Maker Monday: Kat French Design

Welcome to our newest tradition, Maker Monday! Our Store Manager, Marissa, gets to know a little bit more about the makers of The DIME Store. We believe in bridging the gap between our customer and the maker -- and this new project is a great way to learn about the person behind the product!

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Kat French is a breath of fresh air. This week, I sat down with her in her Flower Mound home over a cup of coffee & a Ravelin chocolate croissant and we talked all things creative! As a mom, wife, friend, creative, maker, and so much more, Kat opened up about her journey over the past few years of her paper goods business and shared about struggle, time management, and what inspires her.

So tell me a little about your road to becoming a maker?

I actually went to school and studied an entirely different field, Child Development & Psychology, and I worked for a couple of years in that. Before going into the the work field I did Missions for a year and fell in love with drawing. I had drawn when I was little, my mom is an artist, but I just fell in love with it on a different level. I started working in the field that I had gone to school for and it was the worst place ever for me. It was such a bad fit and so about a year into that I started a Design program at our local junior college and fell in love with graphic design. So after working full-time and doing school full-time for a while I was able to get a job in-house at a church in California doing graphic design and video production. After we moved out to Texas a couple of years later, I set up and did freelance design for about 5 or 6 years. After we had our son, I began working around his naps but he kind of started to phase out of those so my time just started getting shorter and turning around projects for clients was becoming too much. So then I was just ready to design for myself and to make stuff that I could make a product from and make multiples and only have to design once, since my time was so limited. I branched out into Etsy and switched out of freelance design and it took me about a year to figure out that i wanted to do cards, specifically. It was all really slow with lots of baby steps and I kind of ended up in it. I never thought I’d be a greeting card designer but in hindsight it makes total sense. It seems like it was meant to be but I just couldn’t see it.

Where did you find that outside influence and support during those formative years?

Definitely my family and my husband. Especially when I was working full-time and doing school, I was really encouraged by my mom. She really gave me the courage to do it. Once I got into card designing I have a couple of really good friends who were really supportive. They would give me lots of feedback, come over and fold hundreds of cards for me, and drop everything to come do shows with me!

As far as the business side of Kate French Design, you aren’t formally trained or educated in that side of things. How have you navigated that?

It’s a lot of trial and error. I love administrative stuff and am pretty organized. If you look at my business it’s 60% business administration and about 40% creative design so since I’m kind of wired that way, that’s a really good balance for me. On top of that, connecting with local makers, like through Etsy Dallas has been really good. I also did the TSBC course specifically for card makers and learned so much about wholesale and the industry and that’s been a really strong community as well.

Where do you draw inspiration?

From everything! I have a list on my phone and I write down concepts all the time. A lot of my cards are humor-based and a lot of comedy is just observational comedy. I kind of find myself pursuing a role of comedian and it sounds weird and slightly skewed in a way but  just a lot of observational stuff.

I was recently in a conversation, talking about how as artists, you aren’t necessarily inspired by people doing the same thing you are, that can lend itself to comparison or even duplicating what they’ve already created, you’re most inspired by things that are outside of what you’re creating...do you find this to be true for you?

Yes! Very much so. In fact, I will come up with an idea and google it to make sure it’s not already out there. Because if it is, I’ll either have to approach it from a different direction or toss it completely. I want to be original but I also don’t want to tread on some else’s work.

Has that ever happened to you?

Yeah. More so when I was an in house designer but yeah it’s frustrating.

Man. What does that feel like? What does that stir up in you as an artist?

There’s a little bit of flattery, to be honest. But it irks you when you see someone else getting what you were hoping to get from it. Aside from whatever it is you’re trying to communicate, it is a business and I’m trying to make a living doing it and if someone else is going to take my work and cut into that, it’s frustrating.

That makes total sense. Especially because you have a family and a home, etc. So how do you balance being a creative, being a maker, a mom, a wife, and whatever other roles you play?

It feels different every day. It’s a tug of war. I’ve always wanted to be home with my kids and I’m getting to do that but then there’s days where I just want to work and I feel really pulled between them. There are days where I’m sitting with my daughter and I’d rather be upstairs designing something and that’s hard. It can sometimes almost feel like a prison some days. That’s crazy to say, but that’s when I have to step back and say “dude I’m getting to do everything I wanted to do” but it’s not always on my schedule so I’m really just figuring it out.

How would you encourage other makers who are in your same season of life?

One aspect is just take inventory of what you’ve got and the things you’re juggling. Step back and be thankful that you have all of those things to juggle. The other thing is if you’re good at making lists, make them! Knock them out and try and be as efficient as you can. Try not to have those distractions when you get those chances to work. And try and make sure your spouse is engaged with what you’re doing and they understand the value of it. Making sure they’re on the same page as you, communication being the real key.

So much great advice. I’m gonna end our time together with some fun questions: What are some of the top TV shows that have come out in the past few years that you are in to?

Right now I’m really into Heartland, it’s not new at all but i’m super into it. My husband and I have been watching Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and we got really into GLOW, Kim’s Convenience, & Schitt’s Creek.

And last, but not least, if you’re visiting Denton, what are some of your favorite places to go?

So I always go to The DIME Store, I love going to SCRAP and buying all the things. The kids also really love The Chairy Orchard.


You can find Kat’s line at The DIME Store and on her website by clicking here!


MAKER MONDAY: TETRAKATE

Welcome to our newest tradition, Maker Monday! We believe in bridging the gap between our customer and the maker -- and this new project is a great way to learn about the person behind the product!

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This week our Store Manager/Purveyor of Hopes & Dreams, Marissa, chatted with Katelyn Hanf from TetraKate. Kate is one of the newest makers at The DIME Store and we spent some time getting to know her a little better!

So Kate, where are you from? Give me some of your best stats.

I’m 26 and I grew up in Mckinney but I’m originally from Ohio. I transferred to UNT and lived in Denton for 4 years. I got a job right out of college and now I work in Allen and live in Dallas. I come back and  forth and spend most of my time between the 3 cities.

Why Dallas?

Well I work 3 miles away from the house I grew up in and lived there for 20 years so I was ready to move on. I’ve been in the same job I got straight out of college - I actually started in my last semester during finals!

Wow! I can’t even imagine how crazy that transition was. So what exactly are you doing now?

I’m a site manager which means I manage the storefront of websites. I typically have big clients that own multiple websites. I’m learning how to use several different and all the different aspects of running ecommerce. I came to UNT with the intention of majoring in Advertising but I switched to Merchandising and fell in love with digital retailing.

How/when did you start making?

I was always in art clubs or DIY projects but I could never find anything I really loved but I was out of college with a lot of free time and doing some experimentation. I knew one girl that was selling on Etsy and doing really well so I thought “I have time” and I really want to do something with my hands. I happened to have a bunch of clay so I just started making jewelry for myself and friends. I would wear some big statement earrings and I would get compliments and people asking if they could order some; I didn’t really plan for it, it all just kind of happened,  so I opened my shop in March 2017.

Where did the name Tetrakate come from?

I came up with the name a long time before the shop. I was really into pattern drawing and lots of geometric drawings on graph paper. I had hoped to one day make an Instagram account for those drawings and I thought about a name and came up with TetraKate. Kate, obviously for my own name and Tetra is a reference to geometry, specifically the  tetrahedron which is the most stable of the 3D shapes.

I love when we start out with one idea and it ends up being something completely different...

I thought the biggest thing I’d ever do was get them printed on notebooks, I did not expect it to be making jewelry!

Tell me a little about your history with Denton...you went to school here but what brings you back?

Yes, I graduated in May 2016. I have such a good network. I still do several markets there (The Backyard Market at East Side, Studio E, etc.) and one of my best friends is an artist in Denton so I try and come out and support her whenever I have a free night.

How has Denton changed since you lived here?

There are so many more places for community to go! Now, with all of the stores and bars opening there is more of a variety. There are also more sub-communities coming up and maybe I didn’t know about them when I was there but I have definitely seen the community getting bigger over the past year.

How do you balance the full-time gig and making? It’s really really hard. A lot of the time I get really inspired at work but I can’t do anything about it. I don’t get to choose when I work on that. When I get home, I’m tired! You have to be really committed to it. If I have a big event I have to hole up at home and get things ready but when it’s not crazy busy I can be more flexible. I really try and build my schedule around that.

Has there ever been a temptation to give one up? Never for long enough for me to go through with it. I have those thoughts but then I go to the event and get feedback and start talking to people, it makes it really worth it. In order to do both you really have to know yourself and be a self-motivator.

As an established maker, how would you encourage others in this same position? Well thanks for calling me established! I definitely don’t feel like it all the time. You have to be really honest with yourself. If you want the freedom to come home and do whatever you want, whenever you want, this isn’t for you. There will have to be sacrifice but if you choose something you really care about, it’s worth it.  There are days where I really don’t want to work on this but if I didn’t love it I would’ve ended it a long time ago. You have to be all in! And expect It to be a time requirement!

That’s really great advice. So time for a fun question: If you didn’t need sleep, what would you spend those hours doing? I would take time more for myself! I would workout a lot more.  I’ll take any time I can get to work on that! I would also work on TetraKate as much as I could.

Last question, because Denton loves Denton, what are some of your favorite places and things to order in Denton?? Eastside - moscow mule, West Oak - latte, DIME - I like looking at all the stuff, it’s really inspiring, Barley & Board - I’ve tried so many things on their brunch menu and it is ALL GOOD!




Book Scout + DIME = Family Fun Wassail Storytime & Pop up!

Earlier this fall I ran into Lauren Vanderpool at an outdoor market where she was introducing her brand new business called Book Scout, an independent pop-up shop of custom children’s books. I've known Lauren for many years and have seen her grow from a college student to newlywed to a mom of two littles and now a mompreneur! I was super excited to team up with Lauren for a pop up event at The DIME Store yet Lauren was hesitant wanting to be sure that it supported our mission, I assured her that in the story of every maker is inspiration from the books we read as children! DIME is teaming up with Book Scout for Wassail weekend fun, and wanted you to have a chance to get to know this passionate mom and hear the story behind Book Scout, so read along!

Join Book Scout for a family Story Time at The DIME Store on December 1st at 5pm, we will be serving milk + cookies and wassail of course!  Get all the details here and make your plans to park and start your Wassail/Holiday Tree lighting at DIME and then plan to come back on Saturday 10-2 to load up on books and handmade gifts.

xo, Shelley 

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What is your Denton story?

I am from Denton and was actually born at Flow Hospital before it was torn down (my tiny claim to fame). I went to school in West Texas and travelled a bit after college but always felt compelled to move back to this place. It’s been incredible to see the community’s growth in recent years, like I couldn’t have dreamt what Denton has become. I simultaneously feel a sense of pride in that reality and also small pangs of sadness thinking about the sleepy college town I grew up in.

Tell us about your inspiration for Book Scout and how did this all get started?

Book Scout is an independent pop-up shop of custom children’s books, and my daughter Scout is the muse behind our operation. I’ve always collected books for Scout, even before she was born, and loved the idea of curating a library that would carry my girl through her childhood. After receiving multiple inquires about the books in Scout’s library, I began to wonder if other families in the community might benefit from a bookseller that felt a little more personal than a box bookstore or the Internet. Since that time, Book Scout has been an idea rolling around in my head that is now finally coming to fruition. We’ve had some of our first events this fall and couldn’t be more pleased by the support and encouragement we’ve received from the community. Currently, we’re learning the most effective ways to get books in the hands of young readers and are excited about the next steps.

What are your dreams for Book Scout?

A huge dream for Book Scout is to have a storefront, from which to sell books, host literary events and add to the local flavor of the community. Denton used to have a wonderful children’s bookstore, Children’s Book Express, and I would love to be a part of revitalizing the experience of reading and buying books from a local children’s bookshop. I find myself sometimes peeking in the windows of stores for rent downtown, sighing nostalgically and channeling my inner Kathleen Kelly… someday.  On a lesser scale, Book Scout is currently working to improve its online presence and hopes to offer a few new services in the coming year, including book subscriptions and what we call “library bundles”. Customers will be able to go to our website, provide specific information about their family and Book Scout will curate a library tailored especially for them.  

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Tell us about the books that Book Scout offers? which is your favorite, or more importantly which are your children's favorites?

Book Scout sells modern children’s books, and we hope to introduce readers to some new titles. We care about the book itself, how it feels in your hands and the quality of the paper used. Additionally, we feel strongly about captivating illustrations and clever, thoughtful writing. You will always find a Jon Klassen book on our shelves, and Andrea Beaty and David Roberts’ books are some of our best sellers.  

Currently, Scout and I are loving Rapunzel and Little Red by Bethan Woollvin. The black and white graphics with intentional pops of color somehow feel modern and retro all at once, and we love her cunning heroines. My 17 month-old son Collier has been slower to the reading game but just in the past few weeks has been requesting Brendan Wenzel’s They All Saw A Cat. We read it over and over again - I love watching the world of books begin to open to him.  

What books inspired you as a child?

Any book illustrated by Eric Carle would rank among my favorites. Speaking of Children’s Book Express, they hosted a book signing with Eric Carle where I had the opportunity to meet him as a child. I have a signed copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar that I now read with my children, which feels a bit surreal. His bold use of color and negative white space has largely affected my own aesthetic, and his illustrations always feel new, no matter how many times I’ve read his books.  Also, my inner five-year old loves The Berenstain Bears; I’ll always have a sweet spot for those loveable bears.

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What books will you be featuring at the DIME pop up?

Oh, I want so badly to give you all the titles we will be selling at the DIME event (I’m a horrible secret keeper), but we would much rather families come discover and interact with the books for themselves. We hope for customers to be swept up in the activity of reading, to rediscover the childlike joy that comes from a good picture book. 

I can say that we will have books for toddlers as well as elementary-aged students. We will have a selection of whimsical, rhyming books, as well as books that deal with heavier issues like grief. In addition to our regular collection, we will have a selection of Christmas books for sale, all of which have been published in last year. Simply put, we believe we have the right book for every child and look forward to helping families find the ones that are best suited for them.

 

 

Meet the Maker: Savvie Studio

This time around, we're talking to Savannah Kurka of Savvie Studio. She's been with the
DIME Store since the very beginning, and her business has flourished like no other. She's constantly planning, researching, and creating. She's undoubtedly one of the most inspirational, encouraging ladies we've ever met, and we're thrilled she gave us this interview! Let's get to it!


1. Tell us about what you do. How did Savvie Studio get its start?

Savvie Studio is a home goods + accessories brand based out of Denton, Texas. I primarily focus on home goods and gifts that celebrate life, nature, and the spaces that we share with those that we love. Savvie Studio started in 2013, shortly after The Dime Store opened. I had just taken a digital fabrication class at UNT (laser cutting, 3D printing, etc.) and was so inspired by everything happening within the creative community of Denton. I decided to invest my entire savings into a laser cutter and turn my small college apartment bedroom into a full blown laser cutting studio. The rest is history from there!


Photo by Cassandra Hawkins

Photo by Cassandra Hawkins

 

2. We've noticed a lot of your new products are plant-themed. What drew you to include air plants in your work? Do you have any tips for plant care?

A huge part of that shift was to make my work more personal. I have always been fascinated by plants. I spent a lot of my childhood with my Grandmother, who could keep anything alive and thriving. After she passed away, I felt a beautiful connection to her when I would slow down to care for my small plant collection. That small collection quickly became a huge obsession that expanded into my work. The tactile quality of what I make has always appealed to a very nature loving crowd so the shift felt very welcomed. I decided to start with air plants specifically because they are so easy to care for and are a great starter plant. If you are ever interested in learning more about air plants specifically, feel free to check out the air plant care guide on my website: https://savviestudio.com/pages/air-plant-care


 

3. What was one of the biggest difficulties you encountered when starting out?

Savvie Studio started while I was still in college and working a handful of part time jobs. I poured every spare moment into getting this business off the ground, and was even late to my own college graduation because I was using my only day off to fulfill Etsy orders! Looking back on the beginning days of working multiple jobs at a time, and filling orders through the wee hours of the night, makes me so grateful that I can now call this my full time job. 


Photo by Brad & Emily Holt

Photo by Brad & Emily Holt

4. How do you stay inspired?

For my own creative practice, I crave time for silence and solitude (even it it has to happen after the rest of the world is asleep). Time where you promise yourself that you won't turn on a TV, or check your phone. Nothing is streaming and no one is going to interrupt your thought process. In that time I like to explore my instinctive tugs and let my mind wander. I let my instincts take over and find inspiration in where ever my mind goes.

I also seek inspiration in the everyday tasks of life. I'm a huge believer in listening to those tiny little tugs on your heart -- those things that make you double take or smile. It could be a pattern on a fallen leaf, a styled home in a magazine, or a crazy color combination on a book cover at the library. I'm constantly photographing or jotting down those points of inspiration. I feel that those tiny moments are the way that the world is quietly telling you your next step. 


5. What does success look like to you?

My goals have evolved over the years, but one thing remains the same: to live a creative life that can somehow inspire others to follow their own fulfilling path. That would be worth its weight in gold to me. 


Follow Savannah at @savviestudio on Instagram

Follow Savannah at @savviestudio on Instagram

6. What advice would you give to emerging creative entrepreneurs?

If you want to live a creative life, start now. While striving for perfection is great, waiting for perfection is detrimental. You may cringe at your stumbles, but that is only a sign of progress, not weakness. There is so much value in the mistakes you make along the way as you find your voice and create your brand or body of work.

Don't let the technicalities of running a business hold you back. The business side of things doesn't come naturally to most creatives, but there are so many resources out there to help. Don't be afraid to hire a CPA, or admit what you do not know. Others want to help you, sometimes you just need to ask.

For every dollar you spend, invest two dollars back into creative growth. Make friends and learn from their experiences, pick the minds of folks in different fields and various walks of life, and make sure you are okay with breaking a few rules before you pursue a creative career. You will be paving your own path, it will rarely be easy, and the day to day will never look like it does on Instagram, but it will be so worth it.

 

Meet the Team

Right now, the DIME Store is run by 3 hardworking ladies, and a co-op of 10 amazing makers. We're going to use this first blog post (first ever! Exciting!) to introduce you to the 3 women who run the store. They make sure the store is styled well, do the social media posts, keep the website up and running, plan all the events, and really just make sure that the store is offering as much as it can to our wonderful community.

Shelley is the store's owner, and she's where the buck stops. She's also the biggest ambassador the store has, because she can't go 10 minutes outside of her house without running into a dear friend. Her heart is so big, she can't help but make friends everywhere she goes.

Shawna is the store manager, and go-to girl for anything that needs organizing. She's also one our brightest rays of sunshine at the store, with her seriously contagious laugh.

Allie is our assistant manager and workshop coordinator. She's amazing at keeping the team on task, and making sure meetings are as productive as possible. She's also one of the most encouraging people you'll ever meet.



Tell us about what you do.

 

Shelley: " I make a line of cozy things for home and heart under the brand name Home Again, Home Again—pillows, tea towels, fabric covered journals, and a collaborative line of appliquéd tees and bibs for wee ones. Currently my line is exclusive to The DIME Store, but I hope to branch out to other stores in the next year."

Shawna: "I make mostly greeting cards, but I also design enamel pins, totes, car decals and magnets through my aptly-named business, Shawna Smyth Studio. Super creative, right? I make my products inmy home studio in Denton, TX and currently have products in 4 stores in Austin, Denton, and Savannah, GA."

Allie:  "I have a brand of hand stitched paper goods, deskware, and original pieces under my own name, Allie Biddle. I make in my little house studio right here in Denton, Texas and sell in 14 shops across the country (so bananas)!"



What drew you to make your current products?

 

Shelley: "I have always been inspired by home and things that are cozy.  As a kid I was 'designing' by looking through catalogues over and over to create imaginary cozy homes.  My childhood experiences are a great inspiration for my work, they are a way to tie me to the people and memories that I hold dear."

Shawna: "I think there's something magical and deeply personal in a handwritten sentiment. My cards are designed to be shared, and I love knowing that I'm helping friends share a laugh, or helping someone brighten a loved one's day. There's nothing better than knowing you're encouraging kindness."

Allie: "My mom and grandmother definitely have indirectly inspired me to make greeting cards. My mom is someone who never gives a gift without a card, while my grandmother loved cards that she was gifted, but would throw them away as she did 'not have the room'. The memories of both of them made me want to make cards that were memorable, thoughtful, and intended to be saved."



What was one of the biggest difficulties you encountered when starting out?

 

Shelley: "When I first started out I was doing a lot more furniture design as a collaboration with my multi-talented husband and I loved it, but he was not loving it as much as me, and wanted to do more in his construction business.  It was hard to redirect my passion for making cozy things for home, but I decided to brush up on my sewing skills and design soft and cozy things. My inspiration was the same, but my tools were different."

Shawna: "Fear of the unknown, by far. I'm the first person in my family who's started a business from scratch. It's incredibly scary not knowing how to deal with taxes or business licenses, how to market your products, or even what kind of packaging to use. I didn't have a mentor readily available to help me navigate the unknown, until I 'infiltrated' the DIME Store. Haha! I used to hang out at the store for hours, asking questions, and would ask the girls working there if they'd be up for coffee and shop talk. Surrounding myself with these creative business owners really helped put my mind at ease, and gave me the confidence to persist."

Allie: "Honestly, I think it's so hard to not compare yourself to other artists and small batch makers in the beginning! You see what's working for them and then just try to go in that direction because it might be 'successful'. But the truth is, no one can do what YOU can. So, I think exploring my own voice was a really fun and right direction. It led me to make products I really care about and have fun designing."


How do you stay inspired?

 

Shelley: "Travel is a big inspiration for me, I think it is the slowed pace and the soaking up of the sights and beauty of the places that I have opportunity to travel.  I am also inspired by reading and prayer—again the practice of slowing down so that there is head space for inspiration."

Shawna: "So many ways! I think my biggest ideas come from having meet-ups with other creative business owners. Savannah, of Savvie Studio, and I have fairly regular 'Goals Meetings' and I always leave those feeling super inspired and refreshed. When I can't meet up with people in real life, I read blogs (Design Sponge, Paper+Craft Pantry, & Thimblepress are all amazing), or watch interviews/timelapses of artists I love on YouTube."

Allie: "Oh my god, anyone who knows me knows I love a good nap. I get a lot of 'dreamy' ideas! But I also find a lot in journaling daily and in my personal yoga practice. I know something I'm thinking or feeling has got to resonate with someone else, and that connection is a huge inspiration to have everyday!"


What does success look like to you?

 

Shelley: "It looks like creating something intangible through the tangible.  Using the God-given skills, gifts, and passions to create something that will outlive me—a creative legacy of sorts."

Shawna: "Being able to support myself and my family, and being a good role model in general. I feel like I'm well on my way, but there's a lot of hard work to be done. As long as I can be consistent, and stay focused, I'm sure I can get there."

Allie: "Being able to write a consistent paycheck to myself was super exciting but took what felt like forevvvvvver! It's a beautiful thing to do what you love and make a living doing it."


What advice would you give to emerging creative entrepreneurs?

 

Shelley: "Do all that you can to stay fresh to your craft and your business, be wary in comparison.  Be uniquely you—perfectly imperfect!"

Shawna: "Introduce yourself to fellow creative entrepreneurs! Introducing myself to Shelley, and to Savannah (in particular) were seriously a couple of the most cringe-worthy experiences of my life, but they've changed my life for the better. I was super awkward, and went over the conversations in my head over and over for days after (saying, omg why did I say it like THAT? I must have sounded so dumb!) but if I had never introduced myself... I'm not sure that my business would still exist today. The encouragement, and advice I've gotten along the way has proven invaluable."

Allie: "Explore your own voice! You'll learn to make work that you're proud of and that resonates with how you see the world. Once you start finding that, your audience will come to you. After all, at the end of the day, you're probably the only one putting in the hours making, designing, marketing, and selling. Might as well be for something that YOU like!"


If you have suggestions for blog posts you'd like to see in the future, leave them in a comment below!