November 11, 2015
BU-KIN, Erika Barratt, and Alyssa Leanne Hoppe
We have a three-part studio visit to share today, and it’s a real beauty! The ladies of BU-KIN, Erika Barratt Design, and Alyssa Leanne Hoppe (Bracken), all craft in the same workplace in Red Hook, Brooklyn. We first met Laura of BU-KIN and Erika at last year’s New York Holiday Fair – and as you can imagine, their shared booth was a woodland-inspired dream! And Alyssa shared her talents with us by hosting DIY workshops at our Brooklyn Fair. Laura and Erika Barratt will be joining us this weekend for our New York Fair, and we can’t wait to see what they have in store!
Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting history behind?
LAURA: It comes from my maiden name ” Buchen” and ode to my family and the creative upbringing that I had in Lancaster PA.
ERIKA: I use my name that I was born with. There was a lot of back and forth in the beginning trying to decide on a name for the business and nothing seemed right. What I do is so personal to me that it felt right to use my name and maintain the personal connection to each piece. My last name in particular is important to me because of my close relationship with my grandparents and their influence.
ALYSSA: My sister-in-law/best friend/buisness partner, Laura Christenson, came up with the name for our fresh flower jewelry business, Bracken. Bracken is a genus of large ferns. We have good memories of taking hikes, and exploring the west coast redwoods where a lot of these type of ferns live.
When/Why did you start working in this particular craft?
LAURA: I always had so many hobbies and crafts sewing, painting, knitting , perfume making…etc. But, when I moved to NY and had a tiny apartment I realized my crafts needed to get smaller! I was always interested in working with leather and I had a friend who had a baby boy and I wanted to make a special gift for her. I created my first baby shoe and I called it “The Timmy” . It really did start as a hobby or project and then it grew from there. Friends wanted booties, then their friends wanted booties and orders just kept coming in. I continued to experiment and learn the craft of shoe making and it just grew into BU-KIN.
ERIKA: I have always been a maker and was always drawn to textile seven at a young age. My grandmothers and mothers all sewed and my mother made all of our clothes and even painted on them. We had drawers and drawers of fabric that I would pull out and play with and make little outfits for all of my dolls and creatures. In college I was in the Fiber Art program at Arizona State. I fell completely in love with all aspects of fibers and from there I just haven’t stopped. I love the ability textiles have to tell a story and it has just always been the perfect medium for me.
ALYSSA: I started crafting and creating moments and spaces from a really young age. Studying graphic design and fine art in college and then working at Anthropologie designing window and interior spaces helped refined my craft and taught me a lot of new skills that helped jumpstart my career as a prop stylist and floral designer.
Have you sacrificed anything to create your business? If so, what was it, and do you have any regrets?
LAURA: I have a day job as well as running BU-KIN. All of my free time or extra time goes into my business. When I first started and was making all of the shoes by myself I was working long hours at my job and every evening and weekend would be filled with shoe making. I wouldn’t say it is sacrifice … I think it is just how I am made. I always need to be making and creating and this is what is fulfilling to me. Sometimes it gets hard because I feel overwhelmed with managing two jobs but overall it is something really special and I am so proud of where it stands today.
ERIKA: I don’t really feel like I have sacrificed anything(maybe some sleep and sanity along the way at certain times ) or have any regrets. I have definitely have had to miss out on some fun things here and there if I have a deadline or a lot of work that I have to finish but it is really what I want to be doing and I feel grateful to be able to so it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice.
ALYSSA: Sacrificing your security of a full time job with another company is a really scaring thing, but I am so happy I took the leap. There are really tough times and really fruitful times and you just have to have faith that the hard work you are putting into your business with pay off in the end.
What has been your proudest/favorite moment since creating your business?
LAURA: I had a dream of selling in ABC carpet & home one day, it was my goal, something to work towards. When I was finally ready to start wholesaling they were my second account! I had to keep pinching myself, I still am so proud to be selling there.
ERIKA: I started collaborating with West Elm a few years ago and just finished designing my 3rd ornament collection for them for 2016. It has been so great to work with them and has taken me down this path of making ornaments that I have loved doing. And Renegade Craft Fair is always fun!
ALYSSA: Ideating a concept and seeing it come to life in tangible form is always really exciting to me and makes me feel proud.
Where do you want your business to be in 5 years?
LAURA: I would love for BU-KIN to branch out more and be able to expand my line of gifts for babies and children. Maybe also expand into handbags and accessories for women.
ERIKA: I would like to have a line of holiday décor and home products and a book of patterns & recipes.
What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?
LAURA: I was a a fashion designer before starting my line. I had experience in design, pattern making, construction and manufacturing. I was able to save so much money by doing a lot of the work myself. I make all my patterns and samples and tech packs. I am able to easily work with my Amish leather makers because I understand the making of the shoes. The business side… thats where I was lost! That took many long nights of research.
ERIKA: As far as the making part, I learned those skills growing up, in school and teaching myself. I had friends and family with their own businesses so I learned from them and the rest just a lot of late night Google searches. I have had a lot of different jobs prior to this that were all very different from one another. When you run your own business there are so many components and there are skills I learned in all of those jobs that help me on a day- to- day basis in some way, big or small.
ALYSSA: I am a learner, so knowing and enjoying the process of how to research and teach yourself has been really helpful.
What made you take this leap into being your own boss?
LAURA: I was working at the same company for 10 years and I wanted to try something on my own. I realized that I had orders piling up and my evenings and weekends were filled with shoe making, all of this and I was really only giving it 10% of my time. I decided to quit my job and give BU-KIN 100% of my time and see where I could take it. I since now have taken another job full time but the year off that I had was so important in starting my business and learned so much and really was able to focus on and turn my hobby into a running, profitable business.
ERIKA: In some ways it kind of just happened and I sort of eased into it. I was working in Philadelphia at the Anthropologie Home Office and then my partner and I moved to New York. I started to do freelance work for Anthropologie while I figured out what was next and then that led to other projects and I started to really enjoy the flexibility of freelance life and being my own boss in that way. After doing that for a few years and some part time work mixed with freelancing I decided I wanted to build my own brand and business and just focus on that.
ALYSSA: I really wanted to have the flexibility to work on the different styles of work I do. I didn’t want to just do prop styling, or just do floral design. I also really enjoy being able to create my own schedule.
What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?
LAURA: Don’t stop, Don’t give up when it gets hard. Keep going.
ERIKA: Just keep going even if you feel like you don’t know what you are doing! Also having a good support system of other makers is so helpful, especially when it comes to the business side of it.
ALYSSA: Never be afraid to reach out to other people in or out of your field for advice. It is so helpful to build a support group of like minded people.
What are some inspirations for your work?
LAURA: I try to keep things classic, I am always looking at vintage shops and flea markets for interesting finds.
ERIKA: I have always been inspired by the past, the lost arts and anything with a story behind it. My favorite things to do are to go searching for things. Whether they are sea treasures on the beach, flea markets or old dusty barns. I get inspired by beautiful materials, I like to just collect and from there things just start to appear and take form.
ALYSSA: I try and seek inspiration that is completely opposite of the work I do because it helps me look at things differently to give me a new perspective.
If you could learn any other craft, what would it be?
LAURA: I think I would like to get more into ceramics!
ERIKA: I would love to work with metal or wood sometime. It is so different than what I work with now and I always have so many ideas I would love to see come to life in that medium.
ALYSSA: I would love to learn how to weld!
When you do get free time, how do you like to spend it?
LAURA: Making things for myself! I love love love being in my studio and experimenting with different leathers, right now I am working on a leather fringe jacket! and I make quite a few leather bags for myself.
ERIKA: I like to bake, embroider, crochet and do pottery. I live right by Prospect Park and love to go there. I love to play music even though I don’t do it that often anymore. I have an accordion that I pull out only a few times of year – usually right before the holidays. Every year it is my New Years resolution to pick it back up again – maybe next year is the year!
ALYSSA: I really love being out in nature so anytime I have enough free time and can drive out of the city and get to the mountains, I try and do so.
How does the city you live in influence your work?
LAURA: I am inspired by the people I meet in the city. I am inspired by the streets and all the shops. It is always evolving, always new things to see.
ERIKA: The energy of the city is contagious. Although sometimes city living can be tough I really love living here. Being surrounded by so much energy really keeps me going and is really inspiring.
ALYSSA: New York is so saturated with incredibly talented creatives that it is really inspiring but I also try and seek inspiration outside of my city just to keep ideas fresh.
What is your favorite part of your studio/workspace?
LAURA: I love my studio space, it is my little haven, all of my favorite tools and and things are there. My studio is a place where I can create and have space to create. I also love the ladies that I share my studio with, it is so inspiring to see what they are working on and I love the community that we have. I also love the big windows!
ERIKA: The wall of windows and all the natural light! I had a studio for two years without windows and while it was nice and felt very cozy now that I have the light I don’t think I can go back! I also love the community of all the artists on our floor.
ALYSSA: I love the windows in our studio. They give so much natural light that is helpful when designing and shooting. Its also really inspiring sharing a space with Erika and Laura. Its like having coworkers again and it is so nice to have friends to bounce ideas off of.
What do you enjoy most about your craft and entrepreneurship?
LAURA: The freedom, the right to choose you own path. To be able to really create something that is 100% what you want it to be.
ERIKA: What makes it worthwhile is being able to share these special moments with people, or seeing some happiness in someone when they receive something. Receiving a simple little note or message from someone saying how much they love something or how much something they received meant to them means the world and that makes every ounce of hard work completely worth it.
ALYSSA: I love that every day is different!
What a gorgeous space! Clear your calendars because this weekend you should be spending all your time at our New York Holiday Fair. If you just can’t wait, you can find all the images from this Studio Visit in our Flickr album, and find all these gals online here: