Meet the local artist living in a world inspired by Nickelodeon cartoons

Natalie Torres Gallagher

Corntemporary Designs
Photography by Samantha Levi.

For the last year, Erin McAnany has been living in a cartoon world. Under her year-old brand Corntemporary Designs (@corntemporarydesigns), McAnany offers a slew of products loosely inspired by 90s Nickelodeon classics (Rugrats, SpongeBob) and Bill Amend’s FoxTrotcomics. The influences come out in chunky resin rings and noodle-y pillows she calls “knotties.”

“It’s bringing a little bit of the cartoon world into the boring grown-up world,” McAnany says.Ahead of her gallery show on Saturday, Oct. 23, we talked with McAnany about how she got started and where you can find some of her favorite Kansas City shops and makers.

How did you start Corntemporary Designs? It started out of my apartment, which is where everything starts. I did this blind contour drawing of Mona Lisa and started sewing fabric drawings of it onto shirts and tote bags, and they were really selling.

Tell us about your product line. After the Mona Lisa products, I started making car-toon cow and sunny-side egg rings dipped in resin. Then I started making the knot-ties. I came up with the idea from those pregnancy body pillows. The knotties are tube pillows you can knot or unknot. I like to wear mine like a comforter [around my shoulders].

What materials do you use and where do you find them? For the knotties, I find all my materials at Scraps or thrift stores. It started like that because I didn’t want to buy new fabric—I was interested in vintage fabric, and that’s so expensive. So instead, I’d find sheets and comforters with great prints or colors. All my rings and ceramics are made with Sculpey clay. That was the first clay I ever used when I was five years old. At the start of the pandemic, I picked up Sculpey clay again. To make rings, I shape and bake the clay in my oven. After that, I resin-dip the rings, which is an insanely messy and frustrating process, but it makes them sturdier.

What’s your inspiration? My dad was a full-time artist, and he passed away almost six years ago. Neither my brother nor I had seen art as a career, but something clicked when the pandemic hit. We’ve since both left our jobs and have a gallery and studio space together in the Westside. We don’t know if the energy went from our dad to us, but we’re trying to ride the wave.

My style is definitely different from my dad’s, though. I don’t know what hit me over quarantine, but I could not stop designing cow prints. We’re in Cowtown, and people forget cows literally made this town, so it’s a little hometown pride. I want to bring Cowtown back in a cute way.

KC Favorites

Shopping Fuel: There’s never a morning I wake up where I’m not thinking about Billie’s Grocery treats. I crave the middle piece of their banana bread, always. Also, Crows Coffee does a great matcha green tea latte.

Scenter of Attention: My mom, Nancy McAnany, has owned Perfect Scents since she was pregnant with me. She does custom fragrances and has every brand of perfume you can think of, plus designer dupes. I love adding Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue to the Revitalizing Hydrator.

Trail Time: I really love the trails in Roanoke Park—those were important for my mental health during quarantine. If I’m having a rough day, I’m taking a hot girl walk. I also picked up roller skating during quarantine, and I do that on the Riverfront Trail.

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