Along with “community” and “curiosity”, “creativity” is emblazoned on our office mural as a core YellowDog value. It’s practically a gene here in our work family. Almost two years ago, in the height of pandemic stay-at-home orders, we asked our team to share their personal creative outlets.
Since then, we’ve just kept on crafting. Some of us have even taken our creativity to the next level with personal brands and Etsy stores. Now, in 2022, we’re revisiting the question to highlight our in-house side-hustling artisans. Here’s what gets our creative juices flowing when we’re off the clock.
I’ve always liked fiber and picked up crocheting last winter, after I was inspired by the fun and adorable amigurumi figures my daughter had started crocheting. It’s been a really calming and zen-like thing for me to do. I really like the rhythm of counting the stitches and trying out new stitch techniques.
The math behind it all is super interesting – it’s a lot like building a quilt and making the math line up the way you want it to. I’m really into variegated yarns; they are so beautiful. I mostly make things and give them away as gifts. For Christmas my daughter and niece made me this sweet Ma and Emmet Otter from my favorite Christmas movie “Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas”.
Ultra Sassy Greeting Cards
I design greeting cards with random dumb funny sillies that lift my soul. Laughing is key. It will brighten anyone’s day. Whether it is a random shenanigan type of card to make a friend laugh or a piece of wall art that you giggle at every day.
It started with my mother. She could always create something out of nothing, no matter what the medium was. Drawing, painting, chalk, pastel, ceramics, games, activities, learning, cleaning…any kind of shit to be creative and occupy your time. She created dressers with working drawers out of cardboard boxes when my brother and I were babies. She always crafted up Halloween costumes for everyone with fabric, tin foil and black eyeliner. She could also cut your hair and give you the worst 80’s bangs EVER! (don’t act like you don’t have one of those school pics floating around somewhere). I got my creativity, cool calm demeanor, astonishing good genes (lol), and pottymouth from her and I am alright with all of that. My mom is cool as shit.
Photography Book and Zine Making
My love for photography books and zines started in college studying photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2016 after making small run editions of books and zines for years, I self-published my first book with poet AM Sweeney, called Sunglasses on a Cloudy Day.
Since then I’ve continued to publish my work and others under the imprint Benschop Books. I like to create new styles of binding as well, and just beautiful objects to hold and look at. Some of my zines are basic saddle stitch style (usually with squarebacking!) but others are more complicated to handmake and produce. I most recently used Wire-o binding for my 2021 publication, On the Edge of the Sky.
I’m not much of a cook, but I do love to get creative in the kitchen by brewing kombucha. I started in the fall of 2020 and I’ve kept the same “mother” SCOBY alive and growing ever since! The best part of brewing is experimenting with flavors. Some of my “greatest hit” flavors have been garden spearmint, spicy ginger, pomegranate, hibiscus, rosebud, mulled orange spice, and cinnamon cider.
This craft is also a ton of fun to share. I always have a bottle of something delicious to bring to a gathering (without having to stop at the liquor store), I’ve printed customized stickers to label bottles for wedding gifts, and I’ve even gotten a few friends started with brewing as well.
Silly Stationery for Sale
For centuries, I’ve watched friends and co-workers make fun and creative products to sell on the side, and I’ve always wanted to join the fun. However, amid the constant MOM CAN I HAVE A SNACK and MOM THE DOG IS ON FIRE I just couldn’t quite gather my thoughts.
Then, in late 2021 I had a simple, but incredibly silly, idea to add googly eyes and text to classic illustrations of animals. Right now I’ve got greeting cards, magnets, Valentine sets with custom eyeball stickers, and have near-future plans for notepads & planners. I’m also having a lot of fun creating stream-of-consciousness, ultra-silly Instagram posts and calling it “marketing”. (Cynthia, I’m coming for your job…) Every part of this process is my creative outlet, really.
The Gift Of Print
I love to give gifts. And over the years I have been able to give the gift of design and print, thanks to my role at YellowDog. One of the many perks of working at a design and print studio is that employees get a printing credit to use each year, and I use this credit to design and print gifts like custom invitations, calendars, stationery, and more!
- Desk calendars. I created these calendars that included all the cats and dogs of our employees. Each month featured one of our furry companions and the “gotcha” story of how they came into their life. These are printed on 100# matte cover with a black spiral bind and a scored backer to allow it to stand upright.
- Custom die-cut wedding invitations. This is my current project and I am so excited about how these are turning out. I am utilizing one of our new machines that allows us to provide custom cuts such as this curve to the top of the invites.
- Wedding print items for my best friend’s wedding. This included Individually addressed menu place cards, gift tags, and bottle labels. I also created these wedding drink signs mounted on foam-core with two unique cuts and easel backers.
Illustration, Photography, and Dance
Art is defined as one’s imagination to express beauty, power, and a theory of reality. Yet to me, art really just means independence, freedom, and authenticity. I entered the art world at the ripe age of three years old by beginning my journey in a ballet class. As I developed through life I found not only a raw talent for art, but also a burning passion for my expressing myself.
My art has always catered to my emotions, experiences, and imagination, but also allowed me to create an outlet where I could express myself and lavish in my results. Nothing beats the rush of being on a stage with hundreds to thousands of eyes watching your every move or completing a piece of art that you laid your soul out on the line for.
Abstract Art with Resin, Acrylic Pours, and Alcohol Inks
During a COVID fever dream I decided I wanted to get into resin art, not just as a way to get creative at home but also to share it online. So I started experimenting in with resins and alcohol inks, taking photos and videos as I go.
I created a logo and social media pages, as well as a YouTube channel with several process videos of my learning and growing in this fluid, abstract medium. My friends are already commissioning me to create pieces for them, and my plan for 2022 includes an Etsy store.
Punk Band Frontwoman and Songwriter
Since a very young age, it’s been rare to see me without a guitar, drumsticks, or some sort of instrument in my hands. As I’ve grown throughout the years, I’ve taken a hands-on approach to learning as much about playing, writing, and recording music as I can. My biggest creative outlet as of late has been singing and playing guitar in my band Broken Record. In trying to find a concise way to describe our sound we’ve half-jokingly coined the term “power goth”, which is some combination of emo, post-punk, and power pop.
This project allows me to explore a full range of self-taught skills, though I’ve had some great help from friends along the way. In addition to acting as our main songwriter, I’ve also taken the reins on production, engineering, and mixing on a majority of our releases.
Though my main focus is comics/illustration at the moment, those things tend to feel a little too much like work for me to consider them an “outlet”. Every time I get frustrated or feel like I’m hitting a wall with that work I know that spending an hour or two doing some studies will relax me. Since I don’t have to stress about making something polished or final, I can just focus on learning and enjoying the experience for what it is.
I like to use reference photos from the website Earth’s World (@earthsworld), which is one photographer’s expansive collection of candid photographs taken at county fairs. Especially with comic art there is an unfortunate tendency for artists to get “same face syndrome”, in which all of their characters have the same generic facial structure. By studying these photos of normal people I aim to expand my mental library of human faces in order to avoid that bad habit. There’s always more to learn about color, skin tones, and lighting. I always come out the other side knowing just a little bit more about how human faces work.