Peppersprouts’ beautiful housewares, wall art, holiday décor, jewelry and accessories are perfect gifts and everything you want for modern homes. In my eyes, they are tasteful, natural, fresh, simple and elegant. Jen Pepper, the Massachusetts-based designer and owner of Peppersprouts, described her collection as “modern with a woodland country feel.”
Originally from Delaware, Jen is a graphic designer by trade and training. And that’s really not a secret; once you take a look at her work, you would immediately know that she is a brilliant designer. Jen takes great pride in her work, not only in the products themselves, but also in the packaging and photography. “If I come up with an idea and I try it out and it’s not what I want, I am not going to put it out there. I am not going to sell something that I myself wouldn’t buy. It can’t just be functional but it has to be interesting to look at.”
What attracted me initially was a set of Jen’s Star Constellation wood coasters. During our conversation, I found that those coasters were one of the Peppersprouts’ debut creations in 2008. “The first few things I sold were a greeting card with a dog with mustache and a stuffed owl soft sculpture.” The big break arrived when Jen came up with the coasters. “I made laser-cut coasters and put the picture on Flickr. It was then selected to be Flickr pic of the week. People had a strong reaction to the coasters. And everyone was like ‘when are you going to sell these?’ That’s how I started, and everything kind of happened organically. And I came up with several more designs since then.
Jen doesn’t do anything specific to find inspiration. “I‘d come up with an idea in the middle of the night and wake my husband up. And he’d be like “leave me alone” and go back to sleep. But really my ideas normally come out of thin air. A mixture of five or six things and then somehow they just click.” And sometimes inspirations come from necessity. “We were having a group party. I was in charge of the food, but I couldn’t find any cheese markers that were adorable. So after the party I got to work on designing my own set.”
Jen’s absolute favorite thing she’s ever made is the Woodland Ornament Advent Calendar. It’s brand new for Christmas. And there are 25 little ornaments. So I got to draw 25 little characters. And that was so much fun. I don’t always get to sit down and find time to draw.”
When her Etsy store was four years old, Jen decided to quit her graphic design job and run her business full time. “Etsy shop was just something for fun initially, something of a creative outlet where I was able to do whatever I want. But I was lucky enough to be able to do it full time.”
But not everything about her business is fun and creative. “People who don’t have an Etsy shop or don’t run a business think that we get to sit around and draw all day, play with markers, crayons and yarn, and that we are crafting all the time. But we have to think about marketing and accounting. We look at our numbers year after year and see what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong. Is the product working? Is there a way to keep the quality but find a way to possibly to save money? Maybe it’s time to change material, change size, or order in bulk. While it’s fun and creative, it’s still a business, so you have to be able to make a living for yourself. When you are your own boss, you get to make your own hours, but you have to be very dedicated or it won’t work. You have to put the effort into it. Unlike a job, you don’t have a coworker to cover you.”
Jen also has other advice for people who want to sell their crafts. “It’s OK to start small, you don’t have to have 40 different things. You can start with one item. If it’s a very good item, if you love and are proud of it and you think the world is going to love it, give it a go. I literally started Peppersprouts with one coaster design. Everything branched out of that.”
Jen’s aspiration for Peppersprouts is to keep expanding and coming up with new ideas and products. “I think that’s really fun. I am not a jeweler, but I can make jewelry. I don’t consider myself to be an illustrator, but I can illustrate things. I have the freedom to add whatever I want to the line, and it doesn’t feel out of place. I haven’t pigeonholed myself into something. So really the sky is the limit.”
You can check out Jen’s creations at Peppersprouts. They would make great holiday gifts. Jen also has a newer store, Chatty Press, which offers modern custom return address stamps and stationery for your invitations and social correspondence.