In November’s Creative Issue, we photographed Janet and Trisha Snyder, owners and designers of Pawling Print Studios in Washington D.C and New York City. The gorgeous pieces created by the Snyder sisters are the product of the coalescence of their respective backgrounds in architecture, engineering and graphic design. The studio strives to produce environmentally responsible products, while adhering to understated designs – creating pieces that are as environmentally friendly as they are aesthetically pleasing. Intrigued by their passion for their work, Washington Life caught up with Janet and Trisha.
What is environmentally responsible production? How do you make sure your standards for products are environmentally responsible?
There are global standards for both fabric and paper, for example the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) for fabrics and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC) for paper. This is an area we are always working to improve. Our totes are made from 100% recycled cotton and we are in the process of transitioning to water based inks which are more environmentally friendly than plastisol inks. We also use environmentally friendly cleaning products when printing. For our stationery products, we use 100% post-consumer recycled paper to print on and envelopes made from 100% recycled kraft paper. Some, but not all of our items are printed with soy based inks. We’d like to get that up to 100% in the next year. All of these options cost a little bit more than their traditional alternatives, but we believe they are worth it. We also make every effort to design and make products that will hold up over many years of use and will not go out of style.
What draws you to understated design? What inspires your pieces?
We both have a minimalist design aesthetic, and as we mentioned earlier, we are more interested in producing classic pieces than trendy ones. Right now we are really inspired by the work of Agnes Martin and Anni Albers and are drawn to Japanese textiles and Scandinavian interiors.
Starting your own company during the recession was a bold move, what encouraged you to make the leap?
Graduating at the peak of the recession ended up being a blessing in disguise. Had there been lots of jobs to choose from, we might not have even entertained the idea of starting our own business. It certainly would have been more difficult to turn down a steady salary at a dream firm. We were very nervous and started off rather tentatively but quickly discovered an unbelievable online community full of supportive, like-minded independent designers. And of course, we can’t overstate how amazing our families have been. We never could have done any of this without their constant encouragement.
What is your work schedule like? Do you have conventional hours?
We try our best to maintain conventional hours. From the beginning, it was always important to treat our work like it was a real business. Of course we work much longer hours when we are up against deadlines and we try to respond to emails as they come in, even if they’re after “business hours”.
How do you manage to agree on the pieces you produce?
That might actually be one of the easiest things we do! Even though it wasn’t always true in the past, let’s just say we have very similar preferences and aesthetics, which makes for very easy business decisions.
How do your backgrounds and different degrees affect the production process?
Architecture and graphic design are both very prototype driven fields that place a premium on craft and involve a lot of harsh criticism. We’re both used to producing a lot of ideas quickly and are not afraid of discarding them immediately.
We are always trying to grow our business. This past year we were really focused on expanding our product line. Next year we want to continue to add new products and designs but really focus on expanding our reach by getting our products into more stores.
We loved having you both at the Washington Life creative photo shoot, what was your favorite part of that day at Arena Stage?
It was pretty cool to be able to poke around the theater before it was open to the public. Trisha was the architect and really loves that sort of thing. The renovations are really fantastic and we can’t wait to see a performance there. We were also lucky that we got to meet and talk with Molly Smith, the artistic director for Arena Stage at our particular shoot. She has the coolest collection of masks!
At the shoot, you revealed to me that you are former dancers; do you ever dance to unwind after a stressful day? If not, what do you do after a long day?
Yeah! Being in the dressings rooms felt like a blast from the past. This was our first fashion shoot and we didn’t know what to expect, but the dressing rooms were strangely comforting.
These days we mostly run and go on hikes. We still try to get to classes every once in a while and we definitely do our share of dancing around the house, but nothing can replace performing on stage and being at Arena really reminded us of that.
What’s been the most memorable experience since starting Pawling Print Studio?
Well, this photo shoot is pretty high on the list! Designing for ourselves has been stressful but rewarding. One of the best parts has just been the constant positive response we’ve gotten from our customers and from other designers and seeing people using our products.