Meet Your Maker Monday: Paule Hewlett of Beyond Her
Paule Hewlett is the artist behind Beyond Her, an independent design company with a modern line of quality products and fashion accessories. Using natural and heritage materials, Paule silkscreens her flora and fauna ink illustrations onto her textiles and paper products. We love that Beyond Her's products are eco-friendly and made to replace disposable items like napkins, bags and even office supplies.
What do you make? How do you make it?
I design and produce artisan goods for the home -- products that we call Art for Living. My primary materials are textiles and paper, and at any one time, I have about 40 different products that are meant to be both beautiful and very practical.
We create most of the work in-house and by hand. The items range from colorful cotton dish towels imprinted with my images, to waxed linen totes, and from screen printed note cards to linen bath sheets and hand-sewn table runners. We are working on furniture as well and larger pieces -- everything it takes to make a house a home.
I have always been a part-time artist, and right now my medium is pen and ink. I draw mostly natural images -- plants, animals, insects, food -- and use a very earth friendly process to reproduce those images on natural fabrics and recycled papers. Beyond Her is old-school green.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I am combining my “maker” work with my 35-year career as a freelance writer focused mostly on marketing and employee communications. So every day is different -- and very busy.
I generally do my writer work in the mornings at home. I head up to my studio, a 1,400 SF office/warehouse, around noon. There is always something pressing to do, whether it is burning the silkscreens, or cutting fabric to print, or shooting photographs, or actually doing the screen printing, which has been taken over by my semi-retired husband. With any luck, I have a few online orders to fill.
Why did you start your own business and why in Houston?
I started Beyond Her during my first bust in the marketing/advertising industry in Houston, right after 9/11. I hadn’t really thought about it, but my best clients were in the travel industry -- so when they pulled back, I had a lot of time on my hands. I’ve sort of juggled the two careers since then, and I actually really like the combination.
My first products were paper, because I was familiar with printing. But in 2008 I learned to screen print -- and the rest is history. I remain totally obsessed with screen printing, and it’s reminded me of my love for textiles of all sorts. I literally cannot stop introducing new products, although every numbers person I’ve talked to says that is very bad business policy.
Why Houston? Mostly, because I was here. But anyone who knows Houston knows that it is very entrepreneur-friendly. There just aren’t many barriers to doing exactly what you want to do. And it’s getting more and more like New York, in that people don’t just do one thing, they do several.
What are you continuously interested in learning? Does it get incorporated in your work?
I was very fortunate in my timing. The past 10 years have seen an explosion of what we call “indie designers,” which are people just like me -- we have an aesthetic and an idea, and whereas before we might have been limited by geography, now there’s the opportunity for a worldwide presence online.
I see so many talented designers whose work I love, but I have two real role models. One is Martha Stewart, because she has transformed domestic life with her world view -- and truly, everything she does is first class.
The other is Hello Kitty, because I love the clean and contemporary look of her and her “stuff.” And as a collector, I can tell you that everything Hello Kitty is high quality - a Hello Kitty pen is a good pen. Someone has their eye on quality control at Hello Kitty.
What's next for you?
I am always trying to find a way to grow Beyond Her, but that is a challenge for an artisan manufacturer. An obvious channel would be to sell to larger stores like Whole Foods, but if I got an order for their kind of numbers, it would be a disaster! Growth remains a mystery.
I’d like to keep experimenting with fabrics. I’m so interested in the re-patriation of the textile industry in the US. Turns out, it wasn’t that economical to ship cotton overseas and have finished goods shipped back here! Maybe some day I’ll have an opportunity to actually produce Beyond Her fabrics, which opens up whole new world of possibilities. That’s my dream right now.
What do you want people to know about your work?
I had an unusual upbringing, with older parents who gardened and cooked and lived very simply, and saved and recycled everything. I’m sort of against all the fru-fru behind modern home life -- gadgets and technology and so much waste. There’s a lot to be said for taking it down a notch, replacing non-stop consumption with old fashioned behaviors and lifestyles.
That being said, my motto is “Life is too short for ugly dishtowels.” People get a kick out of that idea, but it’s really about valuing the time and effort we put into our home lives. We should surround ourselves with high quality, beautiful and practical things. That’s what I would say is the Beyond Her manifesto.