VL in Martha Stewart’s American Made Competition

VL in Martha Stewart's American Made Competition

We are thrilled and honored to announce that we’re in the running for the American Made Awards presented by Martha Stewart Omnimedia. Out of 2000 entries, we are among 100 finalists, and now the public gets to decide the winner. Our competition is stiff, and we need your help. Please cast your vote today and every day through 24 Sep.

Why should you vote for us? Well, because we want to win! If you have a few minutes, I’d like to tell you a bit about us and our journey thus far. The winner will receive a feature in Martha Stewart Living, a trip to NYC to participate in an artisanal fair at Grand Central Terminal and, most importantly, $10,000 for business development. In our case, we are currently looking for a larger, better studio space, and we’re trying to stay in Over-the-Rhine, where we’ve been based since moving to Cincinnati 6 years ago.

Our business grew out of some product ideas we had kicking around. An early mention in the Cincinnati Enquirer and positive feedback from Dan at Park+Vine and Mike and Carolyn at MiCA 12/v encouraged us to produce our ideas in multiples — the thought that anyone would buy our work seemed crazy at the time, but we had nothing to lose.

Soon, we were invited to participate in events at the Contemporary Arts Center and the Cincinnati Art Museum. Although Cincinnati has a reputation for being insular and unwelcoming, we managed to meet a lot of like-minded people, which led to more opportunities and encouraged us to continue developing new work.

We started producing seed bombs around our dining room table, here with the help of our awesome friend Cedric:

Our seed bombs were positively received, and we got press mentions in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, House Beautiful and other magazines. That led to more and bigger wholesale orders, so we moved seed bomb production into a studio a few blocks from our apartment:

VisuaLingual Seed Bombs for The Honest Kitchen

Screeprinting continued in our apartment in an increasingly cramped space. If you ever see me wheeling an old lady cart around the neighborhood, I’m probably transporting hundreds of pouches to the studio:

VisuaLingual Seed Bombs at Anthropologie

In the mean time, as time allowed and opportunities presented themselves, we found ways to get involved locally. I curated an exhibit at the now-defunct Nicholas Gallery in downtown Cincinnati. Our work was part of Winter Yoo-Hoo at ArtWorks. We were invited to exhibit our work at the Betts House:

HOME WORK Exhibit at the Betts House

We found some cool local clients like the Haile Foundation and got involved with amazing community-led initiatives like the OTR/Gateway Summer Celebration and Community Arts Centers Day.

We found other ways to get involved by donating work to events benefitting Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, ArtWorks, and the OTR Foundation, which yielded more exhibition opportunities and an invitation to create a holiday installation in the CAC gift shop windows. Little by little, Cincinnati was becoming our home, and we were making many amazing local connections with talented people and great institutions.

VisuaLingual Streetflakes at the Contemporary Arts Center

We were also spending more and more time on seed bomb production, securing some larger accounts like Anthropologie and UncommonGoods. We packed our first freight shipment:

VisuaLingual Seed Bombs at Anthropologie

Eventually, we got too busy to just work around the clock, so we participated in the Springboard creative entrepreneurship course, formalized our business structure, and hired some help:

VisuaLingual Seed Bombs for The Honest Kitchen

We volunteered to teach seed bomb-making to groups of kids at the Betts House and to DIY-minded adults at the Contemporary Arts Center. I curated an exhibition at Visionaries & Voices, and Michael got involved with CoSign. Meanwhile, seed bombs and related products have been consuming more of our time and space:

VisuaLingual production studio now

We’re bursting at the seams! Right now, we’re in the midst of filling holiday orders for Williams-Sonoma and Anthropologie, among other retailers, and we’re out of room. We’re spending too much time moving things around so that we can keep working, when we should just be working!

A larger space would allow us to invest in more and better equipment so that we could tackle more and bigger projects, which would then enable us to hire more assistants and truly grow our company. The 10K prize would be of tremendous help when signing a lease on the new space and making all the necessary capital investments in the business.

More importantly, we seem to be at a pivotal point of either spending almost of our time on immediate production needs, or growing enough to be able to afford a full production staff so that we can spend more time on design! I know I can’t complain, but I do wish I had more time to just kick ideas around, which is really how this business started. We’ve really treasured the time we’ve spent on different kinds of projects, from pro bono work for amazing nonprofits to fun products that celebrate our neighborhood’s quirks. We miss it!

If you’re still with me, thank you for taking the time to read all this. I know it was long, but I wanted to explain exactly why this prize is so important to us. We’ve been lucky so far, and now we’re ready to take the business to the next level.

I really hope that you’ll take a moment to vote for us, remember to vote every day through 24 Sep, and share our entry with people you know. Thanks so much!


12 thoughts on “VL in Martha Stewart’s American Made Competition

  1. Maya, I’m voting for you daily, but I really don’t like this sentence and it’s kind of insulting:

    “Although Cincinnati has a reputation for being insular and unwelcoming…”

    Insular – perhaps, but unwelcoming? Never! I can’t imagine where it has such a reputation.

  2. VL FTW! I’m voting for you guys and giving you shout outs on all over the interwebz!!

    @becky I don’t think Maya was making an insulting statement about Cincinnati. She did not say it was her opinion but even if it was hers it is not totally off base. I’m an Ohio native and have spent time in all three major cities and Cincinnati by far has the most unwelcoming vibe. It’s still Ohio so people generally are nice but Cincinnati does have this sort of wealthy, corporate culture feel that can come off unpleasant. I’ve talked to a lot of Ohio folks & they agree it can be a bit clique-y there. Spend some time in Cleveland & I think you will be able to tell the difference. I think the best way I can put it is that in Cleveland people don’t mind calling themselves losers (see sports and winters) and relishing in being the underdog. Cincinnati feels a bit like everyone wants to be a winner and look like a winner. Honestly, your response sort or reinforces all the bad stereotypes; uptight, unwelcoming and unable to understand others. It’s never bad to have some perspective and/or deprecation about the place you live…helps a city keep honest, evolve and change for the better.

    Anyway, I think we both can agree that comments moving forward should be about Maya and Michael and how great it is that they are representing the area so positively in this awesome competition. Cincinnati is a better place because of them and their projects.

  3. Thanks, everyone! Becky, we had a mostly positive experience when we initially moved here, but I’ve heard from so many others that it’s hard to meet people and make connections here that I accept that as part of Cincinnati’s reputation. In some respects, I even agree — it’s not necessarily easy or obvious to know where to try to find your potential community or scene, even though like-minded people probably live here. But, we were luck to quickly fall in with people who took the time to make us feel at home and connected us with other people and things.

    Maybe “standoffish” is a more appropriate term than “unwelcoming.” In any case, I only mentioned that to point out that our own experience was quite different from that, and we consider ourselves very lucky in what we’ve been able to do in our time in Cincinnati.

  4. Pingback: VisuaLingual Competing in Martha Stewart’s American Made Awards | Over-the-Rhine Blog

  5. Pingback: Vote Daily for VisuaLingual | i love SoOh

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