If you’re ever in need of a little pick-me-up, look no further than The Great Lakes Goods. Here, you’ll find some much needed happy feelings and coveted “posi-vibes” abound. Founder Rose Lazar embraces all things happy and energetic in her handmade, locally sourced goods. Her whimsical objects, ranging from greeting cards to wall charms to cut out wooden flowers have, no doubt, a tangible resemblance to your childhood arts & craft projects. That warm feeling of nostalgia is a common thread throughout everything Rose makes, and something she believes strongly in. To her, some things rooted in our past (like handwritten notes and cards) should not be forgotten and replaced with purely digital forms of communication.
The Great Lakes Goods was originally born out of a need for Rose to have a creative outlet and put her degree in printmaking to good use. She started making handmade greeting cards to which she found huge success. After completing school in Buffalo, NY followed by a move to Chicago, she has returned to Brooklyn and plans to expand her line of handmade goods to include more housewares, textiles, and utilitarian items. 10 years later, Rose still stands by that original message: there’s truly nothing better than receiving a hand-written letter or gift in the mail. Pull up a chair and stay for the positive vibes as we pay a visit to her seriously colorful studio in Brooklyn! Read on below:
Photography by Lindsey Swedick.
Please tell us a little about yourself and The Great Lakes Goods.
My name is Rose Lazar and I own and operate The Great Lakes Goods out of Brooklyn, NY. The Great Lakes Goods specializes in hand made stationery and home decor goods with good vibes. All of the stationery and paper goods are hand printed and start as original drawings that I do that are then screen printed. The home decor is comprised of hand made wooden objects that are inspired by historical symbols and references to good vibes and positivity. I started turning my drawings into wall objects called wall charms that are shapes laser cut from wood and then hand painted with detail. Over time we’ve added more and more objects and table top goods like candle holders and incense burners. The hand made aspect of The Great Lakes Goods is what we’ve become known for. I try to make things that feel like they were made for you, but are still polished and finished and feel like accessible art.
What inspired you to start your own business?
I started The Great Lakes Goods in 2008. I originally started it so that I could put that college degree to work! I’m a printmaker by trade so I was looking for a way to make prints and somehow make money. I went to school in Buffalo, NY and then moved to Chicago. I was trying to figure out a way to keep printmaking now that I didn’t have the luxury of a University Print Lab. The craft community was really starting to develop as a viable way of being able to start your business out of what you were good at. Someone suggested I try my hand at greeting cards so, that was how The Great Lakes Goods got started. People seemed to respond to my humor, sentiment and graphics so, I kept going and developing the line and 10 years later it’s still growing and developing. It’s hard to make a birthday card that doesn’t look like everyone else’s but I feel like people know you’re going to find that with TGLG. There’s always a little bit of humor, irreverence and nostalgia in what I make.
You use a semi non-traditional method for printmaking your stationery. Tell us about that!
I use a form of printmaking that is like screen printing but it’s own version and it’s called Print Gocco. In Japan, they had this table top printing unit that runs on the same concept of screen printing but it’s its own version of it. It uses screens with emulsion and flash bulbs to expose the screen. It’s the perfect size for greeting cards and that’s what it was intended for in Japan. The same way kids had easy bake ovens here they had gocco printers in Japan. People there really used it to make small run holiday cards or birthday invites. It was adopted by the craft community in the states and when I was started the stationery line people told me to look into it. It’s great because the clean up is minimal, it doesn’t take up much space – which made it perfect for working out of my original studio which was in my apartment. The downside to it is, it’s now a discontinued piece of equipment, so I have to scour eBay and the internet for supplies. Once the supplies are gone the stationery line will take a new form. But, I have a little time left before that happens. I also use traditional screen print methods to print art prints, textiles and a new line of cards that I’m developing in anticipation of whatever changes I’m going to have to make once I can no longer get the supplies I need.
An important aspect of what drives your vision is feelings of nostalgia. Why do you think the art of handmade cards and handwritten letters is so important to keep alive in the digital age?
To me there is nothing better than getting a hand written letter. We spend so much time on our phones or computers all day and it’s nice to get texts or emails from friends and family, but to get a piece of mail or a card from someone means that person had to be thinking of you in a different way. They actively thought of you and bought that card, had to scrounge up a stamp from somewhere and put it in a mailbox. I now have nephews and little ones that don’t live near me and I remember how fun it was to get mail when I was a kid so, I try to pop a note in the mail to them on the regular. Even if it just says hi those are memories that you keep forever. My mailbox is literally either empty or filled with garbage catalogs I never requested so to get a card in the mail is the best!
Tell us about your studio space.
My studio space is in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. it’s a shared space with two other makers, but it’s pretty big so we’ve got a lot of room to move around. It’s the first studio I’ve had that has so much space in it. I like to work in what I call organized chaos. There’s a lot of color, a lot of visual stimuli and hopefully something to inspire you if you just happen to walk in. I go there every day so even though it’s in an old industrial building my space has to be cozy and filled with sheepskins and plants (the plants are starting to take over) I usually use the wall space I have to test out new wall pieces or hang up my current favorite ones. I like to surround myself with inspiring images by friends or artists that I admire. My poodle, Violet, comes with me every day so there are a lot of bones and toys around, too.
What direction do you hope Great Lakes Goods goes in the next few years? What new project are you the most excited about?
As The Great Lakes Goods carries on I’m hoping to develop it into a well rounded home goods line. Stationery is where it started and will always have my heart and be a part of what TGLG is about, but I love creating a space and interior design. So, developing a screen printed textile line is what’s next on my agenda. I just started to dabble with making textiles and it’s very exciting. I can’t wait to keep going with it and developing home textiles so that I can bring my vision to an entire space through interior design. I would also like to make a signature scent in some form to really round out the universe of The Great Lakes Goods. As we grow, finding responsible ways to continue to work small and hand made are a part of the future vision what TGLG will always be about.
What is it like being a small business owner, artist, and one-woman show in NYC?
It is hard! But super rewarding. For one thing, I am always working. Living in NYC is hard because there’s always something to do or a museum to visit or etc. When you own a small business it’s not gonna get done unless you do it so, I have to sacrifice time sometimes to get work done. But, I’m trying to get better at making time to be inspired and not be in the studio every day. However, I’m my own boss and I wouldn’t have it any other way. NYC makes you hustle and it’s most rewarding if you’re doing it for yourself.
What do you love most about your community at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and NYC as a whole?
The Brooklyn Navy Yard is like it’s own little world. As more and more businesses move in and now there’s a food court opening up in the near future as well as a Wegman’s (if you know what Wegman’s is than you know how excited I am for that) it’s becoming like a little community. Just on my floor I’m surrounded by other designers and creators working in fashion, 3d technology and wood working that have all become peers and part of our own little community. We celebrate birthdays together, ask each other biz questions and provide puppy love to each other. In a city that can seem so big the thing I love about it is it ends up being so small. The community is pretty supportive and we all end up meeting each other or working together at some point.
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