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?
As you can see from the incomplete post below, the content and photos of what we had been working on has disappeared. We cannot delete the incomplete post (double BLERG!!!) so we are working on recreating the post with its many, many photos and lots of content.
This was our third year attending the annual Friends of Dard Hunter Meeting. The location varies every year, with this year's conference happening in Santa Fe, NM. You can read more about our road trip travel to the conference in this
Travel can be a disorienting gift. The displacement we experience outside of our usual routines and familiar landmarks often results in a variety of feelings and thoughts. Excitement, fear, stress, curiosity, are just a few of the things I felt during our most recent journey to the American Southwest.
The planning of our journey began a few months back, when we realized that the Friends of Dard Hunter annual papermaking conference (#EarthPaperSky) was taking place in Santa Fe, NM and that coincidentally, some of our closest friends were planning on moving to Taos, NM that same week. A scheme started to hatch where in exchange for driving their moving truck, we could stay with our friends (about a 1.5 hour drive away from the conference) and they would help us out with travel costs. We knew from attending the past 2 conferences that lodging and transportation were our main expenses, so we figured we might be able to afford the trip with this unique arrangement in mind.
Plans came together. We hit the road on a Sunday, travelling through the Columbia River Gorge into Idaho, where we would stay in Boise, then made our way on to Moab, Utah, enjoyed a brief leg in Colorado, arriving in Taos on the third day of driving. The days were long and the scenery beautiful. I fell into a mesmerizing state of nowness. Every time my mind would drift to thoughts about my normal, daily concerns I would bat them away and meditate on the landscape, on my driving speed, on the temperature of the truck cabin. My concerns came down to bathroom breaks, safe driving, listening to podcasts and grooving to the tunes of the Casbah. ( As an aside- If you don't know the Casbah program from San Antonio you should check it out. Downloading episodes for long roadtrips has helped grease the wheels of my and Gary's relationship. Seriously. Big thanks to Casbah host Brian Parrish!)
Once we were in Taos we unloaded the moving truck into our friend's new earthship home. I've recently realized that a lot of people don't know what earthships are. If you're not familiar with alternative building techniques like strawbale homes, shipping container homes, etc. you might not have seen or heard about earthships. Check out this page to learn more about how awesome they are - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthship.
Entering the desert landscape in this part of New Mexico was a little bit like landing on an alien planet. The sky was blue and vast, the trees were short and the mountain peaks (for now) were bare. At first I didn't think the higher altitude was effecting me too greatly, but after several days I started to feel like my nasal passages were constantly dried out and my lips cracked without a consistent application of chap-stick. I really enjoyed the landscape despite the dryness. There is a rugged beauty and sense of peace in the open sky. The morning and evening light was indeed golden. Sadly, the feeling of being in the present moment that I embraced on the drive started to fall away as we had to plan for attending the papermaking conference. We only had about a day in between driving and conference attending, so we did our best to soak up some down-time in Taos.
On arriving in Santa Fe we felt the familiar hustle and bustle of cars, people and activities. I'll write a separate account of our time at the conference, but for now I want to focus on the act of travel and what I think it does to our brains. One of the things Gary commented on was that when looking at the ever present adobe architecture we encountered, he couldn't place how old buildings were, as the signs of age and construction he is accustomed to weren't present. I think of this as an apt way of describing travel in general. Your usual markers for navigating the world drift away and you are left to engage anew.
Here's why I think travel is important. It awakens your curiosity and (hopefully) alters and expands your understanding of the world. Of course I am sure that many people travel and try and stick to the familiar so that there worldview is not challenged, and that their experience stays familiar. I feel badly for those people. A bit of the unknown can do a body (and mind) good. I also recognize what an amazing privilege it is to travel. Not everyone can afford to go beyond the place where they live and work. I strongly believe that providing people with an opportunity to see other spaces, cultures and landscapes can transform our understanding of the world and drive a more emapthetic and sustainable culture. Educational programs like Outdoor School in Oregon help give a glimpse to children of the world in this way.
Our next trip will be a family centered one over Thanksgiving. We'll be flying to Hot Springs, and visiting the Crystal Springs Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. After that we don't know where the next adventure will take us. I'm hoping we can go somewhere to celebrate my 40th birthday in April. I'd love to return to Paris and/or London (I lived in Paris for a year back during my undergrad studies), or visit a friend who lives in Japan, but international travel means we need more $$$$. Other possibilities are visiting Big Sur in California, or heading up to the San Juan Islands. Time (and money) will tell.
I'd love to know where you've traveled to lately and why you think it an important part of the human experience. Comment here and let me know.
- Jenn Woodward
Co-Founder and Lead Instructor, Pulp & Deckle
Since the successful completion of our Kickstarter campaign in August, we've been working on getting our mobile papermaking studio, aka, The Pulp Mobile, up and running. For those who don't know about the campaign, we raised $11,688 from 101 backers to purchase a former espresso food truck and transform it into our papermaking studio. You can read more about our reasons for doing that in our last blog post.
The three main things we need to get the Pulp Mobile polished up and road worthy are 1.) finish scraping off the old espresso truck graphics, 2.) get new vinyl logos installed, 3.) get a tune-up. We're trying to stretch the remaining funds from the Kickstarter to make these things happen and still have enough money left over to fulfill the rewards for our Kickstarter backers. Needless to say, the budget is tight. We knew every penny would count, so we're being as frugal as we can.
While we work on the truck and fulfill the rewards we're busy keeping things moving forward with our residency program, workshops, and custom orders.
In mid-November we will move out of our current studio space inside of the c3:initiative and transition to hosting workshops in our home garage space in North Portland, and at guest locations with our mobile studio. Any big change to a business can be nerve wracking as you're not sure how things will pan out. We've taught enough workshops at guest locations that we are confident that we'll be able to drum up consistent interest in the mobile studio, but it never hurts to ask for help in getting the word out. If you know of a business, organization, school or private group that would be interested in having us come out with the mobile studio to teach, send us an email! We are eager to start scheduling workshops and can customize our offerings for groups of various sizes, ages, abilities and experience levels.
And if you weren't able to contribute to the Kickstarter but want to support the mobile studio effort, check out our Patreon page. For as little as $1 a month you can help support our creative business and keep the art of papermaking alive!
Our most sincere thanks and gratitude to everyone who has helped us turn our schemes and dreams into reality! You are truly THE BEST and we are so lucky to get to share our passion for paper with all of you.
Over the past year or so we've seen snowballing change in Portland. The city is struggling with growing pains that have resulted in a housing crisis, the shuttering of iconic businesses, and the displacement of artists. Yesterday the IPRC (Independent Publishing Resource Center) announced the need to move as their rent was increased by 300%. They've launched a kickstarter campaign to raise funds for their move (we saw the announcement right as it went up and were proud to be the first backers.) This is the most recent in a growing trend of art spaces that are no longer affordable for their tenants. While we recognize the need for new construction to help ease real estate costs, we also see the need for alternative spaces to be available for creative use, such as the 7 acre eco-industrial park, Green Anchors.
Doing a google search for "art spaces displacement artists Portland Oregon" it's easy to see that artists and art spaces are struggling. Here's a list of articles from the past several months;
And last year artist Carye Bye wrote a very personal account on why she could no longer stay in Portland that was published by Willamette Week.
Looking at this, you might think we're feeling pessimistic about Portland's future. While it would be foolish to not be concerned, we are choosing to be optimistic. We love Portland. We choose this city, warts and all. No place is perfect, but there is so much that is good about Portland that we don't want to give up on living here. Our hope is that the new growth will shine a light on problems so that we as citizens can try to do something about them. If Portland wants to have a diverse (racially, culturally, and economically) populous we need to find ways to shape the future beyond the pull of market forces.
How can we do this? One way is to support the artists, orgs and small businesses that draw people to want to be here. If you don't patronize them, they will go away. Even large institutions that might seem like they could withstand tough times are not immune, as we saw with the recent closing of the Museum of Contemporary Craft. One of the major reasons cited for the closure was that the museum had been operating on a deficit for several years. While it can't be said for certain that increased attendance and donations would have saved the museum from closing, it certainly would have made it less likely.
Another way is to help out when help is needed. If you can't give to a kickstarter or other fundraising effort, then share their message so it reaches people who can give. If you have more time than money consider volunteering. Go see art, dance and theater exhibitions, especially when it's free to do so. Many artists and orgs get RACC and other grants funding and high attendance reports will help ensure that the projects you want to see will get funded in the future.
It may seem like the problems are too big for any of us to make a difference. That's why we have to come together. Resource sharing is something we've had the benefit of over the past several years, during our time in the c3:initiative creative business incubator. This is not a new way for artists and small businesses to survive, but it is an increasingly important one considering Portland's increasing real estate costs. A recent example of resource sharing is the XOXO Outpost, a pay-what-you-can shared workspace founded by graphic designer Andy McMillan and Andy Baio, who helped found Kickstarter. The more we can come together and pool our resources, the more we can accomplish.
This brings me to our future in Portland. This fall our incubator term is ending. We've known that we would need to find a new space for the studio, and have been looking. And the conclusion was that in order for our business to grow and survive, we have to change our business model. So we are buying a food truck and turning it into a mobile paper studio. Rather than have all our money go towards paying rent on a physical space we are seeking out more partnerships with schools, businesses, artists, and creatives. The truck is small enough that we can park in most driveways, so we can pull up outside an artist's home and they could rent the studio from us for the day. Or we can drive out to a farm on Sauvie and teach a class using agricultural waste to make paper. Or we can set up in a parking lot outside a school and have a pop-up class.
While the mobile model is not a good solution for everyone, it is a good solution for us. And it's becoming a more popular solution for other creative businesses and orgs too. The Portland Opera just unveiled their "Opera a la Cart" truck, a mobile performance venue that you can check out around town this summer. One of the inspirations for our mobile studio came from another notoriously expensive place for real estate, New York City. The ArtBuilt Mobile Studios are using the mobile studio as a platform for publicly engaged art making (something we strongly support!)
We won't lie, we've had many a conversation circling around the idea of leaving Portland and setting up a studio on some acreage near the coast, or in the gorge. We've felt the squeeze of rising costs and increasing debt, like so many others. This is one of the primary reasons why we're crowdfunding for our mobile studio, rather than taking out a business loan. Adding to our student loans, mortgage and credit card debt, health care costs, etc. will make it even more difficult for our small business to survive. Beyond the practical financial concerns, we want to know that the community supports us and wants us to be here.
Since starting our business in the fall of 2012 we've taught hundreds of students and founded an artist residency program, in addition to creating custom orders and retail goods. We've had a lot of positive feedback, and now we need our supporters to take action and help us evolve. Together we can help keep the ART in PoRTlAnd.
Share and contribute to our kickstarter HERE. Thank you!!!
Pulp & Deckle is a handmade papermaking studio located in Portland, OR.