Thomas and Noel are the gentlemen behind the wonderful Portland brand Little Garage Shop. “U.S. made, Portland made, and garage made,” Thomas and Noel pride themselves on their craft. Each product is thoughtfully designed and created by the pair, and the two have taken the spirit of the garage to heart: “While some may see the garage as a space to fill, we see it as a space for possibilities – at the ready for inspiration to strike.”
Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting story behind it?
We’ve shared a studio space and have been collaborating on each other’s work for quite some time and had been talking about starting a business together. As visual artists, it is incredibly helpful to see how our product merchandises together. One afternoon we decided to convert our garage/studio into a retail space to test out some of the work we had been developing. The amount of interest and positive feedback we were getting from other artists and people in the neighborhood about the space and our work really helped to propel us forward. Rolling the garage door up for the first time last December, Little Garage Shop was born.
Have you always been passionate about design?
Yes, most definitely. We both come from different backgrounds in the creative world, ranging from Set Design, Branding & Marketing for a number of clients both in Fashion and Lifestyle.
Why did you start working in this particular craft?
Noel: I went to school for fine art and over the years I have slowly decided to focus on design rather than take the risks of the “Art World.” We enjoy producing objects and goods that are attainable while still encompassing the hand of an artist, with each piece still having a unique place in the world.
Thomas: I was introduced to ceramics while getting my undergraduate degree and fell in love with the medium. Over a decade later, with a few careers under my belt, I reignited my passion for ceramics and quickly realized that I wanted to turn this into something more than a just a part-time project.
Have you had any major failures? If so, what were some important insights gained?
Starting a business can be challenging most of the time. Fortunately, we have not had any major failures to date. We are both incredibly resourceful and do 95% of the work ourselves. But finding reliable partners for certain aspects of the business has proved somewhat challenging. The biggest insight we’ve gained is that if something doesn’t work out the first or second time around, just to keep at it and eventually everything will fall into place.
Have you sacrificed anything to create your business?
We both sacrificed the stability of our past professional careers for a sea of uncertainty. But that uncertainty is also a driving force. We now have the ability to create the life that we want to lead and ultimately be in control of our own successes and failures.
What has been your proudest moment since creating your business?
The feedback we get from clients and customers has been the most rewarding part of the business. We spend a lot of time working in the studio on product development and production and don’t often get the opportunity to interact with customers one-on-one. Participating in markets has given us the opportunity to get first hand feedback on the work we are creating and there is nothing more valuable than that interaction.
How does the city you live in influence your work?
Portland is such a perfect place to take the time to work on a project. Nature is one of our biggest inspirations and a big part of why we moved to this part of the world. We have both lived in some great cities (New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, etc.) but also found those cities to be very distracting and hard to keep a foot. Portland has allowed us to take a step back and really think about what we want to put out there.
What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?
Thomas: Having spent 13 years working in marketing and advertising in New York and Los Angeles, I developed a set of business and brand building skills that has been extremely helpful in setting up, managing, and growing our company.
Noel: During my time working and living in NYC for 10 years, I cultivated my passion for art, design, and culture. I was able to successfully launch two creative business ventures and had the chance to meet the most supportive and influential group of people in my life.
What are some inspirations for your work?
We are very much inspired by growing up in the 70s. There is something about the palette, design, and feeling of the decade that will always speak to us. Although our shapes and graphics are more contemporary, we are evoking a time of celebrating nature, color, and craft. We like to create products that we want to use and much of our work is not meant to be precious. It should be used, held, broken in and worn down. It’s in those well-worn objects that we find the most beauty.
What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?
Always have the name of your brand picked out before your start your business and make sure it has real authentic meaning to you. This is the core of who you are and what you represent. Always look for better ways to see the world and express it. Stick to your gut and never care what anyone else thinks of your work, just keep making it. Also, never stop looking at the work around you and what others are bringing into the world. Think about what you are offering and what can make it different.
What else are you excited about?
When we are not at the markets you can find us working in our studio. We often open the garage on nicer weekends from 11-5 pm. On days that we have the studio open we will post our hours on our Instagram and Facebook pages. We will also open the studio by appointment and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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