You probably won’t be surprised to find that we take Halloween very seriously here at Spoonflower! Each year we compete to see who can come up with the most original/ nerdiest/ scariest costumes. Bonus points are awarded for using Spoonflower fabric, of course! We hope you enjoy. Happy Halloween, friends!
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.
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!
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!
In the latest installment of our Meet Spoonflower series,
we'd like to introduce Jaysen Wilson in his own words:
Right now, as I listen to the harmonious drone of the Spoonflower printers here in Durham, I am reminded that a year ago I was managing an automotive repair shop in Charlotte, North Carolina. Three years ago I was assistant manager and lead technician in a shop in Orlando, Florida that worked on high end cars like Aston Martins and Mercedes-Benz. When I was a kid I wanted to be a police officer. I looked up to them and admired their dedication.
I heard about Spoonflower from my wife, Melodie. She makes and sells handmade bow ties on Etsy. One day she was looking on the Regretsy blog and came across some custom fabric that Spoonflower had printed for a Regretsy contest. For the next six months, I heard nothing but how cool Spoonflower was and how she would love to work there.
My favorite days at Spoonflower are the staff meeting days with lunch. The meeting is a time when all or most of the employees get to just relax for an hour, eat, and cut up a little before going back to work. It's a spirit-lifter.
I have not always been a fabric person, but I feel that I understood Spoonflower from the beginning. After being in retail sales for five years, I sense that everyone at Spoonflower takes pride in what we deliver to our customers. I think our customers have a more personal connection to our product that is unlike other fabric or clothing retailers. Would you rather buy a shirt just because it's kind of nice? Or would you rather make a shirt with our fabric with your kids' faces on it?
If I could retire and live anywhere, it would be someplace like the Outer Banks because I'm a total beach bum. I imagine running a three-story bed and breakfast with large sea-facing windows and a huge wrap-around porch. And watching reruns of Flight of the Conchords, which is one of my favorite shows.
In this latest interview with Spoonflower staffers, I’d like to introduce you to Holiday (aka Holly) Anderson, the new operations manager at Spoonflower. Holly has been with us for a little over a year now and has moved from a cut/pack/ship position to fabric printing, and now to a role overseeing the daily running of the Spoonflower print floor. As seems to be the trend among Spoonflower employees, Holly is a creative person in her own right. Read on for more about the lovely and newly managerial Holly!
You’ve been with Spoonflower for over a year now, moving from a printing position into the new operations manager position. How do you like your new role so far?
I love it! When I first started working at Spoonflower, I imagined I’d just cut and fold fabric for the rest of my life, and that made me really happy. But then I learned how to run the printers and that soon became a passion. It can be hard but exhilarating work to run six or seven or more big machines at once. Now, as Operations Manager, I get to do a little of everything, and oversee the whole process. It’s amazing to participate in every step of an order’s life: through printing, cutting, packing, shipping, and all that those things entail. Plus, now I can do things my way! (Haha! My inner bossiness has come out.) But with the wonderful crew I have to work with, everything runs so smoothly here, even through the development of new products and machines. It’s a very fun job, but the greatest satisfaction comes from seeing the packages go out the door and knowing how excited and happy people will be to receive them.
I know that you’ve worked in art and antiques in your pre-Spoonflower life. Can you tell Spoonflower readers a bit more about your professional background?
My undergraduate degree is a BFA in printmaking, from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. I own an etching press and do small woodblock prints in my spare time (which has been none lately–sigh) at home. If I had a clone of myself, she would be at home carving woodblocks and making prints.
After graduating from U-Mass, I worked at a large art gallery here in North Carolina for six years, where I learned the ins and outs of selling paintings, photography, sculpture, blown glass, and especially handmade studio jewelry. In 2007 I moved to New York City to attend Sotheby’s Institute. Through their intensive one-year program, I earned a Master’s Degree in American Fine and Decorative Arts. School involved classes that went behind the scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other major museums, auction houses, and antiques galleries. I learned how to evaluate an antique’s worth, and what it would be like to work in the antiques and art market. It really was the best year of my life in many ways–being surrounded by such a wealth of knowledge and to be living in New York! Just to live in the city is an education in itself. While there, I worked at a 5th Avenue store that specializes in fine antique watches and jewelry, so at the same time I was studying American paintings and sculpture in school, I was gaining an education about Patek Philippe and Cartier from my boss, an expert in the horological field. Thanks to him, I am a watch snob to this day.
Anyway, I Ioved New York and stayed there even after school ended. I would be there still if it had not been for true love. I moved to Durham last year to marry my husband, and soon after that I found Spoonflower.
What made you want to transition into a fabric-related business?
I knew I wanted to spend my days doing something fun, inspiring, and hands-on, but I didn’t know what it would be. In some ways, I wanted to go a completely different direction from the antiques, jewelry and watches, just to have a new experience and gain a new skill. When I found Spoonflower, it seemed like the perfect fit, because it was different from anything else I’ve done, but still arts-related. And I love fabric.
Do you have creative family members who influenced you to choose work in creative fields?
My brothers all got this mechanical and electronic genius from my dad, but my sisters and I got our mom’s arts and crafts genes. My mom was and is a huge creative influence on me. I think she gave me my first sewing project in our home-school kindergarten class: I had to trace a maple leaf onto fabric, cut it out, and sew it to a pillow with yarn. Now she is going to teach me rug-hooking, which I am eager to learn. My hands cannot rest–they must be painting, printing, drawing, crocheting, sewing, or somehow making something!
What sorts of things do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I really enjoy spending time with my husband! We garden and hike and watch old stuff like The Three Stooges, and sometimes we just drive around looking at old houses, taking back roads to tiny towns just to see what there is to see. Besides that, I’m active in my church, I belong to a book club, attend a weekly trivia contest with friends, and am addicted to genealogy. All the rest of my time is spent making things–sewing or crocheting or printmaking. If I have spare time after all that, I bake chocolate chip cookies!
What influences your own creative work?
The earth around me and the people on it. I paint a lot of landscapes and print a lot of portraits, for some reason. Patterns really inspire me, too. When I lived in New York, I lived in Harlem in a neighborhood with a lot of West African people who wore traditional dresses and turbans made of a Dutch-wax printed cotton fabric that is popular in places like Kenya. The patterns and colors were so striking, I’d have to force myself not to stare at the women’s clothing. I loved that West African fabric so much I researched it until I found out where I could buy some. Then I made myself a dress out of it too.
Do you have a current favorite design or designer on the site?
There are so many great designers and designs! Some of my favorites right now are Lydia Meiying (I love her “Autumn Flowers” and “Fish Scales + Mermaid Tails”) and Valentina Ramos (whose “Doodles” and “Flowers and Doodles” I’m obsessed with.) I also really love our current tea towel calendar contest. Tea towel calendars are my favorite and I love to see how creative all the designers can be with the idea!
How about a favorite base fabric?
Nothing makes me happier than the new cotton-silk. I am dying to make a dress out of it, but have not found the time yet. It is first on my to-do list.
Complete this sentence: If I could only ________ at Spoonflower, ___________ would be much __________.
Ha ha! I live in a really drafty old house and have often thought that if I could only bottle the hot air that is produced by all the machines at Spoonflower and take it home with me, my electricity bills would be much lower!
Is there anything else you want Spoonflower readers to know about you?
I’m secretly in love with motorcycles.
Seen above in one of his own unique, hand-inked t-shirts, Chad Graves is a coder extraordinaire here at Spoonflower. As our second non-family employee hired about 6 months after Danielle, he’s been here longer than most anyone. Chad comes from a family of folks who have worked in the fabric industry, and he now spends his days at Spoonflower producing spiffy new changes to our profile and shop pages among other things. You can read more about him below–enjoy!
You’re one of the people who’s been with Spoonflower since almost the beginning. How do you think things have changed since those early days?
The thing that really stands out to me since starting here is how the pace of things has changed. It’s hard to imagine that just two years ago we got a new batch of three printers and thought the sky was the limit! We barely filled the new building we were in. Now we have 12 printers and print more in one day then we did in an average week. We have 4 or 5 times as many employees. We are already pushing the seams of the building we moved into just a year ago. The scale at which we’ve grown has been nothing but impressive.
One of the things that has not changed since I’ve been at Spoonflower is the sense of community that we share here and with our customers. Everyone, good day or bad, enjoys what they do. It’s apparent as soon as you walk in the door. The best change though, hands down, has been getting air-conditioning. It was so hot back in Mebane.
What was a typical work day like for you back then? How about now?
Back when the business was still getting its legs, everyone did a little of everything. I was hired to help develop the website but I was quickly enlisted to print, take out the trash, run to the store for soda, take the mail, sweep the floor, and cut/pack the fabric, change light bulbs, etc. As we’ve grown that’s never really changed, but within the last 6 months with all the new people we’ve brought in, I finally have been able to focus on coding. I now spend my days trying to wrangle down bugs, create fancy new things, and make our website everything it wants to be. I miss the old days of always having a hand in most projects, but we’ve grown so much that it takes a team to do each of the many things I used to do every day.
What sort of education and work experience did you have before coming to Spoonflower? What made you want to work here?
I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BFA in Graphic Design with a minor in Computer Science. I actually graduated in the same class as Danielle, back in 2008. My family has been involved in the fabric industry basically my whole life. My dad has been a fabric sales rep since my early childhood and is currently VP of a company based out of New Jersey that prints fabric in China. My uncle has a furniture business based in Hight Point, NC. His company was the one that produced the chair that we showcased a while back with all the pretty colors. Personally, I spent about 3 years working in a fabric warehouse in High Point. Ironically, I didn’t want to spend my life working in fabric but when I discovered Spoonflower, I knew that I had to jump at the chance. The idea of working for a small start-up with such a grand ambition as redefining the fabric industry–and bringing it back to North Carolina–was something that I couldn’t pass up.
Is there anything that you’re really happy about having learned here?
The one thing that I absolutely love about Spoonflower is that I learn something new almost every single day. To pinpoint one thing, though, I’d have to say the skills that I’ve learned while coding are things that I could never have gotten from any class or school. Having a great teacher like Gart has been something that has defined my experience here at Spoonflower. Without his guidance I couldn’t have been half the programmer I am now.
What’s your favorite way to get creative in your spare time?
One of the hardest things for me since leaving school is finding the time to really get super creative. Most of my time here at Spoonflower has been long weeks and odd hours. I’ve spent many nights crashing on the couch, working 3rd shift, etc. That being said, I’ve been focusing on creating t-shirts lately. I spend a lot of time cleaning our printers and started to experiment with using our waste ink on different materials which led me to creating shirts. I like the idea of making my own clothes and wearing something that no one else could possibly have. I create each shirt by hand rather than with a screen, so each is totally unique. Recently, I created an Etsy shop under the name of PressInk to try and find a home for all of my creations.
Do you have a favorite design or designer on the site?
I have to say Holli_Zollinger is probably one of my favorite designers. I love the simplicity of most of her designs. The “fabric weave” appearance she creates behind her designs really accentuates the look and feel of them. I can always tell one of her prints from others, and to be able to say that given the thousands of yards of fabric I’ve printed says a lot to me. Keep up the great work, Holli!
If you could add anything at all to the site–even it’s not actually possible from an engineering standpoint–what feature would you add to Spoonflower?
The one thing I’d really like to add is a tool to allow people to create designs on the site. I know Photoshop will always be more powerful, but who really has that kind of money to blow on a hobby or single project outside of the professionals? The idea of putting creative control into the hands of the masses really appeals to me. Most of the changes we’ve made to the site in the last year are trying to give that to our community, and I don’t want to stop.
Shifting gears a little bit here, um, what’s up with the not-wearing-shoes thing?
So my true calling is a music-loving hippie. If I could sit in a field and listen to someone jam all day, I would be at complete peace. The first summer that I started at Spoonflower, I had really started to embrace that part of me. Since we are all one big family here, that was totally accepted and I’ve walked shoeless ever since. I am proud to say since then I’ve acquired a few followers.
Complete this sentence: If I could only _____________ at Spoonflower, ___________ would be much _______________.
If I could only code faster at Spoonflower, our Flickr forum would be much happier.
Is there anything else you want Spoonflower readers to know about you?
Our community is full of some of the most creative people I’ve ever had the privilege to know. I know I haven’t met many of you, but I’ve seen and heard a lot of stories through the designs I’ve printed and conversations I’ve had via phone and e-mail. Each day has been a joy because I get to see new art and so many wonderful ideas. This alone is enough to keep me working, to make things better, and want to see us keep growing. Keep up the great work everyone, because it drives all of us here to work hard for you!