We spent an afternoon with five local Philly talents to learn more about their crafts and what drives them in their careers. Seeing them for who they are “in the simplest terms + the most convenient definitions,” but what we found was each one of them is…a designer…an illustrator…a hand-letterer…an artist...an inspiration. Meet the studio mates of 1421 Carpenter Street.
Martha Rich, commercial and fine art rebel driven by “moments,” uses humor + honesty to make engaging works adorning galleries, magazines and music videos alike. Gina + Matt, a fierce team that combines their own uniquely different styles + backgrounds to create expressive art highly recognized and revered throughout the illustration community. Maria Beddia, illustrator, graphic + textile designer executes candidly charming pieces exploring a love of paper and hand-lettering. Kimberly Glyder, a versatile designer with an expansive client list and portfolio of work, upholds her voice in the world of book design.
hg: where is everyone from originally + what drew you to Philadelphia?
martha: I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia—I left for a long long time and then I came back to go to grad school at Penn.
matt: Martha’s all class, all the time. When we met Martha she was living in California, and we identified her as a California artist.
maria: I’m from Lancaster originally and I knew Philly, but only as a kid. I went to art school in California and decided to come to Philly for an internship with the Mural Arts Program. That was my first time as an adult in the city and I was like,
“oh my God this is amazing! You can bike everywhere and it’s so cheap”—I just fell in love with it, in a different time of my life.
matt: I’m from Upper Darby—Gina and I went to school in Baltimore, then we moved to Brooklyn. I had zero interest moving back home—it just felt like defeat to me. We’d be coming down from Brooklyn to go to openings and spaces like 700 Club and I was like, “wait this is totally different here, this is not the Philly I left.” Gina was like, “ok, real estate’s a little nuts up here we should be looking in Philadelphia." That was in 2001.
gina: I’m from Minnesota, but I met Matt in art school. The story’s pretty much the same.
kimberly: I grew up right outside of DC and moved to Baltimore for a little bit. Then I went up to Providence while I went to RISD. From there I moved to Boston, then back to DC. My husband was working in New York and they said we could live anywhere, so we were like, “let’s move to Philly!” To me, it’s great.
maria: The city has changed SO much—from just the memories I have as a kid. It’s a cool city + it stands on its own.
gina: I think it’s…
"…the best-kept secret on the East Coast."
hg: how did everyone get their start? Do you remember your first commercial job, if so, what was it?
maria: I went to school for Printmaking and fell in love with it—lithography + etching, etc. When I came here for the Mural Arts internship I saw something on Craigslist for a small textile design studio—actually in this building, which is really weird. It’s called Collette and Blue and I thought, “yes, can I do this? Show me what to do.” That was my first step, and now I’ve been doing it for over five years.
kimberly: my first commercial job was at RISD. I did packaging for children’s jewelry—it had a lot of hearts on it. Then I started working for an understaffed museum exhibit design firm, so my first real job was designing a gallery at the National Museum of Australia. I was responsible for the entire gallery of history. I decided to move back to print design, though. For me exhibit design felt too big and I missed having a physical, printed object.
martha: I worked in corporate America for 15 years. I was living in California and ended up going through a divorce. Instead of crying on the floor listening to Hole, I took night classes at Art Center College of Design. I was convinced by some really great teachers to quit my job, go back to school + become an artist. I got my degree and went to New York with my portfolio + sketch books. I showed my portfolio to a guy at Random House. He liked my sketchbooks more than my portfolio and hired me on the spot to do a cover for Pantheon publishing. I worked my ass off on it, but they killed it.
gina: I went to school for illustration, and Matt went for painting so we didn’t collaborate right away. I started off on my own in editorial. I think my first job was for Outside Magazine…
matt: ...yes, an article on how Thailand was trying to get people to stop eating so many cats, because their rat problem was so bad they needed cats around to kill the rats. The art direction was, “just don’t make it morbid.” Gina did editorial almost exclusively for at least 3-4 years, then signed on with our agent Frank Sturges.
gina: I went to the Philadelphia Icon Illustration Conference and it was really inspiring. I came home and said we should start collaborating.
matt: I used to screenprint under my paintings, and sometimes I would want a certain type of line drawing. I would do a drawing and ask Gina to trace over it with her lines. We had been doing that when Gina came back from the conference and said we should just fully collaborate. I had a bunch of paintings that were in progress, and she just started going nuts on them. That was our whole first body of work—our show at Riviera.
gina: when we started off the collaboration was for fun, for galleries.
matt: the idea was, let’s choose our own content. The paintings can be whatever we want, and at first, we would have no idea where we wanted the painting to go. She would do a little—I would do a little—she would do a little—totally different than how we work now.
hg: what does the Philly art scene mean to you + where do you see yourselves in it?
martha: I’m the boss of it. (everyone laughs)
matt: I think Philadelphia’s art scene has this nice, scrappy, fine art based core. We’ve always identified with that and drawn inspiration from it, but not been a part of it. We are illustrators, first and foremost. We’ve been able to draw inspiration from Philadelphia’s core art scene, but still be ancillary to it in a way that I think I like.
kimberly: It's a smaller group of creatives here. It has become less and less important to be in certain places to get work. I think we have a lot in common; we do a lot of work for people in New York, so we have a foot in there because it’s where we get our jobs.
martha: I don’t really think about the “art scene” here. I think…
"…it’s a place where people can be free + do what they need to do. There’s no pressure—its like an anything goes; you can make up your own thing. It’s not one “scene.”
gina: what Martha said is exactly right, but it’s not like we live in this wasteland—there’s definitely stuff going on here.
maria: it’s a melting pot of inspiration through all different outlets.
matt: to Kimberly’s point, the fact that a lot of us get our business from out of town kind of frees you up to just enjoy the Philly art community + continue to draw inspiration.
maria: all of the work that I do is here. I was surrounded by all illustration, design + painting people in California. When I came here it was like, “oh ask Maria, she can draw.” All of these opportunities were thrown towards me because I was put in to an atmosphere of people who weren’t all creatives. For me, it’s been word-of-mouth.
hg: do you make time for personal work? do you have other creative outlets?
kimberly: I definitely do. I like painting at home on my own and doing the stuff I want to do, instead of what I have to do.
martha: we have drawing nights in here. We put a bunch of tables together, get some wine, food + paper; we just get silly + have fun.
maria: you guys have known each other for a long time. I just started to meet all of the people you all know so that's been really awesome—it’s not stuffy. You can talk about art; that’s the thing with Philly—we can have these events + it’s not pretentious…
"…it’s very lowbrow in a fun positive way; being silly + drawing silly things."
matt: Gina and I have an upcoming show at the Delaware Museum of Art called Duality. Opening in May—it's art from four different couples who work together, curated by Heather Gibson.
martha: we’re curating a show in our studio space in August. I love doing personal work—I wish people would pay me to do my own thing.
kimberly: I feel like it’s hard to get to personal work.
maria: by the time I get to personal work I’m like, "what is my idea?"
matt: see, you are an illustrator! That’s the thing with personal work—you get to decide what the idea is when it’s done.
kimberly: I’m so used to being art directed—even if it's minimal—it becomes difficult to come up with concepts for personal work. But when I was talking to Martha the other day, I felt like came away with two new ideas for future projects.
maria: Martha! You did it again!
hg: who or what do you turn to for inspiration?
gina: obviously, Martha, right?
martha: Real Housewives…of Beverly Hills—I really do—television + social media. The stupidity + absurdity of the world is my inspiration.
matt: I like going out into the woods as much as possible. If not the woods, then nature in general, like Longwood Gardens.
gina: my sketchbooks have been my outlets since having children. I used to work all the time, but there’s just no way now. The sketchbook is quick + easy, and I feel like it’s been a great outlet. Branching out on your own time is important.
kimberly: this sounds cheesy, but my mom is a big inspiration. She does textiles, Japanese woodblock prints, and she’s always loved folk art. My mom used to own a gallery—she’d be doing something different, whether it was making a quilt or a painting. Recently, she stitched a whole book. She’s really quiet and introverted but she always has her hands in something new.
maria: for me it’s nature + music.
gina: we went to Provincetown last summer and had big drawing nights.
kimberly: that was special...
hg: tell us more about Provincetown…
matt: we rent a house in Provincetown, on the tip of Cape Cod. Originally exposed to it during a short artist residency where Gina joined me, we loved the little fisherman town. It’s been inundated with art over the decades. We rented a place, and Martha rented a barn that was the original Charles Hawthorne Art School.
martha: like Jackson Pollack got drunk in this barn. We all got inspired and did an art week. We’re doing it again this summer.
kimberly: it was such a great week.
hg: what happens if/when you hit a creative block?
maria: you can’t beat yourself up about it…
"…you just have to take a breather + doodle to doodle. It’s all ugly and gross, but just get it out."
gina: I feel like it’s taken me until now to not get so upset about it. The sketchbooks + just leaving my house help me a lot.
martha: yeah, just stepping away and giving yourself permission to not be making something.
kimberly: it’s harder with "work-work" because when you hit a block, and you have a deadline, you panic.
matt: people view creative block as not making anything, but I don’t think that’s true...
"…creative block is when we make stuff we’re not too psyched about or isn’t moving us forward."
kimberly: with a lot of jobs, I do what I think they want to see but then, for the majority of comps, I do what I want. I’ve gotten to a certain point where I need to start doing other things. I have a lot of people asking me to make an already existing thing, and you can’t possibly recreate something with the same subject matter—I’ve been trying to branch out and try new things.
hg: what’s everyone currently working on?
martha: I’m illustrating a book by the blogger, The Jealous Curator. It’s a sequel to her book, Creative Block. I’m doing all of the internal + cover illustrations. It’s pretty exciting because I’ve never done that before. It’s being published by Chronicle + coming out in the Fall.
matt: we’re working on 26 books—a series of murder mysteries set in the Cotswolds for Little Brown UK. It’s like Agatha Christie, but for people who live in England. We’re working on the last six right now and hoping they’ll be done by end of January.
gina: I did a poster for the MTA that will be hanging in New York City subway stations this coming spring.
maria: my boyfriend’s in the process of opening Hungry Pigeon (editor's note: now open!) It’s like a breakfast, lunch + dinner take on the classic American Diner, but elevated + local. I did a mural, a sign and I’m painting the bathroom signs. I’m doing all of the creative stuff for the interior—menu layouts, etc. When I have time, I’m working on Spring 2017 textiles. The majority of my textiles are for women’s + children’s sleepwear and swimwear—you’re going to see a lot of butterflies.
martha: and you did your own line of wrapping paper!
maria: oh yeah, I did a small line of holiday wrapping paper. I have an Etsy shop where I sell little greeting cards, wrapping paper, etc.
kimberly: I’m working on a million covers now. Mostly for Penguin Random House. I do about 2-3 new ones a week. I’m also doing the illustrations + designs for a C.S Lewis series—that's more of an illustration job.
hg: do you find that sharing a studio heightens your creativity and work ethic?
martha, matt, maria, gina, kimberly: YES!
maria: I’ve been working from home, so I've been excited to have a place to go—having other people around to bounce ideas off of.
martha: it’s definitely a good thing.
hg: tell me one thing you admire about each other’s work or process.
martha: I admire everyone's generosity, sense of humor, willingness to explore and have fun making art.
maria: Martha always has a positive, humorous outlook on everything— and it shows in her work. Matt’s attention to detail blows my mind and makes me feel like I need to challenge myself in mediums I’m not comfortable with. I’m just getting to know Kimberly’s work—she’s currently working on collages that are gorgeous and inspirational in color + pattern. Gina is awesome and I wish she would illustrate a children's book already…she inspires me to do more "sketch booking."
gina: I love how everyone approaches projects from different angles—it reminds me there's not just one right way of doing things.
matt: I admire Martha's chutzpa; Kimberly's work ethic; Maria's spunk, and Gina's good looks.
kimberly: collectively, I admire the dedication Matt, Gina, Martha and Maria all bring to the studio. Everyone loves what they do—always striving to do great work—and provide a ton of creative support. They're all incredibly talented, so I'm constantly inspired by what they produce and love that I get a first-hand look at their process as concepts develop.
hg: do you have any advice for aspiring Philly illustrators and designers?
kimberly: be ambitious + set goals for who you want as clients. Developing great relationships with people you work with (or want to work with) is immensely important, so the more you can get to events or make contacts through social media, the better it will be for you + your work.
"Be nice to everyone. I find inspiration in everything around me, especially living in this city. Also, don’t sell yourself short—you deserve to be paid for your talents!"
martha: surround yourself with overachievers!
matt: make your time in the studio the backbone of your life, and let the work guide you.
gina: work hard, be nice.