I’ll Be Row-Home for Christmas: An Interview with ‘Row House 14’

Holiday Cards Row House 14

PC: Row House 14

There’s no place like home for the holidays, and there’s no better way to say it than with a greeting card from Row House 14. Seriously, if you want your gifting to stand out this season, then you need Heidi Shenk’s funny-’cause-they’re-true cards and adorable wrapping paper.

I chatted with Heidi about how it all started, a cute orange cat, and my love of her wrapping paper.

Pencils Row House 14

PC: Row House 14

Just B More: First things first, where does the name Row House 14 come from and how long have you been in the business of making fun paper products?

Heidi Shenk: Just until recently, my studio was in our [husband’s and my] tiny guest bedroom in our Baltimore row house. Fourteen was the address number of our home and my studio, hence the name Row House 14.

Row House 14 turns seven at the end of November. I can’t quite believe that myself, but time certainly flies when you’re having fun!

JBM: What made you think, “I’m going to make stationery and awesome pencils?”  Did you make other items before Row House 14?

HS: This is my first official small business endeavor, but I’ve always made things to sell, even as a small child. I come from a family of makers, so it always seemed natural. Illustration has probably been my favorite form of art. My parents are both self-employed makers, so doing something of the same always felt more normal to me than more traditional occupations.

I also love humor and writing and so I think it came naturally that I could do all of those things with greeting cards. I used to teach in Baltimore City and I needed a creative outlet for the days that burned me out. Illustrating and writing were those outlets and that’s essentially how Row House 14 came about.

Wrapping Paper Row House 14

PC: Row House 14

 JBM: So about that humor.  Where do you get the inspiration for your hilarious pieces?

HS: If you find yourself chuckling about one of my cards, mostly likely there is a personal story behind it that you can relate to. I draw from my own personal experiences, jokes amongst friends, or other daily life realities. I believe laughter in life is essential. If you can’t laugh about your own downfalls or mistakes, then it’s harder to get through life.

My husband and I also have a very twisted sense of humor, so some of my best selling cards have come from jokes made while sitting at the table eating dinner. Some of my favorite cards are those starring my orange tabby, Finn. He’s the epitome of the phrase curiosity killed the cat. The cards that he stars in are representations of true stories about him, and they also happen to be things that many other people can relate to.

JBM: I’m very partial to the ‘Holy Shit Balls’ wrapping paper. I remember I HAD to have it and I get so many compliments on it. Everyone loves to get a gift wrapped in it!)

HS: I’m glad people love the gift wrap! It’s one of my faves!

Happy Ho Days Row House 14

PC: Row House 14

JBM: I know that in the world of small business, shows and events are a common part of life. Do you travel far and often with your work?

HSI don’t travel much specifically for work, though I do sometimes vend at art markets in Philadelphia and Richmond, Virginia. However, when I do travel for fun, which is fairly often, I’m always on the lookout for new card shops and interesting paper goods. I love finding inspiration in these kinds of places while I’m taking time off from my own work.

While I don’t travel very far, my cards do! My cards can be found in many retail stores across the country, and one of the most rewarding feelings is getting a text message from a friend who happened upon one of my cards while they were traveling or shopping at a local store.

Row House 14 Greeting Cards

PC: Row House 14

JBM: I always ask this question: What do you love most about what you do? 

HS: I love hearing different stories from my customers about why they buy my cards or the significance behind a card they are giving to someone. When I sell my cards at art markets, it’s so much fun watching people reading my cards, laughing, and listening to their reactions. Often, people will open up to me about something that they were able to relate to through my work, and hearing those stories is why I do what I do.

JBM: Your cards are so great, I could see them in the big box stores. Are you hoping to “get noticed” and become a staple at one of the large corporate retailers?

HS: While it would be fun to find my cards in larger stores, it’s not a priority for me. Enjoying what I do and sharing that with other people is a bigger driving force for me. I prefer being a part of locally owned shops that I can build personal relationships with rather than larger chain stores, because I think it’s important to support that community wherever you live.

JBM: So when someone wants one (or ten!) of your awesome cards, what are the best ways to get in touch with you ?

HS: People can find me via my website or Etsy shop. I’m also a huge fan of Instagram and love connecting with people there @rowhouse14. During the holidays, you can find me at all sorts of local markets. And I’ll be at the Last Stop Hops and Shop event at Peabody Brewing on the 21st of December.

JBM: So fun talking with you. Have a great holiday!

HS: Thanks!

Row House 14 Cards

PC: Row House 14

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Breaking Dishes this Holiday: An Interview with ‘The Broken Plate’

Matyland

Photo credit: Juliet Ames

Many people have the urge to break things from time to time, maybe even more so during the holiday season. But did you ever think of making a living by breaking dishes?

The unbelievably creative Juliet Ames of The Broken Plate did and she’s been breaking plates since 2006. That’s quite the run for a job that doubles as fun stress relief. Here we discussed with Julia how breaking a plate to make a mosaic turned into a creative small jewelry business.

Teacups  Jewelry

Photo credit Juliet Ames

Just B More: So how in the world did you get the fantastic idea to break plates for a living and then turn it into jewelry? Did you make other jewelry before or was this your first go?

Juliet Ames: I started as a photography major in community college but when my credits didn’t transfer (because of the death of the darkroom) I realized that my quickest path to graduation was by getting an Interdisciplinary Craft Degree from Towson University. I took an odd mix of classes to learn all sorts of different materials such as glass, paper, ceramics and metals. I spent most of my time in the metals studio. Upon graduation, I didn’t make anything for about six months when the creative bug struck and I spent a weekend in the basement, manically making myself a mosaic mailbox out of an old plate that I bought at Goodwill. When the project was complete, I still had so many pretty shards leftover that I decided to make them necklaces. The rest, they say, is history. 

JBM: So how long has this been your small business? Have you always been a small business owner?

JA: This company began in 2006, but I have been making and selling my own jewelry and photography since high school. I even managed to earn the “Most Likely to be a Millionaire” superlative in high school, but unfortunately I don’t think selling jewelry is the path to that. Maybe my next business. 

Before and after The Broken Plate

Photo credit: Juliet Ames

JBM: Where do you get the inspiration for your pieces? Do you have a favorite collection? (Mine is of course the Pyrex!)

JA: I’m usually inspired by the pattern of the plate, but lately I have been really enjoying just using simple stained glass. Since I make so much jewelry, I am finding most pleasure in making some self-indulgent art with my shards, like the map of the US or animal shapes. 

JBM: Do you have any fun stories from the business?

JA: I was honored to be invited to have a solo show in Hong Kong last year. I initially thought the invite had to be a prank, but I took a chance and traveled across the world to show my work. It was an incredible experience to be treated like a pop star for a few days. They even built me a plate breaking stage and massive broken teacup for photo ops. 

JBM: What do you love most about what you do?

JA: I love the creative process and assembling all of my pieces.

The Broken Plate Jewelry

Photo credit: Juliet Ames

JBM: Do you think this will be your “forever job” or do you see something else on the horizon?

JA: This is my forever job for now. I will never get rich doing this, but I can work in my pajamas and be there for my boy after school. They only other thing I am half qualified for is maybe being a line cook, but even that would probably kick my ass. 

JBM: Now that you mention it, don’t you have a cookbook?

JA: Yes, I made a cookbook last year.  Will have some at Holiday Heap and in my Etsy shop.

JBM: It’s the holiday season, how can people get their hands on some plate jewelry for gifts (or to treat themselves)?

JA: Email is best for me.juliet@ibreakplates.com 

My Etsy shop is www.thebrokenplate.etsy.com

My only holiday show is Holiday Heap with the Charm City Craft Mafia on December 16th at 2640 St Paul Street. 

Art on display at Silver Queen Cafe until January.

Studio visits by appointment.

JBM: Thanks so much for speaking with us!
JA: Thanks for the opportunity!

cookbook

Photo credit: Juliet Ames

Baltimore Small Business: Three Local Women to Support this Season

Presnt

What’s in here?!?

It’s the holiday season and here at just B more blog I believe in keeping it local. That’s why each Wednesday for the next three weeks I’ll be featuring a local artist whose wares are sure to be a hit on any holiday shopping list.

Whether you need something for a hostess gift, a special present for the child in your life or would like to treat yourself, these ladies will have something for you to gift wrap.

That’s right—ladies. I’m featuring three local women because their talent is fantastic and they represent what local business in Baltimore is all about: heart, creativity and quirk.

So check back here on Wednesday, December 6, to meet the first of three seriously creative small business women from right here in Charm City!

What could just ‘B’ more festive?

 

Healing the Nasty Way: A sit down with The Nasty Press

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May We Heal Event this Friday night. YOU better be there!!

Sometimes things happen in the world and you know the only correct response for yourself is to get out there and make a difference. That was the case for three amazing women after an election that shook much of the country. If you haven’t heard of The Nasty Press yet, allow me to introduce you to Baltimore’s newest femme zine collective and the fantastic ways they plan to change Baltimore’s art scene – and beyond.

And let me start by telling you that the BEST way to get to know these ziners is to attend The Nasty Press: May We Heal?  FREE event this Friday night, Sept 15, 2017. Located at The Annex 2E and starting at 8 pm, the night is all about celebrating Baltimore’s LGBTQ and POC artists in Baltimore. There will be poetry, music, art, photography, and new friends for everyone. Bring some beer and maybe a little spending money. (You may just find something you must have!)

Can’t wait to show up? Great! Now here’s the low down on what brought it all together so you’re completely in-the-know Friday night.

Zoey, Alysha, Em – AKA: The Nasty Press

“Trump was the catalyst.” —Zoey

Like so many people after the 2016 election, Zoey, Alysha and Em felt that the wrong things were getting the spotlight, namely racism, homophobia, sexism and religious intolerance. As they started looking around at the zine scene in Baltimore, the dynamic trio realized that there didn’t seem to be a platform for all artists. It was very male dominated and what femme-run zines there were could sometimes be more competitive than supportive. Beyond that, Alysha explained the art scene in general had a reputation of “being pompous, pious and off-putting on the surface“- just plain intimidating to newcomers or the curious.

What started as simple idea to have a one-time gallery show for the art of those underrepresented, turned into a zine and event collective whose mission is to give a platform to EVERYONE. Their goal is to be Inclusive not Exclusive so that their zine can show the richness that is Baltimore City and highlight those that often don’t get the spotlight.

Constantly referring to themselves as an infant zine, you’d be hard pressed to know it just by looking at their first issue This Moment in Politics. Turns out that was all thanks to a grant that didn’t pan out in the end. As Zoey explains, it seems she often can’t believe the story herself:

“We tried to do this grant, but it was due in five days. We didn’t even have a name at the time! Over the next four days we met every night to write it and submit. We didn’t get it in the end, BUT it helped to solidify the idea…we had themes for our first issues because we had to and it helped to give us focus…And we often didn’t know what we were doing or if something was going to work.

I mean, we were zine panelists before we even had a zine! We were giving advice before we’d published our first issue!”

Alysha laughs and adds:

“We’re not big shots! We definitely don’t think we are! We’re infants. We’re beginners and we WANT beginners. Some of our (published) submissions are from beginners. You take your iPhone and take a picture that works with the theme. If you have something to say – say it….Politics affects everyone from women’s reproduction and marriage equality to veterans and (pause) just everyone. It affects EVERYBODY.”

This Moment in Politics

And The Nasty Press is committed to focusing on those issues that affect everyone.

While the first zine was a reaction to the election of Trump and a showcase of people’s feelings at that time, the second issue will tackle mental health.

After working so hard to get the first issue out we each had to really rely on one another at different times. We got to share our stories of our struggles and our families suffering from mental illness. This is a topic that needs to be normalized. And it’s not just about mental illness, it’s about mental HEALTH. We want to be as open and broad as possible and level the planning field. We’re trying to make it comfortable for people to relate.” 

Along with supplying a platform for underrepresented artists and raising awareness of important issues, The Nasty Pressers are all about giving back. All profits from their zine and merch (like these killer totes) are donated straight to The Baltimore Transgender Alliance, Planned Parenthood of Maryland and Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

“This was never about making money. It was about providing help and resources to those who need it.”

In the coming year there are plans to do a large fair on the street surrounding The Annex, complete with bands, food, art, performances and lots of zines! Alysha envisions blocks of zines and people supporting one another and raising each other up, with support from local businesses. Places like Red Emma’s, Bird in Hand, Greenmount Coffee Lab, and Dovecote Cafe are already dedicating space on their shelves for The Nasty Press, as well as other zines like Herstaria and Beast Girl.

Alysha and Zoey (and me) kicking it at their amazing event space at The Annex 2E.

No matter what happens in the future the femme forces behind The Nasty Press promise to always be relevant and turn out thought-provoking zines and events. Alysha summed it up best:

Queasy. Good. Raw. That’s what we want.”

What could ‘B’ more inspiring?


Want to get involved with The Nasty Press? Drop them a line on Facebook, Instagram or their website.

Want to submit to their next zine? Perform at their next event? Find out how here.