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Alyssa Bowers of Acanthus Apparel

Age: 34

Location: Des Moines

Background: Art and Design degree from Iowa State

Sells: Screen-printed apparel for adults, children, and dogs plus patches, temporary tattoos, pocket notebooks, and stickers

Price: $20- $60 for apparel

Website:acanthusapparel.com | acanthusapparel.etsy.com

Follow: @acanthusapparel | facebook.com/acanthusapparel

What was the inspiration for your company? 

My husband, Joshua, and I started the company almost 10 years ago because we couldn’t find clothes in Des Moines that we liked and we didn’t want to pay the high price tag on designer t-shirts. We were inspired by a lot of designer brands that were becoming very popular on the west coast featuring tattoo imagery. Our other inspiration came from Greek and Roman art. It was something we both studied in college and wanted to incorporate into our designs.

Why create? 

As cliché as it sounds I create because it brings me joy. There is a gratification that comes along with creating something from my own hands. I also create for my customers. I get so much amazing feedback and it pushes me to do better and to keep progressing with Acanthus.

Why be a creative in Des Moines?

Being a creative in Des Moines just feels easy. There are so many young, like-minded people that want to support the arts and each other. In my field, I have mostly encountered encouraging people that want to lift you up to see you succeed and I’m not sure you can find that in other cities. Des Moines has come so far in the past 10 years as far as supporting the creative people and the “makers”. I’m excited to be part of that and to have an influence on the future of it in some small way.

Most popular item?

Definitely the bee and crossbones burnout baseball tee. I have tried to keep it in stock for the past 5 years. It’s a popular item for men and women.

Best holiday gift item you offer? 

Any of our sweatshirts. I’m very particular about what I print on so when you buy an Acanthus hoodie expect it to be the softest, most comfortable hoodie you have ever owned. You should probably buy one for yourself too because you're not going to want to give it away!

Do you do any collaborations with other local artists? 

A few years ago, a couple of our designs were done by a local tattoo artist named Budha. We are also working with Anna Frederick on adding her lettering skills to some future projects. I would love to do more collaborations.

Ann Staudt of Siberian Soap Co.

Age: 32

Location: Ames

Background: BS/Chemical Engineering – Iowa State University. MS/Environmental Engineering – University of Notre Dame. I am a scientist by day (working at Iowa State University in water quality) and moonlight as a soapmaker!

Sells: herbal artisan soaps, herbal lip balms, scrubs plus herbal dog shampoo bars, coat shine and deodorizing spray and fresh-baked canine cookies.

Price: $3-20

Website:siberiansoap.com 

Follow: @SiberianSoap | facebook.com/SiberianSoap

What was the inspiration for your company?

My beloved Siberian Husky! Yes, seriously, my business is named for my dog.

Why create?

Soapmaking offers a wonderfully creative outlet at the interface of science, art and the DIY lifestyle.

Why be a creative in Des Moines?

There’s a deep appreciation for creativity and supporting home-grown/local talent across the community – it’s a vibrant place to be!

Most popular item?

Handcrafted herbal artisan soaps (people soaps), created from scratch using the centuries-old cold process soapmaking technique. But this is not your grandma's soap... far from it! Each fabulous soap bar is chock full of skin-loving, eco-friendly ingredients like coconut oil, olive oil, herbs, clays, botanicals and pure plant essential oils. Favorites include Zen Garden, Eucalyptus Lavender, Tea Tree Mint, Patchouli Sage and Harvest Moon.

Best holiday gift item you offer? 

For PEOPLE: Herbal lip balm (6 different varieties) at $3 a pop. (Stocking stuffers, anyone?) Plus it’s great for both guys and gals. Let’s be honest, Iowa winters just completely destroy our lips!
For PETS: Divine Canine dog shampoo bar. It features a blend of six insect-repelling, plant essential oils (lavender, lime, lemongrass, tea tree, eucalyptus, and peppermint).

Do you do any collaborations with other local artists?

I work with aspiring local artists through my teaching. I teach soapmaking workshops across the state. My most popular class by far is Soapmaking 101 – it’s super hands-on and interactive, and introduces students to the science and art of cold-process soapmaking. Each student goes home with over a pound of soap that they crafted totally from scratch using lye, plant-based oils and their own custom blend of plant essential oils.

Erin Carpenter of Erin Carpenter Pottery

Age: 30

Location: Ames

Background: Landscape Architecture and Environmental Studies at ISU

Sells: handmade pottery

Price: $30-300

Website: erincarpenterpottery.com | erincarpenterpottery.etsy.com

Follow: @erincarpenterpottery | facebook.com/erincarpenterpottery

What was the inspiration for your company?

It started and grew very organically. In 2012, I was craving a creative outlet and signed up for pottery classes at the ISU Memorial Union Workspace. After a couple months of lessons and a year of intermittent practice, I started to put more time and effort into learning and practicing. I felt like I was setting into place, in a role that made me feel comfortable. Square peg; square hole. I started selling online and to friends in 2014. I learned a lot about being self-employed and working as a potter while I was Amanda Barr's studio assistant last year. I quit my food service job last spring, started doing local indie craft shows and set up a studio at home this past summer.

Why create? 

I always have, and I've always been encouraged to. My mom was often quilting, sewing or doing needlework at home; and my grandma, too. And I was always being given little craft projects and art supplies. Now, it's something I need to do and enjoy so much. I get an idea in my head—an object or an image—and I have to make it real and then work to constantly refine and improve it.

Why be a creative in/around Des Moines?

I came to Ames to go to ISU, but stayed because I loved the area. My husband and I teach taekwondo in Ames and have connected with an amazing community because of taekwondo. All of our students are here, so how could we not be?

Most popular item?

Anything with the barn swallows motif. They're inspired by the flock of swallows that nested in our barn and hung out on the power lines in front of the farmhouse when I was a kid. It's a nearly universal scene in rural America.

Best holiday gift item you sell?

Mugs are always a favorite! I think it's easy to imagine how they'll fit into your life and your kitchen cupboard — especially for people who don't collect pottery or don't keep vases and decorative objects on display. The pierced vases and bowls are very popular wedding and anniversary gifts.

Do you do any collaborations with other local artists?

No, I haven't. But it's something I'd consider when the holiday madness dies down.

Tammy & Adam Winn of The Red Door Press

Age: 33 (Tammy) and 32 (Adam)

Location: Des Moines

Background/schooling: We are a self-taught letterpress company. Tammy has a background in Fine Arts which concentrated on design and printmaking, which eventually gravitated towards letterpress printing. Adam is our shop tech guru and has a great love for all things mechanical. We got our first antique press in 2012 and since then our collection has grown to twenty presses.

What you sell: cards, posters, custom prints and other ephemera

Price: $4 to $50

Website: thereddoorpress.com

Follow: @reddoorpress | facebook.com/TheRedDoorPress

What was the inspiration for your company?

We have a great love for type and all things print - it felt right to share what we loved with everyone else after we spent time volunteering in the community.

Why create?

It's simple, we love what we do and want to share it with others. Letterpress has a special place in our hearts and has opened us up to a beautiful history that we want to help preserve and pass on to others.

Why be a creative in Des Moines?

Des Moines has been our home and we love interacting with this growing city. This city has been incredibly friendly and encouraging of people who create things and there's so many places we continue to find inspiration in daily. Without the support of this amazing city it seems unlikely we would have made it this far.

Most popular item?

We love maps and traveling and have found our clients share that love. We find our map prints are great ways to remind yourself of past adventures you've been on or the bucket list locations where you still want to go.

Best holiday gift item you sell?

Our posters make great gifts - antique type gives each piece different and unique characteristics, so you really get something special and one-of-a-kind. We have a wide variety of quotes and images, so there's something for everybody. Our prints are typically formatted to fit standard frame sizes and we even sell already framed pieces ready to hang in your home or to wrap up and give to others.

Do you do any collaborations with other local artists?

We love interacting with the design community in Des Moines and can happily report we are working on several different collaborations. We also print for other designers to help feature their abilities in letterpress. This holiday season you'll find the Market Day posters were designed with handset type and printed as a collaboration between The Red Door Press and the amazing people behind Market Day.

Jaqui Giltner of Sweet Sydney Stitch 

Age: 33

Location: West Des Moines

Background/schooling: Bachelor's of Music Education at ISU, self-taught crochet artist

Sells: croochet wearables

Price: $10-$80, mostly in the $20-$40 range

Website: etsy.com/shop/sweetsydneystitch

Follow: facebook.com/sweetsydneystitch

What was the inspiration for your company? 

When I was pregnant with my daughter, Sydney, I was pretty sick and found myself with some time on my hands. In my nesting phase, I picked back up my crochet hooks and re-learned the basics and started expanding on my knowledge from there. When Sydney was one, I made her a bear hat that a friend of mine loved and she encouraged me to start selling.

Why create? 

My educational background is in music, but I never found myself with the ability to compose music. The urge to create was still there, and I'm finally finding my niche. There is a basic but powerful fulfillment in being able to make something beautiful and tangible. And I absolutely love that I can do that while creating things people can live their lives in.

Why be a creative in Des Moines? 

Des Moines is a really supportive community for local artists. I'm relatively new in this scene and I've noticed that during this time of year especially, you can find multiple craft shows on any given weekend. People in Des Moines really value small business and the local economy -- I've received nothing but interest and encouragement in what I do.

Most popular item? 

Definitely my polar bear hats. I stock them in sizes from newborn to toddler, but can custom-make them larger. They're made of a super soft baby yarn, and I've yet to see anyone else selling anything quite like them. They're fun and adorable, but also super warm and practical to wear.

Best holiday gift item you sell?

For kids, definitely one of my hats. I have many different kinds that are cute and fun to wear, which is also a gift for the parent who doesn't have to struggle to get a hat on them. For adults, the bootcuffs are really popular. They can be worn under tall boots instead of having to wear a full sock, or they can be worn over booties to keep your ankles warm.

Do you do any collaborations with other local artists?

I haven't yet, but I'm definitely open to it. There are a lot of different kinds of wearable art that would work well with what I do.

LiftOff Collective @ ArtForceIowa

Age: young adults ages 18 to 24

Location: Des Moines

Background/schooling: Des Moines Area Schools

Company: ArtForceIowa

What you sell: designed screen-printed by hand on to soft t-shirts, plus cards, tote bags and more

Price: $5-$20

Website: artforceiowa.org

Follow: @liftoffdsm

What was the inspiration for your company?

We wanted to bring young people together, and collaborate to create something as a group that we could market. We wanted to print t-shirts, and make something successful that might lead us to a brighter future. The goal was to create a line of shirts with the theme of Iowa and Des Moines, since we all have that in common and can relate to Iowa being awesome. We have ties to Des Moines art culture. We wanted to be creative, design something eye-catching and make make some money doing it.

Why create?

Creativity is at the core of what it means to be human. It goes back to the beginning of all mankind. Because it’s fun, it’s a good outlet and positive way to express yourself. Art is up for interpretation, that’s the beauty of it. It’s fulfilling to see how people might react to your art. It’s also freeing to come up with a concept without worrying what other people think of it. For us, the creation of art leads to observation, process, personal expression and deep satisfaction.

Why be a creative in Des Moines?

Why not?! This is where we live. It’s where most of our families and friends are. It’s more diverse than people give it credit. Des Moines has the sculpture garden, the Art Center, galleries, street art, murals, the festival. Des Moines is more hip, has more culture, art, history and beauty than people think.

Most popular item?

It’s hard to choose because they are all awesome. If we had to pick one, our Des Moines t-shirt that features a nod to the iconic Travelers red umbrella.

Best holiday gift item you sell?

If you’re giving a gift to an Iowa native or an Iowa captive, our new line of Iowa shirts will grab their attention. . Each shirt has a unique feel that  speaks to a broad audience and age range, from farm kids, hipsters, soccer moms and grandparents alike.  Each shirt is proudly printed by our collective, 7 young artists just getting started....They are only$15  and they’ll fit in your stocking!

Do you do any collaborations with other local artists?

We all have afternoon employment at local businesses. We get on the job training and interaction every day with artists and people in a variety of artistic mediums. Employers include RAYGUN, 8/7 Central, Des Moines Onstage, Vanity & Glamour Cosmetics and the Des Moines Social Club. Before we started the t-shirt process, Mike Draper from RAYGUN gave us pointers on design and business. Mike talked about how he got his start and what lead to his increasing success. A team of Artist-Mentors gets us through the day-to-day: R.J. Hernandez, Carrie Naumann and John Mark Feilmeyer. They challenge us and help us to grow in our art.

Andrew Kingsbury of Decadence

Age: 34

Location: Nevada, IA

Background/schooling: BFA in Graphic Design from ISU

What you sell: reconstructed vintage jewelry for men and women

Price: $5-$50

Website: decadencejewelry.com

Follow: facebook.com/Decadence.Style | @decadencejewelry

What was the inspiration for your company?

I started going to thrift stores and flea markets with my parents when I was young and developed a passion for gathering found things and curating them into collections. I draw a lot of inspiration from history and the relics that we as a society used but then discarded or stopped using one way or another. I try to tell that story through my business and my work.

Why create?

The moment when people respond positively to something you have created is very powerful for an artist and motivation to keep creating. I also like the idea that I can teach and tell a story through the work that I do.

Why be a creative in Des Moines?

Des Moines has some great things going on right now. I have seen it go through such a huge transformation in arts and supporting artists in the time that I’ve been in Iowa. I’m happy I can play a small role in that.

Most popular item?

Classic pieces like my leather cuffs embellished with found relics, bangle bracelets made out of 100-year-old folding carpenter rulers and rings made out of buffalo nickels.

Best holiday gift item you sell?

I think all of my pieces would make great gifts because they are one-of-a-kind. Each piece tells a story of what it was or where it came from and people really respond to that.

Do you do any collaborations with other local artists?

I have met some really great local artists through my business but haven’t had the chance to collaborate with anyone yet. I am definitely open to the idea.

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