I grew up in a tight-knit neighborhood in the suburbs of Connecticut. I was lucky to have such a wonderful environment to grow up in, and I count myself even luckier to still have a strong bond with the people and the place. It was the kind of neighborhood that was filled with kids my age growing up; a place where we would run around each other’s yards, play kickball in the cul-de-sac and spend hours and hours in each other’s homes playing dress-up. To this day, it still has neighborhood parties. The name of the street I grew up on is Calhoun Avenue and is one of my favorite places.
My mom taught me how to sew, and always encouraged my siblings and me to create. She would supply myself, my brother and sister with all the arts & craft supplies we could ever dream of. I’ve created things for as long as I can remember, from little doll house props made from clay to purses made from my mom’s old scarfs. And, at every single birthday party, we had some kind of craft.
Today, I’m based in Brooklyn NY and own Calhoun & Co., a gift and home goods business specializing in cozy, weekend vibe products including blankets, games, pillows, towels, wall hangings, and even playing cards! Until a couple of months ago, I was working out of our apartment in Williamsburg, but now I’ve got a studio space in Greenpoint. The building where my studio is was a pillow factory at one point, and a variety of many others as well. Being located here and able to start my day by walking through McGolrick Park has been my favorite new morning routine.
I enjoy working in Brooklyn because of the large and welcoming creative community here—whether it’s folks to bounce ideas off of, people to be inspired by, or just having a buddy who understands some of the challenges I may be going through as a fellow working creative. I feel so lucky to have so many of these kind and creative people at my fingertips. Of course, social media has made netting these new friends much easier, though prior to that, the amazing shows and events in the area helped in meeting other creative, as well.
I haven’t been in my space very long, only a couple of months, but a lot of my fixtures came with me from my apartment workspace. I primarily needed it to be a functional workspace as quickly as possible—so that meant having the entire product assortment accessible, a space to pack orders, a place to sit at a desk to do computer work, and a space to illustrate, sew and create. I greatly value my art supplies—sewing machines, markers, ink, colored pencils, paint, fabric, and pens—even though I’m always running out of ink and replenishing. I couldn’t design anything without them.
My boyfriend, Bobby, built both my computer desk and my illustrating/crafting desk, so they’re special to me. I wanted my studio to feel cozy and almost like an extension of my home—so I brought in a little plant life, and a leather butterfly chair. It’s not a big space, but it does have one giant window and lets in some nice natural light—which was a must when looking for a creative space.
I’ve always been the way I am. I love searching for inspiration, and get excited when I see something that I think can translate to a product, a design, or just a sketch. I also feel the need to let myself be creative and make things for no specific reason. It’s important for my brain to have that time to create, even if it’s a doodle without any expectations.
The joy I get simply from drawing or painting keeps me driven and inspired. Playing with colors and designing a product that someone is excited to have in their home can bring its own inspiration for even more products. I love the idea that my designs are used as gifts to connect people or make someone’s home feel more “homey”.
Another source for inspiration is traveling, though I definitely don’t do it enough—though I’m also inspired by the complete opposite, staying home and being present in my own space. Wherever I go, I’m constantly inspired by colors, insects, flowers, New York City, and my dog, Slug—his ability to nap & get cozy anywhere and anytime is incredible.
Sometimes it’s really hard to make time to step away from a project with a deadline to just let my creativity flow for the heck of it. It is, however, really important to do so in order to move forward—taking time to simply doodle or create.
Because I’m running this business solo, I don’t get to spend enough time being creative. While I do get a lot of help from family and friends, I have to do all the non-creative stuff too—answering emails, shipping orders, managing production, and on and on. Finding that extra time to create is, therefore, my biggest challenge, but that said, I can’t force it. If I’m just not feeling it, then I move on to something else. It has to feel free and not feel required.
If I have learned one thing about owning or starting a creative business, it’s that you just have to go for it. Of course, you need to have some kind of a plan, but you’ll learn so much more as you go. You can plan and plan, but no matter how much you try to figure out the path you’re about to go on, it’s going to change along the way. Be flexible about how you reach your goals, and be willing to change what your goals are. Trust your gut and be yourself.
I still hop out of my chair and do a little dance anytime Calhoun & Co. receives some kind of attention from a blog or publication. Seeing people who are genuinely excited to have a Calhoun & Co. product in their home is the coolest thing to me. It makes me incredibly happy when someone will read or look at one of my designs and just simply laugh or smile.
CHERISHED DOODLING SPACE
My boyfriend, Bobby, made this desk for my new studio, which is my favorite place to work.