Jodi, the maker behind The Neighborgoods, is all about putting a smile on the face of a fellow food-lover. Based out of Washington, DC, Jodi was originally a graphic designer before deciding to focus more on her passion for food. By illustrating family recipes, she discovered she had a knack for creating fun and interested designs that could be screen-printed on dish towels and gifted to family and friends. Thus, The Neighborgoods was born. Today, Jodi has a full line of products from aprons to baby onesies and works out of her home studio with her trusty canine companion, Frankie. We recently had a chance to tour this space with Jodi and see where the magic happens. Shop The Neighborgoods at west elm DC!
Photography by Adrien Radford
Please tell us a little about yourself and your work.
My name is Jodi and I’m the creator behind The Neighborgoods, based in Washington DC. Our products are inspired by the beauty of food and how it brings people together – whether through baking cupcakes, making homemade jams, or sharing a love of beets. When my goods bring a smile to someone’s face or when a customer can find the perfect gift for their pickle loving friend, it makes my day and is why I keep creating our fun, foodie-themed products.
In addition to my home-goods business, I also run a graphic design business, Hello Neighbor Designs, focusing on branding and packaging for clients in the food industry, which is how The Neighborgoods got its start. I love being able to combine my two passions of food and design and being able to translate that feeling into a product that everyone can use is just icing on the cake!
Tell us about your studio space.
I work out of the home I share with my husband and our dog, Frankie. Frankie is my trusty side kick, who supervises my operations day-to-day from his bed stationed next to my desk (often with his eyes closed). The back room is my main office where all of the magic happens — designing, making mock-ups, packaging my goods, getting shipments ready, and storing all of my inventory.
I like to keep my space filled with color, inspiration, and a few special pieces that have been passed down to me from my mom, or picked up on my travels. Since I keep adding more and more products, I try to to make the most of the space by finding the best use for every nook and cranny.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
Frankie and I go on a walk first thing after waking up. I make coffee and breakfast when we get back, needing that caffeine and fuel to fully focus on starting my day. I eat my avocado toast and sip coffee at my desk reading theSkimm to get caught up on the happenings around the world.
My daily work consists mostly of client design work which varies from designing packaging and logos, making print outs and mock ups, painting, illustrating on the computer, answering emails and working up estimates and invoicing.
My Neighborgoods business has always been my side hustle so I typically work on filling orders, packaging up products, and working on new designs in the evenings and on the weekends.
Although, I have declared this year my “year of transition” and have been consciously taking on less design work and adding in more Neighborgoods time during the days to give it the time it needs to grow.
Tell us about your design and manufacturing process.
All of my designs start out as a pencil sketch to get the ideas flowing. I then make a rough sketch on the computer to get the overall layout formed. From there I start to refine each piece of the design one at a time until all aspects are complete. Once the design is finished I play around with a bunch of different color combinations to see which one is feeling the best and works well with my other designs.
I always make a full size print out of the final designs (for all products: towels, onesies, aprons, cards) to make sure it’s looking good in real life and not just on the computer. After making any necessary tweaks I finalize the file and send off to the printer.
In starting up my business I did all of the screen printing for the first year and a half. That consisted of making the screens, mixing up the ink colors, printing each color separately, and heat setting the final pieces (whew! It was a lot of work, but super fun to learn the process). When I made the move down to DC from Brooklyn I decided it was time to start outsourcing the printing since I was losing my print space and I needed the time to focus on all of the other aspects of running a growing business.
I now get my products printed from a small printer in Wisconsin who still uses eco-friendly water-based inks and hand pulls each color.
Once the products are printed they are shipped to me where I fold and package each and every piece getting them ready to ship out to stores and customers.
What (or who) inspires you the most?
I am inspired by the beauty of food and its power to connect people, cultures, and conjure up great memories. I could spend hours at the farmers market or grocery store just ogling the produce section, and of course taking pics for instagram (which is where I also find a ton of inspiration).
Hanging out with fellow artists / makers also gives me inspiration and motivation to
try different things or come up with something I may not have on my own. I always come back full of new information and ideas, ready to get back to work.
What is it like being a maker in America right now?
I feel over the past few years there has been a shift from consumers who are looking more for something local, unique, and handmade by a small company. That appreciation from customers has made following my dreams and passions so much more rewarding.
Why do you love DC?
I just moved to DC two years ago and the artist/maker community here has been so welcoming, inspiring, and supportive, which has been great and exactly what I needed creatively (and socially being in a new city working from home).
There are also a lot of opportunities here for makers to get exposure in the community. For example, West Elm and some other shops have been so great allowing small local businesses to do pop-up shops inside their stores.
Not to mention the foodie scene that keeps my creative juices flowing for my work, and my taste buds happy.
What’s next for you?
I’m really trying to shift the focus of my businesses in wanting The Neighborgoods to be more than just my side hustle. I have recently added a few new products such as aprons and greeting cards which has been so much fun. I have tons of other ideas brewing and I can’t wait to get the time to try them out.
I have grown organically over the past 3 1/2 years and plan to keep seeing where things take me. Who knows, maybe I’ll have my own shop of these days. 😉