Who are you, and where are you located?
We are MarninSaylor, the brainchild of Thomas Marnin and Skye Saylor. We are a husband / wife business, love, and life partnership based in Seattle, WA.
What do you make?
We call our family of products Pastry Pets. The main items are handmade plush toys, but we also make keychains, coloring books, stickers, patches, bags, and more to complement our characters.
How do you make them?
Since we make so many different products, we get to learn and practice many different maker skills: machine and hand sewing, design and illustration, heat transfer vinyl, papercraft, machine embroidery … the list really just goes on and on. We are truly a little vertically-integrated factory! We make all of our toys, keychains, coloring books, stickers, bags, and patches right in our studio, as well as designing, printing, cutting, and assembling all of the packaging materials for them.
What is the toughest part?
Honestly, the hardest part of our business isn’t the making. Of course, that’s time-consuming and figuring out new processes can be a challenge, but the tough part is just how many different hats we as business owners have to wear! It’s hard to find the time to focus on any one thing because there are always a million different tasks that need to be accomplished. Since both Thomas and I run our business and have no outside income, we are constantly at work. We both have to be firing on all cylinders to keep this thing from falling apart around us, and it can be really difficult to make space for a personal relationship within those pressures. We have certainly gotten better at the whole work/life balance thing, but it always has to be a conscious decision to break away from work at the end of the day and just be with each other as people instead of as business partners.
How can people find you to buy your stuff or get updates?
We currently sell in Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market four days a week (Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday) in the daystall crafts area. In mid-November we will be opening an actual brick and mortar storefront in the market (which has been our dream since we started there six years ago)! You can also shop on our website, MarninSaylor.com, and keep up with us on Instagram or Facebook. We’ll be running a crowdfunding campaign during October to help with some of the store opening costs, so we’d love if everyone could follow along and potentially donate when the time comes!
Do you have a youtube channel people can follow? If so, what is it?
We do, though we don’t post there as often as we should! You can find us there as MarninSaylor, as well.
How have you found Seattle Made beneficial to you as a maker?
The thing we’ve most enjoyed about being part of Seattle Made has been connecting with Seattle students through the youth studio tour program. So far we’ve hosted two groups at our studio, and it has been so much fun to share our journey and our work with young people in our community. I think it’s really important to show them that you don’t necessarily have to get a tech or office job, and that some career paths can give more to your life than just a paycheck. I hope we’ve inspired a few of them to pursue their creative goals and go for something meaningful further off the beaten path.
what is your day job if not this business
We both work full-time (well, more than full time) on our business, and have two (soon to be three!) employees.
Do you attend a makerspace? Which one?
We do not regularly attend one. We’ve used the laser cutter at Metrix before, to make some of our display cases.
How did you get started making stuff?
Skye had been making plush toys for a long time but had never sold them. They’d always been gifts for friends or family, or just for herself. In the fall of 2012 Skye made the first Donut Cat (one of the big ones with the arms), just for fun, based on a little sketch. She put a picture of it up on Facebook and a few people wanted to purchase them for holiday gifts. She was so surprised! She decided to charge $30 for each one and was in complete disbelief when someone wanted to buy TWO. It seemed crazy to get $60 for something I had made. There were about ten big Donut Cats needing to be made for “orders”. Skye’s then-boyfriend (now husband), Thomas, offered to help her make them. We had a great time working on them together and soon came up with the idea for the Mini Donut Cats, and eventually Maple Bears. We decided it would be fun to do a craft fair, so we did our first in September 2013. The craft fair went really, really well. The customer response was great, and we sold about $900 of stuff in one day (a completely mind-blowing amount for us back then, though it was really just enough to recoup the money we had put into the project). While we were at that show we met Kelice Penney of Careful It Bites. We had seen her work around town and had always admired it, so we were really excited to meet and talk with her. She had recently begun vending at Pike Place Market and encouraged us to apply. Our determination to do so was cemented when we met David Dickinson, who oversees the market crafters, that same day. He also suggested we try out during the next open call for new artists. We ended up making the cut and began selling at Pike Place in November of 2013.
What product or variation have people really responded to?
The most popular Pastry Pets are definitely Rainbow Sprinkle Mini Donut Cat and Mini Honey Bun. Before Rainbow came along it was Strawberry Mini Donut Cat, and before Strawberry it was Vanilla. It’s always interesting to see which designs and colors our customers respond to. Who knows what will usurp Rainbow Sprinkle someday?
What do you have on your horizon?
We actually have some really, REALLY big and exciting news: we are opening a permanent store at Pike Place Market! We have had our booth there for almost six years (we seriously can’t believe it’s been that long already!) and having a permanent store has been the dream since the beginning. Our projected opening date is November 15th, which is … quite soon, and we’ve been oscillating between extreme excitement and deep panic ever since we were offered the space a few weeks ago. We have a lot to accomplish between now and then, but we’re up for the challenge. We can’t wait to create a more fully immersive space, offer a greater variety of products, AND not have to set up and tear down our booth every day!
what is your biggest struggle as a maker business?
We are a husband-wife-business-owning-team. People tend to see that as an advantage when running a business, and in our case it definitely is (we work well together and help each other in a lot of different ways), but it can also make things more difficult from an economic and relationship standpoint. Most of the makers we know have a spouse or partner who has a ‘real’ job with good pay and benefits. Having that stability allows the small business owner more freedom within their business, and they don’t necessarily have to work as hard or as consistently because there’s always that safety net to fall into. Since both of us run our business and have no outside income, we are constantly at work. We both have to be firing on all cylinders to keep this thing from falling apart around us, and it can be really difficult to make space for a personal relationship within those pressures. We have certainly gotten better at the whole work/life balance thing, but it always has to be a conscious decision to break away from work at the end of the day and just be with each other as people instead of as business partners.
How has your business evolved?
So many things have changed that it’s honestly hard to think of them all. A big one is that we are just much better at making things now. We’re kind of embarrassed when we look back on the toys we made in the first year or two. The quality just isn’t up to our current standards and the designs definitely needed some refinement. We’re better now at all aspects of creation, from design to construction to selling and marketing, and it really shows whenever we see an old toy or a picture of our market booth in the early days. We’ve also learned so many new production techniques and purchased tools and equipment to leverage those skills. Nowadays we are a little vertically-integrated factory: we make all of our toys, keychains, coloring books, stickers, bags, and patches right in our studio, as well as designing, printing, cutting, and assembling all of the packaging materials for them. And of course, both of us have grown as people as a result of the business, too. Skye is a much more resilient, even-keeled person now than she was six years ago. Thomas has a much stronger work ethic than he used to. We’ve had to become very close very quickly, and use all of our complementary skills and abilities to support and grow not only the business but each other as well. We manage employees now, and shoulder an enormous amount of responsibility for the success of our business and the livelihood of the people who rely on it.
What project are you excited about?
The store, most definitely!