Founders and Owners, Flat Vernacular, Brooklyn, NY
“When you are an artist, you have to think of yourself as your own entity, your own business more or less. If you want to be successful artist, I think that’s how you have to look at it. Nobody is going to do your own PR for you if you are a painter. That’s how you get from the studio to the gallery and into people’s homes.” — Payton Cosell Turner ’08 “Not everyone will love our wallpaper. They should though.” — Brian Kaspr ’06
Payton Turner '08 and Brian Kaspr '06 both came to MICA because of the openness and friendliness that permeated the campus. After meeting there, they took the concept of collaboration they learned at MICA to a whole new level. They are business partners in Flat Vernacular, design consorts, and life allies as husband and wife.
The origins of the company can be traced to Turner’s senior thesis project, when she developed “sticker wallpaper,” an imaginative design made up of commercially available stickers. After moving to New York post-graduation, she was commissioned to do similar work for a home there. Kaspr’s thesis project, on the other hand, involved printmaking. On a professional level, he was moved by the response of audiences to Turner’s drawings and aesthetics and shared her interest in decorating and creating a home environment. They saw an opening for niche wallpaper— meticulously designed limited edition works of art. A business relationship flowed forth.
MICA’s training in learning from mistakes proved valuable for them. They tried printing the product themselves out of their studio, but with day jobs, it proved difficult. The process, however, taught them how to seamlessly lay out patterns, a key part of their ability to visualize what the finished product would look like.
Making the product is one thing, but selling it is a different aspect, according to the couple. The research skills embedded in their artmaking process again proved invaluable .
Through “tons” of research, relationship building, and trial and error, they figured out how to get their product in front of customers and distributed to buyers. They used their networking skills to learn about the industry, connect with a manufacturer, and get their work into showrooms and in front of interior decorators. They have also built a consumer following that seeks them out.
They argue one of the best things they learned at MICA is how to take criticism. Because they are in a creative business that is ultimately dependent on people’s tastes, they have to have tough skin. Their ability to persevere and build relationships, has led to their success.
Ultimately, they want Flat Vernacular to be perceived as a lifestyle brand, extending what they know about creating living environments beyond wallpaper. After being featured in the New York Times and Elle Décor, they are well on their way to being household names.