Student artist blends love for engineering, art, animals
Second-year design major Audrey Chamberlin runs her small arts and crafts business by focusing on what she loves: quirky animals that spread love to all. Her small business, Pony Up Press, is a Davis-based business that sells prints, earrings, notebooks, stickers and more, all designed by Chamberlin herself.
Her business name represents something she loves.
“I love ponies! Who doesn’t?” Chamberlin said in an email interview. “Not only is it a reference to something that I love, but the phrase “pony up” means “give me money.” I don’t mainly mean it that way, but it is a funny little fact.”
Chamberlin founded Pony Up Press this year after making a pair of earrings back home in New York. Her prices range from $2 for stickers and pins to $50–60 for original, commissioned pieces. And Davis residents are in for a bit of a treat: By sending her a quick message on Instagram or emailing her, she offers delivery and contactless pickup.
“I am entirely self-taught,” Chamberlin said. “I’ve taken art classes, but what I got from them was mainly experience and portfolio additions.”
While Chamberlin is proud of her work and loves to delve into different art mediums, she admits that her relationship with art in high school was a bit rocky.
“Once I made it to high school, I did stop doing art for a while,” Chamberlin said. “There was only one art teacher in my very small school and she didn’t like my art very much, not sure why. I was probably pretty stubborn at the time and we just didn’t mesh well.”
She came to UC Davis as an aerospace engineering major and not only stuck with it for over a year, but did quite well.
“I was on a team that was awarded a grant from NASA and was flown to Virginia to present on a project that I found incredibly interesting,” Chamberlin said. “But once I got back, I still wasn’t happy. I felt like I had succeeded in my field, but I still wasn’t satisfied. That’s when I decided to go back to art. I’m still very wary of studio art classes, but design was perfect.”
Chamberlin found that industrial design is her ideal blend of engineering and art.
“I was able to create technical drawings, use CAD and 3D printing, and I knew how to present a product successfully to a big client,” Chamberlin said. “My history with art has been a little tumultuous, but in the end I think I’m settling somewhere that’s right for me.”
Chamberlin sold her first piece when she was a senior in high school. She had a design internship with The Highlands Foundry, a design company that sells handmade, one-of-a-kind apparel.
“I ended up making a patchwork scarf made of vintage kantha cloth and West African mud cloth,” Chamberlin said. “Almost as soon as the scarf was posted online it was sold for nearly $100. That gave me a lot of confidence and I still think about it to this day.”
Although her first sale was back in high school and her small business didn’t start up until early this year, she is excited about her future with Pony Up Press.
“Twice now I have gone to West Coast Craft, a crafting and art show in San Francisco,” Chamberlin said. “I was so jealous of all these people that had made their job their art and design, such as Big Bud Press, Mokuyobi Threads and Gentle Thrills. It also feels good to have people interact with and be excited about things that you have made, all by yourself.”
Chamberlin has collaborated with multiple artists for new pieces. One of her recent collaborations was with an embroidery shop called Contrarium. Pony Up Press and Contrarium worked together to raffle off a one-of-a-kind tiger patch. The proceeds went to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, helping the people of New York with food and medical supplies during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am a New Yorker myself, having grown up right outside the city,” Chamberlin said. “In my tiny hometown, which only has a population of about eight thousand, has over a hundred cases. So donating to a fund in New York was very important to me.”
Her favorite pieces to make are the Japanese Chin Sticker sheets available on her website.
“I have a Japanese Chin mix at home, and she’s just about the most ridiculous dog I’ve ever seen,” Chamberlin said. “However, not many people know about this funky breed! I had such a good time drawing her that I decided to make a series of stickers.”
Along with feelings of gratitude to her mother, Chamberlin gives credit to her father as her number one supporter.
“If I could give him a title, it would be CES (Chief Executive Support),” Chamberlin said via email. “He is a very genuine, kind person and has always encouraged me to follow whatever idea I have. Every now and then I get an email from him along the lines of, ‘Look at this cool thing!’ in the hopes something he sends is going to inspire me. It often does!”
Although she loves running a small business and being a full-time student, Chamberlin admits that it can be difficult. And with the shelter-in-place order, she had to cancel multiple events that she had lined up in the upcoming months.
“It’s very hard to run a business and be a student,” Chamberlin said. “I know other people that run even more serious businesses than I do (such as Less Acosta of Flower Dangles), and I have a lot of respect for them. It’s pretty much like having a full time job and the hours are ‘whenever you have the time.’”
Running Pony Up Press demands more than just creating merchandise. Chamberlin must also update her website, send out packages and work on commission pieces — and the work doesn’t cease when she has two essays and a stool made of cardboard due on Friday.
Chamberlin is hopeful that one day her business will be her source of income, but in the meantime, she struggles to invest in her business as much as she would like to.
Chamberlin continues to sell her funky art through her website and is looking forward to adding in new items such as acrylic keychains, scarves and oversized scrunchies — a special sneak peek of what’s to come just for The California Aggie’s readers.
“I would love to one day be able to live comfortably from my own business, but that may be a little further down the road than just five years,” Chamberlin said. “In the meantime, I hope to keep growing so I can get there one day!”
Written By: Itzelth Gamboa — firstname.lastname@example.org