Interview by The DIME Store, Photos by Savannah Teel
Savvie Designs may be new to the DIME Store, but the amazing lady behind the brand, Savannah Teel, has been on the Denton creative scene for quite a while. She runs two Etsy shops, works part time at SCRAP, and serves on the DIME leadership board, all while hammering out the last few classes of her UNT visual arts degree. This busy gal took some time out of her busy schedule to sit down with us and talk about her love of making, lasers, and most importantly, tacos. Unfortunately, we didn't get to discuss laser tacos, the taco of the future.
Have you always been involved in creative things and making?
Yes! I often joke that I was born with glitter in one hand and a glue gun in the other. I grew up in a very creative family. Both my dad and brother were engineers and builders, my mom was the craftiest lady in town, and my grandmother was a DIY queen. It was impossible to just sit around when I was constantly surrounded by creativity.
What first inspired you to get into laser cutting and material fabrication?
I needed an extra studio credit and UNT was offering an online Digital Fabrication course over the summer. I enrolled because it sounded like an easy elective but after the first day, I realized that it was so much more. I was amazed by the possibilities that laser cutting provides and it was something that just clicked for me. Out of pure curiosity, I started searching for actual Digital Fabrication jobs and found a part-time summer gig working with laser cutters and 3D printers. I landed the job and had an incredible opportunity to pick up the trade. It fell together so quickly that I just knew it was what I needed to be doing right then.
What’s it like to finally have your own laser cutter?
So amazing! I’m not going to lie, it was the most terrifying purchase that I’ve ever made. Not only because it was a huge investment but because I had so much to learn. But now I feel so empowered by the potential!
What struggles have you faced in growing your business while still in school and still in a student apartment?
For one, there is no “I was late to class because I stayed up all night filling a rush order of 150 custom boxes” option on the syllabus. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to balance but it can be done. I’ve learned that time management and self-discipline are my best friends.
Now, trying to create a digital fabrication studio environment inside a tiny college apartment is an art within itself. The other day, one of my neighbors approached me and said, “You must be the girl who plays with power tools at 3am and has smoke billowing out of the window from time to time. Can you tell me what you’re doing?” Besides looking like I’m cooking meth in my apartment, I’ve also learned that space is crucial. Thankfully I have a roommate who doesn’t mind me storing piles of salvaged lumber in the living room and a little sawdust in the carpet from time to time.
In addition to Savvie Designs, you also have a partner Etsy shop with your mom called Regeneration. Is it easy to design and create for both, or is it a difficult balance?
You know, I feel like they sort of balance each other out. Although I love the creative freedom that the digital process provides, I think it is important as a maker to hang onto the skills that come with a more physical, hands on process. If I were doing it alone, I don’t think I could make it happen but my mom is a total rock star and it gives us something really fun to do together.
What are your plans for Savvie Designs once you finish your degree at UNT?
My thoughts are constantly evolving. One thing is that I really want to bring a more tactile sense to my work. I want to incorporate my love of sewing, drawing, and other hands on assets even more. I also have a vision of creating a resource for other makers. I’ve had so much fun finding ways to promote my own brand via laser cutting and I would love to explore the needs of today’s creatives. At the end of the day, there are so many possibilities.
How did you become involved with DIME?
I went to the DIME Spring Bash during my first year at UNT and was overwhelmed with excitement about what was happening. Later, I met the lovely Shelley Christner while volunteering at SCRAP and I remember thinking “I’m not sure who this chick is but we need to be friends.” When she told me that they were opening an actual store, I was beyond excited. I wasn’t selling at the time but I couldn’t get over the concept of a DIME Show year round. I was so encouraged by the creative community and realized that I had been ignoring my need to make for far too long.
If you’re not hanging out up at the DIME Store, what are your favorite places to be around town?
I would have to say SCRAP is at the top of my list, which is rather convenient since I also work there. When I’m not being inspired from the goodness of creative reuse, I love to scour through the thrift stores of Denton or hang out on the square. I also frequent every single taco shop in town. All of them. That reminds me, I don’t think any interview is complete without noting that I do trade laser cut goods and services for free tacos. I’m looking at you, El Guapos.
Where can we shop your work?
You can find my work online at Savvie Design Co. I also sell at the lovely DIME Store, Fun and a Lil’ Chic Boutique in Irving, and I've made a custom line for Bella Gardens, a cute little flower shop in my hometown.
Do you have any advice for aspiring Etsy sellers?
Don’t play the comparison game. When I began thinking about starting an Etsy, I would go to the front page, look at the featured listings, and then close my laptop and walk away. I didn’t account for the fact that I was comparing myself to trained artisans who had years of practice under their belt. You should never stop learning or growing as a maker and as a person so don’t expect to start at the top. The best thing I ever did was write down all of my self-doubt on a sheet of notebook paper, then rip it to shreds and throw it away. Make what you love and make for the love of making.
The DIME Store is a shop and artist collective in downtown Denton that features art, craft, and vintage from 40+ local makers. Rachel Aughtry and Shelley Christner act as the "curators and purveyors" of the shop. When they're not at DIME, you'll find them behind their sewing machines or enjoying a margarita at The Greenhouse.