “I grew up with the woods in my backyard… we’re all connected with nature; there is that connection to the world. Re-creating those moments you have with the world around you, whether with scents or visually, is really where all my inspiration springs from.” 

My Darling Loren is Emma’s personal brand for her visual artwork. “I’m spending my summer honing that vision as well,” she says. “I’m excited to do more art and craft shows.” 

 “My guinea pigs are creative beings, too,” she laughs. “Really, though, it’s funny what people like… people like weird things! My most-sold print, thus far, has been of one of my guinea pigs.” 

When your hobbies turn into your career, as so many creatives’ do, overthinking it can lead to burnout quickly. “Getting a second opinion is huge,” Emma says. “I tend to overthink everything… we can all relate to that! So asking friends I trust when I’m second-guessing, or sleeping on it for a couple of days, and really giving myself time… that really helps. I’m so lucky to have Alex, too, who doesn’t overthink things in the way I do.” 

“When I think back, ‘why did I go into photography?’ I didn’t do any photography in high school. 

How did I know I was going to be good at it? But somehow I did… and through it, I’ve definitely become more creative in college,” Emma says. “Having more freedom and being able to connect with more people has made me way more creative; connecting with creatives in Champaign-Urbana and talking with them has been huge. The most useful thing I’ve gotten out of college is definitely connections… the ability to create those connections.”

You can follow Emmaline here, find her photography here, and, if you’re in the Champaign-Urbana central Illinois area, can see her at MadeFest in September for Mint & the Moon candles, illustrations, and more. 

That’s when I get my crazy ideas. We’ve been implementing art night with friends, where we have wine and do art. Just having a set time when. You know you’re going to work on it… someone to hold you accountable to really have that time and just work on it, not just watch TV, is so important.
— Emmaline Fleener