Posts tagged #screenprint

Maven Style: Printed Wild

Working as an independent designer and maker, your brick and mortar rotates on a weekly basis surfacing at one of several pop up craft markets in the DC area. Spending weekend after weekend in these markets, you get to know your fellow vendors. One vendor who I have had the pleasure of getting to know is Eva Calonder of Printed Wild, a line of nature-inspired handmade accessories including but not limited to canvas and leather totes, clutches, makeup bags, throw pillows, glass candleholders, cards and illustrations. Printed Wild emerged on the DC scene two years ago and since then has steadily grown a presence in DC and New York craft fairs, entry into local stores like Salt & Sundry and a prominent full-page feature in the Washington Post. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Eva, who is coincidentally my neighbor. On a sunny morning in her dining room sitting on a chair hand-painted by her talented cousin, Andres Tremols, we sipped French press coffee and enjoyed homemade madeleines. We spent the morning talking about creativity, business, and all things Printed Wild.

Where were you in the world and in life before DC?  Seven years ago, I was working as a graphic designer in Cambodia. While there, I met Bertrand, who is now my partner. We both came from the same region in France and after 8 months of working in Cambodia, we decided to move back to France to spend time with family. We lived in Paris where I worked as a freelance graphic designer and afterwards, we moved to Rome. Bertrand received a job opportunity to work with the World Bank and that is how we ended up in DC. We have lived here for 3 years now.

What is your background and what led you to start Printed Wild? I am trained in graphic design and illustration...I've always loved illustration. After a few freelance jobs with a few organizations in DC, I wanted to take the time to figure out what I really wanted to do. I love being creative but working for ad agencies was not the right fit. Bertrand and I worked it out and I began to research options online when I found surface pattern design and knew that this was it. It was such a good match between my training, love of illustration, and application of designs to fashion fabrics and interior decor. I love natural and interesting textures - Printed Wild seemed a fitting name.

Tell us about your process making your line.  I draw the patterns in person as much as I can and make the stencil. I transfer it to the block or screen and use watercolor or ink to print it. A friend taught me how to sew and that is how I got started making the bags. My first craft fair was at the Hillyer gallery in Dupont Circle which was perfect. I was a mess figuring out everything for the first time but it was perfect for the size and vision of the venue where I had pillows, keychains, and coin purses to sell. Next, I took silk screening courses at the Corcoran Gallery where I learned dyeing, shibori, block printing, and screen printing techniques. I also took another course at the Textile Center in New York which focused on repeat printing. Locally, I took sewing classes at Bits of Thread to continue to improve my skills. I laugh because my friends ask me if I remember my first products and say how now, my products are much better. I love natural textures. This year, I added leather to my bags because it really adds another dimension to the product. The challenge with this is that there aren't any leather shops in DC so I travel to Baltimore or New York to find leather material.

What has been your experience growing the business? It has been a two year journey. In the beginning, it is so important to be patient. Recalling the first year of my business, I wanted so much for this to be my day job. Now I am not in a rush. I know this that works. I get good feedback but this is going to take time. If you want quality, you cannot rush it. It also took a while to learn and integrate each part of the process together. As a maker, you want to be in stores as much as you can. However, when it is just you and you get an order for 200 units of product sold at wholesale, it was difficult to find a way to do it and make money from the sale. Of course, it is so great to be in a store but now I will make sure that it makes sense for the business.

Is the product that you are making now your ideal product? Not yet I would say. I know what I want to sell. First I was limited by what I could do. Now I know how I want my brand to evolve. In the beginning I had no idea. I was just waiting for returns. At first, you see what people buy and what people don’t buy. What kind of quality are you looking for? How much do you want to invest in the materials? Now I know what I want to make and I feel the products can still improve.”

What has been the most challenging part of the business? Starting a business, you have to do everything. The creative, administrative, web, social media - you need to do everything. I love the creative part but you can't do all the creative part all the time. Also working from home is great but it's not great sometimes because working alone can be lonely. What is the best part of the business? Everyday it makes me so happy to be able to be creative and have a design or product come alive. Since I started this business, I also discovered the creative part of the city and it made me fall in love with DC. I also like getting feedback from customers. When they come back and tell me how much they love one of the products, that really makes  me happy.

What advice would you give to other creatives who want to start something? I feel like I am still at the beginning of this too but I would say to others "Go for it." Start with the time that you can and find a way to support yourself while working on your creative business. Starting something in the States is different than in France. There is an optimism and encouraging environment - almost like it is natural to start something and have people be supportive of it until they're not. In France, they won't support you at the beginning until they eventually do. This made it easier for me to start a business in the states. So I would say find a way to do it. Many thanks to Eva Calondar and Bertrand for opening up their home to Fashion & Philosophers and sharing such good bits of wisdom, experience and creativity with us. You can find Eva's designs online at Printed Wild and purchase her products on Etsy.

Fancy That: If & When Workshop

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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.