Last summer we had the opportunity to visit the Pine & Boon studio in Seattle. Jess Marie Griffith is the designer behind these leather accessories, and it was so great spending time with her on a beautiful day.
Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting history behind it?
I set out to create a combination of works that was meaningful. When I started the business I had just quit a career working for art galleries but still wanted to reflect how the art community is still a presence in my everyday life. Also, living in the PNW has allowed me to have unique access to many forms of craft and art and the landscape is a huge influence on many people here including my self. “Pine” represents the PNW landscape. “Boon” for the abundance of community.
When/Why did you start working in this particular craft?
Both sides of my family are highly creative and have worked in many types of craft and art making. I always have been making my own things since I was little. It could be a quilt, basket, or a bag. I think I had the advantage of being somewhat fearless when it came to starting out with leatherworking. I quit making art after my time working for galleries and felt that I wanted to explore design. I thought making a bag would be a great start to getting back into sewing and designing. I visited a leather store and was so inspired by the material. I used some hand sewing techniques as well as found a super old industrial sewing machine to get me started. Now I consider my art to be my designs.
Have you had any major failures? If so, what were some important insights gained?
I think my biggest failure is not believing in myself or my designs enough. I have a nasty habit of second guessing my ideas and psych myself out a lot. This is so unhelpful when trying to do something new in an area you are really interested in. My #1 piece of advice is just do it!
What has been your proudest/favorite moment since creating your business?
When you really go after something in life that is such a huge part of you, like creativity, you feel those proud moments in little pieces everyday. But for every proud moment I had 100 moments of self doubt and fears. For example, I was asked to teach a basic leather-working class at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle last summer. It was a four day class for 6 hours each day. That was SO intimidating but I also wanted to be able to share all the things I learned about leatherwork. I had a lot of scary thoughts and feelings prepping for the class. I also was recovering from severe social anxiety so I was worried my coping skills would not be enough. I had a hard time talking in front of class the first few hours but I got through that hump. I am SOOOO glad I did because I met two friends in that class and also had 19 very happy students that created such beautiful work. They all said I was a great teacher and they were so inspired to keep working with leather. I felt very proud during that class and at the end. I could not believe the students responded to my class so well.
Where do you want your business to be in 2-5 years?
I started Pine & Boon to be a multi-disciplinary design studio. I want to create surface designs for licensing projects and eventually create a home linens line based on collaborative designs I do with my husband, artist Cable Griffith. I want to be able to hire people to make my bags so I can focus on designing more.
How does the city you live in influence your work?
Seattle is a small city, and the art/design/craft community in it is even smaller. You make connections fast and people remember you if you keep reminding people you exist. This has lead to really valuable relationships both professionally and personally.
What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?
Most of my creative business is business. Most people think I am in the studio all day just having fun. There is still a lot of office work I have to do that is not that creative. My background in running an art gallery as well as working in higher education administration. That experience really helps me keep organized and know somewhat how business’s function. It blows my mind that art students, like myself, were not required to take at least one business class. When you are an artist or designer you are running a freelance business. In my retail and business experience I saw a lot of bad and good ways of doing things. This allowed me to have a stronger sense of my values as a business person and pursue a work/life balance that works for me.
What made you take this leap into being your own boss?
I think I was super lucky to have a boss once in my career working for galleries who truly believed in me and trusted my intuitive sense of running things. He treated me as an equal and allowed me to grow in the business based on my skills and talents. At the time, I did not understand just how valuable that was and I have yet to find that again. I went from unpaid intern to Assistant Director moving the business to another city in a matter of a few years. I realized the only way I can be in that position again is to believe in myself and be my own boss.
What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?
DO NOT build your business on cheap labor. Pay yourself a living wage. If you get to the point you need to hire help, you want to be able to pay other people a living wage too. Cheap labor can help your business grow fast, but it is only a facade when you realize you are still not making a living and neither are your employees.
What are some inspirations for your work?
I am inspired by the process of making art as well as clean and simple design.
If you could learn any other craft, what would it be?
When you do get free time, how do you like to spend it?
Depends on the season. In the summer I love to swim and go camping. In the winter I like to get cozy and eat lots of popcorn and watch movies. I also play games with friends.
Have you sacrificed anything to create your business? If so, what was it, and do you have any regrets?
My pride I think. Many of the women in my family always told me not to rely on a man and always have a job and skills to fall back on. Right now my husband pays more of the bills than I do, so I had to sacrifice some of my views on what feminism was to me. I get really scared sometimes, but there was a time I was supporting him, so I see it as taking turns now. Also, a lot of what I do is a plan for the long term for both of us and a lifestyle we want to live. I do not regret starting my business and having the opportunity to work on it. I have a stronger sense of who I am as a designers and business lady because of it. My only regret is worrying too much.
Would you ever go on a reality competition show to win $10,000? :p
Oy, probably not. I hate competitions. No amount of money will motivated me to compete.
What is your favorite part of your studio/workspace?
That it’s at home.
Isn’t Jess’ garage studio just lovely? Can’t get enough of that natural light! Check out the full set of images from our visit on Flickr, and find Pine & Boon at our Seattle Holiday Fair this weekend.