Interview with Phoebe Cochran of Heart of Phoebe
Happy New Year everyone! Here's the interview with our Fairbanks box artist, Phoebe Cochran. I sat down with her on Skype, and we talked about making the transition from hobby to business, our similar musical tastes, and more! Without further ado. :)
Just start off by giving us an introduction and telling us about Heart of Phoebe.
PHOEBE COCHRAN: Okay. Well, my name is Phoebe Cochran. I am 19 years old. I will be 20 in February. I wasn't really intending to ever start a business. I've always wanted to teach art later on in life, but whenever I decided what I wanted to do with my life, it was never, "I want to grow up and be an artist." It was always, "I want to grow up, be a wife and a mother” and see where that takes me." Then, a couple of years ago, I started getting people asking me if I could paint them some things for money, and I would charge them very little because I didn't really want to do it for money. I just liked to paint, and draw, and do whatever I could as far as the arts were concerned. Then sometime back in 2016, I was like, "Well, there's no reason why I couldn't." I wasn't really open to subjecting myself and letting everybody see all the mess behind the creations necessarily, but early 2017, I launched my website and all my social media and started selling myself and it kind of blew up from there. Now it's a year later and I just hit a thousand followers on Instagram. My Facebook isn't nearly as active, but I get a lot of orders from my Etsy. I do a lot of custom local things. I work with a lot of different shops here in town, which is Fairbanks. I guess I should have said that. *laughs* Born and raised in Fairbanks. I don't really plan on leaving. As for the name Heart of Phoebe, that comes from -- I'm really a fan of the anatomical part of the design. I wouldn't necessarily consider myself a realist but versus optimist, pessimist, realist, I'd probably meet somewhere in the middle. And then sunflowers are the symbol of always looking on the bright side. So it's kind of a juxtaposition with the realism of the heart and then the sunflowers of the symbol. That's kind of where I got my logo and my name. Very cool. I always like to hear the story behind the name and the logo. PHOEBE: Yeah. That's a lot of people's question. Yeah, for sure. You'd mentioned earlier that you weren't planning to actually do it for money originally. You said that someone had asked you, a couple of people had asked you. Was that just friends initially? How did that come about? PHOEBE: Yeah, some friends. Some friends of friends. A lot of my parents' friends would come up there, or they'd ask my parents, "Hey, I know your daughter does this. Would she do this for this amount of money?" And since I didn't really care about the money, I just did it for them and they seemed to like it, so that's where that started off. I had some friends that would end up telling their friends, "Hey, there's this person that does this if you want to ask her."
Right on. So since you weren't planning to do it from the beginning, what was that transition like when you finally decided, "I'm going to do this as a business."? PHOEBE: It was harder. I think since I'm not at the stage of life where I'm ready or close to being what I intend, which is a wife and mother, since I'm not at that point, I like the idea of doing what I love to do and possibly making a living off of it, which currently is easier said than done. There are still financial struggles but it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be to transition from hobby to business because I really enjoy the business side of things. Awesome. As far as the business side, did you just do research on your own? Did you have people close to you like family or friends that you talked to that had experience? PHOEBE: A lot was just research on my own, which I probably could have fast-tracked that if I was to talk to somebody that knew what they were doing. I had too much pride for my own good. Lately I've realized that that's not very helpful at all when starting your own business. *laughs* So I've talked to a lot more people recently versus at the beginning. In the beginning, I just wanted everybody to think I knew what I was doing. I think a lot of us when we start out are like, "Let's just see how things go," and then hit that point where it becomes, "Well, maybe I should talk to someone who's kind of gone through it a little bit." Even if you're taking certain things with a grain of salt, you at least get to pick someone's brain. PHOEBE: Right, yeah. And they're always super helpful. It's always, "Hey, I've noticed you did this, and could you help me?" And they're super helpful. I feel like a lot of Alaskan businesses are super community-oriented and willing to help others, which is awesome. Very cool. And so, you already, I'm assuming, have connected with other Alaskan artists then as well since you've been doing this? PHOEBE: Yes. And was that all since you kind of went more of the business route, or was that already kind of happening at least a little bit when you were still doing it just for you?
PHOEBE: Yeah. There was a little bit of connection while I was just doing it as a hobby for myself but it really blew up a lot once I made my business, specifically Instagram, since it's super popular right now. I would get other artists, other Alaskan artists specifically, that would contact me and we'd just talk. It wasn't a purchase. It wasn't a business thing, it was just talking. And then other makers in Alaska, people that make hats, jewelry, it slowly developed from being just artists. A lot of people that I talk to and regularly communicate with, and they do the same as me, it's a constant shout out and cycle of people supporting each other so it definitely grew once I opened my business up for sales versus just doing it for myself. For sure. I feel like, at that point, anyone that you interact with knows, "Oh. This is kind of what she wants. She's wanting to get the word out there more, so we're going to help with that." PHOEBE: Yeah, exactly. That's awesome. As far as inspiration for what you do, and I'm sure it varies, but where do you kind of derive your inspiration from? PHOEBE: Honestly, I think a lot of it is from music, and I know that sounds pretty cliché. I grew up listening to rock and roll and Metallica with my dad. So we're super -- I'd like to call ourselves edgy, but I'm not as edgy as I would like to think I am. *laughs* But I think a lot of it does stem from the quirkiness of different music, different quotes. My dad will say a random phrase, and I'm like, "Hey, I want to do something that has to do with that." I think it's just a lot of everyday life where I like to do things that people wouldn't expect. Now that's something that's super popular right now where it's like, "Oh, that's something. That's kind of cool." I'm not going to change my agenda or my style because, honestly, I don't really have a specific style. I get bored really easily doing the same thing over and over, which I think is why I offer a lot of different things because then people can kind of pick and choose what they want. A lot of what I do comes from random quotes and music, just weird everyday life. I really like juxtapositions with something big, and something small. Things like that.
Very cool. And so, you mentioned Metallica earlier and some of it coming from that. Is that what you listen to primarily? Is it just metal, and you get it from that? Is it a variety of music? PHOEBE: It's honestly everything. I rarely gather inspiration from pop music, like the super in stuff. That's probably the artist side coming out of me. "I'm not going to follow the crowd." *laughs* Most of it seems a little more surface level I feel like too. PHOEBE: Exactly, yeah. I really appreciate the deeper stuff. Sometimes my dad prompts me with ideas. I listen to a lot of, indie folk, Metallica. I play piano, so I listen to a lot of classical music as well. It depends on the mood that I'm in. Yeah, for sure. That makes sense. As far as when you go to make something new is it, "Oh, this sounds fun, so I'm doing this," or is it someone coming to you and saying, "Hey, I want a certain kind of print, but maybe I want you to kind of put your interpretation on it."? PHOEBE: A lot of people, when they come to me with an idea, they're like, "This is the idea. You do whatever you want with it,” and those are the ones I like the most because then I know that they've seen my style, and they know what they like. I've had a couple of people that'll send me a photo and want something similar to it so sometimes that does still happen but more often than not, it's either something I've painted that people just want, and they just buy it, or it's something like, "These are just a few words that describe the piece, do whatever you want." Very rarely do I actually get somebody that wants something specific or with only a small twist on it. And like you said, you prefer it that way because it's your artistic license to put your own spin on it. I imagine it's just cool to hear that they've seen your other work, appreciate your style, and are choosing you specifically because of your style and not just your skill. PHOEBE: Exactly. They're not just looking for a replica of something. Right. That's cool. As far as when you started out, did you have any artists that you really admired initially? PHOEBE: I feel like he's a lot of people's favorite artist, but Vincent Van Gogh. I don't really follow a lot of modern artists, other than on Instagram where we'll kind of talk. My love for sunflowers came from him. Also, he was a very troubled soul. Not that I consider myself a very troubled soul, but I always liked how real he was, and his style of art was very consistent, which I appreciate. Mine is not, but that's my niche. I also really like Edvard Munch, who did The Scream painting. He's super classic and twisted. That's where I get my love for the stranger, darker side of things. Right on. That's awesome. As far as, let's say, like five years from now, Heart of Phoebe, where do you see the business? Do you have a certain idea in mind, or is it more, "I'm going to take things as they go"?
PHOEBE: Yeah, I have ideas and goals. Most of my goals are probably more of a 10-year type thing. In the long run, I'd love to have a storefront and to be able to teach classes there, sell my art. I sell a lot of other things too. I make my own jewelry and hats, and I'm starting a line of clothes where I’ve hand painted onto denim. With the storefront, I’d also like to have a manager, so I'm not dealing with all the other stuff. I could just create all day. I do like it but sometimes the whole business side of things gets in the way when I'm just trying to create items and get them out. As for five years, I want to be self-supporting, fully comfortable. I wouldn't necessarily need a storefront in five years to be content. I find myself content now, but there's always new goals to reach, new places to go. I'd love to be able to travel more around Alaska to go to different places because, like I said, I don't really plan on leaving Alaska. I am planning on converting an old school bus into a traveling studio, so I think that would be my first five-year goal thing versus a storefront. I would just have my studio, so I can open the front of the bus and have a little nomad life for a little bit. Yeah, cruise around a bit. Sounds like a lot of fun. So here's more of a fun, nonbusiness-related question. You were talking about how music inspires you earlier. Do you have a favorite band? PHOEBE: So, genre would definitely be more metal, rock and roll type of vibe. I find myself leaning a lot more towards the heavier stuff versus the lighter, happy go lucky. I like happy people. I consider myself happy most of the time but something about happy music doesn't really make me happy. Not that sad music does or angry music, but I like the more in-depth guitar riffs. I'm a very musical person. I like to know how much work went into a certain song, or piece, or something. I actually just went to go see the movie, Bohemian Rhapsody. Nice. I heard good things. How was that? PHOEBE: It was amazing. I went to go see it twice. They did a really good job. Queen is one of my favorite bands. In a weird way, I kind of relate myself to them because they did a whole bunch of different types of genres. They didn't just stick to one thing. Very cool. I'm that way too. I prefer heavier music in general. I totally get what you're saying about not really being a fan of happy music, but still like, "Hey, I'm a happy person." So, yeah, I totally get what you're saying. And it's cool to hear about Bohemian Rhapsody. I've been wanting to check it out. I really like Rami Malek. I watch Mr. Robot and he's a great actor. So, seeing him as Freddie Mercury, I figured he'd pull it off. PHOEBE: Yeah, definitely. As far as the Bear Box, what was it about the Bear Box that made you want to be a part of it?
PHOEBE: Honestly, I had never heard of somebody doing an Alaskan subscription box. All my relatives are in Illinois or on the East Coast, so I don't have any family, other than my immediate family, up here in Alaska. I know that they would absolutely love the opportunity to order a box or subscribe and get something that would be where their other family members live. So I thought it was super cool that you guys are putting other Alaskan products in this box and shipping it out to whoever because if I understand correctly, it's not just an Alaskan thing. Oh, absolutely. PHOEBE: I know people from Florida that are super interested in it. Everybody's super enamored by the idea of Alaska and Alaskan products, even if they're not from here. I think it's super cool that even people from here, they're super enamored too by the Alaskan products and businesses because a lot of places wouldn't necessarily be proud of the businesses where they're from because they kind of get old pretty fast, but I think Alaska keeps us on our toes. I just like the idea of a bunch of artists and makers and business owners getting together. I feel like being a part of it just kind of brings, like I said, the whole Alaskan community closer together. Yeah, for sure. And that's definitely been our goal is tying everyone together, not only, like you said, us as Alaskan business owners tying everybody together but also tying in more people from outside to us just in a way of saying like, "Hey, check out this cool stuff we do. We have a lot of great entrepreneurs, and artists, and everything here. Get this box and check out what we do, so you can kind of see that unique side of Alaska." So, yeah, that's been a big driving force for us for sure. PHOEBE: Yeah. That's awesome. So, I guess I'll end with, do you have any final thoughts you'd like to add, any events that you know you're going to be at that you can share? PHOEBE: As far as Fairbanks is concerned, I have a show on January 4th. It's at a place called the River City Cafe, and I’ll be there from 5:00 to 8:00. I’m offering 6 different hand painted jackets, some denim, some leather. I hope to offer more than just jackets soon, but I need to be discerning and not stretch myself too thin currently. I’m so very excited about it! I’ve told the public that if they bring me an old piece of clothing to “donate” toward my hand painted collection, they will receive either a free sticker or an extra entry in my $100 gift certificate giveaway that will be open for locals at my show as well. I’ll be in Anchorage sometime during the spring, but I don't have any dates for that yet. There's a company called BLANKspace. It's just like a clean white room that's super cool, and I'm going to come and host a show there sometime hopefully during the spring, which will also be with the new clothing thing. Also, my one year anniversary is coming up in January as well, so I’m pulling out all the stops for the show next week and hoping for a great turn out. I actually have a photo shoot next week with local girls that are modeling my jackets, which is just another way of connecting with my Fairbanks community and banding together.
Congratulations! Time to celebrate. PHOEBE: Yeah, definitely. As far as the spring and things like that, definitely keep us posted. You can always shoot me an email and let me know. I'd like to do like a little roundup post down the road here where I kind of look back at some of the past businesses we've hosted and artists that we've hosted and kind of give an update of like, "Here are some other cool things that they're doing. Here's something new that they're doing." The denim, like you said, stuff that we can mention. I don't want it to be a one and done with the relationship that we've created. PHOEBE: That's cool. I'll make sure and let you know. Well, that's all I have. Thank you, Phoebe. I super appreciate you taking the time and really happy to have you in our Fairbanks box. PHOEBE: Yeah, super happy. Looking forward to everyone getting it and being able to see what you do. PHOEBE: Yeah, thank you. Thank you. PHOEBE: It was nice to meet you. Nice to meet you too.
A big, big thank you to Phoebe for her wonderful art and sharing this experience with us! If you want to check out more of her art, please take a look at her website. Feel free to connect with her on Facebook and Instagram as well.