Husband-and-wife team serves up designs with flair through Craft Services
Julia and Truen Pence are newcomers to the Northwest, having been in Corvallis for about three years. But they’ve captured the region’s maverick, do-it-yourself spirit in their stylish, wearable creations.
The busy couple use their own sketches and illustrations to create soft, earthy-colored custom T-shirts for their company, Craft Services. It’s an endeavor that combines the couple’s complimentary artistic and technical skills.
“It’s a really a nice pairing … ‘a perfect marriage,’” Julia, 29, said.
She’s originally from Iowa and Nebraska; he’s from South Dakota. The two met at the University of Wyoming in art class and were married six years ago.
She earned a Bachelor of Arts in studio art with a focus on printmaking, while he chose graphic design. After graduation, she earned a master’s degree in art at Illinois State and — just hours after getting her certificate — the couple headed west.
Truen was hired to do Web and graphic design for university advancement at Oregon State University. Julia teaches art classes at Oregon Coast Community College in Newport.
In addition to the general art classes that she teaches, Julia, 29, is serious about her professional printmaking, some of which is inspired by architecture. She painstakingly creates reliefs, intaglios and lithographs.
While they both enjoy their work, the two found themselves craving something more serendipitous.
“The last few years there was no time for crafts,” Truen said. “I got really (particular) about everything being pixel-perfect as a designer. Somewhere along the way, it just clicked, I can bring the two together — make something more handcrafted, something that would have made us happy as kids.”
“I wanted something to let loose,” Julia said. For her, that meant letting her imagination wander as she sketched on paper. “I’ve always been interested in illustration, patterns. It’s a creative outlet,” she said. “… Almost like a meditation.”
Julia also draws a whimsical creatures — an ever growing a band of characters that includes the couple’s pet husky drawn up as a schoolgirl, owls with striped sweaters, bears with trumpets and foxes with accordions and caps.
“I like to draw animals with clothes. It makes me happy; makes me laugh,” she said ... “A lot of times, I’ll do the hand drawings, but he (Truen) has definitely gotten into it. He came up with the ‘California’s Canada’ design (words emblazoned over an outline of the state of Oregon) that’s been really popular.”
The pair uses the laundry room and part of a spare bedroom as a studio for sketching and transferring designs to cloth via silkscreen.
Julia studied printmaking for eight years in college but the classes she was in never covered silk-screening techniques, so the couple taught themselves, “making it work and doing it on the cheap.”
They work in small batches, running items through the press, one-by-one. Most printings are limited editions.
They’ve developed a following, especially in Portland. They’ve found the business profitable enough for now, although Truen said they’re not ready to quit their day jobs just yet.
While the company started out online with their website www.craftsvcs.com and etsy.com and with appearances at local events, it’s the Pences’ hope to someday open their own storefront. They already sell at independent craft fairs across the country, such as the Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago, and certain shops such as the Crafty Wonderland Pop-Up Shop in Portland carry their stuff.
Playing off the company name — which is also the name of the department that provides food and beverages to the talent on TV and film sets — the Pences package their merchandise in lunch sacks.
But as their wares have been gobbled up by customers, the business has been just as nourishing for their own souls as artists, in time spent together on collaboration, and as they’ve found inspiration in the region’s lore and loopiness.
“There’s a rogue attitude and spirit out here,” Truen said. “Small is cool out here. People are more likely to buy something because it was done by hand.”
Online editor Nancy Raskauskas also covers city government and business for the Corvallis Gazette-Times. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-758-9542.