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Building A Creative Startup - The Story So Far.

A panorama view of our current community space.

A panorama view of our current community space.

It's really quite amazing, the transformations you go through in the first year of starting a business-

Last February seems like it might as well have been 10 years ago. We have grown so much as a team and as a start up! The whole way we've learned the hard lessons while creating so many things we can be proud of. In this first post on our new site I'd like to take stock of the past year before laying out some of our big plans for the next.

March 2015 - Together we drafted a presentation of our ideas and what we believe we'd want out of PaperBase. Then, we scheduled a few evenings to pitch it to our target audience. I remember all of this moving so quickly, our excitement was through the roof. But, before our first presentation we still asked ourselves quietly, nervously, "What if no one else is interested in this? Is this worth doing for more than just ourselves?" The response was (and still is!) enthusiastic and energizing from our supporters, and it gave us the motivation to keep pushing forward through more of the hard stuff- applying for grants, looking at commercial real estate, talking finances and legal agreements.

April 2015 - We had completed an entire business plan and scouted multiple possible locations to open our grandest version of PaperBase. It's at this time that we are also coming to terms with the fact that the grants we eagerly applied for and dreamed about (GRIT Fund and MICA's Engaged Alumni Grant) are not going to come through, and that we have only 2 options; find alternate funding or scale down in a major way. Our disappointment is palpable, but we know the right way to go is to start where we can- within Emily and Elizabeth's shared space. 

I think at this point many would have thrown in the towel. That didn't really seem like an option to us. All three of us were starved for a community, and seeing so many people come to us echoing those feelings- we simply couldn't let them or ourselves down. It seems to me starting a business is constantly following a moving target. As long as you are flexible, but keep moving forward, things have a way of finding their place.

May 2015 - At this time I am moving out of my current space, and we are reorganizing the current studio, and I'm discovering how interesting Risograph printing is! In the past few years I'd seen and heard more and more about Riso printing (particularly at SPX- or Small Press Expo) and already had a few riso-ed comics. Even though our grandest dreams had not come true, our team began brainstorming ways to get our community together to make something in the meantime.

So, I began to organize "The Freelancer's Cookbook." This was our first collaborative project involving 12 different illustrators learning how to design for a risograph printed zine- all including some of their favorite recipes for the freelancer on a deadline. One of my personal goals with PaperBase is to make forms of printmaking more accessible to illustrators. This project leant itself to that goal, and I'm glad to say many of the included illustrators went on to create other beautiful printed works. In a personal studio touch, Emily hand carved the pattern for the covers and printed the title in wood and lead type.

June through August - During this long hot summer we reorganized and built PaperBase within the current space we have. Refinishing free/found furniture, restoring a showcard press (now named Gertie), and moving 1200 pound presses into the correct placements. We put our hearts and our muscle into creating the perfect workspace for our community. At this point we did not have a risograph- so we outsourced our printing of The Freelancer's Cookbook to Issue Press (George is awesome, btw!) and were able to begin cutting, folding, and binding.

September and October -  With our studio put together, and a beautiful collaborative project under our belt, we organized an opening to sell the zine and get the word out about our space. In this time, I had also sold my restored 8x12 C&P platen letterpress, and bought a risograph rp3700 with 3 drums- gold, green, and black. Another blog is coming soon on the details of that machine- but it made a big addition to the space as we are (as far as I know) the only independent studio with a risograph in Baltimore. Since we've opened we've done everything from life drawing nights, to Christmas card making, to teaching new printers and collaborating on side projects with other artists. With every month we just kept (and still keep) getting busier and busier. 

Looking forward we are excited to be part of more and more projects- Our most recent The Artist's Closet 2016 calendar will be wrapping up shortly, so keep an eye out! Here's to 2016 and growing bigger and better right here in Charm City.

-Sarah