Interview with Renee Jensen of AK Creekside Designs
It's been a while coming, but here's our first interview for our Eagle River & Valley Box! I'm happy that I got to talk with Renee Jensen about AK Creekside Designs. We chatted about how she got started (RIP Flash), her plans for the future, and more. Here we go.
Tell me a bit about yourself, AK Creekside Designs, and how you got started?
RENEE JENSEN: I am retired Air Force and have always had a knack for crafty projects; I was often asked to gifts for friends and family, using vinyl for decals, shirts, and signs. I took the plunge to becoming a small business after supporting a heartbreaking event. My husband and I are dog people and have 5 rescues, so when I heard about a stolen van with a dog inside, it caught our attention. Flash, the dog, was in a van that was stolen from a construction site while his dad worked in the area. The van was especially fitted for Flash to relax and stay cool while dad was working. Local dog lovers and friends posted on social media in hopes of getting Flash back. There was a lot of attention and sightings of the van and Flash but the suspects always eluded the cops and witnesses. Sadly, the outcome was not good, Flash didn't survive when the van was found abandoned and he was locked in it during the hottest days of that year. To show my support, raise awareness of the case and for animal cruelty, I made a vinyl decal #JUSTICEFORFLASH and a shirt to give to Mark, Flash's owner. I posted it on Facebook and from there, people were asking for decals and shirts; I had to get help from a shirt business for the shirt order! I sold the items to anyone who wanted them and left decals randomly to raise awareness. The money raised was given to Mark's charity of choice and those of us who attended the court hearings wore the shirts while standing by Mark for support.
That's so terrible and sad. :( I'm sure your support was truly appreciated and I think it's pretty amazing to see people band together in support of something like that. I just wish it didn't have to be because of terrible circumstances. I'm guessing you didn't expect it to blow up the way that it did. Was it a little overwhelming at first?
RENEE: Making the decals and shirts were a little overwhelming but it was quickly eased when a local vinyl crafter offered her assistance making them and the shirt shop was awesome in providing their services while only charging for cost of material, no profit.
Can you tell me a bit more about your process when it comes to brainstorming exactly how to tackle a particular project?
RENEE: When I envision a challenging project, I research online while asking questions in private forums for solutions when I encounter issues. Some projects come from happy accidents while others come from just buying something to try and see if it works with my ideas. I engage my husband with more technical stuff when working with wood, that's his preferred craft.
Do you come up with a lot of the ideas yourself, is it custom requests, or is it a good mix of both?
RENEE: Products are often a mix of custom requests and my ideas. I'm always looking to offer products not easily found locally while custom requests come with ideas of what a client wants. When I speak with them, I try to get a feel of their style from speaking with them while they provide photos of what they like; I then put a unique spin on it, something that can't be found on similar items sold elsewhere. Many times we add an Alaskan flair which customers love. I love the idea of putting a unique spin on things and throwing in some Alaskan flair too. When it comes to things like that, where do you find your inspiration coming from or does it vary?
RENEE: I get my ideas for adding unique details from things I see on other products. For example, I saw state cutouts with an alcohol ink background placed in the cutout area. That's where I got my idea to add a photo to enhance the type of cut out, such as a bear or the state.
Do you have any favorite customer stories that you can share with us?
RENEE: I don't have a particular favorite. I always love seeing customer reactions when they see the end result of their idea turned into a final product. We often get requests on things we have yet to produce and enjoy the challenge of making it happen.
Out of all of your products, which has been the most fun to create?
RENEE: Frankly, all my products are fun to make, there's nothing like seeing the end result of something that was just an idea whether it was mine or a customer's. Photography is one of my hobbies so creating a laser engraved frame with Alaskan-shaped cutouts, producing my own metal prints of photos & installing it behind the cutout has been a recent favorite. I was even asked to do a write-up on it from an online woodworking site. I enjoy knowing that I'm sharing my photos of our state while making a unique product for display.
That's really cool that you were able to combine two of your talents like that! So they just contacted you out of the blue? That must have been another awesome feeling. Do they still want to do more collaborating in the future?
RENEE: I'm part of a few different Facebook laser forum groups where members post their creations or ask for assistance. I posted my cutout with metal print on one and was contacted by the local magazine to do a write up on how I made them while incorporating two processes. They have someone in the forum and monitor ideas and will invite members to do a write up for articles.
Where do you see AK Creekside Designs 5 years from now?
RENEE: Family matters will most likely have AKCD relocating within 5 years but until then, I foresee participating in more awareness events while giving back to the community through fundraisers, random giveaways, and running AKCD full time from home.
Do you have any upcoming design ideas that you can share with us?
RENEE: There are multiple ideas in the works but I'm looking into providing memorial products (urns & yard markers) for those who've lost a pet with digital imaging or custom engraving at a reasonable price.
What was it about The Bear Box that made you want to be a part of it?
RENEE: The concept of having our own Alaskan subscription box featuring small businesses was a venture I wanted to be a part of. To be able to share Alaskan theme/derived products to locals or outsiders is a great way to share our Alaska pride of what the state has to offer while highlighting small business services and products.
Anything else that you haven't mentioned yet that you'd like to? Any words of wisdom?
RENEE: Do what you love whether it's often or not, it just may open more doors than you imagined. My path crossed with Flash and Mark's, it opened the door to help raise awareness, offer personalized services, and help clients turn their ideas into reality through gifts and products.