As part of our Stockist Showcase campaign, #ILLUSTORIAshopslocal, we’re interviewing the staff behind beloved shops that carry Illustoria, to spotlight the amazing people behind small businesses that make their neighborhoods so special. This week, we made a visit to Case For Making, the most dreamy studio supply shop located in the Outer Sunset district of San Francisco.
Enter through the doors of Case For Making, just a block away from windswept Ocean Beach, and you’re instantly transported into an artist’s wonderland. With a lush wooden interior and beautifully curated goods displayed in every corner, it’s easy to hole up in this cabin-esque shop for hours on end. For those who find themselves wandering in with nothing in mind, they, too will find it easy to roam through each nook and cranny.
I had the opportunity to interview Alexis Joseph, one of the co-founders of Case for Making. Her interest in color is what initially brought her into the world of watercolor paint making. Each Case for Making watercolor is a handmade, labor of love with rocks sourced from across the United States and then processed into pigment by Alexis and her team. If you don’t see Alexis at the shop, she might be running to and from their other location, thinking up the next new color to produce with the managers, or writing her regular feature to Illustoria magazine, "The Brief History of Color." (Check out Issues 4 - 6 to read the incredible stories behind ultramarine blue, vermillion, and ochre, written by Alexis Joseph and illustrated by Lindsay Stripling; and find more episodes in the series in upcoming issues of Illustoria). Thankfully, she could squeeze out some time during her schedule to answer a few questions about Case for Making.
How does Case for Making find the artists and makers who also inhabit the space?
A lot of the original supplies I stocked the shop with were all my favorite supplies that I have used throughout a lifetime of drawing and painting as well as architecture and drafting supplies I used in undergraduate and graduate school! I quickly saw that the products that we were selling the most of were watercolors and watercolor supplies, which worked out because its always been my favorite medium. Other things we stock are made by friends, so it feels extra special to carry their work and support them in that way. Anything we couldn’t find or just wanted to see a certain way, we decided to make ourselves!
Do you have a current favorite product/book/magazine that can be found at your shop?
We really love all the Illustoria magazines!!! Other than that we just got in a line of pure pigment and all the supplies you need to make your own paint! We love being able to share and teach all aspects of what we do here with everyone who walks in or joins us for a class or finds us online or through Illustoria.
How did you overcome the obstacles you faced before launching Case for Making?
I started Case for Making while I still had a full-time job. It took me three years in order to get the business (and myself) to a place where I could work full time only for Case for Making. It all took time and hard work and trusting myself to make decisions quickly. All in all, I had to learn how to get good at seeing what was working, and letting go of the things that weren’t.
What is different about Case for Making?
Our paired down selection of drawing and watercolor supplies compliments our in-house handmade products and supplies. We have over 70 colors of watercolor paint that we make by hand in the shops made from pure pigments that we source from all over the world mixed with natural binders. It’s fun to see this process in action and I hope people feel the love and care that goes into our products when they use them! Both shops are also active workspaces so you might see us mixing up fresh batches of paint or collating and gluing up packs of our letterpress watercolor postcards!
Do you have any big dreams or goals for your business?
We want to continue to develop not only our handmade line of watercolors but also a range of paper and ceramic products; who knows what else we’ll dream up! We just love approaching a creative practice from a place of curiosity in terms of material and process. I’m also working on my own studio practice and am reminding myself to incorporate advice that I’ve been handing out over the years into my own process!
Can you describe some of your typical customers? What do you enjoy most about helping your customers find the perfect book/watercolors/art supply/gift, etc.?
We love all of our customers so much and we get all sorts of people visiting the shop! We have people who follow us on Instagram and plan to visit the shop while they are here on vacation and we have neighborhood artists who get all their supplies from us. We also have lots of people stumble in who’ve never heard of us and they’re excited to try out some pens and hang out for a bit! Everyone who walks in is generally pretty happy to be in an art store and we love talking to everyone about the products we make and how we produce our watercolors. We also yell at anyone who comes in and says that they wish they were artistic; we say, “EVERYONE IS ARTISTIC!” Can you make a mark on paper? Fine then, make that mark over and over on a piece of paper with a pen or a pencil or with a brush and watercolor and see what you can make just with that!
Any advice for aspiring small business owners?
Simplify your idea, hone it, and build it out from there. I didn’t think I’d have a watercolor paint making company when I started an art store 4 years ago! It was all a response to what was working and what people were interested in combined with my experience and interests! Stay flexible yet clear with yourself on what it is that you’re excited about and then clearly state that in every aspect of your business!
And as always, if Case for Making were an animal, which animal would it be?
Easy. We’d be an Octopus because they have pigment in their skin and can change color on demand all of which is based on their own process of trial and error! They also have 8 arms so they could draw and paint many things at once! They’re the coolest.
Thanks to Alexis for taking the time to chat about this amazing studio supply shop! Be sure to check out their Instagram caseformaking for regular updates and loads of paint making Instagram stories! Case for Making and Lindsay Stripling are also regular contributor's to Illustoria with their incredible feature "The Brief History of Colors". Check out Issues 4 - 7 to read the stories behind vermillion, orche and ultramarine blue.