By Lauren Fritzen
Erin Boyd, the one-woman powerhouse behind Red Boots Design, admits that she has a hard time sitting still. “I’m terrible at relaxing. I really wish I could clone myself,” she laughs. Granted, she hasn’t had much time to relax since starting her own design and custom screen-print business ten years ago.
Erin’s playful, original designs grace many a favorite t-shirt and hoodie in town, and her line of handmade housewares – from bottle openers to coat hooks – showcase her singular style. Her design inspirations come from her many interests and from the images she captures with her camera: a chicken named Crown Royal, an aggressive squirrel she met camping, a friend’s cyclocross bike. You can find her creations at Paper Dreams, Kids Northwest, Bellingham Baby Company, and Kulshan Cycles.
When she’s not creating her own distinctive line, Erin’s busy crafting screen-printed clothing for local business like Village Books, the Community Food Co-op, and the RE Store, “I’m extremely fortunate to have some fantastic regulars and I love them all. I also do one-time orders. Right now I’m doing an order for a family reunion and shirts for a race team,” she says.
Growing up in Nova Scotia with an artistic family, Erin’s creative talents were nourished from an early age. “My mom was super-talented and definitely unconventional. I grew up with nature and imagination and books and art,” she says. She also credits her non-traditional upbringing with cultivating her entrepreneurial spirit. Encouraged from a young age to be self-directed, she remains fiercely independent and inventive. “I like to be in control of my days and I like to make things,” says Erin.
After spending time immersed in the cycling and arts scene in Halifax, she headed west and worked at an outdoor education center on Vancouver Island. “That was an amazing experience and a fantastic introduction to the natural beauty of the west coast,” she recalls. Between stints working as a kayak guide, Erin spent time with family in Bellingham and eventually came to stay.
Red Boots Design was hatched in a small warehouse in the State Street alley, when Erin began working with Jeff Krause of Naked Clothing. “Jeff was extremely generous with his time and knowledge, which enabled me to learn the craft, and I started getting my own customers, “ she says.
She eventually got her own equipment and space above Ciao Thyme on Unity Street, where she spent the next five years growing her business. This meant working six days a week, including regular Saturday stints at the Bellingham Farmer’s Market for nine years. Then three years ago she took a leap of faith in her self-described “one-woman show,” got a small business loan, bought her own studio on Grant Street, and upgraded her equipment.
At the recent Sunnyland Stomp, Erin opened the large garage door at her Grant Street studio and welcomed the public to a free screen-printing event. Stompers got to choose from different designs set up on her six-color press and watch Erin transform their t-shirts. “One of the great things about the Sunnyland Stomp is people get to come and see how it happens. Getting a piece of art made on site that you get to take with you is pretty fun,” she says.
This type of interactive experience is part of Erin’s dream for the future. She’s applied for a $100,000 Chase Bank Mission Main Street grant, which would enable her to continue growing her business and realize her dream of opening a community print shop. She envisions having a mobile set-up in the beginning, and eventually a permanent home for teaching, workshops, job training, and rental space.
With or without the grant, Erin and Red Boots Design will remain an unstoppable, positive force in the community. She’s proud of what she’s created, and stays true to her values. Her clothing is USA-made, and she’s been working towards zero waste for a number of years. She recycles everything she can and generates only one bag of garbage every six weeks.
Supporting local businesses, especially other entrepreneurs like herself, is a priority for Erin, who says, “I want to work with businesses just starting out in the community, and I try to make it affordable for them.”
Although she’s no longer selling at the Farmer’s Market, Red Boots fans will soon be able to shop at her studio. She’s converting a corner of her loft-office into a retail space. “It’s going to be called Best Day Mercantile. The idea is to have a little shop here and then it will be mirrored online with an e-commerce site,” she explains.
She’s also planning some pop-up holiday crafting and shopping events at the studio over the next three months, and will be at the Allied Arts Holiday Festival in November and December.
Whichever big dreams Erin pursues next, rest assured she’ll make them happen with her seemingly vast reserves of creativity, energy, and enthusiasm.
Red Boots Design
2120 Grant Street, Unit #7
Bellingham, WA 98225