Meet the Maker: Vanessa and Darren of Scout & Whistle
Next up on Meet the Maker, we have a couple that’s doing rustic chic the right way. Meet Vanessa Boer and Darren Pasemko of Scout & Whistle. Is the name ringing a bell? That’s probably because they were onsite at Re:Make on October 5th selling their home goods! Check out their awesome booth display above—it’s a Pendleton-lover’s dream. As the Portland-based duo explain, Scout & Whistle combines “modern design, natural history, and cabin life, making housewares for your imaginary A-frame in the woods.” Okay, we’re hooked. If we had a cabin in the woods, it would definitely be decked out in all things Scout & Whistle.
Read on as Vanessa and Darren fill us in on their sources of inspiration, advice for other makers, and more.
First things first, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
We are Vanessa Boer and Darren Pasemko, the team behind Scout & Whistle. We combine our love of modern design, natural history, and cabin life, to make housewares for your imaginary A-frame in the woods. We migrated from Brooklyn, NY and now live in Portland, Oregon with our shepherd-mutt extraordinaire. When we aren’t working on Scout & Whistle, Darren is a filmmaker and animator and Vanessa is an illustrator and craft stylist.
When did you first realize you love to make?
Vanessa: My mom is an artist and gave me blank sketchbooks instead of coloring books when I was a kid. I remember drawing together on the beach since I was really young. I have always loved making things with my hands and would find any excuse to incorporate a drawing or diorama into a school project. Making little books, drawings, sewn creatures, and miniatures have always been an interest of mine – that and dogs.
Darren: It feels like an incredibly hard question to answer. I guess the most straightforward answer is to simply say that as a child there was an undeniable need to draw the things that I loved, and to create my own worlds. It was pure fantasy building.
Why did you decide to start Scout & Whistle?
We got married last summer and made nearly everything for the wedding (with the help of amazing friends). After painting seemingly endless tablecloths, making yards of garlands, giant piñatas and all of the graphic design and paper goods, we found that we really liked collaborating together. We were both self employed artists and had recently moved to Portland after living in Brooklyn and working with commercial clients for years. We decided we would try to focus on work for ourselves rather than pursuing more commercial projects. The original intention was to make everything that we’d want in our own home, and turn that into a product to share with people. This is still something we keep in mind when making new work. I think we both have a vision of our future cabin in the woods, and it’s a benchmark for what we make.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Both of us are inspired by old thrift shops in tiny, dusty towns, hiking in the Columbia River Gorge, camping in redwoods, taking road trips down Highway 1 and across the country, Wes Anderson’s worlds, This American Life and as much music as we can get our paws on. The list is endless, we just try to entertain ourselves and make work that is inspired by all the things we love.
Which project or handmade houseware are you proudest of?
We collaborated on our gem and crystal chart, which is a modern take on the traditional natural history chart. We then developed that into one of our new custom textile designs. We’ve been pretty excited about those!
What’s one piece of advice you’d share with other makers?
Darren: “Stick to your guns.” Everyone is a unique individual, and each person has a different signature. We want to see people’s particular take on things. We want to feel their personality in the things they make.
Vanessa: “If you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” – Conan O’Brien
What other creative hobbies do you have?
Darren: Writing, animation, filmmaking, comics, and photography.
Vanessa: Drawing, photography, and any excuse to use washi tape.
How has technology changed and supported what you do?
Darren: It’s an integral part of our creative process. At our base, Scout & Whistle is focused on design ideas and shedding light on vintage ephemera. With technology, we have more time to relish in conceptual development. The internet expands our creative brains, software expedites our process, and high quality digital prints on archival art paper, and online services make it really fun and easy to produce art and textiles. But at the same, working with Pendleton wool, and manufacturing hand-crafted pillows still relies on muscle work. And we like that too.
Vanessa: As much we make by hand, our business relies heavily on technology. Nearly all of our sales take place online through retail or wholesale orders, we are able to send digital files for our fabric to be printed, we use Photoshop and Illustrator almost every day, we listen to podcasts while we work and without the internet, I wouldn’t have a million animal friendship and sloth videos to keep me entertained while I sew.
How do you think the analog world is changing as the digital world continues to boom?
New tools, new software, and smarter materials have made it easier for individual makers to make their mark. The concept of the “bedroom musician” has grown in all professions and and the digital advances can really help people to get their work out into the world. The more digital our world becomes, the more we see people wanting to make things by hand. Whether it’s a fire, a meal or a drawing, it always feels good to make something from scratch.