OWL & MOUSE

My house is generally a mess, we don't make tons of money, and I'm not great at decorating. My kitchen/ dining room is the color of a bright taqueria. I have shoes lying all over the house. And you'll find empty cups everywhere. And sometimes Jon Farmer and I don't even agree. We all have lives that are so much more complex, nuanced, and human than social media can portray, and that's okay because it's not what social media is for. All I'm saying is, don't be fooled by Instagram. I'm a photographer, so it may seem like everything is beautiful. All flexible hours, coffee shops, and adventures, but it's totally not. There's a lot of planning, paper work, and administrative stuff that happens behind the scenes. Usually I'm at home in my yoga pants, eating cereal because I'm too lazy to make eggs. And then there's emotional baggage cluttered everywhere too.

Like were you ever nervous to throw a party because nobody might show up, and then you'd be embarrassed?

Growing up and making a career as a Creative is like throwing that party over and over again. But I'm not in middle school anymore, and I'm a grown-up. It's not even about, "Will I get enough business?" Sometimes we refer brides we think are better fits with other photographers. But it's this really public "I'm here!" and a really private fear of failure, fear of people's opinions, fear of being boring, fear of not being good enough, fear of rejection. At least for me. I viscerally struggle with that fear, and I have to tell myself to be brave at least ten times a day. Because creating is more important than all those fears combined. And I'm proud of that because it is easier to not do anything, to not try, to let the fear overwhelm. Which if I'm being honest, sometimes it still does.

So when I meet other Creatives, people who are also being brave and dreaming and making beautiful things, it makes my heart sing! I know it wasn't easy to become a brand, tell people their vision, to be known. 

And I'm really excited I got to interview and photograph the girls from Owl & Mouse. Cristin and Alice are textile artists and founders of a boutique specializing in hand dyed fabrics. They're amazing. They are passionate about fabric, creating sustainable goods, and making beautiful things. They really inspired me, and hopefully it inspires you as well.

1. What do you think it takes to be a professional creative? 

A lot of hard work, a lot of determination, assertiveness, desire to create and evolve.  In addition to being creative, you have to also be able to promote yourself/your business. It's easy to get excited to do the fun side of things, but you also have to be responsible and take time to work on the less fun aspects as well (or be in the position to hire someone else to take on those responsibilities).

2. Where did you go to school? And what for? 

We attended the Kansas City Art Institute from '04-'08 We both majored in the Fiber Program. Alice is originally from Greenville, SC and Cristin is from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

3. How do you think school prepared you for your career? 

It taught us the basic fiber techniques, such as dyeing, screen printing and weaving.  It was also great for making some close friendships and connections in the art/craft community.

4. How do you think school could have better prepared you for your career? 

At that time there wasn't much training for business or career outside of school, so we have had to teach ourselves that overtime.  Looking back now, it would have been helpful to learn how to create a brand, manage wholesale accounts, run a website and learn about taxes and filing government forms...basically everything that goes on behind the scenes when running a business.

5. Where did you get the name Owl & Mouse? 

Owl and Mouse references a set of projects we created while at KCAI. In 2009, when coming up with our name, we thought Owl+Mouse was easy for customers to remember and added a little humor :) 

6. What makes Owl & Mouse unique? (Can you please tell me a little bit about your unique screen printing technique? And your materials?)  

We begin by creating original designs that are transferred to silk screens. Next we custom mix colors and dye all of our fabric in small batches. Our scarves are gradation dyed and slowly transition in color from one end to another.  Following the immersion dye process we print our designs using thickened dye.  This allows the design to integrate into the fabric as opposed to ink that sits on top.  After allowing the printed fabric to set for 24hours, we wash, iron and sew each piece.  Our current line includes, organic cotton scarves, napkins, pillows, ties and baby items. Our craftsmanship and unique dye process result in extraordinary colors and distinctive surface pattern setting our work apart from other textiles on the market. Our focus is on creating fine and functional accessories for women, men, babies and the home. 

7. What are you looking forward to as a company? 

We are looking forward to growing our wholesale accounts and attending larger trade shows throughout the country. We feel our products are unique and we look forward to sharing them with a larger audience.

8. What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given each of you?

 Many times opportunities aren't handed to you.  You have to ask for what you want....the worst thing someone can say is "no"!

9. What would you like to tell young artists in school?  

If you know what you want to do with your future, get started now! While you're in school resources and contacts are readily available and it will make the transition from student to professional much smoother. Also remember, it can take time to build your brand/business, so the earlier you start, the better.  Take advantage of the other connections you make in school that have different skill sets than you do! 

10. What makes Kansas City a great place to be as an artist? 

KC is great for fostering creative people. The community loves to support local talent and there are many great opportunities to show your work and professional programs to get involved in.  It's small enough to create great relationships with other artists and entrepreneurs, yet it's big enough to build your name!

THANKS

Cristin Llewellyn + Alice Youngblood

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