Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Sara Barrett and my sister Shana and I are Bark Decor. We live in a small town just south of Boston, Massachusetts and we design and create home decor, apparel, jewelry and fine art. Shana holds a degree in creative writing and English from Roger Williams University and I graduated with a BFA in graphic design from Massachusetts College of Art.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
Aside from creating products for Bark, Shana teaches high school English and I am a freelance graphic designer/musician. In our spare time we ride horses, go jogging in parks and play with our dog Bear. We also love anything having to do with (in no particular order): chocolate, dinner mints, ’80s revival bands, mullets, gummy worms, foxes and wolves, cutting and dying our own hair, Ace Ventura, sequins, Members Only jackets and tapered pants.
What would be the title of your memoir?
HA! would be the title. We’re always cracking jokes and thoroughly enjoy being inappropriate.
Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration comes from the human interpretation of the world we live in. From prehistoric man to modern-day artists, the marks, symbols and art made to help try and understand the universe and our existence fascinates me and fuels my creativity.
Learning how to create while being eco-conscious is also very inspiring to us. We’ve incorporated the environment into our work and made it an integral part of our process. By devising a way to expose our screen printing screens by the daytime sun in our backyard, we’ve eliminated the need for electricity and exposure units. Choosing to work this way makes our process very dependent on the conditions of our environment and reminds us of how much we truly need our environment to work and function, for our business and for our world. We also print using eco-friendly water-based inks and solvents, recycle our ink and ship in recycled mailers.
What does handmade mean to you?
As a maker, handmade means putting a bit of yourself into a physical object. If I don’t feel apprehensive or a bit uncomfortable about putting a new piece out into the world then I know it’s not ready. Each item is an intimate fragment of my personality, beliefs and existence.
As a buyer, buying handmade means supporting an individual’s vision. You’re investing and appreciating that person’s talent, time and creativity.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
We come from a family of artists; I think it’s in our blood to be creative in some way or another. Our mother is an illustrator/weaver and our grandparents both painted. We were raised with crayons in our hands at all times and with our creations stuck to the fridge. Our parents’ encouragement and support nurtured our desire to keep exploring what we could create next. Once we flew the nest we ventured into other expressions of art — Shana explored the art of writing while taking jewelry classes on the side, and I explored graphic design, where I learned about branding, type and web design. After we graduated we self-taught ourselves other skills such as screen printing and sewing.
I think as an artist you have to be able to influence and surprise yourself with what you can do and confidently push yourself to the next step to realize your potential.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
Shana knew she had artistic ability when she decided to give me a haircut when I was 2 years old — she snuck me into the bathroom and cut all of my hair off. My mom put me in a hat for the rest of the summer. And I knew I was an artist when I drew a picture of a cat and thought I had made a real cat. I was 4 and looking at the drawing now it sort of looks like a log with a tail.
How would you describe your creative process?
Our creative process varies from incredibly thorough, thought-out design processes to completely random and organic processes.
After being taught a strict design process at school, I try to stick to sketching and mocking up numerous drafts and modifications to a certain piece I’m working on. The end result usually works out to be a very cohesive piece of work. But then there are the times when I’m just too excited to sketch and I have to get what is in my head into reality. I skip past all the steps to the final product and it’s just total chaos and I make a mess of the house and don’t sleep for a few days. It’s awesome.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
I know Shana would love to see Ansel Adams’s studio.
I would have to travel back over 30,000 years ago to Chauvet Cave. To see early man’s first masterpiece being created would be absolutely incredible.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
I have a few cherished handmade items that I will always keep with me, but the two that stand out the most are a dala horse my dad brought home after a trip and a bunch of hand-woven ponchos that my mom brought back from Mexico when she was my age.
Shana’s is her stuffed animal “Owly” — it’s a stuffed animal owl that she’s had since she was tiny.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
Party! A creative rut is the brain saying, “That’s enough we need to rest and refuel.” I usually go to a movie, hang out with friends, take a walk or have a dance party. I have to do something other than focus on how frustrated I am with my art. I suggest giving your creative juices a rest so they can come back stronger.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
In ten years we would love to come home from traveling the entire world to our house on a mountain that has a lake, a waterfall, flocks of wild, leaping, laughing deer and a permanent double rainbow that stretches from east to west. But, what we would mostly love is to be successful artists and to continue to be creative and love what we do.