Welcome January 2022 - planet earth made it to another year. This month, I’d like to introduce you to Isa Wang and Vincent Frano, the creative and multi-talented founders of The Bower Studio. Our shop carries their line of enchanting illustrated cards and art prints, highlighting North America’s diverse flora and fauna.
We're delighted by the plantable seed paper their notecards are printed on. Each card is embedded with a range of wildflower seeds like Snapdragon, Black-eyed Susan, and Sweet Alyssum, or herbs such as Parsley, Chives, and Basil. It’s such a thoughtful way to breathe new life into everyday items.
I’ve enjoyed getting to know Isa and Vincent through our High Five Maker interview, as well as through their blog page. It’s filled with insights about their illustrations, and enlightening information about herbs and plants. After reading our interview below, I encourage you to forage their blog. You’ll learn something new and cool for sure!
MK: How did you two meet, and what made you decide to create The Bower Studio together?
IW: Vincent and I had been dating for about two years and we were living in Boston when we decided to start The Bower Studio in 2011. We didn't have much of a direction at first but we knew we wanted to participate in craft shows. When we started, the product itself wasn't really the focus; we just knew that we wanted to incorporate our appreciation for the natural world. In the beginning we actually made glycerin soap shaped like robin eggs and amethyst. Eventually we started adding cards and prints with our artwork and that was a lot easier and less messy to make. Our customers gravitated toward our aesthetic and that's how we knew to keep pushing the artwork as the part of our business that made us stand out.
MK: The Bower Studio cards we carry at our shop are all printed on handmade, plantable paper. We love this! What motivated you to print your cards on plantable paper? What special printing techniques did you have to learn in order to print on this type of paper?
IW:In 2015 we opened a brick and mortar retail store that highlighted local and sustainable home products. We were carrying packs of blank seed paper sheets and one day we thought: why aren't we printing our cards on this? Our cards were already botanical-themed and it seemed like an obvious pairing. It took a lot of experimenting with different printers and papers to get the quality that we were happy with. I had experience from interning under an indie letterpress printer that helped us figure out how to scale up the printing, cutting, and folding tasks. Once we made the switch to plantable paper, it was like our cards had a bit of magic in them.
MK: You both have artistic and life pursuits outside of The Bower Studio. How do you balance the art and design work you do for The Bower Studio with your personal artwork, especially if the aesthetic is different?
IW: Yes, we both maintain independent art practices that are separate from The Bower Studio. We feel that it's important to pursue artistic expression that is free from the pressures of marketability. It's time to explore, experiment, and dig into our individual passions. When all of our business activity was happening from our home, it was hard to separate personal art from business. Now that we have a designated studio/office for The Bower Studio there's a clearer boundary between the two. I think it's a huge benefit for creators to be flexible with their design sensibilities. Since we collaborate on The Bower Studio's artwork, it has it's own aesthetic that is a mash-up of both of our styles. Usually Vincent does the linework and base colors, then I do the final edits and most of the graphic design.
MK: I love that your shop is named after the bowerbird. For our readers, a bowerbird is a bird known for creating nests decorated with colorful, found objects. If you were a bowerbird, what colorful, found object would you hope to stumble upon to decorate your nest?
IW: Vincent would probably want to find some colorful wildflowers (he is a horticulturalist after all) but I really like collecting minerals. My favorite at the moment is Botswana agate- it looks like peachy gray smoke rings.
MK: If you could go back in time or forward in time, which would you choose and why?
IW: That's a tricky question! I'm a little nervous about what I would find in the future because... you know... climate change. So maybe back just far enough to see a thylacine (an extinct carnivorous marsupial also known as the Tasmanian tiger).
Isa and Vincent, thank you so much for talking to us. If you're ever in Seattle, please stop by and say hello. I'd love to talk to you more about all things minerals and plants!
Happy New Year everyone. I hope 2022 brings comfort and even tides.