We had the good fortune of connecting with Shino and Ken Charlson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shino and Ken, what’s one piece of conventional advice that you disagree with?
“Do what you love and your audience will find you”
A lot of people do art because they love making it, because they want to do it, and because it fulfills a need within themselves. They want to honor that instinct they feel deep within and express themselves and go where their creative spirit leads. This is a pure thing, a good thing, and a “north star” that we can all recognize. Letting one’s artistic instincts lead the way is wonderful and feels great, but if you’re going to build a successful business, it usually takes more than that. In our case, we tried to envision a specific target audience within the broader customer base and store buyers. We often talked about what age-range our customer might be, where they might shop for clothes, and even what kind of shows they might watch. Of course in reality there are many many different demographics we hope to end up reaching, but we always believed in creating for “that specific person” we might know. Following one’s muse gets one into the game but at some point it’s important to get outside yourself and ask.. “who’s going to buy this?” “How do I reach them?” “This might be important to me, but is this important to them, and why is it important to them?” Having real answers to those questions is so important and provides clarity. Doing something because you love it is great. Waiting for the world to discover your art is not.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Our designs have always leaned heavily on illustration because of Shino’s freelance illustration background. When we started our business back in 2008, most letterpress greeting cards used small one or two-color images along with existing fonts. We set out to create letterpress cards that were bright, colorful, and jumping off the shelves to catch the eye. As a result many of our cards have tight registration, multiple runs of colors (sometimes six, which is pretty time consuming for letterpress printing), and use the entire face of the card. We didn’t see other letterpress card companies doing that at the time, and we felt that look would help us stand out. In illustration the artist tries to “show” rather than “tell”, and Shino aims to create art that does just that with designs that communicate visually without having to rely on text, whenever possible.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We live very close to the mountains in Altadena, so there would be lots of hiking in and around Altadena. We know a lot of great trails since our dog was super active when she was younger! The Echo Mountain / White City hike is a particularly fun hike, as is scouting around in Las Flores canyon to find the old gold mines from the 1800’s. The weekly Altadena farmers market is a great local tradition and has something for everyone.. The Coffee Gallery Backstage is a great locals performance venue that features local and touring independent artists. We would also take them to the bar/lounge at the Hotel Bel Air, since Ken does solo piano and jazz trio there. It gets a little crowded on the weekends, but on weeknights it’s pretty mellow and they have great drinks (albeit a bit pricey). The grounds there are beautiful as well.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Etsy, Unique LA, International Printing Museum (in Carson), and Renegade Fair gave us a place to showcase our cards when we first started. Red Cap Cards, Offensive and Delightful cards, Egg Press, Hello Lucky, and Albertine Press were all extremely supportive and were helpful mentors as well.
And countless stores and reps who took chances on us!!
Carissa Moss, Shino Charlson, and Ken Charlson