Colorful. That describes the running theme inside Christine Schmidt’s home, and also sums up the very core of the artist’s personality. (What type of artist you might ask? Oh, just a printmaker, jewelry designer, illustrator, author, painter, and home decor extraordinaire.)
I was invited into Christine’s home to go behind the scenes of her quirky and offbeat jewelry pieces, like the Color Wheel Pendant and the Taco and Hot Sauce Mismatched Earrings (my personal favorite for obvious and delicious reasons). I knew the visit would be a success the moment Christine uttered the words, “Alexa, play 2 Dope Queens.” The studio tour quickly unfolded into us playing with paints like art school girls and exchanging love-hate stories about New York City. We drank tea from mugs (that Christine designed herself) while listening to Jessica and Phoebe chuckling in the background. In my head, I’d basically found my new best friend in San Francisco.
Christine’s illustrations definitely bring out the playfulness in me and fill the Lisa Frank void I never even knew existed. Yet, what I admire even more is that Christine herself is super relatable and isn’t afraid to be different — very much like her jewelry designs. As an unapologetic feminist who naturally marches to the beat of her own drum, it’s no surprise that her company, Yellow Owl Workshop, has been a success for almost a decade. She also recently published her third crafting book, Make It Yours. Discover how Christine entered the world of design, what she loves most about San Francisco, and why she thinks you should never apologize.
What are your most essential tools?
Pencil and paper.
How did you come up with the concept for your product?
The color wheel pendant is the first piece of jewelry I created for Yellow Owl. I studied metalsmithing in high school (jealous?) and I knew that a color wheel would match any outfit!
Where do you find inspiration within your space?
Having a 5 year old is a super great excuse to stash colorful crafts and Play-Doh. Instead of doodling during long phone calls, I make tiny fake foods. I was especially proud of my tiny hamburger my kid squished into a gray blob.
Where does downtime fit into a day in the studio?
I don’t have a lot of downtime but I do get down with some podcasts. Throwing Shade and 2 Dope Queens are my favorites. I also spend an enormous amount of time considering my lunch. Today is delivery ramen and it tastes like victory.
What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
The hardest part for me was understanding my own limitations. Creating things comes naturally, but I am not a good leader or manager. I’m so lucky to have a team of talented women in our Mission District studio, they really make this Yellow Owl world run!
Color obviously has a huge impact in your work, has that always been the case?
Pretty much. I have the most fun playing with color for my prints and greeting card Risographs. Imagine that a screen print had a baby with a Xerox copy. The machine prints one color at a time and the colors are limited. We create new colors by laying colors on top of one another in varying strength. The colors are screaming bananas and every print looks bright and magical.
What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Take a nap. 5 years ago I was a new mom. Motherhood sloughed off all the crap I used to think was important. I feel more solidified in myself and I appreciate my unique noggin. Those are two things young me didn’t even know I needed.
How do you set goals for yourself?
Honestly, I don’t consciously set goals. I play around with materials and sometimes I can translate it to something I can make for others. It’s an incredibly selfish and fun way to work. I highly recommend it!
Describe a perfect day in your studio.
Today, I’m prepping all the new items and it is a great freaking day! Some new prints need some color tweaking but all the new jewelry is on point. It’s enormously satisfying to see a lineup of things from my brain in final finished form. I have the best job!
What is the process of making your product?
I make things that I want. I have an idea and I figure out how to make it. In school, I got to work with so many media from metalsmithing to printmaking. I had no idea I could invent a job that somehow uses all of those skills!
How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
My last victory was the release on my new book, Make It Yours. The book has over 60 projects and it took over two years to complete. I didn’t really celebrate until that printed paper baby was in my hands and I think I guzzled nine dollar wine from the corner store because I know how to live.
Talk about your relationship with San Francisco.
We moved here because my husband, Evan, found a job in affordable housing. I was raised in Kansas City and lived in D.C and New York. But after living in San Francisco for 12 years, this is my real home. My favorite part of the city are the people I’ve met. Sad to say the cost of living here is driving my artist and musician pals away, but hopefully the city will cycle back.
What quote keeps you motivated?
“Don’t F***ing Apologize.”
Don’t be ashamed of your ambition or strengths or weaknesses. My Midwestern politeness comes with a reflexive apology gene and I recently pledged to cut it out. I made a print of this phrase written on a sheet cake and stuck it above my workspace to remind myself.
How do you recharge your creativity?
TV! I need the boob tube (even if I most often enjoy it on an iPad). Do you know the name of Mallory’s boyfriend on Family Ties? Well, it’s Nick, and he had a spin-off called The Art of Being Nick because he was an artist and sported an earring and a leather jacket. These are the important things.
What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
Right now, I’m working with fabric dye and paper-marbling. I’m constantly discovering new things to love about techniques I’ve worked with before.