Today we’d like to introduce you to Arpi Krikorian.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was accepted to my dream school, Art Center College of Design, on my 18th birthday from where I received my BA in Illustration in 1992. After freelancing for a few years, an internship led to a full-time artist on staff position at the incredible Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank. I was a storyboard revisionist for the “Angry Beavers” and on our downtime, I also freelanced for “Hey Arnold”, “CatDog”, “Oswald” and “Dora the Explorer.”
As the curtains closed on our show, I entered the world of real estate sales to assist my Realtor father who had fallen ill. I sold homes for 9 years while raising my young family and regretfully never lifted a pencil or brush during that time. In 2009, the Principal of my daughters’ school asked if I can step in and teach art for a while until they found an art teacher. That led to a 3-year teaching position, kindergarten through high school level, where my passion to draw was ignited again.
In 2012, itching to create, I went back to Art Center and took a few classes in their public program. I don’t know what possessed me but I posted one of the paintings I had done as a homework assignment on Facebook. The response and encouragement of my friends and family were amazing and made me want to do more. And so it began. I drew and painted… a lot… in all media… oils, pastels, acrylic and watercolor but it wasn’t until a year later when just doodling in my sketchbook, I drew my first Armenian Dancer. The response on social media was overwhelming and I knew there was a need and I had to fill it. I started researching Armenian costumes and iconography and drew and drew and drew. Friends would ask me how they can get a copy of each drawing so I started thinking about how I can duplicate and reproduce them and stumbled upon the world of surface pattern design-artwork on products. I designed and launched my website January of 2015. Using Print On Demand companies I manufactured and sold mugs, pillows, tote bags, cell phone case and canvas prints with my dancers printed on them.
As I introduced new products, my online following started to grow and they started making requests and suggestions for more products. In 2016, I knew print on demand was not the way for me to grow anymore since the cost to produce the products left me with little or no profit to reinvest in making more and I saw that the demand was there. I took a very big financial risk, used my savings, and placed my first mass production order. I now have over 40 categories of products, 680 unique SKU’s and growing. I still do everything by myself, drawing, product development and design, sourcing, sampling, marketing, sales, shipping, inventory and customer service. My products can be found in 6 stores, 5 in Los Angeles and one in Sacramento.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has definitely not been a smooth road and a big learning curve. The toughest part has been the product sourcing, development and quality control. My first mass production shipment arrived from overseas with one of the products being 50% damaged. They replaced only part of the damaged quantity but the replacements were also 50% damaged and I still had to take care of shipping costs. The claims process is long and hard – it’s a whole other show.
The other difficult part is the minimum quantities required for mass production. The more you order in one shot the less expensive per item cost. Minimum quantities start from 500 pieces PER DESIGN on some products and range up to 3000 pieces per design on others. Since I have 30 different images which I produce products with currently, logistically and financially I can’t offer all of them on every product. My clients sometimes get upset when they find out there are only 2 or 3 designs to choose from on a particular product such as my cutting boards.
The last thing is taking that financial risk and betting on a product doing well which sometimes does not pan out and you end up having to store dead weight.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Arpi Krikorian – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I am an illustrator and am known for my Armenian themed drawings, particularly dancers and princesses. My illustrations are decorated with iconography representative of my culture. I manufacture products with my artwork. What I am most proud of is that as the grandchild of an Armenian Genocide Survivor, I am taking part in passing down our heritage to the future generations of Armenians as well as providing the people in my community ways to bring that heritage into their homes and lives in an artful way. A project I am most proud of is a T-shirt design I drew, manufactured and sold called Artsakh Strong. It was in support of our soldiers in Artsakh. I donated $3500 from the sales of the t-shirts to an organization called, “With Our Soldiers” who provide basic living expenses and medical care to the families of the fallen soldiers.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
My biggest upcoming project is a dream that will become reality. Michael Ceballos of Twiddle Productions in Honolulu, Hawai’i and I are the Executive Producers of Sosse and the Daredevils of Sassoun which is a collaborative animation production and includes artists, animators, cultural advisors and producers from around the world. The production itself will be housed both in Honolulu, Hawai’i (where Twiddle is based) as well as Pasadena, California, my home base. The Sosse project stems from many years of collaboration between Michael and I. We first met as artists on Nickelodeons’ cult hit The Angry Beavers. “Sosse” is an original Armenian story which will initially be produced in English. It follows the coming of age epic journey of a young Armenian girl who has amazing adventures and eventually meets up with David of Sassoun, Armenia’s oldest Legend and his tribe, the Daredevils.
You can see the teaser on Vimeo. Here’s the link https://vimeo.com/169405572.
The Sosse project is more than a film and is designed to create community interaction before, during and after production is complete.
One of the avenues is by offering a Cultural Animation Art Program for high school students. The program is an extracurricular activity which trains students in creating artwork for animation that will be featured in the film itself. We also teach the history of animation, how to set up a proper portfolio and what to expect in the real world as students seek a career in animation and art. Twiddle has created programs like this for each film they have produced and have a very high success rate with students. In addition to participating in this program and having their artwork featured in the film, students also receive their first film credit which in this day and age is very hard to come by.
During production, we will also be working with a curriculum developer to create a series of materials to pass down Armenian History including educational books, graphic novels, teachers’ guides and materials that can be used in schools.
My ultimate personal goal is to establish a nonprofit to provide funding for the art programs of as many schools possible.
- Website: www.arpikrikorian.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/arpikrikorian
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/arpikrikorian.studio