If you haven't seen the tall, dark, and 1500lb Petunia in action, you're really missing out. If you're wondering what the heck Petunia is, read on for this week's Women-Owned Wednesday with Christine, owner of Spacepig Press.
Christine is a wizard of print press and her understated, quirky cards give me all the relatable feels. You can find her popping up all over Sacramento, sometimes even bringing along a 'print-your-own' experience where you can get your hands dirty and take home a one-of-a-kind greeting.
October is a super special month for Christine since it's her shop birthday, and I'm so excited to share some of her insights and the story behind Spacepig Press.
I was constantly over-working myself and watching men reap the profits of my labor, and honestly... fuck that.
How did you get started with your business?
My background, career, and other business is branding and graphic design, and I think at some point every designer falls in love with letterpress.
About 10 years ago I bought my first small table top press (not much else could fit in our little Brooklyn railroad apartment) and opened an Etsy shop with 4 whole card designs. It was the glory days of Etsy, so they sold out quickly and I got a request for a bulk order within like 24 hours of opening shop. I also thought I was real hot shit. And then, you know, life happened. I started a very intense job, let it devour my life, and then devoted all my energy building up my freelance design career. The press sat under a table collecting dust and got busted out for the odd friend-wedding-invitation project.
In 2017 my partner and I moved across the country to Sacramento and suddenly I had all this space—physically, mentally, and creatively. I was just starting to think about how I could make a real go of letterpress printing (and decided on the name Spacepig Press) when I found an ad for a 10x15 Chandler & Price press for sale here in town. Once you commit to wrestling a 1500lb hunk of cast iron into your life, the momentum kind of takes over. We got her home, named her Petunia because she's a delicate flower, then I spent a few months fixing her up, finding parts, troubleshooting, digging out 8 years of jotted down card ideas, designing new ones, and then printing printing printing.
Spacepig Press officially launched October 2018, so it's my business birthday month, and I can't believe it's been a year!
What do you enjoy most about being a small business owner?
I love being In Charge of All The Things. I actually run two businesses: Spacepig Press and Byrne Branding & Design, which, like the name says, is my design business. So I've been working for myself for the past 10 years, with brief forays into working for not-myself. Every time I took a job working for someone else I got annoyed at NOT being In Charge of All The Things. I struggle to set limits on my time and energy, and I was constantly over-working myself and watching men reap the profits of my labor, and honestly... fuck that.
Also I can work from home and be a total hermit-goblin 90% of the time.
What’s the hardest thing about being a small business owner?
Can I just copy/paste my previous answer?
I also hate being In Charge of All The Things sometimes, because of the aforementioned inability to set limits on time and energy. My brain constantly feels like a bag of angry cats as All The Things clamor for my attention and what am I going to do, NOT build a new e-commerce site while also printing a new line of cards while also building new booth displays while also pitching to retailers while also juggling 5 new design clients while also teaching myself how to knit (you know, to help with my anxiety)?
Also, because I am a hermit-goblin with a social anxiety disorder, events and pop-ups have been a really difficult adjustment. I love seeing all of your beautiful faces and watching people do the double-take-and-laugh move when they glance at my cards, but interacting with strangers for 4+ hours straight is a nightmare situation for me, so apologies to anyone who's been on the receiving end of a weird 1000 yard stare or brain shut-down in the middle of our conversation.
What's the best advice you have for women who are just starting out?
It's ok to ask for help! Ask for advice, ask for that in on a killer event, ask to collaborate, ask to get a coffee and brain dump. Now, sit tight while I go ignore all my own advice.
Seriously though, the creative and maker community here in Sacramento has been such a revelation and I honestly wouldn't have made it this far without that support. Find your support network of other inspiring, creative badass business womxn, whether it's on the internets or in your irl life.
What is one skill you have that unexpectedly benefited you in your line of work?
My family has a weird pride in being able to pack things really well and make the most efficient use of space and that skill has been SO valuable. Before Spacepig, my personal best packing feat was my sister & I Tetris-ing an unholy amount of stuff into one of those 6x6' moving pods for the cross-country move. This summer though, my partner and I packed my entire 10x10 booth set up, including the tent, multiple tables and displays, too much product, an actual printing press, and both of us, into my tiny little car. Seriously, so proud.
I also found my experience troubleshooting and debugging websites (hello everyone, please hire me to un-fuck your Wordpress install) weirdly relevant while fixing up Petunia and figuring out how to get her printing properly. There's lots of finicky bits interacting in not-always-obvious ways and small changes can have an outsized impact.
Be sure to check out Spacepig Press on instagram and on the web to see Petunia in action, get information on regional pop-up events, and sneak peeks at new projects and awesome paper goods.
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