I was born and raised in San Francisco and have only lived away from here for the four years I attended Architecture School at the University of Colorado, Boulder. I loved studying architecture as it taught me so much about materials and process and how to be concrete and aware of each and every step you are taking from beginning rough ideas to a finalized design. I drove back home to San Francisco the day after I finished school and knew I would stay. I received my graduate degree in Design at California College of the Arts in 2009 and loved every minute of that as well. My artistic mom always encouraged my art, as well as two great-grandfathers who were an architect and an illustrator. We had a closet full of art materials, painting and collaging were my favorite pastimes. Many days were spent filling up the dining room table and covering all available floor space with projects and paintings set out to dry. When friends would come over to play and ask what we should do I always felt a bit confused because in my mind the only option was some sort of art project.
When I was young my mother told me that I came from a long line of strong women. I have always carried that knowledge with me and understood it didn’t necessarily mean physical strength, but rather resilience and inner strength. I never met my great-grandmother, but I heard many stories about her from my mom and grandmother. So much of who I am and what I do is because of them, as well as some very close and dear women friends who have inspired me by living their lives their own way and who continue to plow ahead when things get tough.
After graduate school I took on jobs where I could learn what it took to run small businesses. I ended up managing a clothing store, a chiropractic office and a restaurant while running my own design practice on the side. I had a range of clients and projects that included brand work, websites and print collateral, as well as interior design and renovation projects. What I learned from all of this was that I loved talking to people about projects and that I had a keen interest in what makes small businesses creative and successful.
I started Case for Making in 2014 while I still had a full time job and it took me three years to get the business (and myself) to a place where I could work full time only for Case for Making. It all took time and hard work and trusting myself to make decisions quickly. All in all, I had to learn how to get good at seeing what was working, and letting go of the things that weren’t.
A lot of the original supplies I stocked the shop with were all my favorite supplies that I have used throughout a lifetime of drawing and painting, as well as architecture and drafting supplies I used in undergraduate and graduate school! I quickly saw that the products that we were selling the most of were watercolors and watercolor supplies, which worked out because it’s always been my favorite medium. Other items we stock are made by friends, so it feels extra special to carry their work and support them in that way. Anything we couldn’t find or just wanted to see a certain way, we decided to make ourselves!
An example of this resourcefulness is a large piece of white Carrera marble on my studio desk, which I use to mull paint on. A friend of mine found it on Craigslist and we both picked up a bunch for future building projects (I have hopes that one day it will be my kitchen counters). The marble was hand cut from the Carrera mines and brought around the Cape to San Francisco to become the floor of the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library. Carrera marble with this local history makes me feel very excited!
Anyway, one day I needed to make a big batch of paint in my home studio and I had previously brought my glass slab to the shop for a workshop and I needed a surface. A few of the marble slabs had broken in transit and were laying in my garden so I grabbed the nicest looking one and hauled it upstairs after cleaning it up, and it worked great! I love the raw edge and how it fits perfectly on the corner of my big stand up desk that I built from a solid core door I picked up at the hardware store.
I needed to have a business that allowed me to support myself before I could actually begin to think what my art practice might look like. Painting, making paint and creative problem solving all feel fun and exciting to me. My art and my business are the two parts of my brain that need to be exercised, the creative and the analytic. They inform and feed each other.
I love talking to people about supplies, processes and projects! I want visitors to leave the shop feeling inspired and have some ideas of first steps for a project or feel like they have permission to approach art making in an open and curious way and play with materials to see what they can do!
Our pared-down selection of drawing and watercolor supplies complements our in-house handmade products and supplies. We have over 70 colors of watercolor paint that we make by hand from pure pigments sourced from all over the world mixed with natural binders. Its fun to see this process in action and I hope people feel the love and care that goes into our products when they use them! My shop is also an active workspace, so you also might see us mixing up fresh batches of paint or collating and gluing up packs of our letterpress watercolor postcards!
I knew that by understanding the prominent women in my life I could, in turn, know myself.
I start out by making a batch of paint from a pigment that is very interesting to me, either that I gathered myself, was foraged by a friend, or one from a manufacturer that has an interesting history. All paint is made from pigment and binder; if you’re making oil paint you take pure pigment and linseed or poppy seed oil, and mix them together to form a paste that you paint with. Basically you are coloring the oil with the pigment and the feeling and visual of the painting is highly tied to the oiliness of the oil! Same for acrylic paint, you are colorizing the plastic polymer with pigment and the painting will always feel plastic-y. The magic of watercolor is that the binder is gum arabic, which is tree sap from acacia trees, dissolved in water. Think about these tiny particles of pigment being so delicately glued together with tree sap! That is magic!!! Our mixture of watercolor medium also includes honey, which adds to the loveliness of the paint. The binder in our watercolors is virtually invisible! This is very exciting to me. Not all creative careers are designed at the outset and then executed—many are built over time and through trial and error. I want my life to be filled with ideas and forward movement. It’s because of this philosophy that I see failures as successes and challenges that arise as fun puzzles to sort out. We, as women, can remind each other of this. To listen to ourselves and our ideas, to encourage each other to keep moving forward, to keep getting closer to creating the lives that we want. I encourage women to remember that creativity should be about exploring what’s personally interesting first and foremost. It’s about the journey, not the destination!