Aimee Smith of Wang Dang Doodle Press
Aimee Smith, of Wang Dang Doodle Press, is a woman of many talents. When you step into her house, you can tell that she has made or altered almost every piece of furniture. Upholstered chairs, printed pillows and reclaimed wooden furniture all have a signature Wang Dang Doodle look to them. The look is vibrant, fun, bold and unexpected. Her studio is extremely well organized, and her inspirations line the walls. Although her work is bold and loud, she knows how to give her designs space and breathing room, which is my favorite aspect to her work. It is bold and thoughtfully so.
What products/services do you offer?
I am a printmaker by training (BFA in Printmaking). I started Wang Dang Doodle Press in 2014 as a screen print shop. I started by selling small prints and cheeky journals. As my business and I have evolved, I have grown to pursue more substantial pieces.Our new line is breaching into furniture making and homegoods. I love making things that people can have a relationship with. To me, there is no greater reward as an artist to make a piece that says “home” when people see it in their space.
What made you decide to start your own print shop?
I started my business when I was a junior in college. As an art major, I quickly tired of people saying “Good luck making a living with *that* degree”. So I registered as a sole proprietor to prove that I could make a living if I stopped waiting around for other people to make it happen for me. I started doing craft shows, making a little pocket money here and there mostly just for fun. A few weeks before I graduated, my steady job suddenly disintegrated. I thought “I can go find another crumby job that makes me feel exhausted and belittled, or I can just go all in and make all the beautiful things I always wanted to make”. I am so glad I put the crumby jobs behind me and took a chance on myself.
Have you overcome any business flops or hurdles?
Oh man, tons! There are countless struggles to being an entrepreneur. It takes a lot of effort to make a small honest living, most of the time you are funding your own experiments, successes, and failures, not to mention plain old back breaking work. However, all of those struggles are completely worth it and easy to endure if you truly believe in yourself and what you are doing. My biggest flops and discouragements have happened when I would make things because I thought they would sell, not because I loved them and believed in them. If those items did sell well I would walk away feeling absolutely nothing. I didn’t feel proud, I didn’t feel rewarded, it was like I was just clocking in at any other place. If they didn’t sell, I would just ask myself “What am I even doing here?!” Once I started making things that I really loved, even if they didn’t sell I could still feel proud and know I was going in the right direction. That belief is what will fund your business long term- not the money.
What do you do really well?
Almost more than making my products, I love making my displays! There is this huge wooden wall that my husband and I made that weighs an absurd amount and takes forever to assemble; but dangit, we love it! Coming up with new ways to display is one of my favorite things, and I think I have a knack for it.
What about Wang Dang Doodle Press are you most proud of?
I am proud of the spirit of my business. I choose the name “Wang Dang Doodle Press” because it was just plain silly. I wanted the business to always have a spirit of joy, whimsy, and silliness, and I think I have maintained that. Even if people don’t stop at my booth during a craft show, they almost always crack a smile at the name. To me that is an absolute win.
Do you have a favorite story about your business?
I did a show in Indianapolis a year or so ago and had just the best interactions with people. One of my prints has a house with a plant coming out of the chimney that an older man was very interested in. He kept asking about the specific type of plant and why I choose it. We quickly bonded about Midwest prairie plants, gardening, and the joys of being a home body. It was such a sweet interaction and sale because I knew he ultimately purchased something that he had a real connection with. That was a proud moment for me.
Have you faced any adversity being a woman in your field?
I would say that I have been extremely fortunate in that way. The makers of St. Louis are really stand-up people. There is a larger female population in the maker scene, but the men I have worked with have been very supportive and kind as well. Occasionally people will assume that I made all the pillows in my booth but my husband surely must have made the furniture. The truth is, I exclusively made both. There is still surprise that a woman can take on woodworking projects, but I’m hopeful that the shock factor will continue to decrease in that way. I try to be gracious but firm in those interactions and my husband is very quick to put both hands up and say “It’s all her!”
Is there anything else about being a badass business babe that you’d like to share?
I would just like to share how fun it is! There are definitely frustrating moments, but the freedom and ability to connect creatively with people is really worth cherishing.
If you liked Wang Dang Doodle Press? Want to see more Saint Louis Doyennes? You might like these ladies: