For today’s Indie Artist Fixx I’m sharing my interview with Rebecca Pearcy. Rebecca founded Queen Bee Creations, a line of bags, wallets and accessories that’s both stylish & functional, from a corner in her bedroom in 1996. Later, Rebecca added a line of diaper bags, clothing and accessories for babies and parents called Chickpea Baby. At first, Rebecca started with just her designing and creating all her bags and accessories, but Queen Bee Creations & Chickpea Baby has grown, and now she employs 12 people. It’s the ‘little indie business that could’! You can watch a video that shows some of the designing and production process of the products (I always like watching these, I wish more shops did videos, in fact). And, click here to learn more about all the peeps that work in ‘The Hive’ at Queen Bee.
1. What’s the name of your business and what do create and sell?
Queen Bee Creations & Chickpea Baby. For both lines we design and manufacture bags, wallets, and accessories that are fun, colorful, beautiful and functional. Chickpea is a line of diaper bags and accessories for babies and parents. We make everything by hand in Portland, Oregon, in our lively studio in a warehouse building. Currently there are 12 people employed by Queen Bee Inc.
2. Tell us how you got started with your indie business.
I started Queen Bee from a corner in my bedroom in 1996. I grew up making crafts and sewing creative clothing. Both of my parents are creative and self-employed, so it was natural for me to go the same route. Throughout high school & college I was making original clothing, jewelry, and accessories, and Queen Bee grew out of my need for a wallet — I made one for myself and that started the bags & accessories concept. I was getting Queen Bee going, as well as doing clothing alterations & repairs, and working 2 part time jobs. I decided to quit my jobs to see if I could make a go at being self-supported. Queen Bee took off from there and I’ve never looked back.
3. What are your inspirations in your art and in life?
Oh, so many things! Colors are a big one, I just love color. Patterns, vintage fabrics, music, Japanese magazines & books, plants & flowers, a need for something useful, other creative people around me, other small creative businesses.
4. Are there any pearls of wisdom you’d like to share with newbie indie business owners?
Ahhh. The first few years, be prepared to work your tail off. I liken it to being in graduate school — anytime you are trying to reach a major goal, there will be some serious compromise and hefty work involved. But when the time comes to lighten that load, try and delegate tasks that someone else can do so that you can focus on your most important jobs, like design, creative vision, and overseeing the finances. I did absolutely everything for a while (accounting? sure! taxes? sure! customer service? why yes!) and slowly let go of more and more.
5. If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 3 things would you like to have with you?
I don’t know why, but these questions are always so hard for me to answer! Here’s a stab at it:
needle & thread
my deliciously comfy bed
6. What’s the best thing about what you do? And the worst?
Best = Getting to pursue my own creative vision and see my ideas go from my imagination to items that can be used in life that are beautiful & fun. Even when owning and running a creative business is hard, I would rather it be on my terms than someone else’s.
Worst = Sometimes the level of responsibility can be overwhelming. It is a very big responsibility to be an employer & take care of the needs of the business and everyone involved in making it go & grow. As a business grows, the stakes get higher and the amount of money in & out is a lot to manage. But it’s a challenge that has helped me grow and learn through the years!
7. What blogs and mags do you read and what shops do you shop at?
I’m not a big blog reader, but I enjoy them when I stumble upon ones that interest me. Usually they are about indie design (!) and products, or sustainability. I like to look at Domino magazine for eye candy & ideas, Japanese fashion & craft magazines, and Bust & Venus.
8. Were you an artsy craftsy kid? If so, what kinds of things did you do?
Oh yes, big time. My mom is an artist and so I grew up doing tons of crafts with her. I am just really drawn to creating things with my hands and playing with different materials and textures. We did just about everything — homemade playdough, shrunken apple head dolls, ornaments, shrinky dinks, etc etc. As I got older I learned how to use a sewing machine and sew from a pattern, so I started to make my own clothing at age 13, which launched me toward the life I have now. I still love to make and alter my own clothes.
9. Do you like to cook, if so, share your favorite thing to cook. If not, share something you enjoy that someone else prepares for you.
I do love to cook. My favorite things to make are enchiladas and pizza.
10. What does indie mean to you? You can give a literal definition, choose to be a little esoteric or a combination of both. 😉
Well, in the most literal sense, it means independence, doing it my own way. Creating the world in my vision, as opposed to trying to find a pre-existing place in the world to fit myself into. Learning how to live in the world with skills that endure and are self-sustaining. Being a trailblazer while also building connections & community. Making my own rules & following my heart and intuition.
11. What are you reading, watching and listening to?
I’m reading the newest book by one of my favorite authors, Louise Erdrich, called The Plague of Doves. My boyfriend and I just got hooked on the Showtime show Weeds, and I’m constantly listening to music — I’m always finding new music to listen to from the library, and local record stores. Some recent listens are Levon Helm, El Perro del Mar, Jorge Drexler, Van Hunt, and Kanye West.
12. What’s one thing you’ve learned as an adult that you wish you knew when you were a kid?
This too shall pass…
13. What’s new? Any new plans or products that you want to share?
I’m always working on the next thing. My overarching project is to continue to develop new designs utilizing sustainable materials, and also designing print for fabrics and then designing products out of that fabric. Housewares, accessories, possibly apparel. The core of my passion is bold, printed fabric. That’s the base and from there, there are so many possibilities.