The Making Of Santa Fe

Olivia Schafer is an artist living in Brooklyn, NY. She’s also a member of Aviary’s Product Team and the creative mastermind behind our new sticker pack Santa Fe, which (you guessed it) is inspired by its namesake. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how Olivia designed this collection of desert-themed stickers. 


The idea for Santa Fe came from my childhood growing up in a small town outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Even though I moved away 10 years ago to pursue my BFA in San Francisco, the desert resonated with me so profoundly that it continues to inspire my work.

Saying that New Mexico is inspiring simply because it is beautiful doesn't do it justice. It’s inspiring because the ground undulates when the sun beats down in the summer. The smell of sagebrush and drying chilies perfume autumn skies. Adobe houses sit quietly in the dead of winter like cozy refuges, smoke rising from their chimneys. You can see the passing of seasons in the dying tumbleweed that started its life as an unassuming young plant. There’s beauty in the everyday, like the texture of saddle blankets, kiva ladders and pottery, and the understated green of a cactus. And when you stare out into the expansive night, it makes you feel so very, very small.

Those quintessentially New Mexican scenes stir up a weighty feeling of nostalgia for me. I wanted to share a piece of those idiosyncrasies in the stickers. Here’s how I created the Santa Fe pack with that in mind:


My first step before starting any project is to collect references. These can come from anywhere and everywhere - photos I’ve taken myself, the internet, history books and even encyclopedias.

I tried to capture the earthy tones of the desert soil and use dynamic cacti textures to create embellishments that would complement a wide variety of photos.


Every sticker in the Santa Fe pack started as a hand drawing. I made rough pencil sketches, which I then drew over with a thin micron pen. The final step was using Adobe’s Shape app to convert my sketch into a vector, making it really easy to pull into Photoshop.


I applied the same technique I use for oil paintings when adding color to these stickers: adding layers upon layers of brushstrokes. I began by applying layers of shadows and midtones, then added areas of light, and finally finished up with highlights and accent strokes. I tried to focus on creating beautiful colors and textures, keeping everything loose, and embracing imperfections.

Voilà, that’s my Santa Fe pack and you can download it now in Aviary! I hope you have as much fun using these stickers on your photos as I did making them.