HOW POPPY BEE CAME TO BE
Clare here, co-founder of Poppy Bee Surfaces, mom to human Hugo and canine Nina, Photographer and wearer of many hats. As a photographer, I’ve rarely found a lack of things to capture an image of—my family, the beautiful area of Vermont where we live, the simple moments, and the moments that define us. As a food photographer, however, sometimes the issue isn’t what to shoot, but how to give each image, subject, or shoot its own personality. This meant finding different surfaces on which to create my clients’ own photographic narrative.
Sourcing surfaces is at least a part-time job for photographers like myself. The search for engaging textures and colors (I’m not too proud to admit) has more than once led me to shuffling through awkward piles by the side of lonely backroads marked with the ubiquitous “FREE” sign on torn cardboard. Even finding a surface that might work, however, doesn’t change the fact that they’re heavy and unwieldy to work with (have YOU ever tried lugging a piece of granite to your studio??!).
This problem got Joe, my husband and co-founder of Poppy Bee Surfaces, thinking about using his fine arts background to paint the surfaces I wanted and needed for specific shoots. Even now, the walls of our studio are hung with his creations. We received a lot of requests to buy them from fellow photographers, but they were too expensive to ship and we don’t live in a city with a large enough population of photographers to make renting them viable.
Then we started looking into offering vinyl surfaces and we got pretty excited… at first. Sourcing a reputable and reliable printing service became an exercise in frustration. Consistently, the prints came back with issues: poor color matching, banding or damage from the printer and, as customers, we were deemed too high maintenance to work with.
After going through 5 different printers, we had the ridiculous thought that perhaps we could make printed surfaces ourselves. “How hard could it be?” we laughed casually, like a child eyeing a hot stove. A technical advisor from Canon helped us find the right printing technology and, suddenly, we were able to perfectly replicate our digital files. The quality of the prints far exceeded anything we had seen before. But we had a new issue: the beautiful, matte material we chose is also supremely scuffable. Did I mention that Joe has a fine arts background? With his work in multi-media art production, Joe created a complex, proprietary, and labor intensive method of laminating and sanding each print we sell, so that the durability is increased but also maintains all the rich colors and textures. These surfaces go above and beyond by being totally matte, durable AND waterproof. Joe really outdid himself :)
And with that, Poppy Bee’s signature, hand-made, high-quality photography surfaces were born. Now, we work side by side in our Vermont based studio to design and make every single Poppy Bee surface. All our surfaces are designed and hand-made to order just for you in the USA.
JOE | CO-FOUNDER, ARTIST, SURFACE CREATING MAESTRO
It’s a funny thing how we look back from where we are and can see only one, incredibly narrow path to arrive right here. Growing up in a working class, biracial family, I have always felt a push and pull of integrity and responsibility. My integrity would pull me to express in art what I saw of the world, but my responsibility to family and daily requirements often pushed me toward more trade-related work like carpentry. Now, I find a lovely point in the path to look back and see how the big and the small, the work and the art, the integrity and the responsibility have all so beautifully come together in this work. It is one of life's sweetest tricks, to work with my partner in creating these surfaces for others who are living their own art, desires, and integrity.
BFA in painting/printmaking, Cornish College of the Arts. Apprenticeship in art restoration, Smithsonian Institute.
CLARE | CO-FOUNDER, PHOTOGRAPHER, BEHIND THE SCENES MAGICIAN
I just can’t not create. This isn’t a hope to be seen or recognized as much as a drive to stand for something and be heard. I started my artistic endeavors as a young lass in performing arts—as a singer and actor. This filled my cup with the joy of exuberant expression and a lifetime’s worth of cringey memories to rehash. It wasn’t until I picked up a camera, however, that I found my medium. Behind the lens, I could be still, yet I also could create and express the world I saw around me in a way that meant something to me. I want my work to invite others into it—that interaction, that conversation, that moment. Poppy Bee is my way of expressing myself as a means for others to express themselves.
BFA in photography, Cornish College of the Arts.
HUGO | RESIDENT SNUGGLER, COMIC RELIEF, MASTER OF PLAY
It’s mostly about Lego for me. I know this may seem common, but my creations are, well, sort of amazing. I’d be very happy to walk you through the design concepts and intricacies, but I’m not sure if you could follow. To fuel my construction of these monuments to the futility of human endeavor, I find sustenance in “The 3 Ps of Nutrition,” Pizza, popcorn, and pie. These superfoods keep my mind sharp and my temper in check. Truth is, as I continue to move toward my ultimate goal of becoming a magician/scientist, patience with the masses is hardly my forte. I have a select few friends with whom I engage, but my steadfast friend of many years is my dog, Nina—that sable-coated canine and I have seen some stuff.
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