There’s no place like home for the holidays, and there’s no better way to say it than with a greeting card from Row House 14. Seriously, if you want your gifting to stand out this season, then you need Heidi Shenk’s funny-’cause-they’re-true cards and adorable wrapping paper.
I chatted with Heidi about how it all started, a cute orange cat, and my love of her wrapping paper.
Just B More: First things first, where does the name Row House 14 come from and how long have you been in the business of making fun paper products?
Heidi Shenk: Just until recently, my studio was in our [husband’s and my] tiny guest bedroom in our Baltimore row house. Fourteen was the address number of our home and my studio, hence the name Row House 14.
Row House 14 turns seven at the end of November. I can’t quite believe that myself, but time certainly flies when you’re having fun!
JBM: What made you think, “I’m going to make stationery and awesome pencils?” Did you make other items before Row House 14?
HS: This is my first official small business endeavor, but I’ve always made things to sell, even as a small child. I come from a family of makers, so it always seemed natural. Illustration has probably been my favorite form of art. My parents are both self-employed makers, so doing something of the same always felt more normal to me than more traditional occupations.
I also love humor and writing and so I think it came naturally that I could do all of those things with greeting cards. I used to teach in Baltimore City and I needed a creative outlet for the days that burned me out. Illustrating and writing were those outlets and that’s essentially how Row House 14 came about.
JBM: So about that humor. Where do you get the inspiration for your hilarious pieces?
HS: If you find yourself chuckling about one of my cards, mostly likely there is a personal story behind it that you can relate to. I draw from my own personal experiences, jokes amongst friends, or other daily life realities. I believe laughter in life is essential. If you can’t laugh about your own downfalls or mistakes, then it’s harder to get through life.
My husband and I also have a very twisted sense of humor, so some of my best selling cards have come from jokes made while sitting at the table eating dinner. Some of my favorite cards are those starring my orange tabby, Finn. He’s the epitome of the phrase curiosity killed the cat. The cards that he stars in are representations of true stories about him, and they also happen to be things that many other people can relate to.
JBM: I’m very partial to the ‘Holy Shit Balls’ wrapping paper. I remember I HAD to have it and I get so many compliments on it. Everyone loves to get a gift wrapped in it!)
HS: I’m glad people love the gift wrap! It’s one of my faves!
JBM: I know that in the world of small business, shows and events are a common part of life. Do you travel far and often with your work?
HS: I don’t travel much specifically for work, though I do sometimes vend at art markets in Philadelphia and Richmond, Virginia. However, when I do travel for fun, which is fairly often, I’m always on the lookout for new card shops and interesting paper goods. I love finding inspiration in these kinds of places while I’m taking time off from my own work.
While I don’t travel very far, my cards do! My cards can be found in many retail stores across the country, and one of the most rewarding feelings is getting a text message from a friend who happened upon one of my cards while they were traveling or shopping at a local store.
JBM: I always ask this question: What do you love most about what you do?
HS: I love hearing different stories from my customers about why they buy my cards or the significance behind a card they are giving to someone. When I sell my cards at art markets, it’s so much fun watching people reading my cards, laughing, and listening to their reactions. Often, people will open up to me about something that they were able to relate to through my work, and hearing those stories is why I do what I do.
JBM: Your cards are so great, I could see them in the big box stores. Are you hoping to “get noticed” and become a staple at one of the large corporate retailers?
HS: While it would be fun to find my cards in larger stores, it’s not a priority for me. Enjoying what I do and sharing that with other people is a bigger driving force for me. I prefer being a part of locally owned shops that I can build personal relationships with rather than larger chain stores, because I think it’s important to support that community wherever you live.
JBM: So when someone wants one (or ten!) of your awesome cards, what are the best ways to get in touch with you ?
HS: People can find me via my website or Etsy shop. I’m also a huge fan of Instagram and love connecting with people there @rowhouse14. During the holidays, you can find me at all sorts of local markets. And I’ll be at the Last Stop Hops and Shop event at Peabody Brewing on the 21st of December.
JBM: So fun talking with you. Have a great holiday!