Lately, I’ve been thinking about goals. For the longest time, my goal was creating a solo show experience that changed the concept of what a gallery space could be and how it could function. Now that I’ve finished that major milestone, I’m asking myself what’s next? How do you reframe your goals after you finish something huge in your career? One thing that’s helping me is seeking out perspective from others. After months of moving at lightning speed, I’ve craved sitting down one-on-one with other artists, makers and business owners to ask questions and hear their experiences.
Recently American Express approached me about their #AmexWelcomed project and asked if I would interview two creative businesses in San Francisco who accept American Express. It seemed like a project that would allow me to have those conversations I craved. So, I sat down with owner Alexis Joseph of Case For Making (CFM) and Ryan Smith, the store manager of Dog Eared Books to talk about creative businesses. Case For Making is a storefront in the Outer Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco that offers curated art supplies and handmade watercolor paints. And Dog Eared Books is a local chain of bookstores that sources bestsellers and an array of unique book and magazine selections. Each of these businesses were started and carried by creatives.
Case For Making
Alexis Joseph is a fifth-generation San Franciscan who studied architecture and later opened a store that stocks carefully curated art supplies. I visited her in the shop to talk about how her store, Case For Making, started and how she’d managed the ups and downs that come with owning a business. Alexis told me Case For Making came to fruition naturally—as many creative businesses do. She and a close friend decided to create a beautiful place where people could come and feel like art supplies were inspiring, not overwhelming. Alexis told me, “I try to talk to people about just being curious about materials and not worrying about drawing something or executing something specific. I encourage creativity and supply the right tools.”
During an hour together, we talked about her favorite supplies in the shop, how challenging the first year of CFM was and what had helped her business grow. She said, “Social media and keeping payment options diverse helped us grow. With social media, I try to notice what people get excited about and post something every day. I’ve also learned the importance of keeping payment options open. Welcoming American Express especially has helped us stay fluid.”
We wrapped up our interview by talking about entrepreneurship. I asked her for recommendations for new creative entrepreneurs.
“Just be really honest with yourself about what makes you so happy and curious, and figure out how to include that into the business on a day-to-day basis. You don’t have to have it all figured out to start bringing an idea to life,” she said. “As for me, I want to help people find that thing within themselves that they love. Sometimes it’s hard to see it within ourselves. People come in here and they’re happy—you can’t really be bummed out in an art supply store.”
Dog Eared Books
I met Ryan one afternoon at Dog Eared Books—where he’s store manager at their Valencia Street location. I snagged him from the counter and we sat to talk about the eclectic shop and its owner, Kate. “Everything here stems from Kate. She’s very DIY and kind of punk. And her bookstores reflect her.”
Kate opened Dog Eared Books twenty-five years ago and Ryan has been working there for twelve years. I asked what had inspired him to work in a bookstore for so long. He explained how growing up in a small town in central Nevada had motivated him to move to a large city.
“My parents were farmers and high school teachers, but living in a really small town is kind of claustrophobic. I wanted to move somewhere where there are bookstores,” said Ryan. [Dog Eared Books] is unique because we hire people who really love books—we’re all absolute bookworms—so our stores are really well curated. That’s important for small bookstores because we can’t have everything [like the internet does].”
I asked Ryan how American Express had helped the store. He said, “Many of our customers are loyal American Express users, so we accept Amex. That helps us stay inclusive with payment options.”
I wrapped up our interview by asking if it was hard to keep himself from buying a book a day—every time I come in, I end up buying tons of art magazines like Art In America, Juxtapoz Mag, Art News, Hi Fructose, and Bomb Mag. Ryan laughed and said, “After you’ve worked here for years you start [saying no]. Everyone here has cubbies in the back that are crammed with books. And in all of our homes too. We are all mild hoarders.”
My two afternoons talking with Alexis and Ryan gave me the one-on-one time I’d been craving, and also lifted a curtain to some of the local stores in San Francisco. That encouraged me to learn more about creative businesses and begin questioning why fine artists feel that they can’t talk about the business side of their practices more openly. After all, art is a business too.
Thanks to American Express for sponsoring this post and giving me the chance to dive deeper into the community. It’s partnerships like these that help creatives connect and encourage each other to continue growing. Both Case For Making and Dog Eared Books accept American Express: the go-to card for travel, restaurants, and experiences. Over 26,000 more places in the San Francisco area started accepting American Express® Cards in 2016.
A word on partnerships: With the objective of remaining true to my art and lifestyle, I only agree to partnerships with companies I respect. Therefore, I’m thankful for companies like American Express, who are involved in bettering communities, and support my practice as an artist. I want to be as transparent as possible out of respect for my readers and in accordance with the FTC law of 2013. All content and opinions are my own. For more information on my views please read my open letter regarding partnerships.