Carina Gardner is a multipassionate crafter, designer, and online instructor in papercrafting, sewing, and decorative arts. As a memory keeper you may best know her as the founding creative director of Carta Bella. In our conversation we chat about Carina’s background in academia, balancing it all when your hobby is your work, and the projects she’s passionate about today.
- Register for the 2023 Planning Party
- Ciao Bella fabric line
- Design Suite program
- Carina on Instagram
- Carina on YouTube
- Carina’s website
[00:00:00] Jennifer Wilson: Welcome to Scrapbook Your Way, the show that explores the breadth of ways to be a memory keeper today. I’m your host, Jennifer Wilson, owner of Simple Scrapper and author of The New Rules of Scrapbooking. This is episode 195. In this episode I'm joined by Carina Gardner to explore life as a multipassionate creative. As a veteran crafter, designer, and teacher Carina brings her talent and enthusiasm to hobbyists and aspiring business owners.
Before we jump into the episode I wanted to share a participant's experience with the Planning Party. This comes from Melissa B.
"Before I started attending the Simple Scrapper planning parties, I left most of my next year’s planning until the very end of the year. I love the invitation to focus on planning in early November, before the holiday craziness sets in! Planning projects and classes I want to do in advance also helps me create a better wish list to share with my family. In addition, I find that the questions and worksheets help me to set realistic, achievable goals for my memory keeping."
The Planning Party will help you look at the year ahead with intention, so your scrapbooking feels fun and productive all the way from January through December. Registration is open for the 2023 Planning Party and I hope to see you there. Visit simplescrapper.com/plan23 to sign up for free!
[00:02:00] Jennifer Wilson: Hey, Carina. Welcome to Scrapbook Your Way.
[00:02:02] Carina Gardner: Thank you for having me, Jennifer. I'm so excited to be here.
[00:02:06] Jennifer Wilson: Yes, I am really looking forward to getting to know you better and peeking behind the scenes of your creative life. Can you share more about yourself?
[00:02:13] Carina Gardner: Sure. So for those of you who don't know me, my name is Carina Gardner. I live in Sandy, Utah, west Salt Lake. But during COVID we moved to 20 minutes away to Sandy, Utah. I have three kids, two teenage daughters, and a little boy. And, and my husband and we've lived in Utah now for about 12 years. Before that we were in Minnesota. That's where I did all my graduate work. So, um, I went to the university of Minnesota for my master's and my PhD in design. Had every intention of being a professor. Did tons and tons of research on short term memory and logo design, and lots of incredibly boring stuff that nobody wants to hear about.
[00:02:56] Jennifer Wilson: That sounds interesting to me.
[00:02:58] Carina Gardner: With, with your science background, you probably would love my T test.
[00:03:02] Carina Gardner: Uh, we, we just, I just thought I would be teaching design and it's been so fascinating, my journey. Cuz I went from teaching at a university for five years, getting my PhD in design to then spending the last 14 years in my own design business. So owning a creative business, building up, a very interesting, uh, niche here in the craft industry. I've been both in scrapbooking and I have been in fabric and I continue to be in those things. Lots of digital and online and, uh, a year and a half ago, we actually started a design program. If I wasn't gonna go back and teach at university, I decided, you know what, I'm gonna teach here in the crafting industry.
[00:03:48] Jennifer Wilson: Yeah, that's so exciting. It's so interesting that I think we both took these major pivots about the same time. Um, yeah, like 14 years ago, exactly was when I took mine.
[00:03:59] Carina Gardner: Isn't that so crazy. Well, and I always thought I would be, um, like a designer in the advertising world. My undergrad degree is actually in marketing from BYU and I just really thought I was gonna be like, in New York City. Building the advertising billboards, like doing all of this, you know what I mean? Cuz that's what I thought I was gonna be doing. And stepped out from my PhD, and right at that moment, I mean 14 years made sense to me that you were in the same place, made a transition into digital scrapbooking. So that was like the height of digital scrapbooking.
[00:04:31] Jennifer Wilson: It was.
[00:04:32] Carina Gardner: And um, had a friend who said, Hey Carina, you have two young kids. My kids were like you know, a few months old and a three year old at the time. And said, you know, Carina, you should look at this thing called digital scrapbooking. And I was like, okay, started my own website, started getting into it. Uh, my first real deal was with Two Peas in a Bucket. Do you remember them?
[00:04:55] Jennifer Wilson: That was how I found digital was, was free bees on Two Peas.
[00:04:59] Carina Gardner: Yeah. So that was my first like really big shop. Um, and within a few months of being in Two Peas In a Bucket, I got my first scrapbooking deal. So I designed for My Mind's Eye, at that time.
[00:05:13] Carina Gardner: Six months later, I got a deal with Northcott, designing fabric, um, and was doing digital and contract work as a designer.
[00:05:23] Carina Gardner: Never thought. I, I always thought I was gonna be just a professor, just a professor. I thought I was gonna be a professor. And here I was with what people today would die to have, you know, these contracts that were quite big. And just for the record, I am no longer with My Mind's Eye or with, um, Northcott. I'm with Riley Blake, and I was with Carta Bella but now I really focus online with Silhouette and a few other shops as well.
[00:05:47] Carina Gardner: But that's, you know, over the course of 14 years, it's fascinating what companies you come into contact with and who you end up designing for. It's just, it's been a really, just exciting and creative journey.
[00:05:59] Jennifer Wilson: I've been. So, um, I don't know, impressed. And over the years, like, cuz if you think back to 14 years ago, digital designers, maybe didn't get a lot of, uh.
[00:06:10] Carina Gardner: Kudos. Yeah.
[00:06:12] Jennifer Wilson: You, I mean, you've always kind of. Uh, spanned both worlds, it sounds like. But I think now you see these big brands turning to people who've been longtime digital designers to, they realize, oh, they have some skills and they already know what the scrapbooking market wants. So let's, let's go to them.
[00:06:31] Carina Gardner: Well, you think it's a little bit like, um, all these big box office, movie stars who would only do movies now doing TV shows or, or doing like Netflix. And I think it's because I, I do think the, the markets have changed quite a bit. You know, at, at one point there were, you know, I wouldn't design for a certain number of entities.
[00:06:54] Carina Gardner: Now I designed for everyone. Like I'll, I'm willing to take on any kind of shop. Anyone who seems interesting to me, someone who like maybe has something that I think would be helpful in my design world. I'm willing to kind of do something with, and I think it's because the market has changed and that is like we deal, and we look at people and brands more than we look at, um, you know, like social casting systems, right? Like it feels more merged.
[00:07:23] Jennifer Wilson: Oh yeah, for sure. And I think the I'm just as likely to go to Target as well as to Etsy to buy a Christmas present. Like it's, you know, they're on the same playing field.
[00:07:35] Carina Gardner: Yeah. And I think that has everything to do with, at this point in time for all of us, convenience. Right. We're gonna do the thing that's the most convenient. If I don't have time to, and I'm a designer, so like I can personalize, we have, we're an affiliate for Heat Press Nation and Sawgrass. Like we have all the tools in my office to make the things. But if I don't have time to make something, I will go to Etsy and buy it personalized as well. Right. Cause it's about convenience, right?
[00:08:04] Jennifer Wilson: Yes.
[00:08:05] Carina Gardner: A hundred percent. So I do think at this day and age, and one of the things we teach in our, our design suite system that I really haven't seen before we started teaching it, because it was, it was a method that I had used over the years is that you have to be in all the different marketplaces to find all the right people.
[00:08:22] Carina Gardner: The Target person is different than the Walmart person. And so if you're not in all the different marketplaces and granted, we say that you need to do it over a very long time span. Because people hear me say that and they immediately are like, I'm gonna join five online shops and try to get a contract. And I'm like, it doesn't really work that way, but over time, if you can be in multiple marketplaces, then people can find you and you build up your reputation and brand.
[00:08:48] Jennifer Wilson: Oh, yes. And I think it does take that patience though, as well. Um, but knowing that you have a trajectory.
[00:08:55] Carina Gardner: Yeah. A hundred percent.
[00:08:56] Jennifer Wilson: So I'm curious, like thinking about where you sit within memory keeping space. Is there anything that's really exciting you right now that you're seeing, or that you're personally using and, and, and loving?
[00:09:07] Carina Gardner: I'm kind of loving the hybrid things I'm seeing.
[00:09:11] Carina Gardner: So where people are taking a little bit of digital, like, so they'll like take maybe an SVG file or something, but then they're using the paper that they're buying in the scrapbooking store and like kind of mixing and matching. To me that's, if that is not the epitome of crafting at this point in time. Back when you and I started digital scraping was like, we all were on, well, I was in Photoshop, but most people were in Photoshop Elements.
[00:09:35] Carina Gardner: They were making their digital designs and that was it. Right. And then you printed it out and you're done now. It's like this organic and I don't know what your members are doing, but I'm seeing just because I'm so highly involved with Cricut, Silhouette and Sublimation, I'm seeing kind of people go, well, I need the physical products.
[00:09:55] Carina Gardner: Like I need the scrapbooking goods I need, but I'm mixing it with like how I want it to see it. I think it really lends itself to this even more creative experience.
[00:10:07] Jennifer Wilson: Oh a hundred percent. And I think the more we've gotten comfortable with using our computers for scrapbooking, because a decade ago more, it was like, okay, I'm gonna type some journaling period. And now tools like Canva and even Silhouette Studio, like everything's gotten so much easier to do the things that we wanna do. And I really, I really love that.
[00:10:28] Carina Gardner: Well, and the customer has become more savvy, right? Like anyone that's listening to this, have you not felt more savvy in the last like 10 years? 10 years ago, like all of us were like, like what? Like, I mean, I knew the software cause I was a designer, but like then I didn't know how to translate that to the regular customer.
[00:10:45] Carina Gardner: Now there's like, The Cricut Explorer software, the Silhouette software, the, Photoshop Elements is easy. Or there's apps now where we can, everything is so much easier. And once again, that goes back to that convenience factor. At the end of the day all of us, want it to be convenient. So if we can meet ourselves to that place where like, we can just get that thing easy. I blame this a little bit on Amazon. If we can get the thing super easy, then it makes it, it makes it more doable.
[00:11:18] Jennifer Wilson: I also think there was a, the pandemic played a role in accelerating things that were already happening. You know, more confidence in using Zoom and just more confidence in using the technology you already had around you. Because you were kind of stuck with it for a little while. Um, so I think it just kind of made everything go a little bit faster. And now we're kind of on the other side of that with a lot more tech savvy people.
[00:11:39] Carina Gardner: Yeah.
[00:11:39] Jennifer Wilson: You know, grandmas and grandpas out there who are using Zoom and Photoshop.
[00:11:44] Carina Gardner: And TikTok, like, that's the other funny thing, like just the social media aspect of it as well. Um, it is so crazy to me because I really credit the pandemic in some ways, for me starting my design suite program. Cuz before that, I just wasn't sure if I couldn't, I could teach, not in an in person place, right?
[00:12:03] Carina Gardner: Like, cuz I was so used to teaching at a university or like I, I, you know, sometimes I lecture at universities still. And I thought that that was the way to do it. And something about that, everyone understanding Zoom, it felt like this very easy transition to be like, you know, you know what? I can give people critiques.
[00:12:22] Carina Gardner: I can give people the design knowledge they need, online. And I think that was the first time I was like, you know what? I think we can do this in a way that feels more like a university setting. Before this I had taught like, you know, 10 years ago I taught like a digital online class. It felt difficult. It, because I, I made the class, but then there was no interaction and it was really difficult.
[00:12:45] Carina Gardner: And that's the one thing that sets our current program apart from what I did in the past. I would just teach a class and we call it good. What I do now is it's meetings, critiques, uh, SEO, like all the aspects of design business, because it's more, it's live. You know, we're, we're doing, we have the coursework, but so much of it is live.
[00:13:06] Jennifer Wilson: Well, and I think that's, what has, I don't know, changed opinions about online communities. We used to have the separation between like my online friends and my in real life friends. And now, like the it's the same. Like, you know, we're meeting people online and they become real world friends. It's uh, there's just so much, um, what's the word in terms of, it's just all the same.
[00:13:31] Carina Gardner: Yeah, it, there is a little bit of magic there that I really appreciate. Because it does feel like, you know, in my program, I know every single member and I know what they're doing. And if we're having a rough time, we're trying to figure out ways to make money or whatever else. And I don't know that I could have said that 10 years ago in my digital coursework. Like I couldn't point out who was doing what or X, Y, and Z. And I think it has, it took some things like the pandemic for us to recognize that, that we can understand and know and be friends with people on the internet in a way that's actually intimate. That's actually real.
[00:14:16] Jennifer Wilson: Yes. Yes. And I think it's the, seeing the faces, not just the type written comments and chats that really makes the difference too.
[00:14:22] Carina Gardner: 100%.
[00:14:23] Jennifer Wilson: And same with, with our podcast, like having the audio connection with someone, or even a video connection takes it to a new level of building that know, like, and trust factor.
[00:14:34] Carina Gardner: Yeah. Agreed.
[00:14:36] Jennifer Wilson: So kind of thinking about your role as a scrapbooker, I'm assuming you're still taking pictures of your kids and you have stories that you wanna tell. So we like to ask all of our guests, what is one story on your bucket list of something you haven't captured yet?
[00:14:51] Carina Gardner: Oh, well, we just recently we're just a few weeks into my oldest daughter going to college. And that has been quite the transition. Um, anyone who sent a kid off to college knows that it's, uh, a very emotional thing.
[00:15:08] Jennifer Wilson: Yes.
[00:15:09] Carina Gardner: And I really felt like I got the sweeter end of the deal on this because she is actually staying at home. Those in my program or people who've heard me talk, she's actually autistic as well. And so it was just a very stressful, stressful situation. Choosing a college, making sure she was being comfortable, making sure that transition was gonna be great. And I, for just all the other mamas out there with kids with disabilities or kids who have these things going on that are very, very stressful.
[00:15:38] Carina Gardner: Whenever you take a big leap of faith, I remember even elementary school to middle school and middle school to high school. And now high school to college. I think that's something that we've got, I've gotta figure out how to capture more of those transitions because they were really big and really amazing.
[00:15:54] Jennifer Wilson: And it's yeah, but there's so many different emotions. We're going through right now, my daughter going from elementary to middle school and it's, it does feel big. And all of a sudden, all the decisions we're making are much more long term. Like what's the trajectory we're going. And yeah, I think that's a really, that's a really important story that we don't kind of talk a lot about is how do you capture that? Particularly when the emotions can be complex.
[00:16:20] Carina Gardner: Yeah. And I'm a big proponent of journaling. Especially if you're a scrapbooker and cuz so much back in the day, I remember really was just the photo and that was it. We didn't do a ton of journaling. And at least when I was the Creative Director of Carta Bella that was a lot of what we showed. Like it was the pictures.
[00:16:36] Carina Gardner: And then, and, and not to say that's still not a wonderful piece of it. But I'm finding that I really enjoy the journaling piece of it just as much as the pictures. So that we're capturing like the feelings and the emotions.
[00:16:50] Jennifer Wilson: Yes. Yes. A hundred percent. Okay. So I'm gonna take a tangent here, cuz I have to know, so you were involved with Carta Bella from its inception, right?
[00:16:58] Carina Gardner: Yeah, they actually created that company around me. If I'm being totally honest.
[00:17:02] Jennifer Wilson: And so I wanna talk about the texture of the paper, because that's what, to me, that's what makes it so unique and so different and so lovely and enjoyable to work with. And so I'm curious, kind of what informed that decision.
[00:17:18] Carina Gardner: Okay. So I have to go back a little bit. So at the time I was making a transition, I had finished up My Mind's Eye. I had this feeling that I wanted to start a scrapbooking company, but I wasn't totally sure. I like, I was also making a transition. I had just went from Northcott to Riley Blake, and I was kind of figuring things out and I got a call from their current Echo Park Creative Director. He called me and said, or who are you designing for? And I said, no one at the moment, like it had been like probably nine months. And I was like, I'm taking a break. I'm concentrating on fabric right now. But I'm thinking about starting, if I'm being totally honest, not to be like, oh, I'm competing with you guys. But I'm thinking about starting a scrapbooking company. And he said, will you come into the meeting for an office with myself and the Sales Director and the, the owner, the CEO? I said, sure, let let's let's have a chat. So I went to the office, I started talking to them and I will, it was not me who chose the texture paper, the CEO at the time.
[00:18:15] Carina Gardner: He said, um, and he's still the CEO, CEO. Said, we have been thinking about building the sister company. But we don't have the right designer for it or the right creative director for it. We hear you're thinking about starting a company. What if you start a company with us? And that was really intriguing. I, um, I had recently just gotten pregnant with my third child.
[00:18:38] Carina Gardner: Um, things were crazy and I saw their facilities. I knew what they were doing. Echo Park had already blown up. It was, it was doing so well. Um, and I just thought, you know, this might be the way to do it. Because they gave me a, you know, a portion of, of coming in of the company, they would hire me my own Sales Director.
[00:18:59] Carina Gardner: I would be the Creative Director and it would be my team of designers who worked for them. So it was just, it was like almost an agency setting. Where I came in and it, it was the loveliest situation. I, and I, I credit that entire team for letting me do that. Cuz I only came into the office once a week for meetings and we did all the design work at home and I had my entire team of designers and it was fantastic.
[00:19:25] Carina Gardner: So he, at the time said we needed differentiator between Echo Park and Carta Bella. What is it gonna be? And he was like, I have this idea that Carta Bella is like a more of a fine paper stationary line. And we started experimenting and looking at papers with different textures on them. And came to the conclusion that we really liked that one particular paper that you guys know as Carta Bella paper, at this point, with that texture. It was more expensive, but we had to sell the product at the same, the same price as Echo Park. So it was like a little bit like, it was like tricky, the whole thing, but we just really felt like it differentiated the two brands and it elevated Carta Bella to its own brand. So that was, that was the process of that. I don't know if I've told anyone that story before.
[00:20:14] Jennifer Wilson: Oh, I love it. I was just, I've always been so curious. Um, because I've, I've always, and I've mentioned this before, like I've learned scrapbooking backwards. So in doing the Scrapbook And Cards Today, Crop and Create events, that was actually my first exposure to Carta Bella paper. This was like within the past couple years during the pandemic. And I'm like, Oh, my gosh, what have I been missing all these years? Cause I'd worked with some Echo Park paper and I was like, it's fine. It's just like all the other paper, but then I'm a got this and I'm like, I'm obsessed with it. So thank you so much for sharing that, you know, behind the scene story.
[00:20:48] Carina Gardner: So it was so incredibly fun and I am no longer with Carta Bella. I have a great relationship with them. I'm no longer with them. Cuz I had started a secondary company. We got into the toy business with min Mini Lou and coloring books and that kind of thing. And so I kind of made a departure there. But not before we had hired a few in-house designers in Carta Bella that I, that are so good.
[00:21:09] Carina Gardner: I mean, so good. I was so excited to get them in the door for Carta Bella and I still think they produce exceptional products. And I feel so grateful I gotta be a part of that process.
[00:21:21] Jennifer Wilson: Yes. Yes. Lovely story. So we've, we've definitely talked about here that you wear a lot of hats. You are designing for the paper industry, you're designing fabric, you're teaching business owners, how to make stronger businesses or even start their businesses. I'm curious, kind of which passion came first for you. Was it paper? Was it quilting and sewing? Has it always just been there?
[00:21:47] Carina Gardner: I, you know, my passion has been design. So when you, when you take it that way, it makes a lot of sense that I'm obsessed with all the different things that I do in scrapbooking and in fabric and just getting your hands dirty. One of the things that I learned early as a designer, that execution was everything.
[00:22:04] Carina Gardner: And so if you can get into the details of all the things that you're executing as a designer, it's just, oh, it's so exciting. And, and I think really the thing I'm, I'm addicted to is temporary satisfaction of a physical product. I really think that's what it really is because I don't even care what it is.
[00:22:22] Carina Gardner: If I can feel the fabric, if I can feel the paper, if I can make the SVG and build the, the cool house. Like everything about the crafting industry plays up to a designer's strengths. That's why I love being in this industry, you know, cuz if you're in the advertising world and you're doing well, digital design for websites. Or if you're doing billboards or you're doing print, you know, in a lot of ways you get to see your design work and it, it is satisfying to some degree, but it's like crafting takes it to this whole nother level.
[00:22:58] Carina Gardner: Um, I remember, so I did a huge brand deal for Deseret Book. They're a small set of like 30 independent, um, stores. And I did a dishware line for them and a Christmas line for them. And we did jewelry for them. And every time those boxes showed up at my door, I just, I was just giddy. I mean, it was like Christmas all the time, because it was like all my design work showing up at my door.
[00:23:23] Carina Gardner: Same deal with my, my new fabric line is Ciao Bella. And it comes out in November and the day it shows up at my door, all 18 bolts, I will be freaking out like I'm five again, because it's so exciting.
[00:23:38] Jennifer Wilson: So I think I really love this point you made about execution that it's not just about designing the pattern, it's the whole thing from start to finish and making sure that the product that somebody's gonna hold in their hand is exceptional.
[00:23:53] Carina Gardner: Yeah. And, and I, I think this is where, this is why I started teaching design. Because I am starting to see there's a lot of self-made, self-taught designers out there, which there's nothing wrong with that. I think it's amazing that people are going for it. To me, it's like big dreams. I'm so into it, but very often they've had no mentorship and they haven't had enough design knowledge to understand how to execute and produce correctly. And a lot of that comes from not actually learning at a university level, but from the experience level. When I became the Creative Director at Carta Bella, one of the things that I had to do was every detail had to be perfect. And that, that was an, an interesting thing for me to go through because before I was doing digital and I was like, man, just throw things up. It's fine. I'll make money. It's great. Right. But once you start getting into manufacturing in particular, everything has to be right. And when you go to press, any little mistake will cost you thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. And so when I started taking that mentality and, and still I'm, I'm a very much done is better than perfect kind of person.
[00:24:59] Carina Gardner: But like when I took some of that execution mentality into my digital stuff and was like, how do I make this so that there's not customer service issues? How do I make this product so that it's just nice and clean and easy to use. And like everyone likes it, right? Like it's just some of these things that we don't think about as designers and because we haven't had the mentorship and we haven't had someone looking over our shoulder saying, Hey, you need to produce that this way, or you need to zip it up this way, or it would be really helpful if you layered it this way, you just don't know or understand. And so I think execution is key.
[00:25:35] Jennifer Wilson: I think that goes to so many other, um, aspects of business too, is just those details. And the following through. I I've, I've, worked with and purchased and seen so many things where you could tell it's a great idea, but the follow through and the, and the execution just wasn't there to make it a really great experience for the customer.
[00:25:57] Carina Gardner: Yeah. And I know you feel that way cuz you are that way with your membership, right? You like you pivot, you're trying to like make it a great experience for your members, making sure that they're getting what they need.
[00:26:08] Jennifer Wilson: A hundred percent. Yeah. That's our biggest value is kind of trust and reliability.
[00:26:13] Carina Gardner: Yeah. And we're the same way in our program. We like, it's so crazy. We started this program, not that long ago, but I, I just set out to say like, if we're gonna do this, we're gonna do this right. We're gonna do it with complete and total like we're gonna pivot as we go to make it cleaner, easier.
[00:26:29] Carina Gardner: Listen to our members, do what they're telling us they need in order to learn how to design correctly. How to actually make money in the marketplace, how to get deals. Like those kinds of things they aren't gonna come from someone who's just been flippant about what their members are doing. It's gotta be in a, in a situation where, you know your members, you're actually critiquing and making sure they're on the right track.
[00:26:53] Carina Gardner: You're paying attention to what they're doing, what shops they're going into, what the SEO is. Like how they're writing all their stuff and then giving them. For us, we have 17 courses in our program because we're Nazis about great design, like which, oh, we love great design. I just want the design work to be amazing.
[00:27:14] Carina Gardner: And so we've set out to try to produce the best design program out there. And I know you do the same with your membership.
[00:27:22] Jennifer Wilson: Yeah, a hundred percent. Now, I'm curious, kind of, uh, on a personal level, you already said that you have the stuff for doing all the Silhouette projects. I just started, I did a heat transfer vinyl project for the first time recently, and I had no idea what I was doing. Um, how do you manage, like having the supplies for so many different things that you're either demonstrating, selling, creating for yourself? You know, how do you juggle all that?
[00:27:48] Carina Gardner: It was one of the things that made us move at the beginning of COVID. And actually, we, we it's so crazy. We put our, we were in a little house in Sugar House. We loved the neighborhood. Sugar House is kind of a cool place to live if you're in Utah. And we just, we loved our neighborhood. We loved our house, but it was tiny, super tiny.
[00:28:07] Carina Gardner: And at the time my husband was running his business. I was running mine. Um, I was working from the bed, the kitchen table, like it was just like craziness, right? And we, we knew we needed to move. So our house actually went on the market the day before the quarantine happened. So we're not like later COVID movers.
[00:28:23] Carina Gardner: We're like the early COVID movers where everybody thought the housing market was going to. I mean, it did dip. Like we lowered the price of our house. We got our house at a lower price than we would have cuz everybody in the first six weeks who was on the market. We just sat. We just all sat and it was like this crazy thing.
[00:28:42] Carina Gardner: And then something happened around week six, like all the it's like everyone realized this thing wasn't going away and we were all just gonna have to live our lives. And we all just bought houses and it was early enough that the housing market wasn't what it is today. You know, it was like literally half of what it is today.
[00:29:02] Carina Gardner: So we kind of moved at an interesting time. We, um, we bought almost three times as much house. And my studio that, you know, those of you who are on my YouTube channel, see. Like I have a studio, we have, I have three desks in there. Um, I have a whole area that's dedicated right now to Silhouette and Sublimation.
[00:29:22] Carina Gardner: Um, I have a shed with just all the product going on in it. Um, and it just, I just needed the space for it. Um, that being said, I am a big proponent for those of you who are like organization, baskets. We have baskets everywhere. Um, I own a ridiculous amount of fabric, so we actually have a room in the house dedicated to fabric. It is just all like the walls are all lined with fabric. Because it's all my lines. Um, and then we have another place in the house where it's just organized by crafting material. So it's like all the pipe cleaners and all the, because even though I am a designer and I'm in the crafting industry, I still have all the kids stuff.
[00:30:05] Carina Gardner: Like I still have all the crayons I still have. So, um, right now we have, if I'm being honest, I think I have four spaces, for crafting. Like my, my main studio, we have a shed for everything that is, um, that we send out, mail out, all that other good stuff. And then we have a fabric room space. That's actually my kids' office.
[00:30:27] Carina Gardner: So it's the kids' office plus, and then a crafting room space that's just materials and product.
[00:30:34] Jennifer Wilson: Nice. I love how you've been able to customize it to what you really needed. I'm curious if there's any tricks from your old house that maybe you would wanna share, like something that you did to kind of keep things separated or did you have to like just clear everything off and now we're shifting gears.
[00:30:50] Carina Gardner: Yeah. I mean, so that was one of the main thing I wanted dedicated photography space. So now here's the thing. If you have a tiny house it's still doable. Cuz I did it for 12 years in a tiny house. Okay. Like a hundred percent. I was the Creative Director from a tiny house. And we had all the things. So, um, especially, so it it's definitely a clearing away situation.
[00:31:13] Carina Gardner: So we had everything boxed and so it would be like all the Silhouette stuff, all the fabric stuff, all the, like everything was boxed or basketed. Is that word basketed?
[00:31:24] Jennifer Wilson: I think so.
[00:31:25] Carina Gardner: When it was time to work on the X, Y, and Z thing, we would pull all that stuff out and then we'd set up all the videos. My YouTube channel has tons and tons of quilting videos, and Silhouette projects.
[00:31:37] Carina Gardner: And all of that was mostly done at my old house. And it was done, we just pull out, we had a specific, um, table that I used for making the videos. We'd have to pull that out every single time. Set up the cameras every single time. And that, and that part was part of the reason we moved, because I was like, I need stuff set up all the time so that I can go faster.
[00:31:59] Carina Gardner: And it has, I go so much faster. I can make so many videos in a single day now because everything is set up and ready to go. But, in a small space, you don't have that choice. Right? So we just, we were just as efficient as we could be. I will tell you when we'd get ready for a quilt market, and I'd usually do a booth at a quilt market. You couldn't walk around the house without tiptoeing over all the projects.
[00:32:24] Carina Gardner: We would literally lay out all the quilts, all the kid outfits. Everything that we were sewing would from my son's bedroom, all the way into the kitchen, on the floor, all the way into the living room. And you would just tip toe around all the projects and my assistant would come in and help me sew, my mom would come into town and help me sew. Like everybody in the house, it was just, it was the whole house.
[00:32:47] Jennifer Wilson: Yeah, it was an all hands on deck situation. It sounds like.
[00:32:50] Jennifer Wilson: There's, there's not some sort of secret magic. It's just, it does sometimes take over and yeah, some things will have to be pushed aside for.
[00:32:58] Carina Gardner: And I think you have to choose. It's okay to have chaos. I, I think people are really nervous about chaos. I think once in a while, when you're trying to hustle and get something done, it's okay to have a little creative chaos. I actually think it's maybe a little bit even good for us.
[00:33:14] Jennifer Wilson: Now I'm curious when you are, because your work is sometimes at the computer, I'm sure. And sometimes you're actually making something and filming it. When you are, do you separate those two things? Or they all just work for you?
[00:33:27] Carina Gardner: All of it's work to me. But like, I mean, here's the thing, is it work? That's the thing. I mean, like, if you're doing what you love every single day, if I get to design every single day, am I really working? If I am, and, and all my projects are usually things I'm doing for myself, right. Like, so I just did all these Sublimation, um, tumblrs. And I did it for one of my mastermind groups and I was gonna make them anyway. I just happen to film it. Right.
[00:33:54] Jennifer Wilson: Yes. Yes. I love that.
[00:33:56] Carina Gardner: It, I don't have a hobby. I just have work because it's all fun.
[00:34:01] Jennifer Wilson: I think it's hard to explain that unless you really understand it yourself. It's hard for others to understand that, um, you work so much because you enjoy it all and it's all it all kind of bleeds together.
[00:34:14] Carina Gardner: Yeah, I do think, I mean, you and I know both of this, like, there are things in your business you're not gonna enjoy. Right. It's there are things that are, that are difficult to do that you don't wanna do. And this is actually one of the things we have to talk about in Design Suite is, you know, designers like the design process.
[00:34:31] Carina Gardner: It's not as fun to sell the designs. And I'm like, we have to get to the point where we're selling the designs. Because that's, that's how you make it a business. It's not hobby. I mean, it's only a hobby if you're just doing the stuff, right. It's a business when we start making money doing it. And that's, I think that's been a really hard and interesting transition, I think for those of them that have been quilters and crafters and they become designers, cuz they just wanna do the fun part of it.
[00:34:57] Carina Gardner: But to me, if you're not doing the selling part of it, which to me is fun. If you're not doing the selling part of it, we're not a business.
[00:35:06] Well and I think at that point, you have to really understand yourself and know, do I wanna have my own business or do I wanna go work for someone else's. Because that best suits my, my personality.
[00:35:15] Carina Gardner: Or keep it a hobby, right? Like that's, I mean, that's your other option is like, this can be a hobby. Like you're just designing stuff for yourself and that's okay too.
[00:35:24] Jennifer Wilson: You mean we don't have to monetize all of our passions.
[00:35:28] Carina Gardner: Well, you and I do, but it.
[00:35:31] Jennifer Wilson: No, I've definitely, I've had to force myself to keep some that, like, this is not part of the business. This is something that I do for me. I enjoy this. Maybe I'll like take a photo because I'm sharing part of me, but I don't teach this. I don't, you know, I'm not trying to become an expert. I'm just doing it because it's fun and makes me feel good.
[00:35:49] Carina Gardner: Yeah, for me, that line is usually with my family. You'll notice there's not as much or, or I used to share a lot more about my family. But as, as the brand has grown, as my team has grown, as what we've been doing has become a little sometimes overwhelming at times as this business has grown, I, I have more and more spent less time letting my kids be in my, even my Stories or, or on the brand. And it's not, it's not even because I, I don't wanna share that. I like sharing that stuff, but I have to be really careful about first of all their privacy. Especially as they get older.
[00:36:26] Carina Gardner: Yeah, and they're getting older and I want them to have their own lives and their own thing.
[00:36:30] Carina Gardner: And my two daughters in particular, my oldest one is starting to build her own creative career. My second one has started creating her own little business and I've just really wanted to give them the space to build their brand as they would see fit versus what I would like to do. Right. So we, we've gotta be really careful, especially of these kids coming up as they're building their own businesses. Um, To let them build the brand the way they wanna build it.
[00:36:58] Jennifer Wilson: Ah, I love that. I love that sense of, of freedom that you wanna provide while still, you know, nurturing interests and passions.
[00:37:06] Carina Gardner: Well, I think I've just seen too much. Um, I watched the Bachelor, I haven't watched it recently. But you, you see these like people and they're posting their kids. Like kids have their own Instagram feed and they, they basically have no choice. Right. They're in the limelight. I'm not saying it's good or bad.
[00:37:20] Carina Gardner: It's just for me, I just didn't wanna do that for my kids. I wanted them to, I have really creative kids. I wanted them to figure out how they want their brand to look as they're getting older.
[00:37:33] Jennifer Wilson: Yes. I love that. I love that so much. I wanna talk just as we wrap up here a little bit about teaching, because you come from this academic background, it's, it's very unique that you are in this profession with a PhD. How has your academic, um, experience informed how you're teaching particularly now with Design Suite
[00:37:54] Carina Gardner: I think I am one of the few out there that's very, very real about timelines that it takes to become a designer. And that is really because I taught students in a four year program, how to become a graphic designer. Right. So like my particular program, I, you know, I see all these programs that are like eight weeks long, or you do it yourself, DIY or whatever.
[00:38:17] Carina Gardner: Our program is a minimum of a year. Like you can get most of what you need in a year. Most, um, people who are heads of businesses, the way I am, they think they're unwilling to commit to a year. Or if they do, it's very, it, it's very interesting, I, I just haven't loved the way I've seen other programs set get set up. But ours is a minimum of a year because I know it takes four years to get a great graphic design program.
[00:38:39] Carina Gardner: I know it takes one year to make you a decent designer and get your business off the ground. Um, we do have a program where like, they go month to month and we have our retention rates kind of unreal. It's I think it's 90 to 95% because everyone.
[00:38:56] Jennifer Wilson: That's awesome.
[00:38:57] Carina Gardner: Sees. I know. Well, everyone sees and my goal is not to keep them forever.
[00:39:01] Carina Gardner: My goal is to let them all fly. I want them to run off and fly. But it is so tough in the first three years of owning any kind of business, let alone a design business to get off the ground. And, and really the only way to get to that six figures is to have that kind of, mentorship experience and, and help moving yourself along to actually, you know, make it in this business.
[00:39:27] Carina Gardner: I'm someone who like, if you come to one of my design, boot camps, like I would tell people, like, if you wanna go back to college, I'm here for it. I will support you in that. If you didn't wanna do Design Suite, I'd be like a hundred percent. Go get a graphic design degree, cuz it takes four years. And that's what it takes to produce great designs.
[00:39:43] Carina Gardner: The problem with the university system for me is that then you have to go out and figure out the experience part yourself.
[00:39:50] Carina Gardner: So we try to, we try to bundle that into a single year in the Design Suite program.
[00:39:56] Jennifer Wilson: And does a graphic design degree include the important business components of how do you set yourself up online these days and develop relationships with, with vendors and companies and, and all of that aspect.
[00:40:09] Carina Gardner: No, so they don't. So, and for good reason, right? Because like they're young, they're 18 to 24. We're trying to spend all of our time teaching them how to be great designers, because if we can get that foundation in, then they'll go out and get the experience. But what we don't tell 'em is if you wanna own your own design business, you probably need an MBA on top of that to, to get what you need from it.
[00:40:31] Carina Gardner: So we try package that all up into a single program and a year really is too short, even in my opinion. Like, I think it's a solid three years before you can just like, like release along the world. So I, I haven't loved out there. I see lots of little design, you know, DIY and, and it just, I think it's really tough because can you make a hundred thousand dollars a year going to an eight week program?
[00:40:59] Carina Gardner: I mean, it's not reasonable. It makes no sense to me. People are spending 40 and $60,000 to go to four years of college and coming out to make $50,000 a year as a graphic designer. And so I feel like I really wanna be very real with people about what it takes, what the business aspect looks like, how realistic you are in making money. Um, because I think there's a lot out there pedaling like it, you know, you can just make it just be artistic and you'll be good.
[00:41:28] Jennifer Wilson: Yeah, I think those the quick fixes and click bait and all the things that try to, to grab us in for that, that quick fix that we want, cuz we want the convenience. But I really, I really respect the, um, the openness that you share and your willingness to kind of invest in your students and, and be up front with them about what it really takes.
[00:41:48] Carina Gardner: I just think that's the way we've gotta be as human beings. Like if these people and they all, almost all become my friends. Right. And I'm ex I'm telling them what they need to do. What would I tell, my little sister is our Etsy coach within the program. And it's, so amazing. Cuz she has made so much money and she continues to make, I like I had to convince her to come on as a coach.
[00:42:09] Carina Gardner: She was like, I don't have time for this Carina. I'm like running my own business, but like what would I tell my own sister or my own family member to do in business? That's the way I treat my Design Suite members. What would I tell my own, like someone I love dearly and they needed to make money now or they need, they wanted desperately to be, have a design career.
[00:42:27] Carina Gardner: What would I tell them? Versus what would someone tell you if they're just like, you know, this acquaintance and, and, you know, trying to make money because that's, that's the thing we're, I'm not interested in that. I'm interested in making phenomenal designers, cuz I'm kind of crazy about that.
[00:42:44] Jennifer Wilson: Ah, I love it. So what kind of, extending that, what advice would you give for someone who feels pulled by having all these different interests. Though, maybe they, you know, they've been a hobby crafter and they wanna going to the next level, but they can't decide which path to go down.
[00:43:00] Carina Gardner: Choose one. It, everything, everyone sees that I do a gazillion things and they think, oh, that must be the way to do it. But at the end of the day, it's always one thing. I'm only concentrating on one thing at a time, just like you're always, always concentrating on membership. Right now, in this season of life, we are only concentrating on Design Suite and our designers.
[00:43:22] Carina Gardner: There was a time where the only thing I concentrated on was being a creative director, right. There was like a four year span there where all I did, was I was the creative director. And I built a huge team to help me design for Carta Bella. There was a time where all of my time was spent in Two Peas In A Bucket. Right. And all of the money coming from my business was really coming from digital scrapbooking. So very often people see all the things and they think I've gotta be a fabric designer right now. And I have to do quilt tutorials and I have to be Sublimation designer and I have, and, and that's just not the way it actually works.
[00:43:58] Carina Gardner: And we try to really teach this. Um, well, we teach it in our Profitable Designer Workshop, but we teach it also to our Design Suite members, that if you can go all in on one for an extended period of time, that you can very much win.
[00:44:14] Jennifer Wilson: Oh, I love it. This has been so interesting and so fascinating to learn more about you to learn more about your process. Can you share where our audience can find you online? Anything you might have new or coming up towards the end of this year?
[00:44:28] Carina Gardner: Yeah. So, um, in terms of product, I know this is a scrapbooking audience. Those of your scrapbookings, that people who, who transfer over to the quilting market, my new line, um, uh, Ciao Bella comes out November 1st. That will be in fabric stores everywhere. Um, I haven't seen the numbers for it, but the line usually ends up in most of the big stores at this point, um, for Riley Blake. So that's the that's if you want fabric, I'm really excited about this line. It's um, I think it's the best line I've ever done, but you know, every line I think is the best line I've ever done.
[00:45:06] Jennifer Wilson: Are there any sneak peaks of that anywhere like on your Instagram?
[00:45:09] Carina Gardner: If you go to Instagram, you can go see some sneak peaks of the line, but yeah. Super fun. Um, if you're interested in design, I recommend going to CarinaGardnerCourses.com and seeing what I'm offering there.
[00:45:22] Carina Gardner: Um, we generally do these little like inexpensive boot camps once in a while. Um, and that's when we usually open up a Design Suite. We also do have like, um, a series coming up. Where we're training people and talking about Design Suite. So that's another way you might be able to get in. We, we do close it down sometimes because of the size of the program.
[00:45:43] Carina Gardner: So, because if you come into my program, I wanna make sure that I know you, we have waitlisted certain aspects. We have tiers of the program. We've waitlisted tiers of the program before. So, um, but we're rolling. So it means we do open up at certain times. And so you could come in in October and start your program.
[00:46:03] Carina Gardner: You could come in November and start your program. So, um, cuz we're very, we're very rolling in that way. And for us, we are just always looking for just the right fit, usually. Um, someone who's excited who wants to learn, you don't have to know how to design yet. You just have to be really um, we like, we have a very kind community, a very not competitive community.
[00:46:25] Carina Gardner: It is total and complete, um, collaboration versus competition. Um, and everyone in that community is helping each other move forward, which is amazing. Um, so we're always just looking for the right people that will, we know that we can push forward, make great designers. Um, and that's really probably at Carinagardnercourses.com.
[00:46:49] Jennifer Wilson: All right. Great. We'll include that link in the show notes for this episode. Carina, this has been so fun. Thank you for spending time with me.
[00:46:55] Carina Gardner: Thank you.
[00:46:56] Jennifer Wilson: And to all of our listeners, please remember that you have permission to Scrapbook and to design your way.
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