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Kaoru and David first met at Emily Carr University of Art and Design where Kaoru was attending her foundation year and David was a senior. David studied graphic design, and in 1988, upon graduating from ECUAD, established Ion Design, a branding and design company, with his business partner. Kaoru would graduate in 1991 with a major in ceramics. Prior to joining David at Ion Design, Kaoru managed the Gallery of BC Ceramics for four years, and in the past had worked at Circle Craft while teaching pottery. Years later, Kaoru and David’s joined forces both in marriage and business, where she now heads the administrative side of Ion Design. Many years and two children later, they took a family vacation to Europe, and the idea of another career started to take shape. While enjoying the weekly markets typical in any European town, they realized how much they missed the markets and connecting with the crafter/maker at markets in Vancouver. Coupled with their design background, a sense of play, and a strong desire to create again, Riding the Pine was birthed in 2014.
What started out as a hobby, a way to find creative play, organically evolved into a business. No practical business plan was made. No cash low projections. No cost analysis. What emerged was a return to the simple love of creating, having fun working together, and brainstorming beautiful products. Their first couple of designs were very whimsical; flags on pillows, and shadow boxes made with vintage hockey sticks, that only loosely resemble the beautiful boxes they make today. Riding the Pine gave David and Kaoru back the fun of doing creative work, work that didn’t have a committee or even a client attached to it. They reconnected with the freedom associated with creative play. What evolved from their distillation is what we see today.
By January 2015, equipped with tried and tested designs, they ventured out to test the market. Their first show was on Canada Day in 2015 at Waterfront Park in North Vancouver. “It was a beautiful day. We didn’t sell anything. Our booth was by the bandstand, we had a beautiful view near the water, everyone was so friendly and happy, and we received great feedback. Our booth was a disaster, it kept falling down. It was such a good learning experience for us as we learned so much that prepared us for the larger shows like Make It and Got Craft. We had a lot of fun.” Soon, Favourite Gifts, in North Vancouver, became the first store to carry their work. “It was the perfect situation for us to produce a little bit and build our brand,” added David. After that they joined the 2015 Etsy market at Robson Square and soon realized that things were getting more serious. The public loved their work, and two more stores called and asked for shipments. By the Spring of 2016 they added the larger Make It show to their list of markets. In 2017 came Spring Got Craft, and that is when they started to grow even faster. “We’ve found that each market we do we have a lot of fun, and that is what we missed while working solely in the corporate world. We love the connection with people, and the atmosphere of the events, and the general excitement of participating in markets.” This year they will participate in Got Craft, Make It, Etsy Made in Canada, and Circle Craft. “We’ve had a few years to workout a system for design, making patterns and creating, and believe we have come up with a system that will sustain growth.”
2017 was a big growth year for them. They were being approached by even more stores to carry their product, and within a year their retail stores doubled. Riding the Pine can now be found at Badlands Amphitheatre Gift Shop in Drumheller, Cur8ted in Gibson, Paper Label in Deep Cove, Favourite Gift Store in Londsdale Quay, Branches and Knots in Kitsalano, 2nd Nature in East Vancouver, and of course, our store, Bird On A Wire Creations, in Mount Pleasant, East Van. Despite their success in this, their second full-time job, both David and Kaoru feel as though Riding the Pine is like a hobby for them, giving them great joy and fulfilment. They are able keep up with the orders being placed and getting ready for their markets, without being exhausted. “We love working together and we can do this work anywhere. Now would be the time to build that business plan and be more practical about our vision, along with where we can take Riding the Pine – both physically and through product output.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” adds David, “it isn’t all fun and games. Planning is required. Creating schedules on when to make, deliver, show up for shows… when and where to buy raw materials… however this hard work brings so much joy with it as well.” We had so much fun interviewing this dynamic couple. We left feeling inspired by the possibility of doing what we love with a person we love to be with. And We also noticed that it also helps to have a good sense of humour, as we did much laughing throughout our visit. David and Kaoru dream big, they dream with passion, and they dream together!