Livin’ a Pug Life: Groovy Grandma Vibes and Body Positivity with Designer Mirmsy
Getting in the right mood to talk about Mirmsy’s (aka Miriam Barse) art involves borrowing a line from the cartoon cult classic Adventure Time: “C’mon, grab your friends!” Let’s frolic in the upbeat pastels and pop-culture puns that make up the loveable and unique artistry of Mirmsy. Web and graphic designer, jewelry and upcycled clothing maker, and overall jack-of-all-trades, Mirmsy’s wares are the stuff of Instagram impulse buys and unstoppable late-night giggling. Even nowadays, you’d have to be dead inside not to crack a smile at her punny resin pins with quotes like “Ovaries over brovaries” or “Talk Bernie to me.” Hitting the millenial and Gen Z pop-culture sweet spot in a polished and professional way isn’t easy, but this 26 year old who describes herself as having “big grandma energy” has the whimsy and confidence to make it all work.
“I just want to add some brightness and levity to my little corner of the world.”
Mirmsy’s day job may be working in web design at the University of Utah College of Humanities, but her roots come from the East Coast, as she studied fine arts education at the College of Charleston. Even with technological and academic cred, Mirmsy’s style still stays true to her self and aims to bring some uncomplicated joy to the people who view or wear her art. “I think my style comes from mixing a delicious blend of humor, whimsy and too many pastel colors. My goal for everything I create is to make people smile or feel related to in some way,” Mirmsy says. “I love getting comments from people that seeing my stickers make them laugh, or they love wearing my earrings and shirts. I just want to add some brightness and levity to my little corner of the world.”
Her nods to Japanese and American animation in her illustrations are inviting—wearing a piece of Mirmsy’s art, whether sustainable textile or jewelry, feels empowering and jives with the lighter, more loving side of today’s culture. This is an approach to practical art and craft that bridges fans from opposite sides of the globe and many different age groups. “My biggest inspiration has been Hayao Miyazaki, and discovering his movies really ignited my imagination and they are still my go-to movies when I’m running low on creative energy,” she says. “The way he blends the whimsical, magical realm with lovingly relatable characters and slice-of-life storytelling is so captivating to me.” Mirmsy’s original characters—like the plant lady surrounded by potted friends featured on one of her T-shirts—bring the same sense of lovability and depth with a simple and straightforward line style.
“Inspiration really can come from anywhere for me. Ideas come from anything that I find adorable, things that make me laugh (mostly bad puns), or the little moments that get me to just stop and appreciate life (my pug’s splooty booty).”
While Mirmsy draws characters like Howl from Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle, the Goblin King from Labyrinth or Finn from Adventure Time in her work on Instagram or her website, she also pulls from her own life and unique, quirky sense of humor and fashion. An original upcycled T-shirt and crop top offerings have two strategically placed flames on the chest—giving the wearer the chance to channel the same confident energy that Mirmsy herself radiates. Her adorable pug dog (who she describes with the formula: loaf of bread + manatee + piggy = pug) is a frequent star of her Instagram posts. Mirmsy says, “Inspiration really can come from anywhere for me. Ideas come from anything that I find adorable, things that make me laugh (mostly bad puns), or the little moments that get me to just stop and appreciate life (my pug’s splooty booty). I’ve been drawing inspiration from vintage novelty knitwear lately. Think granny meets Ms. Frizzle. #stylegoals.”
For all the laughs and the groovy grandma vibes, Mirmsy also engages with serious issues like body positivity or how to transform social media into something empowering for women and members of marginalized communities. In an age where we’re all barraged with messages about how people should look and act, Mirmsy’s illustrations of happy women of all shapes and colors (even in her signature pastel hues of yellow and purple!) are welcome rays of sunshine when you scroll through your Instagram feed.
“Your worth comes from who you are and how you treat those around you—the things you create, the laughs you share, the people you touch.”
“Every person has so much worth and value, and society starts teaching us young that that value comes from what we look like, but our bodies are not who we are, and we have so much to offer as beautiful, unique individuals,” Mirmsy says. “Your worth comes from who you are and how you treat those around you—the things you create, the laughs you share, the people you touch. It doesn’t come from how much you fit into society’s very narrow (and let’s be real, unattainable) beauty standards. It’s something I have to keep re-learning, and I hope my art can help people with that journey as well.”