February 29, 2008

Saddle up for a Pony ride!

So today, the 29th of February, and to cap off "Eco Week," I'm hitching up with Carrie Siegel and Laurie Mee of Two Trick Pony for my very first interview! Now, I am no "Beefy Walters" (but I'm as chatty as a liquored up June Bug 'round a campfire as you will see) so a little understanding is in order. (And a HUGE "thanks" to Carrie & Laurie for obliging me in all my journalistic naivete and nosiness!) Nevertheless, I hope you'll saddle up and come along for the ride, Kids! Giddy'up!

Now, on to greener pastures...

UB: So tell us, what do you do/make?
CS/LM: Two Trick Pony makes hand screen printed, eco-friendly cards and invitations.

UB: How long have you been doing what you do?

CS/LM: We founded Two Trick Pony about 2 years ago.

Did you get any formal training in learning your art/craft or was it self-taught?
CS: I double majored in Graphic Design and Fine Art at Flagler College in St. Augustine, but earned most of my screen printing chops while working at Urban Outfitters over a decade ago. We had to screen print the logos onto the windows each season...after printing in those conditions, printing on horizontal paper feels like a real treat.

LM: I earned a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. My major was photography, although I incorporated everything from fabric to stained glass to vanilla wafers into my artwork! I've been developing other skills since then such as graphic design, screen-printing and bookbinding.

How did you start your own business or what made you decide to take the plunge? You have a partner, what created the meeting of the minds to team up?
CS: These two questions kind of go together, since I never would have done this without Laurie at my side. I had been thinking about starting a business, but was too scared to get it off the ground on my own. Laurie and I worked together at the time, and one night over Chinese food, she told me she had been thinking about leaving the company. I was crushed, but immediately blurted out, "Oh...well, then you and I should start a line of paper goods." Much to my surprise, she had been thinking about the same thing and took my proposal seriously!

LM: The process of decision making is kind of organic for me, so I can't really pinpoint what made me take the plunge. However, finding a kindred spirit in Carrie definitely helped a lot! You kind of just know when you are on the same wavelength with someone, which is invaluable when owning a business together.

What's a typical day for you?
CS: My days are pretty varied because I do a lot of free-lance work as my "day job." On Two Trick Pony days, I'll drive to Laurie's, play with her dog, Wally, and go to our basement studio to prep some screens or do some printing. Sometimes we'll have a sleep-over, and stay up talking about plans for the business, new color trends, and boys (of course)
LM: I have a day job as a graphic designer 4 days a week. On those days, I'll typically come home from work, walk my pooch and then work on Two Trick Pony tasks. The rest of my week will usually include a meeting of the pony minds to brainstorm new designs, discuss marketing opportunities and just dish about cool stuff we've seen that inspires us.

UB: So you have an eco-minded business....
Did you know that's what you wanted to do from the beginning of Two Trick Pony or is that something that has evolved over time?
Two Trick Pony has been green from the first "Giddyup!" We both felt that part of the benefit of owning your own company is that you can make big decisions, like insisting on eco-friendly production, so it was a natural (ha!) choice for us. We also recently enrolled in the "GreenUp" program offered by National Grid; now our studio is powered with renewable energy sources!

UB: Has it been hard to incorporate from an artistic or production perspective?
CS: For me, the hardest part was falling in love with some of the more luscious paper colors and then realizing they didn't meet our standards for PCW content (100%, 100% of the time). It was hard to give up those colors! It particularly affects the production, though. Screen printing is a good fit for our aesthetic and is inherently a relatively green process: limited use of chemicals, wide variety of water-based inks, easy clean up, and minimal energy consumption (except a lot of elbow grease).
LM: From an artistic perspective, I find it actually helps me to have some set perimeters to work within. Of course there were a few papers we had to tear ourselves away from, but we are very happy with the eco-friendly ones we chose. From a production standpoint, being eco-friendly is healthy for the environment and healthy for us, so that's no problem at all. I think having begun the business this way helped a lot, rather than trying to convert from conventional practices to green ones.

UB: Financially (is it more expensive for you to do things this way)?
CS/LM: With a company our size, the financial impact seems to be pretty minimal...and in many cases, reusing materials and being cautious of our consumption has turned out to be more cost effective!

: Assuming that eco-friendly is also a part of your personal lives, which influenced which first? (i.e., did business influence personal or vice versa, or both at the same time?)
CS: I only became more environmentally focused in the last couple of years, and I've found that business and personal practices definitely feed off of each other. A light-bulb went on at some point, and I realized that many of the things I LIKE to do anyway (shop vintage/thrift, rework old clothes and furniture, shop local, etc) are also "green." This encouraged me to simply start being more aware of my actions both at home and in the studio, and make an effort to consciously choose the greener option. I am capital-L-Lazy, so if I can convert to a greener lifestyle, anyone can!
LM: At first, it was my personal views that influenced the eco-friendly path I wanted to take with the business. However, it is also a smart business move as there is a growing market for green goods. Consumers are much more aware now that they can make a difference by choosing eco-friendly goods and it is surprising how few paper goods are made from 100% PCW paper.

UB: Any advice for adding a more eco-friendly perspective to a business?
CS: Remember that even small changes can have a big impact. I think a lot of companies are reluctant to make sweeping changes, but one change at a time is much more manageable.
LM: Do some research about the effect we as humans are having on the environment. The more you learn, the more compelled you will be to become part of the solution rather than the problem.

: One easy thing to make an eco-impact?
CS: I switched the waste basket by my desk to a recycling bin instead of having both. This way, the influence of my Lazy-itis makes me pause and consider whether or not my piece of trash could be recycled instead.
LM: Don't buy bottled water unless you absolutely have to. Buy a water bottle that can be refilled from the tap, which is often just as safe as bottled water. Just make sure the one you choose doesn't leach any nasty chemicals into your water!

UB: Any advice for budding artists/entrepreneurs in general? To do or not to do? Books? Websites?
CS: Stop watching television; you'll get so much more done. Heh. Seriously, it's not as scary or hard as it seems. We've both been working day jobs while getting this off the ground, but if you're doing something you really love, it's not as hard to stay up late and work through the weekend. The rewards are WAY more satisfying than getting enough sleep!

LM: My advice to other aspiring business owners is to embrace the fact that you will always be learning. When you work for yourself, you are undoubtedly wearing many hats, some of which don't fit quite right! There are so many resources out there to help you learn the ropes, make sure you take advantage of them. I'm a huge fan of the "For Dummies" series of books, which have book keeping and accounting versions. You can also find seminars, sometimes for free, at local business organizations. In Boston, there is the Center for Women and Enterprise which offers some great programs.

UB: Looking back is there anything you wished you'd done differently?

CS: I wish we had reached out a little more to the press; neither one of us are big on tooting our own horn, but we're getting better about that. :)

LM: Probably yes, but nothing comes to mind which is a good thing.

UB: Who inspires you "entrepreneurially"?

CS: I'm inspired by anyone who manages to be successful in a creative industry without losing touch with their own creative side in the process. Lotta Jansdotter comes to mind as a shining example.

LM: My Dad, he started his own company in 1982, working 2 jobs for a couple years before it really got going. He's the type of person who doesn't let anything stop him. If he doesn't know how to do something, he will do the research and figure it out.

Who inspires you artistically/creatively?
Oh, gosh...so many people. I find a lot of inspiration in vintage illustrators, like Olle Eksell, Charley Harper, etc. as well as 60s/70s graphic design, particularly Saul Bass. I also have a real soft spot for vintage textiles and wallpaper - so good!
LM: I can't say any specific people inspire me. There are so many things I am influenced by, from nature and books to fine art and music. Yup, that's a cop out.

What are you most proud of with your business? With yourself?
CS: I'm so proud that we had the guts to go to the National Stationery Show within our first year in business. As we're prepping for #2, I feel more and more proud that we were able to pull it off!
LM: I would say the proudest moment for me was when we realized how many stores had placed orders with us at the Stationery Show. It's one thing to love your own products, but as a business owner it is so rewarding (and vital) to have other professionals appreciate and purchase your work!

UB: Where are you based out of?
CS/LM: Boston Area

UB: Are you from the area originally? If not, how did you arrive where you are?

CS: I moved here from Florida two weeks after finishing college. I had visited a friend here and loved the city.

LM: I grew up in Massachusetts, went to college in Providence, jumped around the Boston area for 10 years and then moved back to my hometown 2 years ago.

What's your favorite thing about living where you do?
CS: Boston still feels like a small town in a lot of ways, but it has all the glories of a larger city; decent food, great music scene, fabulous museums.
LM: I moved to the 'burbs from the city 2 years ago and much to my surprise there are lots of things I like about it. Long quiet walks with my dog, plentiful parking and starry skies to name a few.

CS: Oh, I'm TOTALLY jealous of your starry skies!

UB: When you're not pluggin' away at business...where's your favorite local spot to hang out and why?

CS: My husband and I like to meet up with friends at shows, so you'll find us at various music venues. If it's a quiet night, we love this little restaurant down the street called St. Alphonzo's Kitchen. Tiny and cozy with the best calamari I've ever had.

LM: Hmm, honestly I'd have to say home, that's local right?! A perfect evening for me is cooking a delicious dinner and watching a movie with my man and my dog.

What personal qualities do you admire in others or yourself? What qualities do you not like?
CS: Honesty, forthrightness and a good sense of humor. I can't stand condescension and snobbery.

LM: I admire compassion, patience and definitely a sense of humor. Ignorance and stubbornness are big turn-offs.

Coffee or Tea?
CS: Coffee!

LM: vanilla honey camomile tea... lately.

Bake or cook?
CS: Neither!

LM: Both!

UB: Favorite comfort food as a kid?
CS: Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. From the box, with the orange powdered cheese.

LM: strawberry ice cream, with mac and cheese coming in a close second.

UB: Cat person or dog person?
CS: I get the best of both worlds - I have a cat, Delia, at home, and a dog at the studio.
LM: Dog, but I've known some really great cats too.

UB: If you could be anywhere else in the world and/or time...where and when?
CS: Scandinavia in the 1960s. All that gorgeous pattern...drool...

LM: I'd take anywhere warm... it's winter in New England right now.

UB: You've just been asked to conduct an impromptu lip-syncing performance in your living room...what song do you choose to perform? Why?

CS: "Lips Like Sugar" by Echo and the Bunnymen, because I've loved them for years and have hair like Ian McCulloch. And I already know all the words.

LM: "South Tacoma Way" by Neko Case, so I could pretend I have her
beautiful voice.

UB: If you could have picked your own name, what would it have been?
CS: Caroline. Or maybe Emma.

LM: Frances.

CS: I love the name Frances!

Who is your favorite super hero?
CS: Does Abba count? They're Super Troupers...

LM: Jake

Who are Uncle Beefy's heros? Well, Carrie & Laurie for answering ALL of these questions...and you, gentle reader, for reading ALL of them! Thanks SO much for being a part of this!

Have a great weekend, Everyone!


  1. Thanks a lot Uncle, Carrie and Laurie for this interesting interview. It was a pleasure to read it. The cards + your work is really beautiful! Good luck for your future projects! And also happy weekend, Mirka

  2. Hi Uncle Beefy!

    It's Laurie here from Two Trick Pony. Thanks so much for featuring us during your fabulous eco-week! It was a pleasure answering your thoughtful questions.


  3. Geeze Beef, you've been really busy! I step away for just a moment to tango with electricity and I come back to a level of blogging industriousness that really blows my sox off. Great interview - love their work. Do you guys really have June bugs up there? I'm very very interested in seeing one liquored up.

  4. Dearest Uncle,

    Thanks again for interviewing us...this has truly been a special treat for the ponies. And thank you Mirka and Cheryl for your kind words! I'm glad the Beefster introduced us. :)

  5. Mirka :) ...thanks so much for your lovely comments and support. It is always appreciated :)

    Laurie & Carrie...MY PLEASURE! Thank YOU BOTH for going along for the ride! I can't believe I made you answer all those questions posted AND I actually edited some out!!! You are "Super Troupers!"

    What can I say, Cheryl? I've been a blogging fiend for sure but I just found so much stuff to share and still didn't show everything! June bugs? No. You? FUNNY ;)

  6. Great posts all week - You have been one busy Uncle! Have a great weekend!

  7. please do more interviews, this was great. loved the studio pics!

    speaking of which, when will we see yours?

  8. What a cool interview - very inspiring. Thanks so much for this great start to my Monday.

  9. Well done Bradford.
    Great interview, they do such great work.


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