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Local illustrator Shannon Kirsten Couch has made her mark in the creative industry with Shannon Kirsten, her unique, whimsical line of paper products. Couch initially started by designing custom wedding invitations (and doing wedding photography on the side), but has now expanded into a full line of stationery and paper goods, working out of her studio in downtown Bradenton. Here she opens up about the inspiration behind her products as well as her hopes for the future of her business.

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Shannon Kirsten Couch

How did your love of illustration develop and what motivated you to start a business?

I always knew I wanted to do something creative, so the first natural step for me was going to art school.  I majored in fashion design but really fell in love with the illustration and textile side of fashion. I began working on a freelance basis after graduating and opened an Etsy shop in 2009 to sell my prints.  I began adding artwork and offering custom painted wedding invitations, for which I received some great press, and my shop began to grow from there.

What is the inspiration behind your designs or what do you draw from when designing a print?

I am very inspired by all elements of nature--flowers, animals, plants, and all of their colors. I also love looking at vintage fabrics and patterns.  I've found my illustration style through lots of experimentation and trying out various mediums. Gouache and watercolors are my favorite.

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How would you describe your style or your type of illustration?

Quirky, whimsical and colorful. I strive to make designs that are simple, sweet, and happy.

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What are some of the products that you carry right now or plan on producing?

At the moment, we have around 80 greeting cards designs, including cards for all seasons; a variety of art prints; iPhone cases; sticker sheets; enamel pins; and many other fun paper goods. My holiday collection is newly released and includes greeting cards with coordinating gift tags and wrapping paper inspired by a retro Christmas. The designs incorporate offbeat colors and quirky illustrations for a slightly different take on the classic Christmas card. 

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Who are some of the companies that you've worked or collaborated with?

One of the most notable projects this year has been collaborating with Hallmark for a seasonal collection and an "every day" birthday collection of greeting cards; I have a collaboration with them coming out for the holidays that includes two boxed sets of greeting cards.

I will also have cards and calendars sold at Macy's in Herald Square in New York next month. This came about when I was chosen as a finalist for Etsy's Open Call. Etsy shops were called to submit work, and I was one of the 36 chosen to pitch our products in New York with major retailers.

I also had my black-and-white fern print chosen for Urban Outfitters' Artist Print Series and have some prints in West Elm's Florida stores.

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What is your goal for your business?

My goal is to continue growing our wholesale line through working with both small boutiques and major retailers.  I am looking forward to expanding my product line into even more stationery and gift items. Eventually working with textiles would be a dream as well.    

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