With a small business of reclaimed and handmade goods and a publication in the works, Codi Ann Thomsen keeps her hands busy. She puts a personal touch on all of her products and projects, ensuring a customer experience unlike any other. (Support her ongoing Kickstarter campaign for Support the Makers.)
Genteel Flair: How did you manage to get into book making?
Codi Ann Thomsen: The first time I ever made a book was my senior year of high school. I had been working all year on a painting portfolio in AP studio art, and it had come time for our final projects. I had, at this point, grown very disinterested in painting because I wasn’t satisfied with putting something that I had made up on a wall for people to look at. I wanted others to be able to hold what I made – to touch it, take their time with it and experience it personally. So, when I came in for our individual meetings, I explained this to my teacher and although he wasn’t very pleased, I made my first book.
I swayed in and out of my interest in book-making my first year of college and paired up with it again my sophomore year. It was November of that year that I started the What’s Mine is Yours project and in my second semester, I took a class called Artists Books where I enhanced my skill in book-making by learning several techniques, styles and different ways of creating books by hand. In this class, I used every assignment to produce one of the What’s Mine is Yours books. Since, I have been incredibly interested in self-publishing.
GF: Aside from retaining creative control, what are some of the payoffs of being a self-published author?
CAT: Self-publishing is a give and take, of course. However, not only do I have creative control but I also have control over every other aspect of what I do, which includes business, time and distribution. To be honest, “creative control” can be stretched out in a way that is very broad. For example, I have control in what I do down to the very last detail – which like I said, could straddle a very thin line of both good and bad. It is wildly important to me that I always stay close to home as far as my interest and passion in personal interaction with people and the things that I make. In self-publishing, I am able to maintain that.
GF: Explain some of the challenges you’ve had to face while developing your personal series What’s Mine is Yours. What are some things you’ve learned along the way?
CAT: Aside from book-making techniques, methods and designs in and of itself, the What’s Mine is Yours project has taught me great discipline in both time and my creative energy. It takes a lot to be able to come up with a concept for a book and then pursue, design, print and hand-make it — or several copies of the book — every single month for a year. There have certainly been times throughout the last year where I have struggled with concepts, funding, production and deadlines. However, in return, I’ve been able to direct my creative energy in ways that are most productive, cultivate what keeps me inspired and motivated, budget for projects and though I have a nasty habit of biting off more than I can chew, to direct my time in a way where I am always on schedule. But most importantly, I’ve learned to stick to my gut, take risks and express what is not only important to me but what is honest.
GF: What follows this year long project?
CAT: Support the Makers is actually what follows this yearlong project. It is and was the concept for the last book of the What’s Mine is Yours project however, in e-mailing those I am featuring in the book, a leap of faith and a lot of hard work, it has turned into something far bigger than what it initially started off as.
GF: That concept you speak of is, in some ways, very similar to what we strive to accomplish with “Inspiring Minds” on the blog — to showcase creative, passionate and inspiring individuals. Talk briefly about this newfound endeavor.
CAT: In September’s volume of What’s Mine is Yours, I interviewed and featured folks in my life who I consider to be passionate, wholehearted and creative. It was one of the most rewarding things I had made because it told the personal stories of those who I not only cared about but those who had inspired me. Around this time, I had become incredibly exhausted by writing and felt creatively and mentally rejuvenated by focusing on others and what was important to them. I was also founding Lagniappe around this time and was fascinated by craftwork, entrepreneurs and those who were pursing their passions fully. Because of this, the concept behind Support the Makers made complete and utter sense to me.
I started sending out e-mails to artists, woodworkers, musicians, craftsmen/women, small business owners and more, to reach out and see if they’d like to be a part of this book and the more I reached out and shared my ideas, the better the response I got about it. One day, I sat down at my computer to an e-mail from one of the folks being featured in this book and she asked when/how I’d be visiting, and I sort of just sat back in my chair and realized that I could either take a step backwards or forward. I chose forward.
January first, we are launching a Kickstarter to help enable this project so that I can personally meet and have studio visits with each of the “makers” in this book, and if all goes well, I will be traveling to L.A., Portland, Nashville, New York, Philadelphia and 30 miles north into Chicago to properly document the studios of each individual, witness their process and hear their story. It is my hope and intention that this becomes an ongoing publication.
GF: What or who would you say has informed, challenged and influenced your aesthetic and work ethic?
CAT: I’ve always been persistent – less with others and more so with myself. I’ve made a to-do list for myself every single day for the last seven years. I am not only very goal-oriented but I am constantly striving to better myself personally, creatively, in my craft and as a human being. Excuse my sentimental nature – but working hard, consistently and with immense persistence is also a vigorous coping mechanism that I have grown very dependent on. I find working with my hands to be very therapeutic and creating work that is personally rewarding – even if its immensely difficult or comes with great risk – is a great way to find purpose and value in your own life. I am also one of the most introverted individuals I’ve ever met and I spend an unfathomable amount of time alone. Given my interests and my longing to work hard and do better, it’s a given that my work ethic is very intensive.
I’ve always been minimalistic and seemingly simple as far as aesthetic – I’ve stuck to the same color palette for as long as I can remember, I’ve never enjoyed tacky or eccentric patterns or designs, bright colors, or anything that couldn’t speak for itself. It could be the way that I grew up, but I consider stability and function to be the most valuable, which is one of the reasons why I find craft and handiwork so interesting; it requires great skill to be able to make something of good quality. In the same breath, there is a very rustic and raw aesthetic that is running around at the moment that I am incredibly smitten by and at the moment, I consider that to be very inspirational to my work.
GF: You’ve been able to curate works that feature brilliant concepts coupled with gripping images. Is photography another one of your passions?
CAT: I might take a leap here and be bold enough to say that I feel passionate about anything that requires my hands. Photography is another something that I’ve had tucked away in my pocket since I was younger and though I don’t pursue it actively as a living, it comes in handy in the work that I do both with Lagniappe and self-publishing. I am certainly interested in it and I enjoy being able to construct and capture the things that I find aesthetically pleasing as well as the moments and people that I value and find important. Working with composition is something that I find incredibly exciting and having something to look back on is always something that I enjoy.
I do believe though, that there is a thin line between what is an interest and passion. I am interested in photography, hand lettering, illustration, etc. but I am most passionate about craft and handiwork, writing and connecting with others.
GF: What is your vision for Lagniappe?
CAT: My vision for Lagniappe is to slowly but surely pursue it as its own entity and hopefully, when I come to settle down on a location, obtain and refurbish a space into its own studio and shop.
GF: What are your long-term aspirations?
CAT: Despite everything going on, my long-term aspirations are honestly and truly very quiet. I want to do what I love and I want to surround myself with family and loved ones.