If you’ve been shopping around Oakland and the Bay Area, you may have noticed Julia’s bags hanging in windows of small storefronts. Her bold patterns are playful and inspiring. I’ve been admiring her work for some time and reached out to see if she was interested in a collaboration for a new box coming out for housewares, our Be Home box. When I saw Julia’s beautiful wall hangings I imagined one of them on the table! Voila! A table runner was born and Julia was game! She was excited to try something new and expand her product line. I was simply excited to work with her. She has an energy, quite composed and warm, but fun and electric. And above all, receptive to collaboration, which is in part why I started Bestowe.
Let's dive right in. How did you start your business/your craft/your art?
I began block printing as a hobby around three years ago. I had done it in school and I always really enjoyed the process. I started on paper and then moved to canvas. I really liked the realness of block printing and the digital art I had been making was really sterile. Once I found block printing I knew it was the perfect medium for my work.
I wanted to be able to use the fabric I was printing for something practical. Something that I (and maybe other people) could use every day. So I learned how to sew and started making bags. I got some leather and rivets and made the straps. Then I started reaching out to stores and made myself a website and went from there.
Do you consider yourself a maker or an artist? How do you perceive the intersection of these two worlds? Do you feel like they are one in the same?
I guess I consider myself a maker. I’m responsible for all my production. So I spend the majority of my time making things I’ve made ten or more times before. Which can get repetitive but it does allow me to really perfect my production process. And it makes me feel very connected to my work.
What gets you excited about your product being in the world and growing as a business owner?
It’s definitely challenging to start and maintain a business, even a tiny one like mine. You have to take on a lot of different jobs that require different skills and mindsets. You have to stay focused and positive enough to keep pushing forward. That has certainly kept me on my toes.
When you are in need of inspiration are there particular things you read, listen to or look at to fuel your work?
I think that there are some pieces of art that are just so aesthetically perfect, like a Hokusai block print or a poster from the Vienna Secession, that you look at and feel the rightness and perfect-ness of it: everything is in exactly the right place and you wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t really think that I will ever achieve that level of design but that is the goal. I want to make something that when I look at it, it gives me a sense of aesthetic rightness.
I also like to get back to the roots and doodle/draw to keep inspired. I find a lot of inspiration in random little sketches. I like looking back at my old work where I was combining and reimagining things. Sometimes I just start with a geometric concept and keep sketching, something like a stream of consciousness of art.
How do you conceptually approach your work?
I constantly have to remind myself to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Whether it comes to block printing, photography, designing my line sheet, writing an email to a potential new wholesale account, the need for things to be absolutely perfect can be crippling. I really just have to do my best at any given moment and that has to be good enough.
What type of challenges do you find yourself faced with at this stage in your career?
Looking back, the biggest hurdles I’ve faced have seemed really important at the time but really weren’t in the long run. There are days that I feel completely blocked and I’m convinced I’ll never come up with a new idea ever again. And that passes.
My business is still technically my side hustle (even though its pretty full time). I also work as a photographer and graphic designer for my mom’s jewelry business and I manage her online store. I do want to work for myself full time eventually but I don’t want to give up the opportunity I have to work for my mom and learn from her. She’s been doing this for like 40 years and learning about her business and the path that she took has been super important for me. But I think once I do make that transition to working for myself fully, I’ll feel like I’ve made it.
I’m super excited that you will be a part of the Be Home box. The contents are for someone who is entertaining, hosting or just plain having their house look good and enjoying their home. What do you think about the box? How do you see this box coming into the lives of people?
I really like the concept of the box. I love the idea of giving someone an experience. I also love the idea of receiving a gift that’s an excuse for having people over, making food, and setting a table.
Photography: Feather Weight
Artist: Julia Canright // Bestowe Artisans