Sometimes, I wish I had a soundtrack to my life. But when I think about how I wake up in the morning (frumptastic), I’m confident that I’ll hear the joke-flop sound bite instead of Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off, and that’s no way to start the day. So, I’ll leave the synchronized music to the movies and find something else to brighten things up. Perhaps a little dance party à la Hugh Grant in Love Actually would do the trick. Or maybe a soft reminder to carpe my diem might just get me out of the house for an energizing run – or far more likely, an invigorating stroll. Either way, Caitlin Halberstadt of Bright July is ready to turn any frown upside down with her hand appliquéd, peppy pillows and add a little flair to life. I can jump, jump for that. I know, bad joke. Her enthusiasm and creativity are contagious and she undoubtedly has many bright Julys ahead.
Your pillows are so much fun and wonderful little reminders (carpe diem!) to cozy up any couch. What inspires your designs? Thank you! My inspiration mostly comes from celebrating life and love. I love the idea that a Carpe Diem (or Carpe Noctem) pillow is a little reminder to live the day well, or that a Te Amo or Je T’aime pillow can send a simple message of love from one person to another. Nothing makes me happier than imagining my little pillows taking on a new life, encouraging people I’ve never met and becoming a little part of their lives and stories.
Your lovely applique work really adds a little special something to your cozy-cute collection. Tell me about your design process. Each design starts with calligraphy. I use a Japanese sumi-e ink brush and a pot of black ink to write out the saying in a sketchbook. From there, the design is traced and ironed on using transfer paper. Finallly, each letter is carefully and lovingly machine appliquéd onto the pillow and assembled. The beauty of this process is that I have so much flexibility – and can make any custom lettering at any time. I love custom orders! I’m also working on some new designs that incorporate light sensitive dye prints and handmade, hand-wrapped tassels. Each one of those designs goes through many steps and stages of translation before they are finished.
What has been the highlight of Bright July to date? Bright July has been an amazing journey for me, with so many wild celebration moments behind my computer! I’m honored to have built partnerships with some amazing online retailers, made exclusive collections, and had my pillows sold in a handful of gorgeous boutiques nationwide. But to be honest, my favorite part of all this is hearing how a pillow I made for someone holds special meaning in their lives and makes them happy, and I could just burst. I’ve received a handful of those notes and treasure each one.
Launching & developing a brand takes a serious amount of dedication. What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far? I recently came across a quote from Marc Chagall. He said, “If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.” The lesson of making everything from the heart first has been huge for me. Every time I sat down to make something, thinking of the end buyer and what they might want, I ended up so stuck. When I began from a place of enthusiasm and love for what I was making, suddenly everything worked. Creating a brand is a tremendous amount of work, and it has to start from a collection of things you, the maker, are completely in love with – or you’re in trouble. Trusting myself and maintaining a strong love for what I’m doing are by far the most valuable lessons I’ve learned
Let’s go back back in time a few years. What advice would give yourself on the topic of entrepreneurship? I would tell myself to trust the process and be patient. Opportunities and doors open all over the place if your work is truly something you love and if you’ve found an audience of people who love it just as much. The growth trajectory has been slower than I might like at times, but looking back, my business has advanced in perfect timing. Other advice I’d give myself is to set up an organized system for paperwork and tax preparation well before you need it, to make life that much easier.
Fast-forward five years. Where do hope to see yourself? In five years, I’d love to grow my brand to include a wider range of pillows, home wares, and paintings. I see myself with a team of dedicated employees to help me sew and pack and ship, with enough business to support us all comfortably. I’d love nothing more than to realize my childhood dream of supporting myself entirely through things I’ve created.
Guilty pleasure? A few too many cups of black tea with milk and honey.
Spirit animal? Lion
Cake or pie? Cake!
Favorite corner of the world? Southern Africa
Words to live by? “There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela