Editor’s Note: This is the third post in a new biweekly series on Makers Mentors, in which we feature successful makers who have gone out on their own. Join us every other Wednesday to learn how they did it, and keep “Making” for a living.
Adriana Bergstrom (née Hernandez)
Santa Barbara, CA
Business founded: 2008
Adriana Bergstrom is a jack of many trades, as is evident in her business Adriprints, which sells fine art prints and knitting patterns. She also hand-crafts novelty fonts and sells them through MyFonts. She is a firm believer in the saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” and she clearly practices this.
What was the impetus behind starting your business?
In 2008, right before the U.S. economy tanked, my long-time partner accepted a job in Germany. We eloped, sold what we had, and moved to Munich without either one of us ever having spoken a lick of German. I was in a new country with no way to support myself or contribute monetarily. If my previous life as a scenic artist and printmaker taught me anything, it was how to be resourceful. I was without any of the tools to do printmaking, so I started sketching letters and drawing letterforms, then it was just a matter of trial and error and getting each glyph to translate digitally. Afterward, I had to learn the font-making software (TypeTool).
The story behind the knitting patterns is pretty straightforward: I love knitting, and I wanted an object that didn’t exist anywhere except in my mind. I had already created a schematic, written the main idea for my own garment, and figured I might as well share it. So I learned to write patterns using the styles and conventions I observed in my favorite existing ones.
I’ve never stopped making art prints, and this year I decided it’s about time someone else sees them besides my husband!
You formed an art collective called Finch & Foxglove in 2015. Tell me about that.
Once I committed to pursuing illustration again, exhibiting at Surtex in 2016 became a goal (and I quickly realized I wasn’t the only one with that goal!). I met lots of talented artists and illustrators with the same dream, so I put the feelers out and formed Finch & Foxglove. (You can see all the players at the website.)
Being in an art collective really helps keep us focused on marketing our existing work and making quality new work. One of the hardest parts of being an illustrator is getting your work in front of potential clients and essentially cold-calling. I don’t mind doing that on behalf of the group. In fact, I find it easier to call or e-mail in the name of the group than for myself! So I write our intro e-mails and call companies looking for art directors and creative directors.
When you work alone, it’s really difficult getting objective feedback on your work, and we provide that for one another. As a collective, we have members who specialize in web-design, logo design, color trends, others who are really great at coming up with project ideas, marketing ideas, promotional activities, etc. We try to play to our strengths for the benefit of all. And because of our diverse offerings, it brings interested people to our site who might never have seen us had we been looking on our own. We’ve already had some small successes being a collective. Being a part of Finch & Foxglove has brought a whole new level of confidence in my work!
Were there other shops or artists that you followed, that inspired you to start your own shop?
I follow a lot of artists, knitters, and designers. I was really inspired to get it together by Lisa Congdon, Ysolda Teague, Stephen West, Sarai Mitnick, Anne Bollman, and Lauren Lowen. All of these gals (and guy) have a knack for putting their work out there, creating great content, maintaining consistency (but still staying fresh), and making work that’s fun to look at! I want to be like that!
Do you sell your work primarily online, or do you have a storefront?
I sell primarily online, but I would love to see my prints in stores. I’ve not sold anything via Instagram, but I love it as a platform. It’s so easy to share process and work!
What works best for you when it comes to marketing and promotion for your individual business?
I offer free limited versions of my fonts so people can test if the font will work for their project. I have two-tiered pricing, too: private use and commercial use. For knitting, I buy ads, participate in group knit-alongs, cooperate and cross-market with yarn companies, submit my patterns to magazines, and use Twitter and my blog to promote.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out—something you wish you would have known?
There’s never a perfect time to start. Just make the kind of work you would want to buy. Also, you’ll make a lot of crappy stuff before you make good stuff (unless you’re a prodigy, in which case, you made all the crappy stuff when you were 2, and you’re past it now).