You may have heard the good news, we're moving! At least, our studio is moving. A rental space recently became available at Disjecta Contemporary Art Center and we decided it was worth exploring.
The new space will more than double our square footage, but it will also add a monthly rental cost. We believe this investment in improved space with climate control, public restroom, improved electrical, etc. is worth the increased cost as we can provide better services to our students, artists, and creatives in our community.
In the past we've talked about the increased cost of real estate and living in Portland, and the impact it's made on our choices. That's what prompted us to crowdfund the purchase of a food truck in 2016 and turn it into a mobile studio. We also remodeled our garage into a home based studio in 2017. In other words, we adapted.
Before we tell you more about the new space and our goals for the coming year, we should probably take a look back. Last year was one of extremes. Here's a look at what we did.
All wonderful and positive things! But unfortunately life sometimes takes a turn for the worse, which was our experience in August 2017. Less than a week after Jenn had an exhibition of her Fruits of the Sun project at Portland Art Museum, and just a few days into working with our August residency artist, Jenene Nagy, an arson event took place at our home. We lost both our personal vehicle and the mobile studio to extensive fire damage, and we did not have comprehensive insurance coverage on either vehicle, meaning they were total losses.
In most ways we have been able to recover from this scary, mentally and financially destabilizing event. But we won't sugar coat that the end of 2017 was not easy. It felt like our confidence and momentum hit a brick wall. There was so much wonderful support from our friends, family, colleagues, and sometimes strangers, and that made a world of difference! Ultimately we needed time to process and heal. And for awhile there we were definitely in shock. While we would like to close this chapter and focus on our our move, there are still some lingering details to deal with. The suspected arsonist has been identified and is pending trial for which we will likely testify. And we're also still trying to find a junk yard that will tow away the mobile studio from our driveway. Because of it's size we're not having any luck finding a place that will take it. Let us know if you have a connection that would be able to help!
If you've been following our progress over the last 5+ years, you might wonder how we're able to afford to rent a studio space. First off, our personal finances are a bit more stabilized thanks to our day jobs. Gary is now the Administrative Assistant at Arts People, an amazing Portland based ticketing and fundraising software business, and Jenn is a Project Manager at c3:initiative our partner for the residency program, and an inspiring arts non-profit organization. Secondly, at the end of 2017 we secured fiscal sponsorship status from Fractured Atlas so that we can receive charitable donations to support our studio as it evolves. We are putting our most recent donation funds towards the purchase of a folding table and a refrigerator. If you would like to support these types of studio expenses (rent, equipment, supplies) you can make a secure online donation HERE.
Moving the studio is a leap of faith. We have weighed the pros-and-cons and believe it is the way to put our best foot forward after the loss of the mobile studio. Here's how we hope to grow in 2018.
As we see how the year goes we also hope to add in some low cost and FREE drop-in events to grow our community and get more people engaged with the art and craft of hand papermaking. We are so excited, and of course a bit nervous, for this next chapter! As always, BIG THANKS to all who have been there with us through thick and thin. We couldn't do this without each and every one of you!!!
Over the past two months we've done a bit of travelling for the studio. In September we spent a week as artists-in-residence at the lovely Lone Pine Farm & Studio in Bainbridge Island, WA. It was a wonderful break from the day-to-day dealing with all things related to the fire at our home. We had planned to use the time to try out as many new types of plant fibers as we could, and we did just that. Our hosts at Lone Pine (Sarah and Ryan) were kind, gracious and helpful, providing us with awesome studio space, a cozy sleeping yurt, eggs from their chickens and produce from the farm, a lovely welcoming meal and a tour of the M&E public land site of which they are stewards. If you live in or near Seattle we highly recommend checking out one of their artist talks or events. The farm is just a quick ferry ride away.
As this was our first time as artists in residence we felt a certain urgency about utilizing our time wisely and productively. Processing plants for paper can be very labor intensive, so we tried to give ourselves lots of studio time to work through steaming, stripping, cutting, cooking and beating. In other words even though we had been thinking the residency would be a bit like a vacation, it was really more like intensive and very focused work, but in a welcome way. If we had to piecemeal this type of time together at home it would take us several months to get as much done. The plants we ended up using were fava bean husks, indigo stems, scotch broom bast, alder bast and stinging nettle.
We also made a bit of abaca and some recycled paper fiber from office paper waste to make paper for coloring books for our final Kickstarter rewards. It was a little heartbreaking making the paper for the rewards after losing the mobile studio in the fire. But our Kickstarter backers gave us their support and we want to recognize their generosity.
Once we made all of our paper pulps we had an open studio event where we met some of the locals and enjoyed sharing a bit about what we were doing. After that we had a little over one full day to play and do some art making. Gary worked with the fibers to create layered pulp paintings and Jenn primarily focused on sheet forming for creating charcoal drawings. We both were working through a lot of emotions related to the fire and ended up making work dealing with themes of control/lack of control, impact/dissipation, and chaos/order. We plan on continuing to explore these ideas and expand on this new series, working collaboratively in a call/response type manner. This is our second time developing a body of work as an artist duo, and we look forward to future projects where Pulp & Deckle is not just our studio, but it is also our collaborative artist practice.
We did manage to squeeze in a few adventures outside of the studio (and Gary even recorded an episode of his podcast series - I'll Have a Beer and Talk) during the residency. One evening we saw a beautiful and quiet sunset at Fay Bainbridge Park. Jenn picked up a mussel shell to cast into paper, along with a few seabird feathers, and Gary took lots of documentation photos. Another evening we visited BARN (Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network) to attend a book signing and talk by Tara Whitsitt of Fermentation on Wheels. Tara gave a sauerkraut making demo and tour of her mobile fermentation lab, a converted school bus that she has traveled the country in, teaching workshops and collaborating with schools, nonprofits, community centers and others to expand fermentation education. We felt a lot of simpatico with Tara's ideas and outreach efforts, and it was also really great to check out the amazing facilities available at BARN.
Another positive outcome of the residency was that we were able to try out packing up much of our studio equipment into our new vehicle, a Volvo SUV. Since we lost both our mobile studio and our station wagon in the fire (we didn't have comprehensive fire insurance to cover the cars) we were able to buy 1 replacement vehicle with a loan from family. Until we can get back on more stable financial footing and grow our studio income we will be using the Volvo as both our personal vehicle and to transport studio equipment for offsite workshops, demos and events. While we still hope to replace the mobile studio in the future (you can help out by contributing to our Go Fund Me) we are relieved to have a reliable car big enough to pile much of our equipment into.
Now that we have this residency experience under our belts we are keeping our eyes peeled for other short term or low-res opportunities where we can have the time and space to continue exploring paper made from local plants. We hope to process more scotch broom fibers in the future as it is an invasive plant that yields a really lovely bast fiber. Working with farm waste is also an area we'd like to dig into more deeply. So if you have any suggestions for residency opportunities or artistic collaborations with farms that you think would be a good fit for our papermaking explorations, let us know in the comments or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In our next blog post we'll recap our trip to the annual Friends of Dard Hunter Annual Meeting in Atlanta, GA. Stay tuned....
At 1 am on Wednesday, August 9th, we were awoken by the sound of someone pounding on our front door. When dashing out of bed to investigate, we saw a wall of flame outside our upstairs window. There was a fire right next to our house. A fire crew was trying to get us out.
Thanks to the quick work of the fire response teams, the fire was extinguished before it did serious damage to our home. From what we understand, an unidentified individual started a fire in the dumpster of the business next to our driveway. The fire reached arborvitae trees that line our driveway for privacy and they went up instantly. After the fire was out and we were allowed to return to our home, we were able to assess the damage. All the arborvitae burned, and both our personal car and the mobile studio had their sides closest to the fire melted.
So many things could have gone differently that night. All things considered, it was the best possible result of a terrifying incident. We are working with insurance and hope to have repairs started soon. If you would like to help in our recovery efforts please consider becoming a monthly supporter of the studio via our Patreon page HERE. Thank you!!!
Though we are soldiering on, this has in many ways, especially on the emotional side of things, knocked the wind out of our sails. Our nerves are pretty raw, and we're trying our best to mitigate an overall feeling of vulnerability. Please be patient with us as we navigate through the recovery process and steer our lives back towards a more even keeled path. Until we find out more from insurance we have no idea what the future of the mobile studio (since the truck we bought is now unusable and will likely be scrapped) will be. For the time being we are planning on using a personal vehicle to teach offsite workshops as much as we can.
Many thanks as always to our family, friends and supporters who believe in what we are doing and continue to help us keep on keeping on.
Most people seem like they are ready to say so long and good riddance to 2016. It's been a year full of a lot of emotion and change. As we put together this look back at the year we mainly feel immense gratitude. The support we've received from students, clients, and partners helped us keep on keepin' on for another year. While we haven't yet crunched the financial numbers to get a sense of our economic year in review, we do have a breakdown of doings and happenings. Here it is -
At first glance it seems a rather modest list, and in some respects it is. We spent a good amount of 2016 figuring out our next steps as our time in the c3:initiative incubator came to an end. Once we decided to transition to a mobile and home based studio and launched our Kickstarter campaign to purchase a food truck to turn into the mobile studio, much of our time and energy was directed at this big transition. We are in fact still working on the transition, and will continue to renovate over the next month. As you can imagine, these things take time, and they take even more time when other projects, classes, and life events need attention too.
Going into 2017 we have some very specific goals, and some more nebulous ideas and dreams. Here's what we're thinking -
You may notice that we're honing in on our connections to community and nature. It's natural that as we look ahead to a new year that we would think about our priorities and how we might want to re-shape them. In an increasingly divisive and intolerant world we are reaffirming our core values with the hope that we can make a positive impact and bring people together through the transformative craft of papermaking. While it is tempting to think that we could do more good as a non-profit venture, we are committed to keeping our studio flexible. Going non-profit would mean we would primarily focus on fundraising. Having recently completed a Kickstarter campaign we can tell you that we are not interested in becoming full-time fundraisers. We believe it is possible to have non-profit values while being a for-profit business, and time will tell if we are right.
2017 will mark our fifth year anniversary in the fall. For a small business it's an important year. It's our hope that this year we can increase our overall sustainability to ensure our long-term survival. Earlier this year we wrote about the changes happening in Portland and our commitment to sticking them out and finding ways to grow with the city. With the continued support of our friends, family, partners, clients, students, and patrons we can shape the kind of creative community we want to see in the world.
So go check out our 2017 workshops, if you'd like to hire the mobile studio for a private group class at your workplace or home send us an email , order something from our etsy shop, or just sign-up for our monthly e-newsletter so you can stay in touch. The more you connect with us, the more pulpy goodness we can share with the world and with you.
It's now the official season of giving, right? Well we have a giving type of request from you. Would you please give us a a review? If you've taken a class, bought something from us, ordered something custom, or seen us talk or give a demo out in the world, would you please tell people about your experience with us? The reason we ask is that we've come to realize a few things about why people review, and why they don't.
Most folks give reviews when they've had a bad experience. It's a way to regain some control in situations where things did not go how you would like them to. We've all done it, right? But it's more uncommon to give positive reviews. Having a good experience feels good in the moment, and we often express our thanks more directly to the person we're interacting with, which is great! We are so appreciative of all the positive and immeadiate feedback we've received. This type of support lets us know that people are enjoying our services and products. Big thanks to all who have let us know in person, or via email that they value what we do and how we do it.
If you've already given us a review on Facebook, Yelp, or Etsy - THANK YOU!!! And if you haven't, would you? By letting others know about your experience you can help people feel confident in our business. We are also hugely appreciative of the word of mouth support that we've received.
This month we're going to embrace the spirit of giving reviews to all of our favorite organizations, shops, and restaurants. Now that we are on the receiving end of reviews we more fully understand their power and importance.
When we're explaining what it is we do, we say we are makers, or more specifically, papermakers. In Portland there is a thriving, dynamic group of makers who create all types of goods. There's even a retail store devoted to local makers and a membership group that highlights businesses and offers member events. The media is also noticing the growth of the local maker community, and we were recently featured on a local news segment focusing on different types of makers with KGW's Tracy Barry. It can be easy to take for granted that if you create something, you're a maker. But what does it really mean to fit into this category that is more readily synonymous with the tech world and 3D printers? When you're operating a business being a maker is mainly tied up with being a producer of goods.
As the days grow shorter and the consumer machine that is the holiday season kicks in, we've been thinking about the types of things we make, and why we make them. Jenn recently attended the WeMake Celebrates Conference as a volunteer, and was truly inspired by the speakers, demos and panel discussions. Hearing about the struggles and triumphs of small business owners, illustrators, art directors, photographers, and others can help you feel like you are part of a larger creative community in which there are relatable stories.
For a long time we've felt a tug-of-war with the desire to explore and create, and share our material explorations with others, without adding more stuff to the glut of objects in the world. This is one of the big reasons we focus on using recycled and locally sourced materials for our products. The problem of course is that in order to be a sustainable business, financially speaking, we need to make, and more importantly sell, a good amount of things. So yes, we feel good about our materials, and that we are physically making the goods, and that when people buy our goods they are supporting our local economy. However, there is always a push to make more things in order to make more money. How do we balance out economic realities with our core business and personal values?
One of the suggestions we've been hearing a lot lately is that if artists and makers increase the quality and craftsmanship of their products that they can price their work at higher levels and therefore make more money while making less stuff. In theory, we absolutely agree with this concept. The main snag is if you want to make well crafted work and still have it be affordable to a large and diverse audience. Making luxury goods can indeed make you money, but if you're hoping to fuel the democratization of consumption (like we are) we don't necessarily want to focus on making big ticket goods.
When we were initially putting together our business plan one of the things we were told was that you are not necessarily your customer. So we imagined our ideal customer as an eco-conscious consumer with disposable income. And that has been going okay for the most part. But the feeling of wanting to make our products affordable for our friends, neighbors and community in general is one we've kept coming back to. We're still working on balancing out what we make, and how much it should cost. And of course a lot of the same feelings we have about wanting to keep our products affordable applies to our workshops and classes too.
All of this to say that while it's easy to say you're a maker of things, it can be challenging to be a seller of them. We'll keep questioning what we're doing, how we're doing it, and why we're doing it. And while we grow and evolve we'd love to get your feedback as fellow makers and consumers. Why do you think it's important to make things? Why do you buy things from makers?
Pulp & Deckle is a handmade papermaking studio located in Portland, OR.