BIRCH & GOLDBERRY
It is with a very happy heart that I share one of my favorite studios with you! I first met the ladies of Birch & Goldberry at the University of Houston. As I look back at our time there, I realize that these women are some of my oldest friends from University. My favorite thing to do at the end of each semester was meeting up with some friends and visiting the UH Open Studio Nights. One semester I remember visiting them and I fell in love with how they organized their studio spaces. I also took note of the relationship of color and abstraction in their work. There was one moment where I remember walking into their space and marveling at the amount of authenticity. It kind of feels like a different life now? All of us have grown in different chapters. It has been incredible to see how much change has happened all around us.
Hillaree and I were in the Blaffer Student Association together, Stephanie is Hillaree's sister and Beth and I had Impressionism together. After graduation, the team launched Birch & Goldberry and I witnessed their quick transition of being art students to small business owners. It has been beautiful to watch their studio flourish and I have loved visiting all the markets they have vended at over the years. Last December I visited their new studio at the Foundry and it was everything I thought it would be. I couldn't waste anymore time! I am so honored to start off this new series with these three visionary young women.
How did the idea for Birch & Goldberry come about?
We entered our first market as a sort of experiment to test the waters of what, at the time, we were thinking would just be a side project. We had all just graduated from the UH painting department and wanted a way to still be involved in something creative. After receiving such positive feedback from Fresh Arts Winter Holiday Art Market back in 2013, we decided to take the plunge and just start systematically putting our business together.
What is you all's artistic upbringing and education?
We all have bachelor’s in painting from the University of Houston, and I (Hillaree) am currently in the MFA program at Houston Baptist University.
Who are your early influences and who are your influences now?
What initially all brought us together was an appreciation for organic elements, color and pattern. We are still largely influenced by these components, but have developed an interest and sensitivity to seasonal shifts within the natural world. We have a permanent collection for each category of soaps, candles and paper, but also continually develop rotating scents and patterns inspired by the current season.
What is it like to move back and forth between the art community + maker community? What lessons have you learned? Are they similar? Different?
I think what we’ve learned is that it’s ok to move back and forth between the two communities and there is room to be in both worlds. When we were in school, I think we felt like there was only one way to “be an artist,” and I think that perception has evolved since graduating and being in the real world. We’ve come to realize that art is not just one thing and there’s no specific way to build the “right” career and that it’s ok to have an overlap between the two areas.
What is your outlook as a company? What is your next goal?
Overall we see ourselves as a studio that makes a variety of objects and products inspired by our combined artistic backgrounds, love of design and organic elements. We have a lot of goals planned for 2016, nothing set in stone yet, but lots of ideas for growing our company!
How do you describe your products?
As a whole, we describe our products as having a clean and playful aesthetic and all handmade by a member of our studio. Individually, the soap is made from plant-based oils, the candles from all natural soy wax and all of our paper products are hand-painted. We hope our customers take away an appreciation for the details we've carefully selected for each collection.
I love how painterly the marbled soap looks and your custom handmade wrapping paper is always so dazzling and very festive! each time I see these I feel like there are different scents and designs. Where do you draw your inspirations from?
From a variety of sources, however usually we take the most inspiration from organic structures and pattern. Most recently, we have been really excited by construction sites around Houston. We've been very drawn to the highly saturated fluorescents mixed with the natural colors of dirt and clay.
You all are incredibly thoughtful humans and your products serve as wonderful gifts. I feel like Birch & Goldberry is a true labor of love. Does it bring you joy to know that you're apart of someone's happy gift exchange? What does that feel like?
Absolutely! It is very rewarding to know that our efforts and products are going to loving homes! :)
Tell me a fun fact about each of you.
Hillaree: I loathe/it makes me extremely nauseous when people crack their knuckles.
Stephanie: I used to want to be a dentist.
Beth: I recently got married!