Meet the Maker: Stern Design Works
Stern Design Works
Imagine a mecca of customized EVERYTHING. Well that's exactly what the Stern Design Works Studio looks like. The brand creates everything from studs filled with colorful sprinkles to intricate dioramas. We sat down with the masterminds of Stern Design Works, Rebecca and Cameron Stern, to get all the details on the brand.
How did you launch your brand?
Rebecca: I graduated from Pratt Institute 10 years ago this past May and my dream at the time was to start a jewelry business.
Cameron: We decided to go for it. We started selling at the now defunct Brooklyn Indie Market and Artists and Fleas when it used to be in Williamsburg. And we actually still sell with Artists and Fleas in Chelsea Market.
Rebecca: So really what started it was the Brooklyn market scene and having a place to go and show our stuff. So it started out with just me, and Cameron would help me on the weekends. We slowly realized it was a collaborative effort. I guess it was right after our daughter was born 6 years ago that we decided to go all or nothing. We became permanent at Artists and Fleas, with a location open 7 days a week. So that really transformed us from doing weekend shows and selling online to a full-on retail business.
What was the most challenging part of launching your business?
Rebecca: Having an artistic mind and not knowing the business aspect of things. I still struggle with it everyday. I want to create but there’s payroll, insurance, and all of that other stuff. So putting on that business hat instead of the creative hat would be the most challenging for me.
Cameron: For me I would say it’s editing. We can throw 900 ideas out into the world, but if you give customers that many options and show them everything in your brain, all of the sudden they are not going to be able to decide either.
How did you decide on the brand name?
Cameron: We had a very unfortunate name when we first started the business. It wasn’t offensive or anything. It was Bullfrog Creatives, which is still our LLC.
Rebecca: Bullfrog has a more romantic feel because where we got married there were a lot of bullfrogs, and we started the business that summer. But the name just didn’t flow. And then Stern Design Works came because I married into the Stern family and we really liked the idea of collaborative design.
Cameron: People really wanted a connection to the maker, so putting our names in the brand really helped with that.
Tell me a little bit about the 3D printing.
Rebecca: Cameron convinced me to buy the 3D printer. 3D printing was brand new back then and there weren’t too many companies making 3d printers. We decided to use our profits from the holiday shows to buy a kit and we built our first 3D printer. The process of making it really changed how we looked at everything.
Cameron: And we didn’t get a single successful print from that [laughing].
Rebecca: But I could see that it had a future. What we were making at the time were these little tiny, miniature worlds. We were painting animals, but we were limited to what kind of animals we could buy because they were premade. I wanted more-I wanted more customization. The only way to do it was to print our own figures. We bought our second printer 5 years ago.
Cameron: My tool has always been the computer. This was a way to bridge the digital design world with jewelry. We look at it in a way that allows us to iterate designs really fast.
So why did you choose POOL?
Rebecca: I have always considered POOLTRADESHOW to be the most unique and quirky show out there. We always felt like the outsiders in the maker world. But POOL has always felt like the place that brings all the niche brands together.
Cameron: If you walk MAGIC you see all the different neighborhoods. But at POOL it feels like everyone is on the same page, even though we are all on different pages. We are all quirky and we are all weird. It’s a unique environment to sell your product in.
Rebecca: It just felt right. It was the right place to go. That’s the beauty of POOL. They make it so that smaller brands have this stepping-stone, whereas other tradeshows don’t. Because small brands CAN sell to big brands.
What is your favorite part of POOL?
Rebecca: Personally, I love meeting all the people, it rejuvenates everything.
Cameron: When you’re stuck in a studio or stuck on a computer designing, you kind of get very myopic. Another thing about POOL is it attracts buyers that want something interesting. I don’t like Vegas, but I love the actual show. It's enough to make me want to keep going there. POOL NY, I was surprised, had the same feel as the Vegas show and it felt like coming home again.
What’s next for your brand?
Rebecca: We are moving to the west coast. We are both New York natives. I grew up in Brooklyn, he grew up in East Village, and we bore this brand here. Brooklyn played a huge role in everything. Between all the markets, there is nothing like it anywhere else in the country. But we felt like we needed changed.
Cameron: And again knowing our market research and knowing where our buyers are – knowing all of that, we’ve really been able to hone down where we wanted to be. We figured out a good home for us. It will be a storefront but also a maker’s space. We want it to be a place to share what we know about 3D printing and metalsmithing and really be able to teach kids and adults what we know.
Rebecca: I think that’s what we love about being able to do the retail. We inform customers about our process and that’s probably my favorite part of it. What I love is not only what I create, but how I love to create and how we make it. Being able to pull that all into a storefront is one of our biggest dreams.
Find Stern Design Works at POOLTRADESHOW Las Vegas!