When I first discovered the endless well of creative talent on Instagram a few years ago, one of the very first accounts I fell in love with was Thimblepress. The endless color and joy in all of their cards, calendars, and artwork was such a breath of fresh air. When I learned it was all designed by the owner, Kristen Ley, I was even more blown away. Talk about a Renaissance woman! Anyone who can juggle endlessly creating along with running a large, successful business has my attention.
Over the past few years, I've been lucky enough to work with Kristen + the Thimblepress team to create photos for the launch of a few different products (jewelry! throw pillows! champagne!), and the thoughtful design and ability to keep such a wide range of products still feeling "on-brand" only confirmed the respect I had for them. When I decided to relaunch the "Tell Me All" interview series, one of the first people to pop in my mind was Kristen. I hope you enjoy our chat below as much as I did!
1) WHO ARE YOU + WHAT DO YOU DO?
Hello! My name is Kristen Ley and I am the founder, owner and creative director at Thimblepress®. Thimblepress® started out of my garage and bedroom closet back in 2012 as a creative outlet for me to make things with my hands. It has quickly evolved into a bright and happy lifestyle brand focusing on party goods, home goods & desktop items. I am the sole designer of all of our products, which is something I love and hope to always say. Our team has grown from 1 person to a full-time and part-time team of 16-20 depending on the season in just 4.75 short years. I give God all the credit for working something in me that is bigger than myself, and I cannot wait to see what 2017 has in store for Thimblepress®.
2) HOW DID THIMBLEPRESS COME ABOUT? WAS IT SOMETHING YOU SET OUT TO CREATE OR DID IT EVOLVE ON IT'S OWN?
Thimblepress® started in a garage and bedroom closet (it was a fairly large bedroom closet), that quickly took over my room and bathroom. At one point I think I had ULINE boxes tucked in every corner of my bedroom. In 2011 I purchased a letterpress and was able to move it into that garage I started out of in Jackson, MS. I honestly purchased the letterpress as a hobby-type thing for me to expend creative energy and do something different than what I was doing. It was my creative outlet. When I moved into the house on Winchester Drive in Jackson, I truly hit the jackpot for roommates. My roommate at the time was Kate Thomas Whitley. She needed a roommate and I was looking to move out of my loft apartment due to the new puppy (Willow, now 6) that had recently joined my life. Kate, who now lives in Nashville, is the founder of Little Things Studio. She really encouraged me to start an Etsy with some collegiate drawings I had created back in college. She showed me the ropes of uline and pointed me in many directions. I will forever be grateful to her for helping me back then. It was truly destined that we were to be roommates.
Truly, Thimblepress® started as a hobby that I never would have imagined back in 2012 would grow into what it has grown into today. I truly love what I do everyday, and feel honored that I get to create products that people use in their daily life, in life celebrations, and in thoughtful letters of written word. Thimblepress® will continue to evolve, change, create and innovate because as an artist, I feel inspired all the time by new things. The one thing I hold to that Thimblepress® will never change is wanting to make people smile through our colorful products. Our core values are near and dear to us and we display them with pride in our retail shop, on our shop bags, and in our brand stationery. These are values that will never change with Thimblepress®. They are have fun, innovate, encourage, be honest, inspire, experience & be kind.
3) WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY-IN-THE-LIFE LIKE?
I will say, when you own a small business, your schedule is rarely the same day to day. Every day is different for me. I live above our studio, so my commute is pretty awesome. No traffic. ;). I always make a cup of coffee, then proceed to set it down, half-way full, and continue about my day and later forgetting where I originally set my coffee. That seems to be a running theme in my life. Some days I have meetings, but I always try to get to my email first in the day, even sometimes sitting in my bed early in the morning before I start to get up and get dressed or showered. My favorite days are the ones that we do product photography or styled shoots. I also love just getting to paint and draw. During the work day one will rarely find me painting or drawing due to all the things that need to be taken care of during business hours. I find my best painting and drawing time for me comes at night when there are no distractions. I like to put on podcasts, TV or an audible book and just paint the night away. I am an eternal night owl, so night is my creative hour. I am trying to become more of a morning person, but I am starting to think that will never happen! :)
4) YOU'RE KNOWN FOR YOUR BRIGHT, COLORFUL, ABSTRACT, BEAUTIFUL ART! WHAT WAS YOUR BACKGROUND PATH TO YOUR CREATIVE CAREER?
I have always created art, and very colorful art. Since I was younger than 5 years old I was creating. I love doing something with my hands. In the world we live in today, and projects that can sometimes take years to come to fruition, it is nice to be able to make something with your hands in just thirty minutes or an hour. My eyes have always been attracted to lights, color & sparkly-magic. When I was a child and the fair would come to town, my parents would have to detour around the fair just so they wouldn't have to take me every evening. If I even got a small view of the wonderful lights, I would pitch a fit and stomp my feet wanting to go to the fair. The same goes for when my parents took me to Disney World as a child. My favorite things to do were to ride "It's A Small Small World" and to watch the colorful parades. Color is so emotional and inviting. It can be tricky, but I have always loved and gravitated to art that mixes color in a way that it does truly make you feel something. When I was in junior high, I would sell my paintings at a local clothing store for spending money. I knew I wanted to major in art with an emphasis in graphic design, truly before I really understood what graphic design was. I have always been very driven, and when I put my head to something I am like a bull charging through a paper backdrop. :) Even in graphic design, I always implemented my hand drawn and painted elements into my portfolio. I also kept painting. I feel like painting is like riding a bike; Your muscle memory and brain will not let you forget, but the more you do it the better you get and you begin to find your stride. As any artist will tell you, there are periods of self-discovery and change in direction. Artist are curious people. They (we) interpret the world in a curious manner with our visual voice. Through my career, I have explored many mediums, styles, color ways, etc. I just think that is the life of a curious artist.
5) BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS- ESPECIALLY A PRODUCT-BASED ONE- IS FILLED WITH CHALLENGES + IS NO EASY FEAT! WHAT HAS BEEN INSTRUMENTAL IN GETTING YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?
God. No joke. It really is hard, but it can be done. I have done a lot of Google searching, research, praying and having a great network of people that want to help me get things done. My local community, my network of other industry friends & the prayers of my family have been the biggest factor. Also, I can't do anything without my amazing team. They are the legs and arms of Thimblepress.
6) YOU'VE PARTNERED WITH SO MANY OTHER BRANDS ON SOME REALLY COOL PRODUCTS- WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO CREATING A SUCCESSFUL COLLABORATION?
Honestly, we always look to partner with people who make really great products that we admire, and companies that we find parallel values and styles in. At the end of the day, working with a company that is super nice is the biggest goal. You never want to work with people that don't hold your same values or are mean spirited! ha!
7) WHAT INSPIRES YOU? HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH CREATIVE BLOCK?
I am constantly inspired by fashion, textiles, travels I take. When it comes to a creative block, the best thing I can do is get out of my routine, do some fine art painting, get away from my computer and think about the things I really love in life. I also keep a product idea journal where I will jot down random and even very silly ideas. Sometimes those super silly ideas can lead to something quite amazing later on in life. I use my Day Dreamer a ton to jot down my day to day and then I review it months later. It is really great!
8) WHAT IS/HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST STRUGGLE IN BUILDING THIMBLEPRESS?
Honestly, as a person that has a ton of ideas for product, it is hard not to want to do it all at once. I have to make sure the product ideas are viable in a marketplace and not just for myself. ha ha! It is also hard as a small business to sometimes fund those crazy dreams, that is why you want to make sure to have a good focus group of people that can give you sound advice throughout the process to make sure you don't go produce something that costs thousands of dollars to manufacturer and no one buys it. At the end of the day the way we make products and develop products is all derivative of a story in my life, a memory, an experience. We want to create products that inspire happiness and fun in people's lives; that add that little extra sparkly to someone's day. We want to create fun and functional products that help you elevate and celebrate your life and space! We really try to honor that when we are creating.
9) WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CREATIVE CAREER?
As cheesy as it sounds, there have been so many amazing highlights big and small that I cannot even count. I think meeting Mario Lopez in the set of Extra in Los Angeles when the Thimblepress products were featured last summer was pretty amazing. As an avid "Saved By The Bell" watcher, that was a childhood dream realized at 31 years old! ha!
10) WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE (PROFESSIONALLY) IN 5 YEARS?
This is an interesting question because we are only five years old, so to see what has happened in five years for Thimblepress has been truly amazing. I know what I want to do is to continue making products and celebrating all the things in life big and small. I want to keep painting and drawing. Running a business is not for the weak of heart, so eventually I would like to get to a point where I am doing less administrative work and emailing. I want to get more time for creative flow.
11) WHAT IS YOUR BEST ADVICE TO SOMEONE BEGINNING THEIR CREATIVE PROFESSIONAL JOURNEY?
Always ask because the worst someone can say is "no!," but what if they say "yes?!" Always chase your dreams and passions that you believe in. Don't let the world or an industry define who you have to be, be yourself and go after the unknown. The unknown is what will help you stand out and help forge your voice! Rely on faith - lift your burdens up knowing that there are some things you just cannot control in this world, and that is ok. Celebrate the little wins and celebrate the no's. The no's only lead you closer to more YESSS!
12) TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOU FEW PEOPLE KNOW! :)
HUMMM… let me see. I love doing makeup. Seriously, love it. I don't wear it all the time, but It is like another art form to me. I think it is so fun! I also think I am pretty good at it, but let's get real… I don't get out on the town much, so that may just be in my head!
Thanks so much to Kristen!!
You can find more of Kristen, her gorgeous art, and Thimblepress, here: