It speaks to the ease and welcoming nature of Daniella and Sandrine that we went for a thirty minute studio tour and ended up at the table drinking cappuccinos a few hours later. They are the founders/designers/brains behind Monorail Studio, a paper goods and apparel print studio based in Austin. They were kind enough to show us around their studio, provide us with caffeine and good conversation, and even let us pull a print before we left. Read their story below!
The Story Behind Monorail Studio
Sandrine and Daniella met as graphic design students at the University of Texas in a lithography class (lithography is a printmaking process using stones). Daniella grew up in the Texas border town of Brownsville, and Sandrine, as the daughter of a dad in the oil business, grew up mostly in Houston with time spent in California and abroad.
After they graduated from UT, Sandrine went to work for a Hill Country artist while Daniella worked in a lab designing gobos, the light-projected designs you see at special events and, if you’re an Austinite, the Whole Foods downtown. Outside of their day jobs, they would work on their personal design projects to exercise their creative urges. They started selling their work, beginning with sketchbooks, on Etsy in 2011 and word spread quickly. They now also sell on Brika.com and at The Tinderbox in Houston.
The design that jumpstarted Monorail‘s popularity was their “Work like a captain, play like a pirate” poster. Their prints are both playful and classic, particularly on posters like their “You are the gin to my tonic” print that has a Mad Men-era font style. Since their 2011 beginnings, they’ve participated in several cool events, like the Etsy pop-up shop that happened earlier this year at West Elm Austin.
Daniella and Sandrine both agree the craziest experience so far was working the conference that Starbucks has for its managers and team partners every four years. Held in a huge conference center in Dallas, it’s a magnificent affair that features free food, drinks, multiple dance floors, vendors and more. Both ladies describe a scene where the attendees were released into the conference hall all at one time, with hundreds of people descending on the vendors. ”I spent the whole evening on my knees, grabbing posters,” Sandrine says. Besides the stress, it was a great night for business.
Next on their plates is Re:Make, a show happening in Austin on May 3rd and 4th, where makers, designers, and crafty types are invited to come together for a conference of sorts. The event is a chance to connect with other designers and makers, and learn about innovations in the design community.
Pros and Cons of Owning a Small Business
Both women agree that the best part of having a business doing what you love is that you never have to retire, as Daniella explains. Screen printing, sketching and dreaming up designs will always be part of their identity, individually and as a team. When asked about challenges, Sandrine acknowledges that being social and self-promoting can be difficult.
While Monorail has done well without marketing or advertising, both women say that the events and networking aspect of owning your own business can be a little tiring. Daniella says that, especially as a more introverted personality, it takes extra drive to put yourself out there. Sitting at the kitchen table with them, they conduct themselves with a kind, laid-back manner, the sort of people you feel immediately comfortable around. It’s clear that their genuineness will speak for them, whether at their home studio or a larger tradeshow.
Visit monorailstudio.com to read Monorail’s story in their words and shop around. Look for them at Re:Make on May 3rd and 4th at the Palmer Events Center. Attendance is free, and other Maker Co-op members will be participating.
Thanks a million to Daniella and Sandrine for showing us around!