We were lucky enough to chat with the beautiful Kirsten Sevig, owner of Striped Pear Studio, about herself, her business, and her amazing artwork! Kirsten is an accomplished illustrator known for her feel-good, eco-friendly watercolor prints and products (stationery, fabrics, wallpaper, and gift wrap). Her growing company is a stunning reflection of her compassion to share art that makes people happy, and we are excited to share her thoughts on business, life, and inspiration.
Why did you decide to start Striped Pear Studio?
I wanted to try something different. I had been a freelance graphic designer and illustrator for years. I had been working for other companies and clients, putting my work on products for others and using my ideas to sell entities apart from myself. When asked why I didn’t just have my own business, I always said I wasn’t good at promoting myself or being my own boss, but I knew that was an excuse. I had never really given it a solid try. During a particularly dry spell in my freelance career, I started a daily art practice that was really healing and soothing, and by the time I developed the courage to start Striped Pear Studio, I had a body of work to use and a fairly cohesive, colorful brand, too. I guess I wanted to prove my doubting self wrong and see if this was really something I could do.
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere! I can find inspiration anywhere. I could go on indefinitely about where I find inspiration, because I am never lacking in ideas or sources of inspiration. I think exploring and getting out to new places is really inspiring, and I would encourage anyone who feels stuck to go outside and walk around somewhere, whether it is your neighborhood or someplace you have never been. Really looking around and noticing new things can be very inspiring. And you can always notice something new if you really look.
We love that you print all of your artwork locally! What is your process for choosing your paper or finishes?
I always want my customers to feel that they are getting a good value, so I strive to select papers that give the best quality prints, getting as close to the originals as possible. When it came time to select a paper stock for my stationery line, I wanted my products to really reflect the originals in the texture, matte sheen, and color of the watercolor paper I created the originals on. Equally important to me was my desire to print my cards on 100% recycled paper using vegetable-based inks. I was thrilled to find 100% recycled paper that had a great texture and the right tone of white, too. I was giddy when I felt the paper that met all of my criteria, and my printer who found the paper can attest to that. It felt like a great value in my hands, and it aligned with my values, too. Win win!
We know you are launching Striped Pear Studio's first organic quilting cotton collection with Windham Fabrics this April. What has that journey been like?
It was a really great learning experience. I learned how to strike a balance in this collaboration between my artistic vision and what Windham Fabrics wanted from me. There were some requested changes to my patterns that I was unwilling to make, and thankfully they really respected my artistic integrity when I stood my ground, but there were some changes I agreed to make because they know their market better than I do and have a better understanding of what a quilter is looking for when it comes to scale and patterns. It was a challenge for me to know when to say yes and when to say no, but a challenge that helped me grow and learn. I also have a much better understanding now of how fabric is printed, how colors are separated onto different screens, and the possibilities and limitations in fabric design. I definitely look forward to creating more fabric collections in the future! And I am so excited to see what people create using my Paint the Town fabrics!
We are seeing a trend of brides and grooms incorporating beautiful illustrations to different aspects of design for their big day--such as invitations and place cards. Do you have any favorite trends for 2018?
I typically don’t pay much attention to trends, but I happened upon a random list that mentioned plants with patterned leaves are a trend for 2018?!! Now that is a trend I can get behind. I love striped leaves and polka-dotted leaves, so I hope that I see patterned plants popping up everywhere this year. Talk about inspiration!
We adore all of your illustrations. Do you have a favorite subject to paint and a favorite color palette?
I love painting patterns that I make up as I go because they are so relaxing and meditative for me. In particular, I love to make up plants because anything goes when it comes to plants! At times I have painted something thinking it was far fetched, only to discover later that something like it really exists.
I definitely have a favorite color palette, too. Interestingly enough, it is a physical palette. My 12 color travel watercolor set is my favorite color palette. Once I swapped out a few of the colors it came with, I had my favorite color palette that I can take with me anywhere! The colors are:
Cadmium Yellow Deep
Cadmium Yellow Pale
What is your creative process when beginning a new design?
When I am “making it up as I go,” my process is really intuitive and consists of a series of small decisions that guide me to my next decisions. I start with a warm beverage, typically… a cup of tea or a sweet chai. (I take a sip and alternate between painting and sipping.) I open my watercolor journal to a blank page, choose a color that I’m wanting to see on that page, and I begin to paint a shape. Sometimes I have no idea what I am going to make and I really discover it as I am going along, but other times I have an idea in mind before my brush touches the paper. Once I have put the first shape on the page, it helps determine the next shape I paint and so on. I play a lot with negative space (the blank spaces in between things) and color combinations to create compositions that are pleasing to my eyes, and I do that pretty automatically and subconsciously, but sometimes I intentionally try something that I know might not work. Part of my process is to take risks, too, and to make “mistakes.” I put mistakes in quotation marks, simply because in art, mistakes can be somewhat intentional and really helpful learning tools. One only knows when to stop, for example, by taking a piece three steps past the ideal stopping point. I love that my paintings are contained in this portable book, and that I can always turn the page and start anew. My watercolor journal feels like a really safe place for me to explore and try things out and make mistakes, and all of those things have helped me to continue to grow as an artist.
Do you enjoy creating any other types of art?
Yes! My background is actually in musical theater, so I love to dance and sing and perform. That is a very different type of art, of course. I am an extroverted artist who is self-aware enough to know that I still crave applause, but thankfully Instagram has given me a platform and an audience that is kind and supportive of me and my work. There are many other types of art I want to try, too! I really want to get into ceramics. I have many ideas for pottery I would love to be able to make. For now, however, my dream is to write and illustrate my own children’s book. I’m working on improving my skills this month, challenging myself to illustrate people everyday and work towards that goal. I have illustrated books for children, but never illustrated my own story, so I am looking forward to making that dream a reality.
Your book is the physical representation of happiness and joy. Why did you decide to create it, did you learn anything during the process, and can we look forward to another book in the future?
Aww! Thank you so much! That is music to my ears! An editor at Countryman Press was kind enough to reach out to me about creating a gift book with them. The challenge for me was to come up with a book proposal. I had a lot of colorful artwork to use, but I needed to figure out what I would write to go along with it. People gave me suggestions, like hand lettering quotations about happiness, but that isn’t something I would do unprompted and didn’t feel like a genuine expression coming from me. I really hadn’t considered myself a writer, but after looking back at my Instagram posts, I found that when I shared my work, I often shared more in my captions about how I was feeling or what I was thinking, and because I wasn’t trying to sound one way or another, it was really sincere and it was my voice. That was how my book idea came about. I wanted to create my book from that place of sincerity and generosity. I wanted to make a book that could fit in someone’s pocket, lift someone’s spirits, put a smile on someone’s face, and remind someone of something they themselves really love or perhaps needed to hear.
I learned a lot during the process! For example, it became crystal clear to me after receiving some sample spreads with my words and illustrations laid out by another designer that I really needed to have creative control when it came to the layout and design of my book. Though my artwork can be cute and cluttered, my design aesthetic is organized, modern and minimal, and that pairing is really pleasing to me. Thankfully my editor was happy to let me do my own design and layout work. I am thrilled with how it turned out because it is me through and through!
(You can buy Kirsten’s book, Striped Pears and Polka Dots: The Art of Being Happy, on Amazon!)
What would be your number one piece of advice for someone looking to start their own business from the ground up?
My number one piece of advice for anyone doing anything is to be genuine and generous. It doesn’t sound like business advice, because when we think about business we think about how to make money from what we do, but I believe in being self-aware and principled in everything I do, including business. People want to support and help people who are genuine and generous. Nobody wants to be exploited. Really think about what makes an exchange fair. Think more about what you can give than what you can receive. How can you help? I think these are the important things to keep in mind that will make any venture more fulfilling. It isn’t all about money (at least, it isn’t for me). It’s about creating an exchange where everyone wins.
Lastly, this isn’t so much a piece of advice as something to keep in mind…
Nobody has it all figured out. Learning, figuring it out, asking for help, making mistakes, and failing as you try are all worthwhile. That is how you can become more resilient. We are all just making it up as we go along. Everyone is afraid. Other people may appear to have it all, but they really don’t. Don’t be fooled and try your very best not to be jealous of what you perceive to be perfection. You don’t ever know someone’s full story or what was in the margins of that perfectly cropped photo someone is sharing. That is why it is not fair to compare yourself to others. Be more considerate and kind to yourself. Life can give us stumbling blocks or lucky breaks. We aren’t given the same opportunities and privileges. Rather than comparing yourself to someone who appears to have it all figured out, define success for yourself. If you measure success differently, and you can always be successful.
If you’re as in love with Kirsten’s prints as we are, head over to Instagram to enter our giveaway for the chance to win one of Kirsten’s prints or her new book! You can find Kirsten on Instagram at @kirstensevig and through her online shop!
Congratulations to our winners of Kirsten's beautiful work!