HOMETOWN HEROES: MEET PHOEBE SUNG AND PETER BUER OF COLD PICNIC

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Local makers, designers and creatives are always inspiring to us, so we are superexcited to be hosting in-store pop-ups for our Hometown Heroes all over the country. Meet NYC-based couple Phoebe and Peter of Cold Picnic. They design Instagram-worthy bath mats, pillows, blankets and other dreamy textiles from their studio in Queens and were kind enough to hang out with us for the day.

So going back to the beginning, how did you start Cold Picnic?

We met in 2006 at school where we were both studying fashion design in Boston—and we’ve pretty much been together since. Cold Picnic started very, very gradually as a project that addressed all the excess inspiration we had that we weren’t channeling into our day jobs. Our very first project was lino printing some drawings onto leather we sourced from a bird toy manufacturer. We didn’t know anything about production or sourcing on a small scale, and we definitely had to learn as we went along.

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OK since it happens to the best of us, what helps you beat a case of “creator’s block”?

When we’re really stuck for inspiration, Pinterest can be a knee-jerk response. But we prefer to use it as an archive and catalog and as a way to quickly find more of something we already like. We also look through past inspiration and latch onto what still excites us and maybe see it from a slightly different perspective.

When all else fails we just watch old movies, especially Criterion ones on this subscription site Filmstruck. We watch snippets of anything that catches our eye or that we’ve been meaning to see. Different things always appeal to us at different times, but luckily a good deal of things appeal to us both at the same time.

And what are your creative process can’t-live-withouts? (Tools, materials, mood music, etc.)

We’re always trying to drink more water! Our dogs are always close by, they insist on it. We work in different ways depending on how we feel or what we’re designing. Sometimes we sketch on the computer or with pastels or watercolors or collage.

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Now take us through a regular “day in the life of…”

We normally get up around 7:30am and have coffee, look at our phones in bed, maybe answer a few emails. Then I [Phoebe] either run or we take the dogs for a walk. Mornings are usually spent packing orders and answering emails. Then we make lunch and after that we might go to our storage unit to pick up more inventory, drop something off at a stockist, work on more designs or answer more emails.

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Anything you want to say to an aspiring maker who is looking to succeed with their own business?

Most people don’t start like we do. Everything seems to happen so quickly now. That probably makes us sound very old! Cold Picnic existed for years before the line became what it is today—which, even now, is so small scale and certainly still evolving. We started with zero budget and zero audience. Our first years doing the line seem so intimate, like an awkward preteen photo, or watching someone getting ready to go out.

As for starting a business, do the opposite of what we did! Figure out what you want to make before you put your work out there, never open a store if you don’t have the money and don’t exactly know what your brand is. In the end, it seems like all our mistakes ultimately helped us, but looking back it all seemed so foolhardy!

Having a community is also an enormous help, speaking with people who are doing a similar thing or who are maybe even a little further along. You definitely learn more and you get more forthcoming advice when you try to get a feel for how other people run their businesses. You realize press and stockists will come based on the product, hopefully, and that all you can do is put it out there.

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Thanks for the inspo, Phoebe and Peter. Wanna meet some Hometown Heroes of your own? RSVP to our local events here and learn more about the program here.