Regardless of whether you’re celebrating American Thanksgiving today or just celebrating the end of the week, we here at Spoonflower wanted to let you know that we are thankful for all of you–our customers and designers and friends. Thank you for being creative and wonderful and a part of our lives!
Last night the founders of Spoonflower, Stephen and Gart, were in New York City to be honored at Martha Stewart’s American Made Awards. It was incredible to be included in a class of such talented makers, and fun to meet our fellow honorees in-person at the event.
Here’s a behind the scenes recap of the festivities:
After crossing the velvet rope, we were escorted into the building where we ran into our friend from Martha Stewart, Paige, and dozens of food stalls. Our particular favorites were the oysters, and a North Carolina corn whisky made by Troy & Sons. In fact, we enjoyed chatting with each other so much, they gave Stephen an entire bottle of the shine.
After sampling the good grub, we took photos with Martha Stewart on the ‘champagne’ carpet. We were totally dazzled by Martha’s style and grace.
Spoonflower crew member Joey cutting down bright colorful new Performance Knit swatches!
Danielle relaxing on a sofa reupholstered in her own Queeny Brass design.
We’ve still got decorating on the brain here at the new Spoonflower office, and just accepted delivery of some beautifully reupholstered furniture all done up in Spoonflower fabrics, of course, by Chad’s very skilled uncle. Those of you who have been with Spoonflower for awhile may recognize Danielle’s Queeny Brass fabric above as the winner of the Spoonflower staff contest way back in February of 2011.
About a dozen Spoonflower employees got together last night for the first-ever crafting event in the Spoonflower Greenhouse, an education and crafting space we’ve created in our new, larger office. If you’re in NC and want an excuse to come visit, check out upcoming events as they’re created through our events page. First up is an Open House on 11/3, and we’ll be announcing more sewing and crafting classes soon!
Happy weekend, y’all!
We’re nearing the end of our Meet Spoonflower series and this week, I’m introducing you to Thomas Midgett, one of our third-shift printers. Maybe it’s because I seldom see Thomas in the office–or maybe it’s because he’s just a really interesting guy who grew up in a city I love–but I particularly enjoyed this interview. I hope you do, too!
I was born in Durham Regional Hospital and have lived in Durham all my life save for a year and a half I spent in Savannah, Georgia. Growing up in Durham has always been interesting. I went to a hippie Quaker (they don’t like war; they do like electricity) school in Orange County through middle school. Most of the kids I went to school with were from Chapel Hill or the more country, upscale outskirts of Durham and, as the only kid in the school that lived five minutes from downtown, I felt like a gangster. It’s no NYC but back when I was younger, Durham was far more troubled than it is now. “Murder Mile” and “Five Points” (the original one) were all minutes from my house. Concerned parents kept their kids from sleepovers at my house, and my dad got his car broken into a lot.
All these things created a kind of cautious respect and pride for Durham. It was grittier than Chapel Hill or Carrboro and I liked that 90% of the time. When I transitioned to high school, I made the decision to go to Durham School of the Arts, a lottery entry public arts school. Going from a 30 student, private hippie colony to, in my mind, a “real” public school was daunting. I had lived in Durham my whole life but had always been a little bit of an outsider. Sure I got to claim it as my own when people from Chapel Hill asked if my house had bars in the windows (it didn’t), but it was a whole different thing to go to school within walking distance of my house. High school was my first real exposure to Durham on my own, and it was amazing. By this point, downtown was being revamped and my senior prom was held in one of the old tobacco warehouses that had been abandoned for most of my life. I’m happy Durham is where it is now. It’s not as dangerous as it used to be and the culture that came along with all the changes hasn’t completely destroyed all the great old things in Durham. I wouldn’t want to have grown up anywhere else, and I certainly wouldn’t want to live anywhere else! (No Spoonflower L.A.!)
I was such a nerd in elementary and middle school. Card games, comic books, and video games were my everything. My interest in Japanese manga and culture eventually led to me to doing Aikido and Aikikai, both relatively new forms of martial arts. That’s one of the many things I wish I’d never stopped doing. It was a great experience to roll around on a mat and get shown daily that no matter how good you are at something, someone — usually the 45-year old 5’1” ginger British lady — will always manage to fling you across the room.
The first real job I had was working in high school as a professional nerd at Gamestop. It was at that point my dream job, but the long hours and difficult customers made me reconsider what I counted as a dream job pretty quick. It was a great introduction to the working world, though. They had me do everything during my time there — stocking shelves, selling people reserves and subscriptions, closing and opening registers. Everything I did there was always difficult, but I learned a lot from it. My co-workers and I also managed to have a lot of fun, everything from copying Super Troopers and trying to say meow as many times as we could without getting caught, to coming up with creative code words to communicate what we thought of people on the sly and playing PSP games in the back of the store. All rewarding, productive work activities for me at age 17.
By the time I returned to Durham from Savannah I had developed an interest in fashion. I immediately let everyone know by wearing skinny jeans and talking about the person that made my $80 T-shirt. Eventually the over-spending and bragging faded, but my interest in fashion culture and design did not. At the time, I was working as a photo retoucher for a locally based canvas company and wasn’t terribly happy. It was a dead-end, unrewarding job that I had no real interest in. (One can remove only so many boogers from photographs before the insanity starts to get hold of you.) I heard about Spoonflower from a friend’s mother who happened to know Gart. She knew my job at the time gave me the right skill set and that my interests aligned with what Spoonflower was doing. She also knew how much I disliked the job I was at and that I was looking for something that would interest me more, something that gave me more than a paycheck. So far Spoonflower has been a blast. Third shift is hard, but working at such a great place more than makes up for it!
One of my favorite times at Spoonflower was when Deron and I first started working third shift and we had Mary as our temporary team leader. The three of us had a lot of fun at 7 or 8 a.m. After being up for so long, everything became funny — really, really funny. I didn’t realize how silly the whole thing was until we spent time with another co-worker after one of our shifts. The look on her face as the three of us spoke only in inside jokes for about thirty minutes straight was amazing, and a little bit scary. (Cake Boss!)
Whenever I’m not printing fabric at 3am, I usually try and do something with my car.
I’ve had my Mazda RX-8 Shinka for about 8 months now and this is its first Spring. I completely forgot about the NC pollen! This whole week my car was completely covered in pollen, and I won’t sleep until I get a good coat of wax and a car cover between my car and that gross yellow stuff! It’s been nice to have a car I really care about enough to actually do preventative maintenance and servicing. Trying to find stuff I didn’t even know existed and change it or clean it has been really fun and exciting. I like knowing how things work, and trying to figure out a rotary engined semi-sports car has been a steep learning curve I hope to climb fully at some point. All in all, working on my car has been a mixed bag of success and failure. Deron helped me attempt to change the spark plugs, but 20 bloody knuckles, a broken ratchet swivel, and half a can of PB blaster later, I took it to a shop to change the last 2 plugs we couldn’t muscle out. On the other hand, Jaysen helped me change my brake pads in about 20 minutes. It may have had something to do with the fact that Jaysen used to be a mechanic and did 90% of the work, but I still count that as a success.
I started DJing in Savannah, GA when I was at Savannah College of Art and Design. The first photo here is of a random house party I was DJing at.
My roommate brought all of his fancy equipment from Connecticut and with a lot of patience, he taught me what he could and eventually let me loose on a house party here and there. After a couple months, I was playing with him in clubs and loving it. I grew up loving music but wasn’t really interested in learning to play instruments. Learning how to DJ flipped some switch in my brain and it all started to make sense. Who needs instruments when you can play and transform all your favorite artists’ songs? Reading an entire crowd and giving them what they want, whether it be a deep cut house track or the newest club hip hop track, is by far the hardest part of DJing. Learning how to do that with 30 people is one thing, but 200 people in a club or 500 people at a house party is a whole new experience.
To this day, I still think a Savannah house party is one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen, the one night I will never forget. We managed to stuff 150 people into a two-bedroom, split-level duplex and at some point the air-conditioning just gave up. The entire place was a rainforest in about 15 minutes, and by the end of the night, people were sliding around on the floors. It was really gross and I broke my digital DJing controller, but I have never since seen that many people go so crazy for hours and hours without stopping.
When I came back to Durham, I came back having a skill I’d never had before in Durham, so I didn’t know where to go as a DJ. I didn’t know who to ask or if people even listened to the kind of music I played. Eventually I met someone from the Durty Durham Art Collective and talked his ear off about being a DJ. When I finally got to play, it was at the Pinhook at Halloween and it was pretty awesome, I mainly play a genre of music called Moombahton which is a crazy mash up of Dutch house music slowed down to and inspired by reggaeton. I thought no one in Durham would know how to respond to it but to my surprise, everyone loved it and I got invited to play again. Since then I’ve played a few more times at the Pinhook. I have another show scheduled for April 6th at the Garage, then another Pinhook show on May 12th. Being a DJ in Durham is worlds different than DJing in Savannah, but I love how low-stress and relaxed it is. I hope I can keep doing it. It’s one of the few things I’ve really learned to stick with and it’s one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. [The curious can find some of Thomas’ mixes here.]
When I was younger my parents made it a point to keep me exposed to as many different cultures and countries as they could. I actually got to live in France for six months while my mom got her masters in art history. It was definitely a crazy experience to be young and in school in a different country. Luckily I made some good friends and was able to speak some French by the end of the trip. When I got older I got to do some travelling on my own. I went to Scotland to do photography for my school. Scotland was great and such a beautiful place, and I would love to go back again without such a strict agenda.
My best travel experience was probably my high school class’ senior trip. We went all over Europe and had the best tour guide. Somewhere between Copenhagen and Amsterdam I realized that Suzanne (our guide) was the key to the trip. We ended up listening to her during the day about the historical districts and attractions and then again at night on which bars to go to and what drinks to get. It was a wild experience to be in a thirty person group. My six classmates and I would sneak off with Suzanne to drink and meet locals while the rest of the group was in a museum. I would love to do something similar over a longer period of time. Having only 2 weeks to see most of Europe was just too short and I was a little too young to really appreciate everything I got to see.
As we return to normal after last week’s Spoonflower Staff Challenge madness, I’m happy to introduce you to Jennifer Finan, help desk maven. Jennifer also happens to have been my hanky-making partner in the challenge, so I enjoyed learning a little more about her pre-Spoonflower life in her own words. I hope you do, too!
I grew up in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Since leaving, I’ve developed an affection for my hometown but growing up outside of the city ingrained in me a desire to always want to leave and go to the city. Philadelphia offered art, music, humor, adventure, a sense of urgency and sometimes danger, whereas my town provided stability and safety. (You can probably guess which option seemed more appealing to a teenager!) Now I enjoy going back to visit, and I think having that duality of “town mouse and country mouse” as a kid was a really great balance for me.
My first job (besides babysitting) was teaching a swimming class to five-year olds at our high school while I was in the ninth grade. That summer, my best friend and I bleached and streaked hot pink through our hair. After a few pool sessions, my blonde-pink hair began to tinge green from the heavily-chlorinated high school pool. The kids loved it, though. I probably looked like a cartoon character.
When I was 20, the prospect of working all summer in a restaurant or something like that wasn’t really appealing to me. I ended up stumbling upon a website looking for au pairs (nannies) and immediately signed up. I was eventually picked by a family who lived right outside of London. They sent me a plane ticket and, sight unseen, I arrived as their American nanny. In England, I developed a true appreciation for spicy curries, traveling alone, and English beer.
Prior to the winter of 2011 when I was hired at Spoonflower, I had worked mostly as an editor and writer for newspapers and several news-y blogs in North Carolina. I ended up in journalism almost on a complete lark. My real love was creating and editing video, which I had just gotten a degree in from Temple University in Philadelphia. I thought I would move to New York City and become a video editor. I even got a couple of offers to stay on with the various internships I had while in college. But the truth was that I was really restless after living in the Philly area pretty much my entire life. So when I found the opportunity to move to Appalachia to work for a New York Times regional newspaper, I went for it. It was just random enough to feel like an adventure.
I began as a copy editor, and quickly moved onto reporting and video. Short-form documentary video was just burgeoning back in 2008 as newspapers struggled to stay solvent with younger audiences. I was happy to be a part of it with a company like the Times. (You can view some of Jennifer’s videos here.)
I’ve had the most fun working on docu-style videos, profiling individuals and bands. One of my favorite stories and videos I did was on rescued wolf dogs. When I pulled up to interview a wolf farm owner, after somewhat miraculously navigating up a remote, unpaved road in my Nissan Altima, I was met by the howls of nearly seventy enormous wolf dogs. It was awesome…and kind of terrifying. I really developed a soft spot for wolf dogs after doing that story, though, and it even motivated me to adopt a rescue dog of my own.
That’s just the tip of my curriculum vitae iceberg. In general, I like to know how things work and I like to have fun. Working in customer service at Spoonflower is definitely my favorite job. It’s fulfilling and refreshing to provide an earnest service that allows me to learn something new every day. My favorite moments on the Spoonflower help desk, besides getting positive messages, are solving issues that have been causing a headache for the customer. It’s like a breakthrough moment in therapy and you go, “O-oooh! I get it!” The most frustrating moments include everything that happens prior to that realization. (Joke!)
Spoonflower is filled with cool, charitable people who are all talented in their own ways. It’s totally a compliment to be grouped along with them. Working here, I now basically want to cover everything in fabric. One of my favorite Spoonflower designers is Domesticate and I also adore anything by Anda. I basically love any designer that uses a limited color palette with bold graphics or illustrations. I also love anything printed on my favorite fabrics, our linen/cotton canvas and organic cotton sateen. Those fabrics make anything look great to me.
As for my own creative pursuits and free time, I’m currently in the throes of March Madness and am rooting for the UNC Tarheels to take all. Despite that, though, I’m taking a break this weekend to visit some good friends in Washington, D.C. My friend Jessie Hemmons is putting together an installation at Corcoran College of Art + Design of her awesome knit bombery. I’ll probably find a way to squeeze in some NCAA action, though!
I have a growing list of future projects on the horizon, including setting up a homebrew kit because I’m a huge craft beer nerd. I’ve been lucky to live in NC which in my opinion has the best beer culture in the country, though Philly and Portland, OR are pretty exciting places for beer, too. Besides that, I’m planning on putting together some animated tutorials for Spoonflower users, and I’ll be sewing some actual summer clothes this season as well.
I’m really excited for the future. There are lots of places new to me that I want to explore, like the Falkland Islands (almost purely for the penguins), and also places I know I will always revisit, like Asheville, NC and Philadelphia. It’s good to have friends sprawled out all over the place with open couches.
This week, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Caroline Okun, a graphic designer at Spoonflower. Caroline designed our logo and other elements of the site when we first launched in 2008, and is now working with the engineering team on a more regular basis in the sunny front offices at Spoonflower. I hope you enjoy reading about Caroline in her own words as much as I did!
My childhood on Long Island, New York was centered around any type of artistic activity — drawing, painting, clay, building forts. Our neighborhood had a lot of kids in it so we were always outside playing ghost tag, street tennis, or your basic hide-and-seek. I also have quite a competitive streak, so I gravitated toward any games that had teams or the possibility of a ribbon or trophy. I was on a swim team for 10 years, and at school I played lacrosse and field hockey.
During the summers, I started a small business selling sodas and snacks at the pool after swim team practice. I was 12 years old. Luckily my father didn’t charge for driving me back and forth to the store to restock supplies so I was able to make enough money in a few months to buy a small sailboat. That was certainly fun and I got a tan while working, but my favorite job was working as a DJ at WKNC. It’s a college station at NC State University in Raleigh, NC, but a lot more professional than your average school station in terms of technology and opportunities. I interviewed a lot of musicians, my favorite of which was Greg Graffin from Bad Religion. I also interviewed Motörhead, Deftones, and Tool.
On Valentine’s Day in 2008, I got an email from Stephen asking me to work with him and Gart to design the Spoonflower identity and website. At the time I was working at Lulu.com as a graphic designer, and I knew Gart because he had hired me to work at Lulu a year earlier. Fast forward four years. I was no longer at Lulu and was looking for a new job. Gart gave me a call, we chatted, and shortly thereafter I was very happy to join the team! I now work on the Spoonflower engineering team primarily designing web pages and elements. (Under the tutelage of Stephanie and Chad, I’m learning HTML and CSS.) But I also create print collateral, fabric tags, packaging and whatever else we might need to visually represent Spoonflower.
I wanted to go to art school out of high school, but my parents thought I should be a lawyer (I like to talk!), so I went to college at UNC-Chapel Hill. In every job I’ve had since then, I’ve found a way to design something – logos, brochures, posters. When I tried to find a job specifically as a designer, though, I was told to go back to school and fine-tune my skills. After having been out of college for a few years then, I went back to NC State as a sophomore in the design school. My personal site is a work in progress, but a lot of what I’ve done is here. What inspired me way back when is still true now. Design can’t exist in a vacuum. It needs to be seen, interacted with, and used to influence and guide.
Some of my favorite Spoonflower designers are Holli Zollinger, Heather Dutton, Gollybard, and Zesti. They all have a phenomenal sense of color and layout and innate design ability. Using some of their printed designs and some of my own, I’ve been learning to sew. Stephanie helped me to get started and I’ve been going full speed since December. For a while I was in tea towel production, but now I’m working on a design for a yoga mat carrier that will be featured in the Spoonflower staff design challenge and hopefully picked up by Lululemon afterwards!
Part of what I love about working at Spoonflower is our esprit de corps. The engineering group recently purchased a panini press and we’ve been making grilled cheese with guacamole. Gart’s dachshunds were in the office recently and one of them was sitting on my lap during lunch. I looked away for just a second and he had taken a huge bite out of my sandwich! It was pretty funny – I think Chad was crying, he was laughing so hard.
I spend weekends taking long walks with my dog, Alba. Her full name is Albatross Cyan Creature of Destruction. She was a rescue from a kill shelter in Durham. While all the other dogs were barking and jumping around, she was quietly laying down, her nose sticking under the gate, following me with her eyes. It was love at first sight. She is part Australian shepard and part pit bull as far as I can tell. Her tail was cropped and she has a dark ring around it which really stands out against her white fur. If Alba was a person she would be Hannibal Lecter. I know that sounds morbid, but she is ridiculously protective and can be scary when you first meet her. Once she gets to know you, though, she’s all love and kisses (but she’s never cooked me a gourmet meal served with Chianti).
One of my goals is to become a certified diver. I’ve been snorkeling since I was four, but have only been diving once. Last winter I was in the Bahamas and we dove a wreck, about 30 feet down. The water was crystal clear and there were tons of gorgeous colorful fish. When I looked up at the top of the wreck there were seven huge barracudas floating there, sort of like bouncers at a club!
Once I’m scuba certified, I’d love to take diving trips to Thailand, Australia, Central America, the Caribbean, and South Africa. Last year, I embraced jumping out of a plane but decided I’d rather be under water than in the air!
I spent the majority of my life in Virginia Beach, Virginia. It was a fun place to grow up with the ocean and the Chesapeake Bay right there for you to swim in. During the summer, the boardwalk would always be packed with people, bands, and an overall sense that you would never run out of things to do.
As a kid I always loved to play video games; it’s been a lifelong passion of mine. We were limited to 30-minute sessions when we were younger, and the older systems were not generous with their save systems like they are now. I was really good at the first half an hour of Sonic the Hedgehog, I’ll tell you that much. Besides video games, I really enjoyed playing football and getting in trouble with my brothers and friends. We still get together to this day and play football at our old middle school.
My first job was working for an event specialist company that my parents ran when I was younger. As soon as I had a work permit, I was working in the warehouse. They handled everything from children’s parties with bounce houses and inflatable slides to setting up decor for formal parties like proms and corporate holiday gatherings. I would have to say that job might have been my least favorite job. Don’t get me wrong–it was great for a young kid to earn some money on the weekends and during the summers. But as I got older and I was out of school, the hours and money just were not worth it.
My wife and I moved down here to North Carolina back in May of last year. I was having problems finding a job when a friend of ours told us that a company she purchased fabric through was hiring, and they were based out of Durham. Neither one of us had heard about this company so we looked it up. My wife, being a seamstress, insisted that I apply but neither one of us were sure I would get the job. The closest thing to Spoonflower work experience I had was screenprinting. I did get an interview but they were on the fence about creating a third shift, so I waited for a decision to be made. In the meantime I went to work for a garage door maintenance company and was grateful when Spoonflower called a few months later and offered me a position. It may be too soon to say, but Spoonflower is my favorite job I’ve had so far. I love the challenges it brings. There’s a great sense of family and community here that you just don’t get at most work places.
When I first started printing, I was a little frustrated at my own waste ratio until some kind co-workers explained that it takes time to get good at printing. It’s been a lot of fun for me, getting familiar with the way everything runs and seeing improvement. Every day is a challenge to yourself to see if you can do better. Also, the staff meetings here are a blast to attend. Everyone gets to kick back for an hour or so and discuss what’s going on in a very lively atmosphere.
I don’t sew or mess around with fabric too much myself. I do enjoy building and fixing things but living in an apartment is a huge setback. I’ve always loved motorcycles and, a few months ago, my brother brought me one from Tennessee when he purchased a new one. So I went out and got my learner’s permit and he showed me the ropes while he was here. Unfortunately after driving it around for a week — and having a blast, I might add — it was stolen from my apartment complex. I want to purchase another one, but I think I’m going to wait until I get a house of my own with a garage. The Triumph Street Triple R is my dream bike and I will own it one day! It isn’t overly fast or flashy but it’s everything you need to have fun.