We are so lucky to meet so many amazing people in this industry through our workshops! One of those women is Kristin of Sable & Gray Paper Co. She is a close friend of Bloom's now, after attending one of our workshops in 2015. We loved meeting her and learning about her calligraphy and illustration business, then we watched as her business blossomed. We've worked with Kristin on a number of projects in the past, but this year we're SO excited to have her teaching our La Petite Bloom workshop on June 13th in Northern Michigan. She'll be teaching intro to watercolor, then guests will also get to learn floral arranging with Bloom Floral Design. We'd love to have you there for all the fun!
Enjoy learning a bit about Kristin's journey, her favorite projects and best business advice...
When did you start your business? When I graduated from Architecture school in 2011, I had every intention of becoming an architect. I envisioned myself in a fancy office, wearing lots of J. Crew pencil skirts and high heels and being a #bosslady. However, during my first internship at an amazing architecture firm in North Carolina, I realized that the architecture career that I had in my head was very different than the reality. I was doing exactly what I had pictured... helping design impressive skyscrapers and museums, working with talented designers, but for some reason I wasn't fulfilled. I missed painting, I missed being inspired by nature, and I longed for a meaningful relationship with the clients that I worked with. So I decided to take a step back from architecture and see what other creative careers were out there.
First I tried retail (nope!), then I tried interior design (that wasn't quite right either), then I tried floral design (close, but not quite), and finally fate stepped in and the florist that I was working for purchased a stationery company and asked me to take over the custom stationery work because of my background in design. I had finally found the perfect fit! It was the ideal combination of being able to be creative with my artwork, using my design background with the graphic design aspect, and also develop meaningful relationships with each of my clients as we worked one-on-one on their designs. And in 2014 (after a LOT of encouragement from my awesome husband) I decided to give it a go on my own, and Sable & Gray was born! Since then a lot has changed as I've moved the company from North Carolina to Michigan, and I've transitioned my work from mostly product design to a focus on custom wedding stationery. But the thing that has remained constant is the passion I have for the work I create and the meaningful relationships I build with my clients.
Where does your passion stem from? I grew up in a very creative household. My dad is an industrial designer, and my mom is an artist and they always encouraged me and my sister to do creative things. Rather than watching TV or playing video games, you could usually find us making jewelry, building forts, painting pet rocks (I know, we're weird lol), or playing music. Having that creative outlet was always so wonderful, so I wanted to make sure to continue that into my career. Now my sister and I are both in creative fields (she (Brianne Farley) is a children's book author/illustrator and her work is amazing!)
I also had several pen pals growing up and always looked forward to receiving a special letter in the mail from them. There's nothing quite like good old snail mail. I kept a little box under my bed with lots of beautiful stationery that I would save to send to my pen pals on special occasions... or never send out at all if I couldn't bear to part with it. Now with Sable & Gray I'm not only able to use my passion for creativity and art on a daily basis, but I get to share that joy of receiving lovely stationery in the mail with others.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be? "It's going to be okay." There's been so many times that I've stressed over little details, questioned whether or not I'm good enough, or wondered if Sable & Gray was going to be successful enough... but in the end it has all worked out. I need to let go of the perfectionism, give myself grace, and know that it's okay make mistakes. People can tell when you are passionate about your work, and can see the love that you put into the things that you create. So I think that as long as you are doing your best and doing something that you are passionate about, success will follow.
What is one way you stay inspired outside of your industry/field? I love to spend time in nature. A lot of my work is inspired by natural elements... the water, the flowers, the seasons. So I try to get outside and go for a hike (even in the freezing winter!) and let my mind wander. It's so nice to get away from technology for a bit and turn off the outside world and let yourself be inspired by your surroundings.
Favorite project AND most challenging project? Oh man! I't so hard to choose just one. But I think my favorite project that I've done so far is one that I'm actually just finishing up. The client, her wedding planner and I just clicked and it was so much fun to all collaborate with them on a really beautiful vision! Her suite features a super fun watercolor map, hand-painted watercolor script, beautiful summer florals, and illustrations of her wedding venue. And the RSVP card is a little die-cut of Michigan, which is just too cute! I can't wait to share the finished suite with her guests.
I think the most challenging project that I've done was about a year after I started Sable & Gray, and the client changed her vision for the suite mid-project, so I had to rethink the artwork and try out several different printing methods. At the time, it was tough and time-consuming, but it really pushed me to learn new skills and become more familiar with all of the different options that are available to my clients.
Favorite business tool? I can't get enough of the Dr. PH Martin's watercolors. They have been a complete game changer and there's nothing quite like the richness of their colors.
Best business advice you’ve ever received? "Never stop investing in yourself." I actually received this advice at La Petite Bloom Workshop a couple of years ago (thanks guys!) and it has never left me. I think it's easy to believe that if you take a class or have to ask questions that you are admitting that you don't know all the answers and have more to learn, and are somehow less of a pro, but I think that no matter how seasoned of a professional you are there's ALWAYS more to learn. Every artist, every business owner, every person does things a bit differently so I think it's so smart to keep an open mind and be willing to try out a new way of doing things. I actually just took a class on watercolor painting, calligraphy, and stationery design and even though I've been doing these things full-time for over three years, I learned so many valuable things that I can't wait to apply to Sable & Gray!
How do you manage being a mom and a creative business owner, who’s art form requires a lot of time?! Oof this is a tough one. It is definitely a constant balancing act. Right now my daughter, Hayes, goes to school three days a week so I can devote that time to doing my work in the studio. At first I felt so guilty for putting her in school because I know some people are able to work from home without childcare (how do they do it?! I'm so impressed!!), and I felt like I was choosing to spend time away from her. But it has actually been a huge help and now I can really be present for each aspect of my life. Before, I felt like I was constantly being pulled in different directions; when I was working I felt guilty for not paying more attention to Hayes, and when I was playing with Hayes, I felt guilty for not working. (Ugh, #momguilt is the worst.) But now that I have a more definitive separation of the two I feel like I can give 100% to each without feeling guilty (at least mostly haha). I still end up doing a lot of work while Hayes naps and after she goes to bed at night, but I'm still learning the right balance of it all. I feel really lucky that my job gives me the flexibility to do what I love and work on my own terms so I can spend time with the people I love too. But now that I think I have things all figured out, I know things are about to get REALLY interesting with the addition of baby #2 in just a couple weeks! Wish me luck!!
What are you most looking forward to in 2017 for Sable & Gray? There is so much that I am excited about this year! I already have a full calendar of 2017 brides and they are some of my favorite clients ever! I'm really excited to share all of their custom designs with you all.
I am also working on a super exciting project that I've been wanting to do since I started Sable & Gray. (And if I write it down here, then you guys can hold me accountable!) I'm putting together a line of semi-custom/pre-designed wedding invitation suites for brides who are on a tighter time frame or who want a more affordable option for their invitations. I really can't wait to put the new designs out there when I get back from my maternity leave!
THREE favorite things right now.
1. Baby kicks. I'm only a couple of weeks away from my due date and the baby is kicking me constantly! It's so fun having a little secret conversation with him or her.
2. I just started watching The OA on netflix and am hooked! I've only finished the first episode, but it is already ah-mazing.
3. Half-caff. lattes. All the flavor of the real deal but 1/2 the guilt of drinking caffeine while pregnant!
Thanks for sharing with us, Kristin!
Come learn from Sable & Gray Paper Co. at La Petite Bloom this June!