PGH Maker Profile: Sapling Press

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Sharing the stories behind the most talented creatives in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.

My connection with Lisa Krowinski of Sapling Press is a little different from my other maker friends here in Pittsburgh. I met her a few weeks after I’d moved back to the area in 2014 when a mutual friend introduced us. Turns out Lisa, a super accomplished and talented stationer with a line of snarky text-driven letterpress cards, was opening a brick and mortar shop in my town. We met up for coffee and I decided to be a part of it on the spot! These days I’m helping at the Sapling & Sons shop a few days a week as well as helping buy, which is immersing me in the stationery world that I’ve always been in love with. Lisa is a smart businesswoman who is also the most laid-back person I’ve ever met, a rare combo that she makes working the best way.

 

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Every company has to have a motto!

Tell us a little bit about how you got your start with Sapling Press.

I started Sapling Press while working as a graphic designer in Baltimore. I think I was destined to have a small business ever since I was a kiddo. I used to paint pictures and sell them door to door, and would sell candy instead of lemonade outside my house. I have a lot of hard working entrepreneurs in my family so starting my own thing never seemed undoable. I used to collect the old letterpress cuts because of the design element to them, but I eventually wanted to learn how they were used in practice. I found a woman in Baltimore with a press in her home, and she taught me how to print and handset type in a private 4-hour class. I was hooked. Within 4 months I found and purchased a press, rented a studio space with friends, and exhibited at my first National Stationery Show. I had no clue what I was doing and it showed. Fortunately I’m a big fan of the “slow and steady…” life motto and over time the business grew into what it is today.

 

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A beautiful Heidelberg press that’s used to print cards.

What’s your favorite part of the process? Your least favorite?

My favorite part is the product development, designing, and the social media aspect of the business. Not too long ago it was putting on my apron and printing, but as we’ve grown I’ve slowly continued to take a step back from the production side of things. My least favorite part is anything that has me on a deadline. That sounds horrible but very true. My crew is fantastic at it, but personally I’m the wors. When I started the business I was drawn to being able to create anything at any time, and have it be a product almost immediately. In this industry especially, I’m having to design holiday cards several months out, create new releases for several trade shows a year, and so on. So yeah, I love designing, but designing on a schedule is not my thing.

 

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The second of three presses in action. A selection of shunts.

What other makers inspire you most?

I’m inspired most by my local pals who run their own businesses, whatever they may be. I think it’s because I get to peek behind the curtain a bit and personally see how hard they work, how they react to failure, and what they’re hustling and aiming for. Folks like Commonwealth Press, strawberryluna, redraven studios, and so many more. The list of talented people in Pittsburgh is insanely long and it just makes you want to do better to earn and keep your place in the lineup.

 

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Cards recently printed on the Heidelberg.

Where do you see Sapling Press in 5 years?

No idea. Planning is also not my strong suit. I rarely look past what’s happening within the next 24 hours in both life and business, and that way of living always seems to pan out for me. Sapling Press has grown in a way that I could have never planned in a million years, so I’m fine to continue to let it grow on its own in whatever direction it sees fit. In 5 years I see more of the same — a stationery company that continues to stay relevant, showcase clean design and clever copywriting, and gives folks a good laugh.

 

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Sapling Press has 200+ cards in their current collection.

What makes having a small business in Pittsburgh so great?

The affordability and the local support. I don’t think I could have started my business anywhere else. When I left my design job in Baltimore and moved to Pittsburgh 10 years ago I never got another job. Sapling Press became my full time gig because my husband and I could afford to live off of one salary here. That’s almost unheard of in a lot of cities, and it played a big roll in allowing me to focus on the business. And Pittsburgh loves local. We’re fortunate to have a long list of clients that have been with us since day one, supporting what we do even when so many other business and online options have become available to them. I’ll never leave.

 

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PGH Maker Profile: TROIKA Skateboards

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Sharing the stories behind the most talented creatives in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.

Dave Kaule and Dan Rugh are known movers and shakers around Pittsburgh, it’s just a fact. From Dave’s Monster Trike Night to Dan’s CWP Beer Barge (and many more in between), some of the raddest events in town are from the minds of these two standup guys. They’re both creative minds with outgoing personalities, so it only made sense when the two good friends teamed up to form something new, and that something turned out to be TROIKA Skateboards.

 

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Three of Troika’s current line of eight deck designs.

Tell us a little bit about how you got your start with TROIKA Skateboards.

Dave: About 10 years ago I had a skateboard company called Triad Skateboards. It was growing really fast, but some unfortunate things happened in my life which caused me to derail a bit. That ultimately brought an end to Triad Skateboards. Three or four years ago Dan Rugh and I were trying to work together. He had asked me if I would want to start Triad back up, but that was a time in my life I wanted to leave in the past. He suggested a completely new company and at first I wasn’t sure about it. I realized it was all I was thinking about though so it only made sense. We knew the vibe and feel we both wanted for the company and just needed a name and artwork. That was something that came to us over a few beers and tacos.

Dan: I honestly dont know – I guess me and Dave had been back and forth with a billion projects we wanted to do together and TROIKA just seemed so dead on perfect for the way we interact with each other. Pretty vague but dead on true.

 

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Dave showing off some well-earned skills. Photo: Casey Kovach

What’s your favorite part of the process? Your least favorite?

Dave: I would have to say working with Dan is my favorite part. We both are hyperactive thinkers and come up with some off the wall stuff. I think in terms of partnership dynamics there might be some talking down from some stupid goofy idea and instead we encourage each other to even go further with said idea. As far as the least favorite part I really don’t have one. I really enjoy all of it.

Dan: I love the art end of it. Designing the decks, working with illustrators on their ideas for decks, planning out the line, merch ideas. My least favorite is trying to pay attention to what needs done production-wise. This whole thing is a really fun side project so we both treat it like that – a lot of things get ignored until they are on fire or screaming or bleeding.

 

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Dave and Dan talking shop while Dave’s pup, Chloe, takes notes.

What other makers inspire you most?

Dave: I have a number of local makers that stoke me out. To name a few: I love illustrations from Mike Budai, everyday balloons, and Joe Mruk. Jeff Justus of Penn Soul makes art both visually and musically, and he has been experimenting with some custom handmade sidewalk surfer skateboards that are incredible. Lastly Wendy Downs of Moop, her bags are beautifuly designed and manufactured by her here in Pittsburgh.

Dan: I get super stoked on strawberry luna. I think Kim Fox is killing it regularly. Sapling Press is always on top of this list, too. Matt Dayak can make anything out of anything. I think Moop is a local treasure.
Hell, theres this lady up in Benezette, PA that carves egg shells all crazy and puts hinges on them with little moving doors and windows – my grandpa knew her and took me there when I was about 9 and I’ve never forgotten it. This could go on forever.

 

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Decks stacked up in Commonwealth Press for sale.

Where do you see TROIKA in 5 years?

Dave: I think I speak for Dan and myself when I say we just want to see TROIKA keepin’ skateboarding movin’ in a positive direction. Getting the younger generation hyped and involved with skateboarding in Pittsburgh.

Dan: Pittsburgh.

 

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TROIKA shirts up for grabs at Commonwealth Press.

What makes having a small business in Pittsburgh so great?

Dave: Pittsburgh has a great community of doers. People doing cool shit for the love of what it is they are doing. I love skateboarding and I am stoked to be a part of the Pittsburgh small business community.

Dan: I don’t want to talk about it because everyone will want to move here and screw it all up.

 

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Dave during a session. Photo: Matt Dayak

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Pittsburgh Brew Tour: Part 1

Pittsburgh has an impressive craft beer scene that I’ve been anxious to check out this summer. There are easily fifteen breweries that I wanted to check out, but that number seemed a little too ambitious for a weekend tour. Instead I chose the six that friends recommended most highly, picked up my friend Martin, and took off for a full day of beer sampling that I hoped wouldn’t get the best of me…

 

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HITCHHIKER BREWING CO.
190 Castle Shannon Blvd  Pittsburgh PA 15228

The first stop was Hitchhiker Brewing Co., where I was immediately impressed by the huge open window looking out over the sidewalk. Their craft beers are brewed right on site with up to ten on tap at any given time. (They also have a focus on creating a low environmental impact.) The interior of the brew pub has a great industrial feel with plenty of wood and metal, and I couldn’t help but comment that if I were to design a taproom it wouldn’t be far off.

Martin and I tried a flight of three handcrafted beers, we had to pace ourselves after all. The Wheatmill was my favorite with Tumbleweed and The Barbarian in second and third. Since our tour I’ve been back to try even more brews and check out their secluded patio area out back.

 

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THE BREW GENTLEMEN BEER COMPANY
512 Braddock Ave.  Braddock, PA 15104

Across town The Brew Gentlemen was waiting for us (along with the gyro truck in the parking lot). A successful Kickstarter campaign is behind this small brewery and taproom that focuses on combining classical brewing and the culinary world. Most of their brews seem more complex than their peers, we tried both chai- and cucumber-inspired beers and I really enjoyed both. The space itself used to be an electrical supply store and now has a modern industrial feel to it with lots of wood and stainless steel. Walk around the corner from the bar and you can look down through a set of large windows to the brewery itself.

 

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FULL PINT BREWING COMPANY
1932 Lincoln Highway  North Versailles, PA 15137

Full Pint was the only brewery I’d tried before the tour, Martin had some White Lightning at his house one day. I really liked it, so had high hopes for their other brews. This stop was most like breweries I’d visited on the west coast, basically a set of huge converted garages in an industrial park – taproom on one side and brewery on the other. Lots of bright colors with the logos of each beer painted on the walls. We sampled a healthy six styles with the highpoint being that I got to try my first sour! I wasn’t sure what to expect but absolutely loved it and have been actively seeking them out ever since.

 

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ARSENAL CIDERHOUSE
300 39th Street  Pittsburgh, PA 15201

The branded fence along the perimeter of Arsenal‘s outdoor cider garden couldn’t act as a better advertisement. I’d driven by countless times before our tour, but once I walked around the the other side wanted to kick myself for waiting so long. The day we visited there was amazing live music and a smokehouse truck, so we walked around the corner to the actual brick and mortar located in an old row house to grab some cider and then lounged for a bit. (Then we spent awhile wondering why we hadn’t bought a growler… oh yeah, because we still had two more places to check out!) I could imagine wasting an entire weekend here, no problem,

 

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ROUNDABOUT BREWERY
4901 Butler Street  Pittsburgh, PA 15201

Roundabout, while having my favorite overall selection of the day, is super small inside. It was also completely packed while we were there which didn’t allow for many photos. Picture it: a back wall bar with six brews on tap and three long tables with eight stools around each. About the width of that window in the photo above and twice as deep. I really liked that the table setup made you almost have to talk with your neighbors, the way a traditional beer garden works.

 

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DRAAI LAAG BREWING COMPANY
501 E Ohio Street  Millvale, PA 15209

We ended our day at Draii Laag, coincidentally the same day they opened their big and beautiful outdoor space. This brewery focuses on Belgian-inspired ales, some of my personal favorites, but they don’t conform to styles either. I tried the Goedenacht which could only be described as a cider-mead-farmhouse ale and it was delicious. There was even a German food truck pulled up in the parking lot, and had we not been so full of beer would have jumped at the chance to partake.

 

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We’ll be reporting back with Part 2 as soon as we recover from Part 1!

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A Trip to Kennywood

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There was one main thing on my summer bucket list and that was to visit Kennywood, one of the oldest and most beloved amusement parks in America that’s located just outside Pittsburgh. Founded in 1898, Kennywood is home to several wooden rollercoasters and was even designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

 

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I lost count of the number of times I’ve visited the park, but the last was back in 1999 the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. Since then a few rides have said  sayonara while others have taken their place. I was anxious to reacquaint myself with the place.

 

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So a few weekends ago me along with eight members of my family headed to Kennywood for the day! Naturally it was one of the hottest days of the summer, which seemed appropriate. We baked in the sun – under our sunscreen, of course – from 11am until the park shut down for the night at 10:30.

The carousel above is over 100 years old, the wooden platform and hand painted horses make it beyond magical.

 

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Not everyone was able to ride every single ride (back injuries, inner ear issues, fear of heights – the list goes on), so we spent a good part of the day separating and regrouping. My ride partner was my 29-year-old cousin who was just as ride-focused as me (yeah, you can tell we’re related).

 

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I made sure to make a stop at my favorite eatery for some cheese-smothered Potato Patch Fries, one of those foods that’s become an institution within the park. And then I ate them so fast I didn’t even snap a photo – the HORROR.

 

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We rode the fastest coaster in the part in the front seat. My mom was seated directly behind me screaming the entire time, as one does on a rollercoaster, and I laughed so hard that I had tears streaming back to my ears! My eyes were even closed because I thought my contacts might slide right out.

 

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I was brought up on county fair and amusement park rides, both of my parents love them. Whenever someone is freaking out in the middle of one I’m usually the person sitting next to them, it must be some sort of unspoken law of nature. While riding the Black Widow (above) the teenage girl seated next to me lost it so bad that tears and snot were pouring out and her long hair was plastered to her face. She kept telling her friend she was going to pass out, while her friend held her hand and said that everyone was looking at her. Yeah, she totally didn’t care and bolted as soon as the ride was over and the harnesses lifted.

 

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Amusement parks at night are ten times better than by day, and I was immediately taken back to walking around Kennywood as a teenager with whatever boy I liked at the moment. Those were the days, man.

 

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PGH Maker Profile: Worker Bird

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Sharing the stories behind the most talented creatives in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.

Kim Fox, aka Worker Bird, is one amazing lady who has drive and talent oozing out of every pore. We met back in April and I loved her energy and vibe immediately. We got together one afternoon last month and chatted about the inspiration behind her “tin quilts” and the trajectory her business has taken the past few years. Margaritas were involved as was her adorable Boston Terrier, Harriet, who’s never far from Kim’s hammering.

 

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Kim’s ever-growing collection of tins waiting to be cut up.

Tell us a little bit about how you got your start with Worker Bird.

A few years ago my husband and I took a day-long workshop at the Society for Contemporary Craft with Robert Villamagna, a tin artist from West Virginia. I fell in love with the process that day and it has grown to what it is now.

 

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Tin organized by color and shape.

What’s your favorite part of the process? Your least favorite?

I can honestly say I love every part of the process for very different reasons. Going to estate sales to hunt for tins is a favorite pastime; preparing the wood in my little workshop is fun; digging through the tins while designing the piece is challenging; and tacking in the tiny nails is a mindless task that allows my brain to run wild. And then I’m done. So each stage is something I love.

 

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Finished Crazy Quilted Hearts.

What other makers inspire you most?

The crew that set me on my path – Jeff Matz, Paul Mastriani, and Sarah Collins – at Lure Design in Orlando, Florida. The amazing creative community here in PGH – strawberryluna, Redraven, Commonwealth Press, Alternate Histories, Everyday Balloons, Sapling Press, Moop, etc (damn, Pittsburgh is amazing!). I am surrounded by people chasing their dreams and that is rad. And my husband, Steven Foxbury, is the most supportive, believer-in-me that I could ever hope for. And watching him chase his dreams right now – WOW. I’m pretty in love with life these days.

 

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Kim working on a custom order Pennsylvania map.

 

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Harriet’s bed on Kim’s work table.

Where do you see Worker Bird in 5 years?

Same house. More tins. Making art all the time. I’d be the most fulfilled.

 

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A wall of inspiration in Kim’s office.

What makes having a small business in Pittsburgh so great?

See above re: the community. I can’t say enough how amazing it is to know these people. I have always loved Pittsburgh but the last 18 months have been super special for me. I left my job in Florida and dove headlong into Pittsburgh. And these are the people that caught me.

 

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PGH Maker Profile: strawberryluna

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Sharing the stories behind the most talented creatives in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.

I met Allison Glancey of strawberryluna years before I moved back to Pennsylvania. We’d connected online shortly after I started Design Crush and bonded over the city of Pittsburgh, where Allison was living with her husband and the other half of strawberryluna, Craig. You’ve likely seen their gig posters for everyone from Belle & Sebastian to Morrissey. We spent a sunny Friday afternoon drinking boxed white zinfandel and talking all about life paths, dogs, and other awesome things.

 

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Allison’s printing ink collection.

Tell us a little bit about how you got your start with strawberryluna.

It’s a bit of an accidental story, to be honest. I had always been interested in printmaking. I’d never had the chance to learn before I heard about Artists Image Resource (AIR for short) on the North Side. In fall of 2004, I went to an Open Studio night and was lucky enough to have the talented Mike Budai as the person to show me around and how to print. After that I was hooked, 100%. I began attending the AIR Open Studio nights regularly, working on small art prints for my own amusement and slowly started to get a little better with a lot of help from the AIR braintrust. It is a very DIY, punk, make it work sort of artists’ culture and that really helped solidify the process of screenprinting for me and allowed for a lot of experimentation. I started showing work in a few places online (Gigposters.com, Flickr, etc) and got connected to promoters, bands, record labels, managers and so forth, then started doing rock posters as well as art prints. The challenge of having to create and hand print full editions for band clients was really intense and rewarding at the same time. We also designed a line of Alphabet Prints that were featured in Real Simple’s Holiday Gift Guide in 2007 a few months after I had quit a corporate HR job. That exposure and holiday season was the true beginning of me realizing that strawberryluna really could be a full-time endeavor.

 

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Allison prepping her workspace.

What’s your favorite part of the process? Your least favorite?

I think that my favorite part(s) of the process are both in finalizing a design. Because we end up working on every design through trial and error, moving, changing, playing, trashing, starting over… until there is this magical moment where it all suddenly feels right. Many times we will just walk away from the piece at that point and come back tomorrow, just to make sure it’s still solid. And then if it is, my other favorite part of the process is almost always that very first pull of the last layer and color on a print or a poster. It’s a very unique, special feeling where all of the hours of work that I’ve already put into a piece come together. It’s a cool “Proof of concept” emotion that I think maybe only other printmakers might truly be able to appreciate. It’s one part relief to two parts thrill somehow. And I love it. No matter how tired I am, no matter how late at night it is when I get to that one moment? It’s the best. My least favorite is, hands down, reclaiming screens.

 

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Prepping and pulling a color on a gig poster.

What other makers inspire you most?

The ones who bust ass like we do! I love to see my friends process photos of their work, both our maker friends here in Pittsburgh and the ones who live far away that we might only ever see in person once a year. Working for yourself in a creative, design and maker business is so rewarding but it is also very very hard work and can be so draining at times. So I find that I most adore like-minded doers who put their heads down and just get it done, son.

 

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Allison at the drying rack.

Where do you see strawberryluna in 5 years?

I’ve never had a good head for 5-year plans. I am much more of an organic let’s open this door and see where it goes kind of person and thinker, and my business model shows that if you really look at it. I would love to ramp up our wholesale side more, and I would love to continue working on more and more illustration-heavy projects. Perhaps actually get a book published! We’ve worked on a few book projects for covers, illustrations, and the like, but they sadly died before publication. I would love to write and illustrate a children’s book. Or ten.

 

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Just a few of Allison’s favorite strawberryluna prints framed in her studio. / Sprite!, her canine assistant.

What makes having a small business in Pittsburgh so great?

So many things. I don’t want to make it sound like paradise here, because it’s not. The winters are long, cold, grey, and hardcore. And it’s a smaller city than the places that people usually think of as great arts-centric communities. But! I think that Pittsburgh offers so much more than many larger cities. For instance, a place like AIR where I learned how to screenprint? That just doesn’t exist in many other places. Space and price are at such a premium in cities like NYC, Chicago, and LA that it’s virtually impossible to have so many rich, community accessible facilities and support systems like we do in Pittsburgh. The maker and small business community of people that I’ve nestled into and have formed super strong bonds with is filled with very strong, hardworking, and lovely talents who honestly subscribe to the idea that A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats as well. If I need advice or a resource I find that most people here are more than willing to share, help, and listen. What seems incredibly natural to me about Pittsburgh’s maker and creative side is often seen as an unusual thing when I talk with peers in other cities and when we do shows across the country. Also, for being such a nice, green, and tech-forward city it’s relatively inexpensive without being rough or run down. I have to say that I also dearly, dearly love that pretentiousness is something that Pittsburgh has never and seemingly (hopefully?) will never foster. It’s a completely “put your money where your mouth is” town where people get excited to make things, open shops, and actually have the opportunities to make because we aren’t working three jobs just to keep a small apartment. With the caveats of being cool with a lot of rain and sleet? It’s a pretty great city. Just don’t tell everyone! It’s kind of a secret how awesome it is to live and work for yourself here.

 

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PGH Maker Profile: Redraven Studios

I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited to launch a new column as I am to kickoff PGH Maker Profile today. But let me start by backtracking just a little bit. Before I moved back to Pittsburgh (aka PGH) last September I had a few local creative friends, but didn’t know what to expect beyond that. I’d heard good things about the community, but was in no way prepared for just how phenomenal it actually is. I can honestly say that I’ve never met a group of people who are such go-getters, so willing to collaborate, or so welcoming as the crew I’m growing to call mine. It makes me realize that I’m exactly where I belong both in my career and in my life because so many good things are happening. Now I’m looking forward to sharing all of these amazing human beings and their talents with you. Some you’ll know, some will be new, exactly zero will disappoint.

 

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Amy Hamley of Redraven Studios is my favorite kind of business lady, the kind who was following their passion and just happened to trip into business. A girl after my own heart, really. Within five minutes of meeting a few months ago I knew we were meant to be friends. She’s turned her background studies in ceramics into a legit career featuring pieces that you’ve most likely seen as Etsy all-stars and everywhere else on the web. Last month I spent an afternoon sweating and drinking warm Riesling in her studio while we talked life and business.

 

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Greenware drying.

Tell us a little bit about how you got your start with Redraven.

My business kind of happened by accident. I was working at a community ceramics studio teaching wheel throwing classes. I made some work there for myself, but would take clay home and began to make jewelry in my kitchen. I would take it back to the studio to fire the pieces. It evolved from a thing that I liked doing to me opening my Etsy shop in 2008 selling ceramic jewelry that was finished with vintage ceramic decals. I enjoyed making these, but knew that I wanted to work larger and make work that was meaningful to me. In 2010 I started making molds again. I rebranded my store by creating all new listings for items that I had slip cast in porcelain from handmade molds.

 

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Amy stamping her logo on a ring dish. Greenware drying.

What’s your favorite part of the process? Your least favorite?

My favorite part of my process is hand painting my dinnerware collection. My least favorite is refining greenware to bisque fire, or sanding bisque, they are equally terrible.

 

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Redraven’s beautiful dinnerware collection.

What other makers inspire you most?

So many makers inspire me that I don’t even know where to start! First my studiomates, Heather and Myles of Stak Ceramics. They make flawless, innovative, functional work. Ali Gibbons and Taylor Ceramics are also two incredible ceramic artists that I really admire. Fayce Textiles makes the most insanely beautiful textiles and homewares. And, literally, every maker in Pittsburgh.

 

PGH-Maker-Redraven-Studios-5-Design-Crush

Stones that were cast as molds for jewelry.

Where do you see Redraven in 5 years?

In five years I’d like to see redraven in some dream retailers with a more expansive wholesale client network. And maybe working a little less!

 

PGH-Maker-Redraven-Studios-7-Design-Crush

The ring dish I painted before glazing and firing took place.

What makes having a small business in Pittsburgh so great?

The community. I couldn’t ask for a better network of makers, business owners, and friends. There is a work ethic and pride here that is very special to Pittsburgh, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.

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Anthropologie + Design Crush

Anthropologie + Design Crush

That was fast! The event is full! Apologies to anyone who missed out.

Local Pittsburgh friends! I’m so happy to announce that I’ll be hosting an event with Anthropologie on Saturday, May 2nd from 10am until noon. Join me at the Bakery Square location where we’ll create sets of abstract painted potholders while we snack and sip on delicious things. Space is limited, so be sure and RSVP today if you’d like to be part of the workshop!

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Redraven Studios

Red Raven Studios-1-Design Crush

 

I began following Redraven Studios several years before moving back to Pittsburgh, in fact I didn’t even know they were from my hometown at that point. Founder Amy Hamley and her husband Ryan create the prettiest porcelain pieces – I had their Good Luck Porcelain Horseshoe hanging above my front door for several years and it was always complimented. This holiday season I’m eyeballing the Porcelain & Gold Leaf Feather Ornament for my tree (and maybe a few lucky recipients) along with the Canyon Series Dinnerware that is forever on my Wish List.

 

Red Raven Studios-2-Design Crush

 

Red Raven Studios-3-Design Crush

 

Red Raven Studios-4-Design Crush

 

Red Raven Studios-5-Design Crush

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