Interview: Victoria & Sarah on Plain Pins, Colour Combinations, and Printing Studios

12:00 pm


Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Victoria and Sarah! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, tell me a little bit about yourselves and what you do.

Plain Pins:
We are sisters living in London. We have many different interests and passions, one of them being colour combinations. Together we dreamed up the idea of enamel pins that were different shapes and colours like the parts of a composition or brushstrokes in a painting. When we couldn’t find these pins, Plain Pins was born. We have backgrounds in both selling and display and have a keen interest in branding. We believe Plain Pins is the beginning of combining these interests.

Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your designs in three words, what would they be?

Plain Pins:
Fun, colour-curated and inclusive.

Magic & Musings:
When did you both first get into design? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby? If you did study it formally, would you say this was a good or bad experience regarding allowing your creativity to flourish?

Plain Pins:
We both studied arts and communication-based subjects formally and would say this has given us an understanding of how creativity can flourish. However, we also strongly believe that you can push outside of that formality and that it is sometimes in the unknown and seemingly unapparent practices that creativity can be further explored. Genres and mediums are all crossing over nowadays and with that we are all wearing many different hats. I am more analogue in the way that I work, using sketchbooks, collage and objects, whereas Sarah is much more digital and likes working with computer programs and photography.

We both love creating mood boards and brainstorming. Pinterest has been really helpful with organizing all of our thoughts and ideas and is a great tool that’s accessible to everyone. We have a lot of ideas but sometimes it’s in knowing which ideas to pursue that’s the hard part! We are still learning how to hone that skill.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first start selling your designs and did you have to overcome any self-confidence barriers in order to get to that place?

Plain Pins:
We launched Plain Pins in November 2016, so we are 6 months old. We have learnt a lot so far and some of those lessons have been enlightening and others, let’s say they have been amusing and frustrating at times! You are always overcoming those type of barriers; when it comes to self-confidence, there is a lot of yourself in a business and that can feel very exposing at times. We have each other which is good, because we can reassure and entrust we are making decisions that resonate with our brand. With starting a business, we have met some great people as a result of it and that’s been a really exciting discovery. Talking to like-minded people, and becoming part of a community is in part what we have been looking for. The reason we kept pursuing this particular idea though is because we have some great pin appreciators out there, friends, family and followers. We tend to try and focus on that achievement and feel very fortunate to have that. We also come from a big family, so they will always tell you exactly what they think, even when you don’t ask them! That helps with breaking down some of those self-confidence barriers!


Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying and non-binary artists and their work. Which female artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Plain Pins:
We have a lot of favourite artists, makers, designers and communicators. We love going to exhibitions and seeing different types of work and how different makers/artists are either communicating ideas or trying to make sense of the world.

Although we have not seen it up close, recently we have been introduced to the work of Kristin Texeira, who is a painter and some of the work she creates she calls ‘Memory Maps’. Her compositions, colour palettes and use of nostalgia appeals to us and our personal understanding of place. We love her work!

We also recently went to see the work of ceramicist Kinska at her show called ‘United Kinska’, where she had created her own world and displayed her work in very imaginative and fun ways. We liked that it was an insight into the way she sees things. There are so many people out there doing incredible work and we are probably more influenced by that in a general sense. Putting yourself out there, it can be a hard thing to find the confidence to do but it’s also very rewarding to have something you can call the shots on.

If we are looking for a spark and just some reassurance that sometimes things don’t always make sense straight away and that your work can embody many different mediums, Ray Eames is always an inspiration. We love her collections and the way she worked. Everything she did in life was in some way informing what she created and we love that about her. The Eames’ and the Girards are probably are most go-to sources for colour, content and concept. There is so much going on and so much to discover and we especially admire the inclusive nature of their designs.

Magic & Musings:
Of all of your designs, which are you the happiest with and why? Is there a colour and shape combination that really sticks out to you as your favourite?

Plain Pins:
Our favourite pin and pin combination changes all the time! We wish we could say there is just one, but sometimes it is dependent on what you wear them on, who you give them to, what pair you put together. They are quite versatile. We did have a surprise favorite design come out of this - our backing cards! We wanted to keep the packaging simple but be part of the product as much as the pins themselves. We had wanted to create a blank canvas for our pins with a range of enticing colours and combinations. We worked with Hato Press, a riso printing studio in London, to make our cards. When we received them we were really happy. The stacks of backing cards and the shimmer of the gold iridescent ink was so satisfyingly simple, they did exactly what we had hoped. Piles sat on our desk for days because we just liked looking at them. So we were really happy with the design of them.

Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do either of you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to?

Plain Pins:
We have a studio that we work out of. It is pretty small, but we get all we need to get done in there. We like to be organised and don’t like working in chaos. We really don’t like rushing so we try and keep on top of things as best we can, so this doesn’t happen. Obviously, it’s life, chaos happens! We both have our own ways of coping with that and balancing productivity with fulfillment. If it gets too much, we sometimes just walk away. We like to go to galleries and museums so we go and see something, we just get ourselves away from the task or question at hand, When you come back you usually always have the answers. We love Jonathan Fields’ book How to Live a Good Life. He explains that you can’t always just focus on the work and not focus on the other ‘stuff’ in life, so you need to make sure you are always checking and balancing it all. So we would say, to get things done we try and stay organized and if we don’t have the answers we don’t stay in, we go out!


Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Plain Pins:
This follows on from what we were saying, we try and go out and think about other things. We try and explore something new. We also try and remember that it’s a phase and it’ll pass, not to get too worried about it as that doesn’t help you come up with ideas or answers. We are really lucky to be getting an opportunity to explore some of our ideas and we don’t take that for granted. Trying to keep gratitude for what we do and what we want to do at the heart of it all is really important to us.

Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in another medium?

Plain Pins:
We have explored working in other mediums and are trying to develop our photography skills as it is something we both enjoy doing. We are also working on getting an online journal/sketchbook up and running as we would like to share more of our process, how we get to the decisions we do and to share more of our story.

Magic & Musings:
What would you say your relationship is like between your business and the internet/social media? Would you say this has helped you greatly in your success, or not?

Plain Pins:
For us this has been the biggest lesson. Without social media and the internet, we wouldn’t have reached as wide an audience as we have. We really love that we have sent pins all over the world; from London to Los Angeles, Manchester to Mexico. That is our favourite part about it! In terms of our relationship with it, we also appreciate you need to step away from it and make sure you are staying true to your brand outside of social media. Not just looking at the likes, but whether you like what you are creating yourself. We call it learning on the job! We just want to keep engaging and building a community that appreciates colour and conversation, and try and stay as true to that as possible.

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Plain Pins:
We have read quite a lot of business, branding, start-up, marketing type books which has been very helpful in preparing us for the uncertainties and challenges in these early stages. We do have a business plan that we are sticking to but we are also trying to be flexible and adaptable where we feel we need to be. What we might not have been prepared for is how much people would ask us about what we are doing down to the very last detail. With leaving full time employment to set up Plain Pins, ‘How are you doing this? How much money are you making?’ have been popular questions! But we put it down to excitement and intrigue and even though people are out there building businesses every day, for all types of services and work, you always have this allure of curiosity following you. When we have figured it out, we will share it!

Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Plain Pins:
Sarah has been reading Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk by Danielle Krysa and would definitely suggest it to anyone who is exploring their own creativity. It’s funny, light-hearted and pretty accurate as to how most creatives feel a lot of the time.

We saw La La Land at the beginning of the year and we loved it, which might be controversial for some people! It was about dreamers and dreaming, and following your dreams (with Ryan Gosling), so we were probably a good audience. Then we fell in love with the soundtrack and have playing it ever since, maybe too much now that we might need to ask other people for some music recommendations.

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?

Plain Pins:
We are really excited to hear from you and what you think of the pins. You can sign up to our mailing list through our shop, plainpins.com and you can find us on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest @plainpins . We have lots of projects and collaborations coming up in the next few months which we are excited to share! Thanks!

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