I came to Kristi Quill and her company Barn Owl Primitives via one of my heroines, Brene Brown.  Brene wrote a blog post about Kristi and her endearing, uplifting, charming, and wise “signs to decorate your life,” and I was enchanted by Kristi’s unpretentious and straightforward aesthetic, her bright sunniness of palette and temperament, and her untreacly, realistic optimism.  Kristi and I have had so much fun getting to know each other via email, and I can say that in addition to being a wonderful artist, she is also an absolutely lovely, down-to-earth, humble, sweet, funny, and altogether wonderful human being!   Here is a woman whose runaway success is truly well-deserved and whose modesty, commitment to good things and good work, gratitude, and golden heart can be examples for us all.  Here is a Q &A that will inspire you, embolden you, and delight you!

1) Tell us how you came up with the idea to make “signs to decorate your life.” 

A few years ago, when money was tight and making handcrafted Christmas gifts seemed like the way to go, I started making hand-painted, door-hanging snowmen for my family and friends. They were well-received and friends of friends started placing orders. That snowballed into Barn Owl Primitives {BOP}, and a little shop on Etsy was born.
Since snowmen eventually melt, I needed to add some things to my shop that would last all year. I started with You are My Sunshine and Family Rules typography word art signs. Fast forward almost three years, and the writing is all over the wall.

2) What is your background in the visual arts and what visual artists and architects inspire you?

Ironically, I don’t have a background in art.  My degrees are in Family and Child Development and Early Childhood Education.  I guess you could say I’m a self taught artist.  But I believe it’s my love for math and problem solving that actually enables me to use both the positive and negative space with words on a board to create art.  My 11th grade math teacher, Mr. Misner, taught us that “Math is not emotional.  Math is true.”  I always challenged him because I loved solving problems in our functions / analytics class from the outside in and using no traditional formulas and functions to achieve the answers.  I told him it was my passion for math that made it emotional.   I’ve finally figured out a way to truly make my “math” emotional.  Wonder what Mr. Misner would say if he could see me now.

3) What was the first sign you made?  What’s your favorite sign you’ve made?

The first sign I made was our family rules sign.  It hangs in our kitchen and reminds us daily about what’s important and inspires us to be the very best big and little people that we can be.  Choosing a favorite sign is impossible.  Really.

4) Which signs do you have in your own home, and in which rooms?

Our family rules sign hangs in our kitchen, along with a Grocery sign above our pantry and a Mom’s Diner Hot Food • Good Company sign above our kitchen table.  A we can do hard things hangs above our front door to encourage us as we brave each new day.  A typewriter alphabet sign hangs in our family room because, as I’m sure you’ve noticed,  I’m obsessed with letters.  I rotate motivational signs through my studio.  Currently I have three decorating my life.  Two are my favorite quotes by Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Edison and the third is my creators rules sign.

5) As someone who’s kept a quote book since 7th grade and shares inspiring and motivating quotations daily on Facebook and Twitter, I am an ardent believer in the power of pithy phrases and resonant sentences to offer jolts of inspiration and comfort during times of stress.  How do you think affirmations and reminders like the ones on your signs can help us cultivate resilience, achieve success at work and in our relationships, and attain a greater degree of serenity and joy?

As an educator, I learned the power of positive reinforcement.  As a mother, I’m living the power of positive reinforcement.  I truly believe that we can create  our own forms of positive reinforcement in our lives simply by the choices that we make.    We are responsible for our own energy.  And we draw on the energy of those around us.  
Surrounding ones self with wit, inspiration and motivation sends a positive message not only to yourself but to all who enter your space.

6) What music inspires you?  Do you listen to music while you work?  

I LOVE Pandora and always listen to music when I work.    My current favorite station is Zac Brown Band with Dispatch, Cold Play and America (thrown in for some throwback memories of my childhood.)    I guess I’m a little bit country and a little bit rock-n-roll.

7) Where do you get ideas for your work and in what conditions do you work best?  

I get most of my ideas for my work through every day life.  I analyze everything and often look for things that I can spin into signs.  I’m always looking at motivational quotes and love weaving ideas together to create unique pieces of art.  I do my best work at night after my house has gone to sleep.  My mind is free to create and wonder and dream.  In those quiet moments, I can escape reality and get lost in the paint and the letters and the designs.  When I started, I used to fire up the power tools at night too.  I’m fairly certain my neighbors all rejoiced when I made the adjustment and now only turn them on while the sun is smiling down on my driveway!

8) What are some of your favorite quotations?

“I am a great believer in LUCK, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
“Opportunity is missed by post people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  ~ Thomas Edison
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” 
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” ~ Harriet Tubman
“Anything is possible. Anything can be.” – Shel Silverstein
“All art requires courage.”  ~ Anne Tucker

9) I’m a huge admirer of Brene Brown.  Can you tell me how you know Brene and about the work you’ve done for and with her?

Last summer a dear friend sent me a link to Brené’s first TED talk.  I watched it 10 times (in one night) and then immediately bought two of her books on Amazon.  A few days later, I was inspired to create my Be Real sign.  (https://www.etsy.com/listing/79064674/be-real-be-wholehearted-with-bunting)  My shop was closed at the time, so the sign just sat in my studio waiting for the shop to reopen.   I opened my shop and was getting ready to list my new designs when I received an order for a playroom rules sign.  When I saw the customer name I screamed out loud and nearly fell off the couch.  Someone pinch me, Brené Brown ordered my playroom rules sign.    So I did what any level headed person would do.  I immediately emailed her, gushing all over her about how much I loved her and her books and her work.  I also shared a photo of the Be Real sign.  She emailed back a few minutes later, ordered 3 and asked me if I’d be interested in doing a giveaway.  A few months ago I created a custom We Can Do Hard Things sign for her as well.  It hangs in her kitchen and inspires her and her family to never give up.  I’ve already pre-ordered her new book, Daring Greatly, and cannot wait to read it in September.

10) Who inspires you?  These can be public figures, authors, historical figures, people from your personal life?

For me, it’s more about what inspires me.  I’d say life inspires me.  I find inspiration in everything around me.  Simple trips to the park, library, farmers market and antique stores have lead to some of my favorite signs.  My family is also a great source of inspiration.

11) What’s the best advice you could give other parents about how to juggle creative aspirations, the exigencies of professional life, and the demands of parenting?

Know your limits.  Ask for help when you need it and more importantly, accept help when it is offered.  Set a schedule.  Be flexible.  Determine what you can let go of and outsource when you can.  For me, hiring a cleaning service and a landscaper has made a big difference and freed up several hours each week.  Plus my lawn and house have never looked so good!

12) If you could make a sign for anyone, who would you choose and why?

I have sold signs to some pretty amazing people. My We Can Do Hard Things sign is hanging in the Etsy Corporate Office in New York City and in the MTV Office in London.

But by far the orders that I am most proud of are from people you’ve never heard of. The daughter who purchased a sign for her parents 50th wedding anniversary with a quote that her dad has been using to describe their marriage over the last 50 years.  The girl who purchased a sign for her neighbor who lost her husband after a brave battle with cancer.  The sister who purchased a sign for her brother that was putting himself through college and raising a family as a single dad.  These are just a few of the accomplishments that I am the most proud of and the ones that make what I do so rewarding and worthwhile.


Kristi Quill Bio:

A day dreamer with a LONG list of projects yet to be completed. A lover of coffee, breakfast for dinner, flip flops and all things vintage. And the artist behind Barn Owl Primitives.

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