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Artist/Designer Interview
  • Artist Interview with Alison Blair Stern

    When we're on the look out for new artists and producers, first impressions of their designs and the aesthetics of their work are so important. If something grabs us right away, we know others will feel the same way. But things get really interesting when an artist's work starts to evolve and change over time and they take us on a new journey. We've enjoyed going on that ride with Alison Blair Stern, a Colorado artist who we met on our first buying trip to New York City. Sometimes you have to travel away from home to find what's right there in your own back yard.

    Here is our latest artist interview featuring jewelry artist Alison Blair Stern: 

    How did you get started in jewelry design and jewelry making? How did you learn to do what you do?

    I am self-taught. I got started because I was looking for a way to de-stress, so I started stringing beads. I had seen a necklace I loved and decided to try to make it. My mom bet me that I wouldn't do it and I did. Then I went to a local consignment shop and told them I was a jewelry designer and asked if they would carry my jewelry. I made a few pieces and everything sold that weekend. Then I was hooked.

    Where do you find your inspiration - how do you come up with your design ideas?

    I am inspired by very simple designs, in a natural state. That's why I love raw diamonds. I also love playing with color combinations. My father was a fine artist and many of my colors are derived from his early abstracts.

    What are some design elements, materials and/or products that you are particularly excited about right now?

    I love presenting tension in my designs, like the sophistication of diamonds but in their raw state; similarly I've been working a lot with leather, but alongside distressed metals, as you can see in my magnetic arc bracelets.

    What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in creative industries, especially those starting out?

    I would say to create what you love regardless of trends. The designs will often align, but I find that if I don't love a piece, it is usually not successful. Also, start out modestly and from the heart. Don't go after the latest trend and the big bucks. Just love what you do. 

  • Meet the Artist - Lizzie Greco of Craftbelly

    We immediately fell for the contemporary designs of Lizzie Greco's Craftbelly paper products and knew that they would fit perfectly into our customers' lives. As part of our occasional Meet the Artist blog series, we're pleased to provide a peek into her background and what fuels the engine of her talent and inspiration. 

    How did you get started in designing and making your products – how did you learn to do what you do? 

    After going to school for graphic design and working in the field for a couple of years, I ended up working at a stationery store in Chicago where we were given the unique opportunity to sell items that we had made ourselves. I was in love with the beautiful decorative papers we sold there and began covering wood frames with it and selling them in the store. Those first frames were really crude and I had no idea at the time I wanted to turn it into a business, but it became such a great outlet to work with my hands and I just kept at it. After a couple of years of selling online and in craft shows and really perfecting my skills and process, I decided I wanted to design my own patterns and do this thing for real! This next step came naturally to me as it satisfied both the designer and craftswoman in me! 

    Where do you find your inspiration – how do you come up with your design ideas?

    I have always been drawn to bold and colorful patterns, especially graphic ones. I usually just keep an ongoing inspiration board of pattern and color combos that excite me, whether they be from paper, textiles, wallpaper, rugs, you name it! My most recent collection was inspired by more natural elements, specifically the mountains, stars and flowers. I wanted to create a more graphic take on the things in real life that truly inspire me all the time!

    What are some design elements and/or products you are particularly excited about right now – both for your own work and what you're seeing from others?

    I am constantly amazed by artists who block print their own patterns onto paper and fabric. I think it's a wonderfully tactile process and I would imagine takes much more time and precision than most print methods. It really makes you appreciate the final product and I think it's awesome that artists are able to create their goods so thoughtfully and make a living from it! In terms of my own work, I have recently collaborated with Seattle based artist Cristina Miglino of Conjure Movement, where we screen printed a small collection of her hand drawn illustrations to be made into frames. I'm really excited to create products with these new designs as they are quite different from my own patterns but still translate quite nicely into my product line. 

    What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in creative industries, especially those starting out?

    You truly need to enjoy and be passionate about what you are creating, because at some point you will become bogged down by all the other necessary and difficult but not very exciting parts of running a business. You won't actually be creating all the time, so when you are actually making or designing the things you are presenting and selling, you want to be able to find yourself over and over again in that process and be inspired to continue. I think that helps me get through the stuff I'm not so great at or don't necessarily take great pleasure in, such as accounting, marketing, etc., because I know it's all going towards the greater good of these products I am making that I love so much and want to share with the world. 

  • Artist Interview with Mollie Green of La Familia Green

    One of our very first card lines, La Familia Green, has been a steady favorite of our customers, too. With ever-changing designs and sentiments both sweet and just the right kind of edgy, Mollie Green, the artist and designer behind La Familia reveals how she got started and what keeps her going.

    We are pleased to feature another installment of our occasional interviews with Reverie Living artists.

    How did you get started in (greeting card) design – how did you learn to do what you do? After I completed my BFA with an emphasis in printmaking at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I worked in a stationery store. This was the early 2000s, and the independent card world was beginning to bloom. I was really inspired by the creativity of Hammerpress, Hello Lucky, and Egg Press. I felt that greeting cards were the perfect canvas for my work. I started gocco printing (a little desktop screen printing kit) and hand cutting cards and selling them in the store. I learned the business side by helping with the buying in the store. Ten years later, I run La Familia Green full time and send cards out to stores and customers all over the world. I’m very grateful to work for myself in this inspiring field.

    Where do you find your inspiration – how do you come up with your design ideas? I keep a list on my phone of ideas. One occurs to me, and I add it to the list! I seem to be inspired most by animals and food. Go figure. I love my studio, neighborhood, and Chicago—but it can be really gray and cold. To combat that and stay inspired, I travel, read pretty magazines and books, and expose myself to art – both fine and folk.

    What are some design elements and/or products you are particularly excited about right now – both for your own work and what you're seeing from others? I love anything unique. I get tired of seeing the same old stuff, and I detest copy cats! Right now, I am excited about the weaving trend that’s emerging. And I would love to go textile hunting in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. It keeps popping up on my radar. I just went to Marfa, Texas, and I came home wanting a big cactus and lots of white paint.

    What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in creative industries, especially those starting out? Pay your dues, be yourself, and keep your standards high.

    One of our perennial favorites, the Luchador Valentine from La Familia Green.

  • Artist Interview with Helen Peterson of Cloth+Ink

    Welcome to another post in our ongoing conversations with the artists, designers, and craftspeople behind the products at Reverie Living. Here Helen Peterson of Cloth+Ink shares the impetus behind the boutique textile company she has created here in Colorado. 

    How did you get started - how did you learn to do what you do?

    Since childhood I've been surrounded by women working with fabrics.  My grandmother ran a fabric store on the high street and my mum made all of our clothes.  In high school I began screen printing textiles and fell in love with this art, propelling me onto a path of textile studies at university in the UK.  There I gained a wealth of knowledge from fiber manufacture to store merchandising. I've worked in fiber research and clothing manufacturing and now I'm putting that knowledge and experience into my own mini textile enterprise here in Colorado.

     

    Where do you find your inspiration - how do you come up with your design ideas, for both the fabric and the products themselves?

    I love being outdoors snapping photos and most of my inspiration comes from elements in these photographs.  I look for pattern mainly in nature but also from time to time in architecture as well.  I begin a design with a watercolor or sketch and play with how an element can be worked into a repeating pattern.  Because my designs are from organic inspirations, it has become important for me to carry this element through to the fabric bases I print on, which are all organic hemp and cotton blends.  I'm obsessed with the “hand” or feel of a fabric as well as its performance factors.  The aim for my products is for them to be useful and practical whilst looking beautiful.

    What are some design elements and/or products you are particularly excited about right now - both for your own work and what you're seeing from others?

    In my own work I'm excited about my move to organic fabrics.  I feel this has completed the circle with my work and I intend to continue with this in the future.  As for the work of others, I have a crush on all things wood right now, particularly walnut, with hints of mid-century influences.  I'm drawn to things made from natural, earthy materials like wood and stoneware, products that I have none of the skills or know how to make myself. 

    What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in creative industries? 

    Follow your vision, be clear on it but be flexible along the way.  Be open to mistakes as these are often the best learning points and listen to the feedback from others, as your work will be perceived in more ways than just your own intentions. 

  • Inside the Creative Process - Doozie Jewelry

    Doozie Jewelry, by local artist Susan Murphy, really caught our eye the first time we encountered her work at one of the local artists' markets. The designs and materials were unlike other hand-crafted jewelry we were seeing. And the quality was evident. We recently sat down with Susan to talk about her work and how she got started.

    How did you get started - how did you learn to do what you do?

    SM: I attended the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Initially, I thought I would major in graphic design, which was a starting point to get closer to fine art, but I wasn’t necessarily sure about being an artist.

    I took an intro class to metals and really loved it, especially the hands-on nature of working with and manipulating material to create something tangible rather than simply designing on a computer. So I switched my major to metals and jewelry, where we also learned how to fabricate other objects with metals, such as vessels and utensils, among other items.

    There are a number of paths an artist can take after school, and I decided to strike out on my own rather than working and designing for someone else. I set up a studio in my brother’s garage in Louisville, KY and began to acquire the equipment and machinery needed to create metal-based jewelry. I eventually moved into an artist’s co-op and focused on building up an inventory of product, dabbling in art fairs and craft shows and approaching shops about carrying my work.

    Ultimately, I felt that I needed a bigger potential market than Louisville offered. I did a lot of research about Denver and found that there is a lively handmade artisan community with frequent, high-quality craft and art shows, as well as small retailers that appreciate and carry handmade products. 

    Where do you find your inspiration - how do you come up with your design ideas?

    SM: The method by which I work and find my ideas has changed over time and continues to evolve. The more time that I have spent in the studio and working as a jeweler, the more I am able to create as I go. At first I would plan and sketch designs more and then apply them to the material later. Now, as I work at the bench, ideas and shapes emerge as I go. There’s a lot more playing around with the material and seeing what happens.

    What are some materials/shapes/design elements that you are using and are particularly excited about right now?

    SM: I favor minimalist design that is clean and unadorned. Repetition is a design fundamental for me. I come up with a shape or component, and then see what happens if I repeat it or combine it with different sizes or treatments of the same shape. For example, one or two small circles repeated can become a constellation. I am also working a lot with negative space to create clean contrasts.

    Recently, I have been moving back into just working with metals – silver, brass, copper – and seeing what can happen with playing around with finishes and textures. I still like gem stones and color, but if I’m working with stones, I’ll explore different kinds of bands, or off-setting the gems so they are not at the center of a piece.

    What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in creative industries?

    You have to just jump in and realize that you’re going to learn a lot as you go. It’s inevitable that you’re going to make mistakes, but if you’re a risk taker, self-reliant, and can trust your artistic instincts, you should just go for it. It’s not always going to be easy, but the rewards are worth it. You can make your own schedule, career, and life.

    You also need to always push yourself to do better. Even when business is slow, you should make an effort to create good work because if the product’s not there and at the highest level, then you can’t expect anything to happen.