After a Katie-is-moving-cross-country break, I am pleased to announce the Plucky Pioneer series is back in full swing starting NOW! I’m even more excited to be kicking things off again with two of the sweetest, most creative young women you ever did meet, Jen Jafarzadeh L’Italien and Chris Haber, of Cabin 7. These ladies use the age-old craft of gilding to create some of the most lovely modern objects for the home. From vintage wood blocks to white birch cardholders, I love that the Cabin 7 collection is truly a celebration of both new and old. Without further ado, our 15th installment of Plucky Pioneers…
Five words used to describe yourself.
Chris: creative, outgoing, loyal, generous, technologically-impaired
Jen: curious, passionate, workaholic, thoughtful, storyteller
What inspires you creatively?
Chris: I’m inspired by things in nature. And I constantly look to magazines for inspiration — tear out favorite pages. I’m also inspired by things I loved in my childhood.
Jen: The list of places where I find inspiration is seemingly endless these days: definitely magazines and books are still a big part, but the blog world has uncapped a constant stream of inspiration. I’m passionately in love with the history and charm of vintage finds. I can happily walk in an antique shop and spend hours sifting through what some people may call junk, but I see as some of the ultimate treasures.
Who were/are your design mentors?
Chris: The people I’ve worked with along the way. Eli Rios (worked at his furniture restoration studio for years), Paul Thimau (amazing screenprinting professor at F.I.T.) and Thomas Venturella (I did a stained glass internship with him and created a 16 foot tall stained glass window.)
Jen: Honestly I’m sitting next to one! Chris is definitely one of my design mentors. She’s not only my shop partner and friend, but she’s the one who taught me everything I know about gilding. She really loves the craft and she has her own amazing, crazy tricks and methods for making gilded objects — her love of the art is infectious. The editor who hired me at Real Simple, Kelly Tagore, was my first design mentor. She taught me how to how to seek out inspiration but then create your own fresh twist on an idea – and how to produce photo shoots. And working alongside incredible stylists along the way, like Lili Diallo helped me develop my own style and hone in on finding what feels right in creating a pretty photo.
How would you describe your personal design aesthetic?
Chris: I like color and I’m not afraid to use color. I’m attracted to designs that make me happy.
Jen: I appreciate modern, but my true style is always rooted in vintage elements. I also love repurposing antiques to make them work for here and now (I have a library card catalog case organized with all my hardware supplies and tools.) I got married on a farm in Maine and the elements and decorations came together in my true aesthetic — a love of handmade, rustic, natural beauty.
What propelled you to found your own company?
We knew we wanted to do a business together for a while. We both have different strengths to contribute, which helps make our business work, and we’ve known each other since we were 11. We both have worked at jobs where we’re working so hard for someone else and felt like we could work for ourselves, do what we love to do, and make money. You get to a point where you know what you’re worth. It’s also sweet to have total creative control of what you do. And it’s pretty amazing to work alongside one of your best friends!
Most glamourous part of owning your own company?
Making your own hours. Seeing people love what you created.
Least glamourous part of owning your own company?
The structure and organization you need with bookkeeping, taxes, all the stuff you have to be disciplined about but wish you could ignore.
Best business advice you’ve been given?
You don’t need 50 great ideas for a business, just a few solid ideas that are fresh. Don’t give up on a good idea even if it doesn’t take off right away.
Creative businesswoman you admire?
It’s impossible not to list Martha Stewart. She’s amazing.
What keeps your organized and on task?
Moment you knew you’d “made it”?
We haven’t even looked up since this all started, but being featured on Daily Candy less than a month out from our shop launch was definitely a wow moment.
Describe your typical work day…
It depends on what we’re working on, but typically we meet up and gild together, focusing on one type of object. Luckily, it’s easy to gild and talk, so our days fly by so fast.
Your dream project?
Chris: I would love to gild inside the interior of some historical landmark.
Jen: It would be a dream to gild something for John Derian’s shop.
What goals do you have for your business in the future?
We’re hoping to do Renegade Brooklyn next year. We have a few collections up our sleeves that we’re working on. We want to continue to expand the shop with unique twists on gilded objects. We’d love to see our gilded objects sold in boutiques sometime down the line.
Advice to other budding creative entrepreneurs?
Remember to keep it simple and don’t do everything at once. A big part of starting out is strategically narrowing down and editing yourself.