Gotta love a feature about you and your work. This one is from Houston Makerspace, an ambitious idea now taking root here in town. Envisioned as a collective space where resources, equipment and talent are shared, this soon-to-be-here venue sounds like a little bit of heaven. See more on the website.
In the meantime, here's a snazzy little article Marisa Brodie put together about Her:
Meet Your Maker Monday: Paule Hewlett of Beyond Her
November 18, 2013
Paule Hewlett is the artist behind Beyond Her, an independent design company with a modern line of quality products and fashion accessories. Using natural and heritage materials, Paule silkscreens her flora and fauna ink illustrations onto her textiles and paper products. We love that Beyond Her's products are eco-friendly and made to replace disposable items like napkins, bags and even office supplies.
Read more . .. here
It wasn't too long after Beyond Her was born that I started hearing the phrase "indie design." I was grateful, because I'd been wondering how to describe my new community. This seemed to sum it up: like indie films, indie design existed outside of the normal go-to-market channels. Most of us struggled to find suppliers, materials, and supporting artisans that could help our companies grow.
Over the years that has changed. More and more "makers" have emerged, making more and more interesting creative products.
As with Beyond Her, some of the items are not precisely "hand-made," but there is a distinct design, a story behind the manufacturing process, and a vision that people intrinsically seem to appreciate.
Show & Tell
If you are an artisan today, you have lots of options in terms of getting your products in front of viewers. Are they effective? Let's just say that Etsy, the hands-down winner of online handmade portals, sold $100.9 million of goods were sold (after refunds and cancellations) in July alone. That's a lot of DIY!
So I was happy to read this recent article in Forbes magazine. "How the Maker Movement is Reinventing Retail" discusses the growth of Etsy, but also the effect of companies like Shapeways, an online 3D printer that allows anyone to cheaply manufacture their own designs, either to sell or for their own personal use
Here's what this means to me: In an odd sort of way, we are going through another industrial revolution. We are using machines, not to stamp out millions of identical products, but to add diversity and choices, as opposed to just accepting what giant retailers tell us we should like.
So. even for indie designers, technology has paid off, big time. And creativity is a democracy.
This is what makers live to see -- their work in action.
And OMG - look at this note from a kindred-spirit customer who loves the sound of cicadas:
"I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate that you made something that was not only so unique, but also so sturdy and very well crafted. I try not to carry tons of heavy stuff, but (see attached) I can take it with me to the farmer's market or anywhere else I go and it's pretty much the only bag I need.
"I had debated buying it, because I'm a mom, and mom's spend all their money on the kids and the family and the house, for the most part... but there was just something about this when I saw the pic of it the first time that told me, "That's MINE!" :)
"Thanks again for this. It's more than a bag to me. It's me carrying something special to me around, every day, and it reminds me of so many happy things."
It's a good day for Beyond Her. Smile.
I read the New York Times almost every day online, but I must admit I have a bit of a routine -- I read the same sections, in almost the same order -- and I definitely have to set a time limit. This is literally against every rule for living creatively. So, admittedly, I may miss some things.
Someone I spoke to recently (who? can't remember) suggested that he always found something interesting by gleaning the "Most E-Mailed" list that they publish every day.
Sure enough, the first time I tried it, I found a fascinating article about a 100-year-old brand, L.C. King Manufacturing Co. in Bristol, Tennessee, a struggling clothing factory that has recently, and almost unknowingly, become a favorite supplier among hipsters and Japanese designers.
For all these years, L.C. King has produced Pointer Brand, its own line of work and hunting clothing and accessories, but now they're creating private label jeans and jackets, right there in their 100-year-old factory. Clients talk about the "zen" of the place as well as the high quality of the products. There's a story there.
As someone who has tried hard to buy US-made goods -- everything from dish towels to calendar frames -- this "discovery" is fantastic news.
I can't tell you how disheartening it was to look up global producers of cotton textiles and see how many American companies have gone out of business in the last few years. (For the full story, read "The Travels of a Tee Shirt in a Global Economy, by Peter Rivoli, 2008).
And I will say that when I did find an American (usually family-owned) supplier, our relationship was instantly warm, friendly and flexible. We got each other. I want more of those.
The article also referred to a fantastic website directory of all American-made goods: Maker's Row. Which means that now I at least have contacts to research for my own small minimums and quirky demands, something I just didn't have before.
Thank you NY Times (and the anonymous person who suggested this diversion) for opening my eyes!
Our waxed canvas tote bags are 100% American made!
Canvas: James Thompson Fabrics, Valley Falls NY
Design & Eco-Friendly Screen Printing: Beyond Her, Houston, TX
Waxing, Construction, Leather: Chris Franks Design, Austin, TX
At roughly 8 x 10 inches, with dirt- and water-resistance and irresistible cuteness, this is the perfect lunch bag, wine tote, carry-all for odds 'n ends!
And it looks great with a couple of bottles of wine as a housewarming gift or wedding present. Soon to be your favorite bag. See them all here!
Sometimes I wonder why I gave up on kids' shirts. This little guy, dressed in a bargain tee bought at the last Beyond Her warehouse sale, makes it all worthwhile.
I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about business models, as I look for a way to make Beyond Her grow. I can come up with quite a few people who have turned their design aesthetics into successful companies: Martha Stewart, Calvin Klein, Jonathan Adler. I admire them all -- I mean, I truly admire them, for being able to get their businesses beyond the outdoor booth stage. And these folks did it without the internet. Wow.
Martha Stewart, in particular, while not what I would call a high designer, has a look and feel to all her merchandise that is truly unmistakeable. There's a signature look and feel (shall we call it collars-up WASP? -- not that there's anything wrong with that) to everything with her brand on it.
And no matter what it is, anything from poodle jackets to slipcovers, I assume that it will be of good quality. If we know nothing else about Martha Stewart, it's that she is . . . demanding.
This standard is something I admire. It's how I want Beyond Her products to be.
That's a Good Kitty
But guess who is a real icon to me in terms of branding? Hello Kitty, the Sanrio character that adorns gear for everything from toddlers to punk rockers.
I have long been a fan (as shown by my 50-year-old mini-drawer set, which I still have at my desk) although given my aversion to collections of ANYTHING, I don't own much Hello Kitty stuff. I just (heart) it, for 3 good reasons.
1. Clean, crisp, contemporary design. With Kitty and all of her friends, the colors are pure, the lines simple. They are what I would call friendly and straightforward, but they aren't silly or cartoonish, just sweet.
2. A diverse and ever-changing product line -- it seems like they've tried it all. I love a Sanrio store like crazy, with all its colored pencils and notebooks, plush toys and surfboards. I once got so excited at the flagship store in San Francisco I had to go outside and breathe.
3. The products are great products, not just image carriers. If you buy a pen it's a good pen. If you buy a tee, it's a good tee. Whoever does Hello Kitty licensing is keeping their eye on the ball.
Hello Kitty stands for consistent style and cleverness, and quality, and diversity -- plus she makes me smile. I think that's about the best any company could ever do.
Thanks, Kitty, for the inspiration.
I'm not a big Andrew Lloyd Weber fan, or a big love nut, but I happen to love this song, and I believe it is true. I've dug this valentine up from my archives, and realized that I've been playing around with hearts -- making them thorny, furry, mosaic'd, paisley'd and cracked -- for decades now.
Just in time for Valentine's Day, a journal that recognizes how much we have to say. The new Beyond Her Love Journal starts with the phrase of our age, "It's complicated," but it leaves the rest to you.
Silkscreened kraft stock covers with love quotes on the inside front and back covers. High quality recycled paper stock inside, with light inkjet hearts printed on every 5th page. 50 pages, 8.5 inches by 5.5 inches, coil bound.
Encourage others, or yourself, to wax poetic! $18
Click here to buy
In places like Texas, we tend to drink a bit of water. Mostly because we tend to sweat it out the next day, while doing strenuous things like walking to our cars. Sort through the mail. Smiling at the neighbors.
Over the years, I've accumulated hundreds of vessels from which to drink water. Being from Texas, the first priority was size -- something with the capacity of an aquarium was ideal.
The next priority was thermal properties. I like bottles that keep hot things hot, cold things cold, etc. And third, the carrier must not "sweat." Working around paper and textiles as I do, and losing my drinks as much as I'm prone to, the last thing I need is a tell-tale ring.
So, ta-da! Meet my new favorite thermos vessel, the Tervis. Apparently I was the last to know. You see these things everywhere, decorated with horrible university insignias and team flags. But look beyond that. There are many features that you have to love, and they do come in basic colors if you're a sports agnostic.
They hold the temperature. The lids fit. They don't leave wet marks or ripple paper. And the pop-up lids don't bonk you on the nose when you tilt them up. Oh, imagine!
All these features make them worth a pretty fancy price, when there are so many imposters. Insist on the original!
The only thing is, they could be bigger. With my giant-size needs, 24 ounces is just never enough.
Now, here's a modern dilemma: How does one move a relatively half-assed blog from one location to another?
Beyond Her has always had a fascination with totes. And by fascination, I mean my personal, relentless, compulsive quest to locate the right tote to imprint with my designs.
I've probably produced about 10 different totes -- all sizes, shapes, purposes. I'll spare you the details, but it's not easy finding a size I like, in a suitable color, using a natural fabric, and having all the features I believe are essential in a practical bag.
Finally, this idea popped into my head: "Life is not complicated enough. Why not make my own totes?"
And so that adventure began. I printed several designs on several types of linen fabric and actually hired a sewer to construct the bag to my specifications. They were indeed beautiful -- but too expensive for real production. I keep these bags mounted on a wall in front of my desk. They are my "art collection."
And so the quest continued. Somehow the idea of waxing the fabric to give it more structure came up. And I loved the idea of making it waterproof.
So on to the trusty Inter-web, where I found Chris Franks of xray love, right there in Austin! When it came to fabric waxing, whether for outdoor camping gear or his own signature backpacks, he seemed to know it all.
The rest is history. Or at least it will be.
After a few conversations, I printed several more yards of fabric -- both canvas and also linen, which would be a new venture for Chris. We made a trial run, and Hallelujah!! the results were just what I had hoped for: A very durable, water-resistant fabric that remains easy to sew (so Chris insists) with just enough "oomph" to stand up and represent.
Turns out that Chris is also a mad leather guy, so we incorporated a few details that add both design and practicality.
To see the final results, visit my etsy shop. What fun, to see a dream come true!
. . . . And Speaking of Austin
A new vendor for Beyond Her is the very cool Parts & Labour in Austin, Texas. Located on South Congress, this curated collection of artisan wares includes much of Texas -- at least the best parts of it.
Her Point of View
Designer Paule Hewlett takes on design, culture and modern life.
Stay in touch!
"Life is too short for ugly dish towels. Really, ugly anything."