Based in the colorful land of Los Angeles, California, Katie from The Good Twin is here to share with us the founding moments of her stationery company and take us through a day in her life. I love seeing her pins and stationery in local Brooklyn shops here in New York! So glad to have you here today, Katie. Take it away –Megan
Hi there! I’m Katie, owner and operator of The Good Twin, based here in toasty Los Angeles. And yes, I am a twin, although my brother might argue with you about the “good” part, ha. I’m so excited to be chatting with you guys today – Oh So Beautiful Paper has been a source of inspiration for me for many years, and stationery is one of my favorite things to talk about, go figure.
I’ve been working in stationery since my college days in Minneapolis, after a childhood in Portland spent creating greeting cards for family and friends for pretty much any occasion. While I was in art school, I interned for a corporate greeting card company, and then a small letterpress shop, both of which really helped me learn the ins and outs of the industry. I realized I was really excited about the big picture of a business — growing a full line and having creative control, rather than being a hired gun for an art director, and I set my sights on producing my own designs.
When I graduated, I worked a few jobs (barista, library assistant, and freelance illustrator) while my friend John and I started Dude and Chick, a tiny line of letterpress cards. After a few years of long hours and late nights, I moved to L.A., where I eventually decided to leave Dude and Chick and start my own line. The Good Twin was finally off and running in May of 2014.
My studio is in Lincoln Heights, way on the east side of Los Angeles just northeast of downtown. It’s small, but it’s mine! I only recently moved into a space outside of my house, which has been a big change, but also very welcomed – my apartment feels like a real place again, rather than a storage locker filled to the brim with paper! All of my inventory lives in the studio, and I also carved out a designated area that feels a bit more officelike, with a big desk for drawing.
I usually bring my pug Peggy to work with me, and we’re joined a few times a week by my friend Bryan, who helps out with inventory management and order fulfillment. Having an employee has been my saving grace —before that, my nights and weekends (and sometimes afternoons) would be spent sleeving cards and pulling orders. I still do a lot of that, but now I have a lot more time to focus on illustrating and the business as a whole.
As The Good Twin has grown and expanded, I’ve learned to delegate a bit, but I still find myself packing my days with a million different things. I work best when I’m multitasking. My best trick for any problem is to step away for a few minutes and work on something else, then return with a fresh eye. I’ve always relied pretty heavily on a routine and regular work hours, since my brain responds really well to structure. There’s always something to do when you run the show, so I try to put in a full day even if I’m feeling uncreative or having one of those blocks where I feel like I’ll never be able to draw again.
Days usually begin around 9am, after a morning run and breakfast at home with my boyfriend. Mornings are reserved for processing orders and managing my books (nothing like a little Quickbooks with a cup of coffee to wake me up!). I spend a lot of time writing and answering emails from buyers, sales reps, and printers, as well as entering expenses and planning budgets for reprints and new products in the works.
By the afternoon I’m ready for a little creativity. I do my best to draw a bit every day, even if it’s just a few minutes of calligraphy practice. I keep a folder on my phone with all my dumb (and occasionally awesome) ideas for new cards and products. About half the time, I start from a really concrete idea, but often I’ll just be browsing through my endless Pinterest boards for inspiration and just make a drawing or pattern I really like.
Every week I comb through my sketchbooks and pull anything I feel is worthwhile, and from there I ink those drawings (sometimes with a Micron pen, sometimes with a brush), scan them in, and start playing around with layout and color in Illustrator. Although I do hand draw everything, including type, I usually piece things together either in the computer or with a light box. For me, it’s easier to focus on each piece of a composition separately, and then assemble everything in post.
My biggest challenge has always been color, and sometimes I’ll go through ten different palettes before I find something I like. Each season’s release gets one huge file where I keep everything so I can be sure it all looks nice together. Once I have the general look down, each design gets a separate file for cleanup, color separations, and other finishing touches before they go off to print. While I’m working, I like to listen to music and podcasts and occasionally audio books.
I head home for the day between 5-8pm depending on how busy things are and how much I’m getting done. I really love my job, and hands down my favorite aspect of running a small business is the variety. As much as I love designing, it’s important to me to understand things like profit margins, trend research, and sales patterns. I think it helps me better direct my own work and style. I’m constantly giving myself pep talks and figuring out things that I never dreamed I’d be wrestling with, but that’s how I like it.
Stationery is really exciting industry, and I love seeing change in my own style as well as the different lines I admire. Hope you enjoyed the peek into my corner of the paper world! Thanks for having me, Megan and Nole!
Photos by Kate Miss
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