We had the good fortune of connecting with Lili Arnold and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lili, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
To be honest, I never had a plan to start a business. It all began about 5 years back when I started making art on the weekends as a way of creative expression while working at a full-time desk job. I got more and more drawn to block printing as these weekends went on and eventually I had a little art show in my town of Santa Cruz, CA. I was encouraged by the feedback of friends and strangers during this time which gave me a little more of a push into pursuing my own creative path. I got to a point where my desk job was no longer fulfilling and my creative life outside that job was pulling me in…pretty soon after that I shifted my work to freelancing for my income source which gave me more time to work on my own art. As I continued pursuing my fascination with block printing, I created an online shop and an Instagram account dedicated to my art practice. I then began contacting local shops as potential wholesale clients and started seeking out pop up events and connecting more with other artists who I could learn from. As the years continued my block printing business was slowly born! Each step of the way was a learning experience and a challenge, but overcoming the obstacles was satisfying to me and being able to grow a little more every day was empowering.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I make block prints, which is a genre of the larger umbrella of printmaking. I began creating block prints because it was tactile and both physically & mentally satisfying and because the materials and process didn’t take up too much space (I was living in a shared home at the time I started). I started doing a method of block printing coined the “jigsaw” method because I wanted to create prints with multiple colors but I didn’t know how to create multiple layer prints to achieve that result. Though my lack of knowledge may have held me back a bit, it’s also what allowed me to create my own style which I am still practicing today. I feel lucky to have found a medium that I connect with so strongly, but it did take a while of experimentation to get here. For most of my life, I didn’t know who I was as an artist; I would dabble in just about every medium out there. I didn’t have an authentic voice or style until I started creating every day and experimenting constantly with new materials and themes. It’s hard to get through that phase of feeling in limbo artistically but I encourage anyone out there who is going through this same thing to just keep creating and never give up on yourself because you will find yourself along the way.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If my bestie were to come visit me, a week would be perfect to do allll the fun things. I live really closer to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, so a nice chunk of time would be spent hiking in the redwoods and observing the wildlife and flora. My little mountain town of Felton has some really beautiful spots to explore! To eat, we would grab brunch at Wylder Space in downtown Felton and then pop up to La Placa Family Bakery for a sweet Bombolino and coffee. Taking the redwood-laced highway 9 down to Santa Cruz, we would then take a walk along West Cliff to take in the ocean air and stunning views of the Monterey Bay. Other eateries we would frequent during her visit would include Whale City Bakery, Cafe Brasil, Lillian’s Italian Kitchen, Mantone, Zoccolis Deli, Hula’s Island Grill, Humble Sea Brewery, Sante Adarius Brewery, and Holey Roller Bagel pop-ups. If we were in the mood for shopping, we would visit Mountainside General Store, Home/Work, Stripe, Moon Zoom Vintage, and the Abbot Thrift. Day trips would include exploring Big Sur, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Nacine Marks State Park, Castle Rock State Park, and many stops along the coastal route Highway 1. If these weren’t covid times, we would also frequent the Crepe Place or Moe’s Alley for live music and delicious cocktails 🙂
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The first group of people I’d like to thank for starting me on my journey is Stripe Design Group. My friend Ariela worked at Stripe at the time I was just beginning my weekend art projects and she recognized something in me that I didn’t. She was the person who invited me to participate in my first art show at their store in downtown Santa Cruz. That was an extremely confidence-boosting experience and an awesome way to connect with community members and other artists. The second group I’d like to thank is the gals at Home/Work, a local shop selling art, homewares, and textiles. Caitlin organized a print sale at the shop in which she invited me to participate; it was successful in terms of selling work but also in making meaningful connections with the other artists involved and also the shop owner Sonia. Sonia became my first ever stockist, helping to passionately tell the story of my work to customers and to be a consistent buyer and supporter of my work. Sonia and Caitlin have now become good friends and collaborators! A couple of other people I’d like to thank are Chris and Paige of Alibi Interiors, a local company that makes frames, tables, and other furniture and home accessories from reclaimed wood. Paige reached out to me a few years back with the generous offer of sending me a few sample frames. I of course fell in love with the unique hues and beautiful quality of their frames, so I quickly became a regular customer of theirs. Being able to show my work framed has elevated the quality of the finished product and has brought in a whole new wave of customers and visual appeal of my booths at art fairs and in my home studio. Paige and Chris are both such incredibly sweet and inspiring people, I feel like a better person just knowing them alone. There are many more people to thank, but I’ll end with a quick shout out to my parents for their encouragement over the years. I imagine it’s a bit scary to see your child quit a steady job to pursue art, but they were rooting for me the whole way which meant to much.
All images by me, Lili Arnold.