Artist Interviews are back with Two Trick Pony! January 07, 2011 11:41

Happy New Year, everyone! I had grand plans to continue doing my weekly artist interviews through November and December, but then I learned something very important, artists are really busy in November and December. Guess who else is? Everyone in the Craftland stratosphere. So, I took a little break from the interviews to help bring you the amazingness that was Craftland Show 2010. Now that the crafting hangover has worn off, I'm ready to kick the interviews back into gear.
Starting things off for 2011 is Laurie and Carrie, the creative duo behind Two Trick Pony, whose hand screenprinted cards will cheer up anyone who receives it.  It should also be noted that this interview has given me a fierce case of paper-cutting-envy. Enjoy! 

When did you two first start your handmade business?
Legend has it (ie: the way Carrie and I remember it) that Two Trick Pony was born over dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Cambridge, MA in 2006. Wow, that’s almost 5 years ago! We’d been working for the same paper retailer for a few years when we confessed to each other our dreams to own our own business. And since two heads are better than one, we decided to join creative crafting forces and form Two Trick Pony. 

Describe your studio for us.
Our studio consists of two spaces, one is a spare bedroom and the other a basement which are both located in my house. We have hopes of someday relocating the stable (no shortage of horse related puns over here!) to a big beautiful space with lots of sunlight.
The basement space is for the messy work - burning and reclaiming screens, mixing ink colors, printing and cutting using our old guy Cooper. He’s a guillotine style cutter from the 1800s and was used in a letterpress shop in western Massachusetts before we (actually, my Dad and his crew) wrangled him into the basement though the bulkhead.

The other space is for finishing work like scoring, folding and packaging as well as shipping orders. It doubles as my all-purpose crafting room too though, so is full of scraps of paper, fabric and miscellaneous crafting tools I’ve acquired over the years. You never know when you’ll need a bedazzler or a wood burning tool from the 70s, right?

Explain how your partnership helps your business thrive.
Our partnership doesn’t just help us thrive, it is an essential part of the business. Having someone to bounce ideas off of, vent to and lean on is invaluable. There are plenty of amazing folks who run businesses on their own, but Carrie and I have both said that this is what works best for us. Sharing in the struggles AND the successes is what makes our partnership so rewarding.

Describe for us a little of the creative process behind coming up with a new card design.
When we are planning a release of new designs, we start by looking at our current line and seeing what holes we have. Do we need more birthday cards or can we fill a category that is underserved in the marketplace? From there we make a list of occasions and then divide it between us. As we are designing, we send files back and forth through the magic of email and critique each others work. Sometimes we will trade off when one of us can’t stand to look at a design that is not working…like the rocketship that just wouldn't fly. Then the other pony can come in with fresh eyes, design one of our best selling cards and save the day (true story!) It’s all about sharing and collaboration and having fun really.

What do you do when you need a shot in the arm of inspiration?
Sometimes inspiration will strike in unexpected places, so being open to that is essential. There are so many things in everyday life that are amazing if you look at them in a new way. Art galleries, museums, antiquing, music, nature and food are all inspirations to us both. Trolling the blogosphere is also a great way to get inspired (and sometimes a little jealous of all the amazing designers out there!)

How did you first become involved with Craftland?
I first discovered Craftland as a shopper. I heard about this cool seasonal shop in downtown Providence that featured handmade goods. Having done some bookbinding, I remember seeing books made by If’n Books and illustrated by Jen Corace, those really made an impression on me. Soon after, once TTP was up and running we applied to Craftland and were so excited to be accepted. Not only are we honored to be included with such talented artists and designers, but the Craftland Gang is just so darn nice and welcoming!

What advice would you offer to someone who wants to take their crafting from hobby to business?
Oh boy, that’s a toughie. I would say that they should ask themselves a series of questions including:
1. How much do I like _________ (insert craft of choice here) because I will be doing it day in and day out until I can afford to hire someone to help.
2. Am I self motivated and resourceful or should I partner up with someone who has skills and experience to complement my own?
3. Am I good at taking criticism and being open to advice? Am I willing to seek out said criticism and advice?
4. How important is money to me? Am I willing to give up some of the little luxuries in life in exchange for the rewarding experience of owning a business?
Other advice I would give is to talk to folks who are doing what you want to do. We have learned so much by picking the brains of amazing small business owners, namely the wonderful Jason and Ilira at Rag and Bone Bindery. There is a spirit of comradery in the crafting world which is part of what we love about it.

Guilty Pleasure?
Laurie: Napping and footie PJs.
Carrie: Watching streaming Netflix for hours while working. Oh, and Moxie soda!