Last month, Kicheko Goods partnered with If & When Workshop to bring a jewelry and household goods tent to DC Meet Market. This was our first experience combining forces and sharing a booth. While the foot traffic was slow, we had a blast. Spending nearly 8 hours with a someone underneath a tent really helps the getting to know you process. After the market, I wanted to know more about Bekah's creations that bring quirk and joy to her customers' homes, including mine. You best believe I went home with her custom designed and screen-printed dish towels.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
I am Bekah and I do what I want. (Ha!) But seriously... My name is Bekah Kitterman. I was raised in the great mitten state of Michigan on the second knuckle of the pinkie finger. Go ahead. Look at the back of your left hand and see where I grew up. I now call Washington DC home and happily reside with my husband Ian in our apartment-turned-creativity-central. I am an artist, maker, designer, and glue-gun-for-hire. I'm currently the one woman show behind If + When Workshop which specializes in making hand drawn and hand printed goods aimed at bringing some joy and levity into the world.
Since joining Etsy, what has been the response to If & When Workshop and your products?
The response has been greatly positive. Like many small businesses I started by selling things to friends, and then friends of friends, and eventually I started getting orders from people I didn't know in further flung places. That has been the most exciting part of being part of a larger marketplace like Etsy. Knowing that my goofy jokes and my artwork live in someone's home is fun and rewarding. It has been a steep learning curve though, and I'm still learning how to leverage all of the "likes" and positive feedback into tangible sales.
What is your background and how are you choosing to incorporate that in If & When Workshop?
I've always been a creative person. I'm the child of a scientist and a musician who are both teachers, so I was handed some awesome tools for creativity very early on and have been nurtured to think outside the box from the get go. In undergrad i went to a liberal arts college, and majored in studio art with a sculpture emphasis. I absolutely use my education in my everyday work and am super grateful to do so! I usually choose to start with a manually drawn image and eventually bring it into a digital format to tweak it and perfect it. When screen printing I get to go back to manual work using photosensitive chemicals to create designs on silk screens, and hand pulling the ink of every single image of the items I make. I love the back and forth between technology and raw hand work, as well as the interplay of geometry, chemistry, and design in my daily experiments to get all the details of chemicals and color just right.
What is your process for vetting your ideas for plays on words? (i.e. guffaw versus chuckle)
Haha! I may have to make guffaw vs. chuckle my new litmus test! I keep a large amount of idea journals, and will often come back to old ideas and rework them a few times before I decide if they are 'cooked' enough to send to some trusted friends for feedback. Depending on the feedback from my first round of sharing through texts and emails, I'll often release the potential design to my personal social networks for feedback. I then decide if it has wide enough appeal to pursue. Did my mom like it? Did my weirdo friend from art school like it? Did my husband's attorney friends like it? If there's a good intersection of people I usually see that as a good sign. That sounds a lot more linear written out here than it really is! In reality it is a lot of random sharing and gaging the reaction mixed with how badly I want to make something.
Can people contribute ideas for a tea towel or do a custom run of hand towels?
Yes! Yes! I love a good suggestion! I get a kick out of the suggestions of others and have followed some through to great results. It is not uncommon for me to get messages from friends and family about what I should print next. I don't use all the ideas, but sharing jokes and amusing ideas keeps life light and keeps the gears in my brain turning. I do take custom run requests on occasion, and am happy to talk (or email!) through ideas clients have. Seeing people enjoy the things I make brings me great satisfaction, and I enjoy the challenge of interpreting an idea into a tangible object.
What is the best part of what you do? What is the most challenging part?
The best part of what I do is sharing it with people. I enjoy handing someone something that makes them smile, laugh, or just feel special... whether that is a physical item or something more abstract like compliments and jokes. I've been continually grateful that I've been able to find work using my love of creating things that feel very personal to me, and I think that is part of why people respond in genuinely positive ways to my work. The most challenging part is hands down the learning curve. I'm new at trying to make sense of business, and after years of working in the non-profit sector I still am not overly motivated by money (which.... is kind of a problem if you are trying to run a business). Getting over that mental block of doing something for 'love' and still expecting to get paid for your hard work has been difficult but continues to be essential.
Any advice for anyone who might be thinking of starting a business?
I am extremely timid when it comes to taking risks, so the advice I needed was to "get over your hang ups and take the leap." The name of my company is "If + When" because I knew that only I could answer those "Ifs" and "whens" that came up when looking at my dreams, and I need to choose everyday to make my answer "Here" and "Now." Taking that leap of faith has been difficult in many different ways, but I continue to find it rewarding, exciting, and life giving.
If & When Workshop is partnering up with Bittersweet Collective Co-work Studio on Sunday, July 20 for a block printing beach towel workshop. Handprinting geometric designs on Turkish flat woven beach towels is the perfect way to spruce up your upcoming beach trip as the days of summer roll on. The workshop is nearly sold out. Check out
Eventbrite to purchase tickets for $45. Thanks Bekah for sharing about who you are and what you do.