For our next installment of Behind the Stationery, we’re headed to Vancouver to talk with Sarah and Tammy of Banquet Workshop! A mainstay in the stationery world for 8 years and counting, Banquet Workshop’s graphic illustrations are bright and bold (and never quiet) have been translated into everything from art prints and everyday stationery to clothing and jewelry. Sharing about their lives before Banquet Workshop, the strong influences in their work and the importance of staying flexible, here is Sarah and Tammy! —Megan Soh
Tammy: Before Sarah and I started working on Banquet Workshop together I was working in development for a television production company whose main focus was documentary and reality-type television. Think adventure cooking shows, family swaps, life a fighter pilot as well as documentaries that tackle issues around homelessness, political prisoners, civil rights cold cases and local food movements. It was definitely interesting and fun work, but once I had my first child I realized that a more flexible job would be in my family’s best interest. I also always loved being my friend’s hypewoman and had a love of stationery since I was young. It seemed like a natural jump to work with Sarah on Banquet where I can combine both these things!
Sarah: I had worked as an artist and in both commercial and not-for-profit galleries, but had always done design and hand-work on the side. Banquet started with our Sea Animals of the Pacific Northwest screen print, and from there it was a natural segue to partner with Tammy and move into stationery.
We met through a friend when Tammy moved back to Vancouver from living in Montreal and Sarah was working at an artist run centre. We had many (too many!) ideas that we wanted to work on including sun suits for kids, becoming hand bag designers, making kid’s craft kits (which we did do!), but Sarah had already been making prints and cards. We realized quickly that we could build something bigger with making paper products that could potentially support our families. That said, we still freelanced for the first four years or so of starting our business – Sarah doing design and Tammy working in TV.
We are located in beautiful Vancouver on the west coast of Canada where we are surrounded by oceans and mountains. Our location definitely informs our work. When you are 20 minutes to the beach and forest there is definitely no way to avoid the influence. We also have a strong community of creative women that are forever discussing business, art, fashion, colour theory as well as the politics of the day, and they really motivate us as mothers, creatives, and entrepreneurs.
We have a good sized studio with a view of a luxury car dealership and the mountains, where we pack and ship our orders. Tammy works here mainly with our awesome employees. A lot of the magic happens at Sarah’s house in her home-based studio where she can focus on the creative inspired by her garden, a vast collection of vintage books and textiles, and fueled by too much coffee.
We print a few different methods: screen printing for posters and yardage, offset printing for cards, and letterpress for our garlands/ gift tags. All of our printers are truly passionate about what they do and we love the collaborative production process.
If we had to say what makes us unique (such a hard question for two humble Canadians to answer!) it would be our flair for colour and a distinct graphic style. We are also able to charge ahead when inspiration hits and are not often tied to trends. We really do what we want to do and are always looking to make our business more sustainable and interesting. We have now been in business for over 8 years and haven’t run out of new ideas that we want to do! The list grows longer by the day.
Every day is different for each of us but the main things that need to happen always are new products and sales!!! All the other tasks lead back to this—whether it’s reaching out to new retailers or making sketches for new products. We are always trying to figure out if what we want to make fits into the brand. At the heart of everything we do is a desire to put quality goods into the world that are useful, bring happiness, and make people feel good.
We do not really have a daily/weekly schedule but we talk about it all the time! We do need to have Christmas cards ready in May and are tied to the yearly holiday and tradeshow schedule but I think having variety and fluidity is the key for us being able to be flexible.
Part of the creative process is always looking and being open to inspiration no matter where we are. Some of our best sellers have come from a hand-lettered sign spotted at the mechanics, a hilarious anecdote from one of our kids, or an amazing new-to-us houseplant at a friend’s house. Getting outdoors is everything, but then actual libraries are of course our happy place, and colour is always a favourite. It’s amazing what a hit of neon pink can do!
Then it’s a lot of drawing: because we work mostly with vector-graphics, we draw a lot by hand as the initial process and to try and keep things warm. Even with the computer we try to keep that loose feel, quirks and all. All of our type is hand drawn too, with fonts kept as libraries within Illustrator. Colour is where we really get to play, with a specific palette we go back to again and again, dropping in new favourites as we see fit.
Jumping around is an important part of the process too. Sometimes we need to focus on finding a new way to say happy birthday (not so easy!), where at other times we get to work on repeat patterns and styling an entire table setting with our linens, or doing special projects like a recent 4 x 22 metre banner for the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation featuring eight specific water-birds spotted in False Creek, a central Vancouver waterway. Variety is what keeps the design process interesting.
Photos courtesy of Banquet Workshop.
Want to be featured in the Behind the Stationery column? Reach out to Megan at megan [at] ohsobeautifulpaper [dot] com for more details.