Far Out Airplants
Louise and Dustin are two of my favorite people! I met them separately. First, I met Dustin while working at a boutique on Magazine Street, Red Arrow Workshop. I always enjoyed when he would stop in and we'd get to chat. Later I met Louise when she applied to work at Red Arrow. Me and her hit it off right away and she is now one of my closest friends - she was apart of my Wedding Dream Team! We are even working together again at a new store, The Stacks Art & Design Bookstore!
I asked Louise to choose one of her favorite places for us to hang out for this interview. She picked the Latter Library because it is a space that they both find beautiful and inspiring. If you haven't visited this library before then you should put it on your list of things to see in New Orleans. I spent most of the afternoon here and it was wonderful. It's located on Saint Charles Avenue so there are streetcars going down the oak lined street. The Library itself is a former mansion with a spacious front lawn a small garden on one side. The day I went there were couples sitting on benches chatting, a mom and daughter doing homework on the front porch, a family sitting in the grass with their dog, and I kid you not a man walking his bunnies! It was a charming experience. If you are looking for a peaceful place to picnic, read a book, or get some work done then this is the spot.
How did you guys meet?
Dustin: We met in Brooklyn and fell in love instantly. It happened really fast. We had a mutual friend that I worked with at a restaurant. And one day I was telling him how much I’m attracted to redheads so he mentioned a really cute redhead that he met in high school that he was still friends with. He hadn’t seen her in a long time and then she appeared at this place we went to called Matchless where you had to do heavy metal karaoke to get a free shot and neither one of us did heavy metal karaoke.
Louise: I did the most angsty song ever. I did Fiona Apple.
Dustin: And I did Tom Petty. Last dance with Mary Jane. And you fell in love with it
Louise: Yep. And then we rode home on his bike. He had a mountain bike and I was on the handlebars.
Dustin: We made it back to the shop and we just watched a movie together. But other things happened later that made our story more interesting ‘cause we survived hurricane Sandy together.
Louise: We were in Philly for a Halloween party and then we came back up 'cause we heard the subways were gonna shut down. Hurricane Sandy is like hitting Jersey right now so we couldn’t get back via train. We didn’t know how big it was going to be and we just didn’t want to be locked out of the city. We’d rather be in the city and locked in and be home. So we got up there and it was torrential downpour. We finally get to the shop and we have like a six pack of beer and some jambalaya that we had made because he was like telling me about New Orleans and stuff. We brought that back to the shop and we’re partying. We got music raging and this huge 10 foot window blows out and all the contents from the top of his desk
Dustin: Everything got sucked out of the window, it was crazy. But yeah we experienced that together and then shortly after we decided to move down to Louisiana. I was ready to get back down here
Louise: We moved down like a month after hurricane Sandy. That’s how it all started
How long have y’all been creatively doing things together?
Louise: I’d say from the start.
Dustin: Yeah, we had art nights in the shop.
Louise: I knew that Dustin was really artistic because he had participated in these performances and I admired that. And then him just showing me his sketchbook and seeing his drawings I was like oh yeah I could totally see something happening with this guy. That was kind of what motivated us to move to Louisiana too because we felt like it would be easier for us to start something down here rather than New York. Cause New York is so overly saturated and I felt like here we would have more of an opportunity to stand out. So pretty much from the beginning we knew we wanted to do something together but we just didn’t really know what.
Dustin: And then we discovered that we both enjoyed plants and you were the one that got on board with the air plant idea.
Louise: Yeah even before that though we were just like let’s be on our hustle. Let’s find things and try to flip it. So we would go around and like take shutters and make shelves out of them and then go to junk shops and find little gems and go to markets and try to sell them. In doing that we started bringing succulents into it and putting them in things and people were buying that. Then I found out about air plants and I had seen other people doing stuff with air plants and like be really crafty with them so I was like oh I could do that too. I would just take something I found at the junk shop and stick an air plant on it and that was like the only thing people cared about.
Dustin: Then I was selling toys and we came up with let’s stick a plant in a toy.
Louise: Yeah 'cause his mom saved every childhood toy he ever had. So like he had the entire He-Man set. He had every McDonald toy saved, all the Ninja Turtles, villains, everything. We still have the Peewee Herman’s play set. All the Simpsons characters. Like anything you can think of like a kid in the late 80’s would have, Dustin had that toy. We were selling them until it became too painful for Dustin.
Dustin: Yeah I was like man I just got rid of an original Raphael Ninja Turtle and it kinda hurts. I wanted to keep the four together.
So was it just the toy by itself or was this also toys with air plants?
Louise: At first it was just the toy and then we had some that were not as cool so we were just sticking air plants on ‘em. Like cutting holes in the toy and sticking a plant inside and that was the only thing that sold aside from just the toys themselves. That was the only thing that was moving so we kind of just ditched everything else. We stopped lugging all the furniture, we stopped lugging all of my clothes, we stopped bringing all that stuff and we would just bring the plants. Then the dino thing kind of happened just because people like dinos.
Dustin: We would find driftwood and put plants in that.
Louise: Then we would also go around and pick up people’s Christmas trees and chop em down and drill holes in them.
Dustin: Yeah you had to let the sap cure so you couldn’t sell em for about a year.
How has your process changed over the years?
Dustin: Now we’re doing more original stuff.
Louise: We were just selling the same thing over and over again and it was boring for us. Dustin is really good at making little characters and stuff like that. We started playing around with clay and having Dustin take the reigns and paint on it.
Dustin: I would say that she brought that out in me. I didn’t feel confident enough to sell this stuff like my drawings. I really nitpick a lot and she was like no, no it’s good and then she would critique it and I changed some things. Then when it sold I was like oh shit wow this is cool, people really do like this stuff. It was something that you know came from deep down that I didn’t know I had. It helped me out a lot.
Louise: That’s been one way that we’ve branched out with the clay. That’s been fun because we can kind of like do our own thing. So we have little wall pockets and magnets and tiny pots. I’ve also been scrounging around for when I can find different exotic shells. We’ve carried orbs in the past and we probably will again, it just depends. I think we’re trying to come up with stuff that’s more original.
How much time do you spend on the business?
Louise: When we’re in the market season which for us is from August to December that’s when we really hit the ground running just in preparation for Christmas. The holiday season is definitely the best for us and then I’d say the other times out of the year our work is really just on consignment at other places. During that busy season the time spent at markets is probably about 8 hours and then 3 nights a week prepping. But now in our off season it’s just a few hours a week because we’re both managing our full time jobs
Dustin: I try to do a new pocket every other weekend depending upon work
Louise: I think for us our ultimate goal is to get away from our full time jobs and be able to put it into our own business. We’re just totally not at that point yet. But when we’re in the thick of that busy season, even though you’re scraping by you get that satisfaction of somebody buying your stuff. Like someone likes our plants and our art, they get us! Sometimes that is more gratifying than monetary value.
Do you feel like there is a struggle to separate your time spent together as business partners vs your time spent together as a couple?
Louise: Not really. I feel like when we are doing it, it’s fun and we’re motivated. I don’t think the business runs us so much that it causes conflicts or anything like that.
Dustin: We work together where you’ll be on one thing like graphic design and I’ll have my set list of what I need to do and then we do our own thing and if we have a question we’d ask what do you think of this. We always kind of had a working relationship.
Louise: I guess it was getting kinda crazy during the holidays where I just want a day where me and you can hang out and not be at a market. But we needed to make money to live so it was like well we’ll do that later. I guess that’s a conflict we came to but not against each other it was just a yearning to have a space where we weren’t at a market.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Dustin: I try not to look for inspiration
Louise: He doesn’t like to because he feels like it’s copying people
Dustin: For example, like right now I want to do these pieces that are static on television like white noise. This is crazy - so I’ve just been looking at the television. It’s been making me crazy but I’ve been painting that today.
Louise: I could just imagine walking in and it’s the scene from Poltergeist but it’s just Dustin in front of the TV
Dustin: I was in the zone. I did research a little and I can’t lie there’s this guy that makes art of television static. I mean there had to be someone to exist doing that. But it was really good, I mean he was doing the bars, the colorful static, the snow, everything. So that was inspiring.
Louise: The thing is when it comes through you it’s always going to be different. It’s not bad to look at inspiration that way
Dustin: There was a time you had a movie on, you had Dr Seuss the Grinch Stole Christmas on in the background and that did inspire those black lines.
Louise: He does these planters that are like continuous lines but they’re kind of really scribbly. Yeah that was inspired by Dr. Seuss.
Dustin: There wasn’t any of that going on in the movie but it was just listening it and painting at the same time I came up with that.
Louise: You definitely look to music for inspiration too because whenever he works he’s just got the music going and for me I’m different, I have a podcast and I’m listening to somebody talk while I’m in the zone
Dustin: I tried doing that but it’s gotta be music. Sometimes the TV will be on and music at the same time which is kind of chaotic but it helps me.
Louise: We like going to museums and stuff too
What is your number one go-to for combating creative burnout?
Dustin: I guess it’s her telling me to snap out of it and same with me. I tell you no, no it’s okay
Louise: Yeah I need a little encouragement or I’ll just force myself - sometimes you just have to
Dustin: If it’s looking like you know a mess to you and you get burnout you have to get away from it. Go for a bike ride, get outside
Louise: You seek inspiration
Dustin: You have to not take yourself so seriously sometimes too. Get over yourself, put the paintbrush down, put down the computer, free yourself from that for a while.
Louise: Here’s an example for me, I have been taking skill-share courses ‘cause I really want to redesign our logo. We’re hoping to kind of evolve the business and open it up to different product categories. So I want to change the logo and I was watching these designers teach me all this stuff but I wasn’t able to come up with my idea. I know the name, I want it to be Far Out Trading Post but I couldn't figure out how to put that into a logo. And so I was watching all these videos and I’ve just been thinking about it constantly but I still had no idea and I haven’t been inspired. Then it was this eureka moment I had today. And I don’t know how that happens - I guess I was putting in the work of doing research and then it just kind of came to me subconsciously. I was seeking out all inspiration desperately. I guess that’s my way of combating it is just to really search for inspiration and look at other people that are kicking ass creatively and then it motivates me again.
Is there another business owner or artist that you guys look up to in your creative pursuits?
Dustin: I like a lot of local stuff going on. I like Chad Gumbo. I like that guy that does the little crawfish and alligator character. Quarter Vomit and Otto Splotch
Louise: The Quarter Vomit they’re pretty cool. I like the Swamp Trash girl.
Dustin: Swamp Trash is amazing.
Louise: I love her stuff, it’s so cool. There’s so many local people it’s hard to say.
Dustin: Of course on Instagram you can find a lot of graffiti artists. I look at a lot of that sometimes
Louise: I feel like for me, there are certain people that even if it’s not the work that they’re making specifically that inspires me but their work ethic. There’s a company I used to work for, Print Fresh. The founders Amy and Louis have always been mentors to me and their work ethic I’ve always looked up to. They built a company from nothing so I feel like when I’m not inspired I’ll go poke around their Instagram and see what they’re up to and that helps.
Dustin: Do a little light stalking.
Louise: Just a little bit of creeping
Do you have a dream project, individually or together?
Louise: Mine is like now I’ve been on this path and I keep thinking about Far Out Trading Post and what I want it to be and I’d want it mostly to be online but then I’d also want the teeniest brick and mortar thing - like just so small, I mean tiny - but it would be a selection of my stuff, vintage clothes. Kind of like white roach, something like that but more focused on art and crafts and handmade rather than records. Then I’d want to live in the back and have a garden in the backyard. Then you know that would be it and in New Orleans when places close down for like 2 weeks to a month we’d take our camper and go somewhere and then come back!
Dustin: That sounds like I’m down with that. I like your dream. The only thing I want to do is make bigger clay stuff. Right now I’m just working on polyform which dries in 24 hours but I’d like to work with the real thing some more. Make some pieces that I’m proud of and we can both do some floral design with. That would be fun.
Louise: That’s a good dream
Dustin: It’s a little dream. It’s just to make em a little bigger. But yeah I’d love to have a shop with you even if it’s just online.
So for one product, are both your hands in it or are you guys working on items separately and then selling under the same name?
Louise: It depends but mostly both of us have our hands on it.
Dustin: Sometimes I’ll make some of the clay things or you’ll make some.
Louise: It’s mostly him with painting the stuff but then it’s both of us for the whole process.
Dustin: You came up with the eggs and started making eggs one day.
Louise: Yeah I’ll come up with an idea and then I’ll be like hey go make an avocado!
You guys have been doing this since 2013?
Dustin: Yeah we’ve been fooling around with it since we first moved here.
Louise: Yeah it used to not be called Far Out. At first it was You and Me Nola
If you could go back to 2013 when you first started the business what advice would you give your younger selves?
Louise: Only put money in the business that you are making from the business. Like don’t put too much extra money back in. I think in the beginning I was over spending and trying to figure out what worked best for us. So not until really last Christmas did we really make any money. I’d say being smarter with your money that you have. I think also doing more research on my vendors. I was getting some of our material from a wholesaler that had a minimum and I ended up spending a lot of money every time just because I thought this person was the go to plant person. And now I know that there’s so many more options and I can order what I need without over spending. That would probably be my advice to myself.
Dustin: I would say don’t mess with furniture at all. Nobody’s gonna buy that shutter shelf unit, don’t spend so much time on that dude. Maybe someone will buy it one day but people want something that’s small and easy to carry around for the rest of the market so they’re not gonna buy a shelving unit and walk around a festival with it. Not in our case at least.
What is something people don’t know about you?
Dustin: I can be a little obsessive compulsive at times. I try to be a perfectionist about it and it’s kind of like you need to get over yourself. It’s a little planter, we’re not showcasing this in MoMA. So I can be a little drama queen but I mean that’s no secret.
What does the world need more of?
Dustin: Meditation. You need to appreciate what you have right now in this moment you’re in instead of thinking what’s gonna happen next. Mediate what you have in life and where you’re at and be happy with it. Be happy where you are.
Look out for an updated Etsy & product line in the next couple of months. They plan on expanding their product line to include more than just plants and planters and going back to their roots to include a mix of vintage and new!
Follow them on Instagram @FarOutAirplants
This interview was originally published May 11, 2017