For artist and entrepreneur Rae Lang, both life and work revolve around spreading the woosah. What’s that, you ask? “I don’t even know where I picked up the word,” she laughs, “but I say it all the time to friends. It’s supposed to help you relax. It’s like an inhale and an exhale when you say it.” For Lang, woosah means inner peace and stillness, and it’s a vibe she strives to cultivate in her businesses, retail shop Woosah Outfitters and its adjacent coffee shop, Outside Coffee, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Lang, 31, creates the majority of the goods lining the shelves at Woosah Outfitters. As a woodcut printmaker, she carves images into a wood block, then inks it to make prints with an etching press. Her designs—often swirling depictions of mushrooms, fish, bears, mountains, and other parts of the natural world—adorn everything from T-shirts to mugs to headlamps. Lang also collaborates with other brands and organizations, like Merrell (for which she’s created five T-shirt graphics) and the North Country Trail Association, designing woodcut trail-map prints for a fundraising auction. And last year, she reinterpreted the Public Lands logo for an exclusive apparel line, too.
When she’s not working on her next woodcut or running her businesses, you’ll find Lang fat biking, hiking, or backpacking with her two dogs. She lives in Grand Rapids with her wife (and the CFO of Woosah Outfitters), Kelly McPhee, and their newborn son, Howie.
We caught up with Lang to hear more about her creative process, building a successful business with zero experience, and how the outdoors inspires her.
PUBLIC LANDS: How did you get started as an artist?
RAE LANG: I went to an art college in town, Kendall College of Art and Design, for industrial design. But industrial design is very tight, not a loose flow of creativity for me. I started making art after school to relax, and nature has always been my inspiration. I signed [my work] Woosah: Nature—and making art gives me the same feeling of being at peace and being connected to something bigger. It started taking over my life. I started doing pop-up shops. One day, I was like, ‘If this is what I love to do, why don’t I pursue this full-time?’ Then I started carving woodcuts and fell in love with it.
How did you turn that passion into Woosah Outfitters?
Finding your woosah is about chasing your passions. After I graduated college, I wanted to make [art] my job. So I took out a loan and bought my own press. Six months later, I signed a lease for a storefront. I didn’t have enough money to start my own store, which I didn’t realize until after I signed the lease. I had a successful Kickstarter campaign [for $27,000] and opened in 2015. Then I realized my true passion is community, so we decided to find a space where we could open a coffee shop.
I have no business background. It’s all been ‘learn as you go.’ In the beginning, I would just shove all my receipts into a shoebox. Eventually, when we were making the move to the new location, I got legit and hired an accountant.