The Bespoke Blog

Handmade Family Businesses: Yes & Yes Designs

Bespoke is a family-owned and operated business. From the beginning, this shop has been a collaborative effort, with a love for the handmade arts community at the center. We know the ups and downs of making a life in art: the struggle for work-life balance, the exhilaration of self-employed independence.

And we know how a life like this broadens the very definition of family. We wouldn't be where we are today without the care, encouragement, and hands-on support of relatives and friends.

So it's no surprise that we have a soft spot for other handmade family businesses. Among the high-quality goods gracing our shelves, a great number come from the love, sweat, and tears of hard-working families.

These days, working artists are taking mom and pop to a whole new level. In this first of a series on handmade family businesses, we celebrate Laura Bruland and Julien Shields, the family behind Yes & Yes Designs.

The Margaret pin, cut from a comic book anthology. 

The Margaret pin, cut from a comic book anthology. 

When did you decide to commit to running a business together?

It happened about a year and a half ago. I had started Yes & Yes Designs, and Julien was very supportive, but not involved, for the longest time. Eventually, he realized that Yes & Yes was something special-- and that it could be whatever we put into it (which at the time was just evenings and a weekend here and there). He started helping with production and events, and we were able to get so much more done!

About a year ago, he quit one of his part-time jobs to take the lead on production (he still teaches drawing two nights a week in Berkeley, and does sign art at Trader Joes twice a week). Once I left my job in May, we've been at home doing work more often than not. To be honest, it was very uncomfortable giving up total control- but it's been SO rewarding. Julien has so many great ideas, and is so supportive- he's made it possible for us to get to the point we're at today!

Getting a new perspective on working together.

Getting a new perspective on working together.

 How do you divide up the work? Who does what?

We usually have a casual Yes & Yes meeting over breakfast once or twice a week. We'll talk about our goals for the week and decide who does what. It's also a time to talk about new ideas for pieces and work on design concepts together. When it comes to the more business-y side of things, it seems like we are naturally excited about different aspects, which works great! Julien is more fired up about reaching out to new stores to carry our work, while I'm more comfortable checking in on our current stores. As for production, I tend to laser cut and treat the jewelry more, and then we'll both assemble the pieces while watching TV and snuggling with our "assistant," Toto. Toto also comes to most Craft Fairs with us- it's a full-on family affair!

Many hands (and paws) make light work of an all-day event.

Many hands (and paws) make light work of an all-day event.

 What's fun about working together?

We get all fired up about ideas together, and also spend a lot of time together- which is really nice. I think my favorite aspect is having Julien there at craft events with me. I used to go solo to work these events, and I'd end up exhausted, starved, and desperate for a trip to the bathroom- it was too much for just me. Now, even if the events are slow, we can entertain each other, take turns going on a stroll with Toto, and just generally take the stress out of doing events. We've been trying to do an event each weekend since I recently left my day job, and so it's so important to keep the money rolling in- and stress out of the equation!

Who do you look up to? Is there a family-run business that inspires you?

I really admire Derek Fagerstrom and Lauren Smith- the husband and wife duo behind the Curiosity Shoppe, which closed in February (so they can expand their creative outlets). We don't know them personally- but they had such a strong vision for their store (which was miniscule) and such great taste!

Laura and Julien

Laura and Julien

Do you have any (silly or serious) rituals in the studio?

We break for snuggles! Hey, what's the point in working together if you can't take a break and relax for a second?

Where is your go-to neighborhood spot when you want to relax?

We use Toto's walks as our relaxing escape. Our favorite spots to go are Joaquin Miller regional park and Piedmont Park.

Thanks to Laura Bruland for her participation!