Monday, February 8, 2010

Featured Artist - Laura Kuhlmann of Pet Scribbles

This week’s featured artist is EtsyNJ member Laura Kuhlmann of Pet Scribbles, Laura creates pet-themed greeting cards with a Victorian slant. (See here for a few standouts!) So, if you’re looking to send a note to your favorite pet lover, or maybe even your own cat or dog, Laura’s got the stationery for you. Be sure to drop by her shop!

1. The Tote Trove (TTT): Your shop is called Pet Scribbles, with the tag line “because pets can’t write.” Very cute! How did you come up with the idea for a pet-themed stationary shop?

Laura Kuhlmann (LK): The idea sprang from the cards I received upon the death of my very first cat, Sinead, about 10 years ago. I received some cards, and a handful were the identical pet sympathy card. At the time, there weren’t that many pet sympathy cards on the market. Although I fully appreciated the cards I received, I began to think about making pet sympathy cards that would be different from what was out there. My first designs for Pet Scribbles were pet sympathy cards, and – for better or for worse – those are my best sellers with my store clients.

2. TTT: You describe your items as having a “vintage feel with a modern twist.” How did you arrive at this style? Who or what are your influences?

LK: I have always loved Victorian illustrations and ephemera. I can't tell you why specifically, but I remember even as a little girl admiring Victorian-themed items. My cards have a vintage look and feel to them because of the card stocks I use, the illustrations I choose to incorporate into my designs, and the way I antique or distress them. The modern twist comes in with the sentiments or greetings on the front and insides of the cards. Sometimes I have a fantastic Victorian image, say of an adorable dog. But if I can't come up with something that really works, that I would buy for myself, then the card doesn't get made. On the flip side, there are images I come upon where I instantly know what I want to design, and a card idea becomes reality pretty quickly! My influences come from so many varied sources and artists whose work I admire, as well as from random bits of inspiration. For example, I have a piece of fabric from an old pair of flannel pajamas that I used to have. I kept this fabric because I love the color scheme. At some point I'll play with that color combination, just not sure when.

3. TTT: According to your Etsy profile, you made your first card for your mom when you were little. Back then, did you ever imagine that you’d end up turning your passion into a business?

LK: No, I didn't! In fact, I was just talking with my mom about this on the phone this morning, about how this seems to have come full circle. I like that you ask about “turning your passion into a business” because that's really what happened. While toiling at an office job – ok, not really toiling, but it’s a good word – I began to think more and more about my idea for designing pet sympathy cards. As has happened to so many of us, the passion for wanting to do this began to overtake the easy road of just staying in a safe career. It isn't easy at all, but I've never been happier!

4. TTT: Also according to your Etsy profile (so many gems in there!), you’re a trained concert flutist and loved big 1980s hair. What was that like? (More the music than the hair, but feel free to answer both!)

LK: LOL. Well, I’ll quickly answer the big hair question! At the time, of course, I couldn't get my hair big enough. Not too many years ago I found a picture (from the 1980s) of myself with my best friend, Leslie. We were next to each other in a picture, but my hair took up a large amount of space in the picture! To answer your other question, I loved studying music and playing the flute. I could get lost in a piece of music, in a good way, not even realizing how much time passed when practicing. The hardest thing for me now is that I can't play anymore, due to some nerve damage that occurred when my wisdom teeth became impacted and had to be pulled out; but that’s a long story for another day. I can still play, but I don't sound anything close to what I used to. It took me quite a few years to be OK with that.

5. TTT: What is your favorite item in your shop?

LK: Right now it’s a toss-up between my “Donkey” apology card and my “Close-knit” blank card.

6. TTT: What items, if any, would you like to add to your shop?

LK: I’ve been thinking of adding additional humorous cards to my shop, like my “Donkey” card. I'd love to add more gift tags, and eventually I also would like to add magnets, paperweights, framed items, and more.

7. TTT: Describe your creative process. Do
you follow a routine, create when inspiration strikes, or a little bit of both?

LK: I definitely have a routine, but it doesn't feel “routine” at all, in that no two days are alike, which is great. Sometimes coming up with a new design happens quickly, other times it takes a lot of time until I'm satisfied. My “new pet congratulations” cards are an example of something that took me a long time to come up with, because I kept tweaking the design and not being happy with it. Eventually, I had a “eureka” moment and everything clicked. And I was happy.

8. TTT: What is the best thing about running your own business? The worst?

LK: Best: you are your own boss! Worst: you are your own boss! Enough said!

9. TTT: How did you discover Etsy?

LK: I’d heard of Etsy for quite some time. I joined Twitter last spring and quickly met many Etsy sellers on there. I decided to join Etsy in May 2009. I wasn't sure what it would be like, as up until that point I’d been selling wholesale, but I’ve been very happy selling directly to shoppers on Etsy! I really like the personal aspect to selling on Etsy, as your buyers become more than just names on invoices when you “convo” with them.

10. TTT: Do you sell your work in venues outside of Etsy (i.e, other sites, craft shows, etc)? If yes, then how does selling online differ from selling in person?

LK: I was selling wholesale to brick-and-mortar stores, independently-owned ones, such as pet boutiques and card/gift stores. Working with my wholesale clients is very similar to interacting with buyers on Etsy, as there are many conversations to be had, whether via phone or e-mail, and in the process you get to know a bit about the person.

11. TTT: Who is most (emotionally) supportive of your business?

LK: My husband Hans, without a doubt. Although he doesn't want to be a part of my business, he is my best sounding board, the best giver of advice, and also the best judge I have for new card designs. Although I admit that I don't always think he's right about what he likes with my card designs, I would say he has about a 90% track record of accuracy on what will sell!

12. TTT: Are there any new artistic/creative skills you’d like to learn?

LK: Yes! There are many, but the trick for me is to find the time to do so. First I need to organize my office studio – it is controlled chaos in there!

13. TTT: Tell us about life outside of Pet Scribbles. You can gab about your hobbies, family, pets, or anything else that strikes your fancy!

LK: I love to read and seem to go through phases of different themes of books to read. In the fall I went through an American history phase. Right now I'm in an Arctic explorers phase, reading a book about Henry Hudson's final voyage. I'm also a pet nut. We have two cats right now and someday would like to add dogs to our home. My hobby year-round is gardening. I love to garden in the spring, summer, and fall and read gardening catalogs in the winter. After living in a city for so many years, I love that we have gardens and a yard, and that I can plant something more than just a window box.

14. TTT: What are your hopes for Pet Scribbles in the future?

LK: My overall hope for handmade goods in general is that more and more people will embrace them instead of the mass-produced things from China and elsewhere. (I privately joke that nothing says “I love you!” more than a mass-produced card made in China!) My overall hope for Pet Scribbles is that people continue to enjoy my cards on Etsy and that my store clients continue to weather the crazy economy, which has hit small businesses pretty hard.

15. TTT: BONUS QUESTION. Just for fun, if you were stranded on a deserted island and had to eat the same thing every day, what would it be? You can pick a drink and a dessert, too. (I find that dreaming up a whole meal makes this game more entertaining!)

LK: Could I eat the same thing every day and not worry about getting fat? LOL. Not taking into account that I might be hot on a desert island, I would choose a homemade chicken or turkey pot pie. Not that it goes, but I might as well have a glass of champagne every day while stranded. And at least one piece of dark chocolate too!

Thanks for getting to know Laura and Pet Scribbles! Need more Scribbles? Find them here:



Laura, Pet Scribbles said...

Thanks so much for the interview! I really enjoyed your questions - you made it fun!

The Tote Trove said...

And thank you for participating! Go glad to hear you enjoyed it!

Made by Melissa said...

It was great to read more about Laura! She's such a nice person and her cards are so cute!

CardinalMay10 said...

Interesting! We really like Laura's cards too, and she has a very efficient CFO (chief feline officer)!