Christine Schmidt, founder of Yellow Owl Workshop is constantly inspiring us with new ideas for DIY projects. We love both her bestselling book Print Workshop: Hand-Printing Techniques & Truly Original Projects, which is packed with printmaking ideas to try at home, and Yellow Owl’s Little Prints, which contains kid-friendly DIY projects to make for the precious little ones in your life.
Last year we took a printing workshop with Christine at Urban Outfitters Headquarters, Philadelphia, and we were blown away by her knowledge, skills, and sense of fun. It was interesting to hear how Yellow Owl Workshop grew from humble beginnings to become an international success so we seized the opportunity to find out a little more about the lady and the stamps…
- What is your background as an artist?
I went to a tiny art school in Washington, D.C. called the Corcoran School of Art, where I won a bike at the local grocer’s colouring contest. My mom is also an art teacher for young children so I owe her all the credit!
A few years later, I moved to San Francisco where I spent evenings sipping Earl Gray and listening to episodes of Radio Lab while creating hand-printed cards and gifts. In 2007, I finally found the courage to take a box of my goods to some local stores. It was nerve-wracking but they placed orders and Yellow Owl Workshop was born!
Now we produce rubber stamps and stamp ink pads, greeting cards, party kits, stationery and exquisite gold pendants, which can be found in stores worldwide.
- What led you to hand-printed design and how would you describe your style?
I don’t think I have one defining style because I try something different almost every season. I love just experimenting to find something that suits me.
- What was your mission in creating Yellow Owl Workshop and how has your business evolved over the years?
I had a lot of random jobs before I started this business – cake decorator, mural painter, personal assistant. Honestly, I just wanted to avoid having another terrible boss! The thing is I push myself harder than any of them did.
- Creativity and fun at the heart of your business. How do you remind yourself of this when life gets hectic?
I am incredibly lucky to have an awesome team so I can focus on the design and production. I was a solo show for ages and I know what each role takes. I am grateful to do this work.
- What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a creative businesswoman and what’s your advice to anyone who dreams of carving out a career in the industry?
Own your voice but keep your ears open. I design for retail and if something isn’t translating I need to listen to feedback. I think the single most important element is originality. Often people make things with motifs or formats that are already popular or copy an existing style. That might get you some short term rewards but trust yourself and make your work really your own. At times before I have failed fantastically but I did it myself.
- Do you often print and make your own clothes? How do you decide what to make?
When I am shopping I look for plain natural fabric things to work with because I have no patience for sewing. I’d say besides some bonkers prints I buy at thrift stores, 75% of my threads are goobered up by yours truly. 30% of those unintentionally because I am generally a mess-maker.
- What stamping passion projects are you currently working on? I am currently designing for the summer season of 2017.
I am always living in the future with my astronaut ice cream and DeLorean. Last year I decided to redesign my entire line and this season I am focusing on expanding our Risograph paper goods and a new format for our rubber stamps. It was a big risk to weed out old but successful goods, but so far it is paying off.
- What design trends and colours are you most loving at the moment?
Honestly, I try not to follow design trends. If you are seeing a trend good buyers have already moved on. It’s much more satisfying to make your own way.
- What is your creative space like? How does it inspire you?
I have an awesome studio but I do my best work at my kitchen table. I have a 4-year-old so my work mingles with her drawings (and cheerios). Much of my new brighter direction started as things I created to make her laugh, like my “Happy Burg-day Card.”
- Your book, Yellow Owl’s Little Prints, was inspired by projects you made for your daughter. Which are her favourites?
Emmy loved the felt woodland mobile but I had to put it away since she’s not a baby anymore and she was sad to see it go. At the moment she’s enjoying stamping baby blankets for our new tiny friends.
- Describe your dream printing job/project…
This is cheezball but I get to do this everyday. I decide what I want to do and what I want to make.
- And finally we’re feeling creative… would you share your tips for printing your own invitations, wrapping paper or place cards please?
I have used everything from photo processes like cyanotypes to carved stamps to screen printing and image transfer. My book Print Workshop is pretty much a diary of all the ways I print these things. The only rule is: remember to spell everything correctly!
Have you created any projects using stamps from the Yellow Owl Workshop? We’d love to see them! Share them on your social networks using #makeitindesign and #yellowowlworkshop
This interview has been extracted from issue 9 of MOYO magazine where you can find a heap of other fabulous interviews, tutorials, competitions, giveaways and helpful design resources.