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Daily Inspiration: Meet Kristy Li

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kristy Li. Them and their team share their story with us below:

EXP Gained was conceptualized from the idea that life is an adventure and our experiences define who we are. EXP is an abbreviation for ‘experience’ and experience gained is inspired by the video game concept of the hero’s journey of gaining experience to level up which we find applicable to everyday life. We built the brand and created art to celebrate the experiences of others (heroes/customers we meet along our own art journey). Although the brand is based on a nerdy concept, we felt these concepts are applicable towards everyday life as well since everyone has goals they are striving towards everyday whether they be menial tasks to large milestones.

Kristy is the artist behind the brand who started in 2019, right before the pandemic. EXP Gained originally started as a silly webtoon comic that poked fun at everyday life challenges. She shifted to creating enamel pins when she created her first design, a red ‘health’ potion pin as a small reminder to keep going when times get tough. She’s been drawing ever since she was little and pursued Fine Arts in college, but she never found a medium she was comfortable working with until she started designing enamel pins. The design parameters of enamel pins prevented her from overthinking designs and color palettes, which has helped her immensely with finalizing designs.

EXP Gained has evolved much more beyond a basic health potion and one of the greatest achievements has been completing a design for every national park. As an avid hiker, Kristy has been traveling to national parks ever since she was little but grew to appreciate the outdoors as she’s gotten older. She collected pins from national parks when she was younger, but when she started visiting more parks again, she wasn’t satisfied with the selection which inspired her own journey to design one for every national park. She started with designs of local parks: Joshua Tree, Yosemite, and Sequoia which then expanded to designing the remaining 60 over the course of two years. One of the greatest gifts that resulted from completing the national park pin project has been hearing stories from customer’s experiences at some of their favorite parks and being able to swap stories or just seeing the joy that lights them up as they share their personal experiences.

We’re excited to keep creating and celebrating the experiences of others! We’ve quickly grown our collections over the past two years and are excited to share more!

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Running a small business has its challenges, but an extra layer of difficulties from the pandemic has been a test of patience and endurance. When the pandemic hit, we had just participated in our first multi-day show and had a great experience meeting customers, other small businesses, and overall just learning from selling in person. It was difficult to abandon in-person shows after having a great experience with our first one.

Finding our audience online through social media was a tough journey, to where we almost started believing our gaming-inspired products didn’t have an audience. Our national park pins steadily gained traction online which allowed us to focus more on designing park pins instead of our original gaming-inspired collections. We tried everything from online events to scouring groups and forums, but we just couldn’t seem to connect with the right audience.

Fast forward to today, events are slowly coming back, algorithms have changed, and we’ve finally made a little more progress connecting with an audience online. Social media will always be a challenge due to the ever-changing demands of the algorithms. However, knowing those who do see and appreciate our work is more than enough for us to keep creating.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
We specialize in wearable art in the form of enamel pins. Our designs are inspired by experiences in both the great outdoors and the great indoors. Our most popular collection has been the full set of national park pins, each design is inspired by a specific place within the national park, with 63 designs in the collection. It’s our largest collection and took over two years to finish. However, we’re extremely proud to grow our Potions & Power-Up collections, designs inspired by video games and the items adventurers use to aid them in their journey. Since the majority of our Potions & Power-Ups are original designs, it’s an honor for customers to purchase these pieces and encourage us to keep creating more original work.

What sets us apart from others (we hope) is how we celebrate everyone’s experiences through our brand. In our multi-day pop-up shops, we design our booth in an effort to transport visitors into feeling like they’ve stumbled across a small shop with goods to aid their journey. We want to support our customers as much as they support us by creating a brand that is inclusive and celebrates every individual’s unique experiences.

Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
It’s an honor to share our story here and we hope our small brand inspires everyone to go on adventures and to celebrate their personal experiences gained.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Melly Lee Wilson Kin

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