I believe that the Creative Class is what brings every city to the next level. That is why I’m excited to kick off our series featuring Modern Pioneers across America–those who are on the next frontier, making their creative spirit work in a very modern age. There is no better couple to kick it off with than these two.
Shannon and Brooks are the definition of couple goals. They work together running Electric Ghost, one of the brightest spots on South Main Street in Downtown Little Rock, Arkansas. Using their creative backgrounds they combined their passions into one business to design the life they wanted to live together.
Keep reading for the thoughtful approach they have to their creative process and running a thriving small business.
What gave you the idea to offer screen printing, home goods, and a plant lab all in one venture to your customers?
Brooks and Shannon: It’s important for us that Electric Ghost is a reflection of who we are as people. We have such a love for plants, design, art, and screen printing that it only made since to offer them in one place. We also wanted there to be an interactive experience for our customers. Screen Printing is such a cool process that most people never get a chance to see so we installed a giant window that overlooks our (large scale) production space from the retail store. When we bring our mobile printing press to events, people can get up close and personal to watch how a shirt is made. We take the same approach with our Plant Lab in the retail space. People come in and pick a pot and a plant(s) and can use our soil, rocks and tools to pot their own plants and can leave with their own creation.
How did you come up with the name?
Brooks: I am a musician and one of my bandmates had the name scribbled in a notebook as a possible song title. I asked him if I could use that as the business name because I just knew that it was mysterious enough that I’d be able to grow old with it and feel like it still represented what we do.
When and how did you first learn screen printing?
Brooks: That same bandmate who had the name scribbled down had taken some very DIY printmaking classes in high school and we needed t-shirts for an upcoming tour so he taught a few of us in the band the process and I fell in love with it right away. I wanted to take it further and really hone in on the craft.
Your favorite part of running Electric Ghost is…
Shannon: Getting home at the end of the day and seeing the photos that people post online and tag us in. It’s such a great feeling seeing the creations people have made whether it’s with plants in the retail store or a t-shirt/poster that we’ve printed and brought to life.
Brooks: I agree 100% and I would just add that the atmosphere in our store and production space always feels creative and inspiring. We just feel so fortunate to be work with so many open and talented people on a daily basis.
How would you describe Electric Ghost’s style?
Brooks: We want things to be very down to earth but also exciting and feel unique. It’s important for us to be all inclusive because we want absolutely everyone to feel welcome at Electric Ghost and to have a place where they can be creative on any level without judgment. I feel like all of that somehow goes into every piece of work that we make and the way that we approach design in general.
Favorite thing you’ve ever screen printed:
Brooks: For me, my favorite thing that I’ve screen printed was a design that Shannon made last week. She whipped together an Electric Ghost logo tee for an event that we had and I set up the screens for it on our manual press. It’s like magic watching a technical print come together with each layer of color. I was so proud to print that shirt. Shannon is really coming into her own as a graphic designer.
What motivates you the most?
Shannon: I feel like we’re really starting to catch our stride. When I joined Brooks full time several years ago it was just the two of us and now it’s really incredible to walk into work each day and see how all of the moving parts work together. We have such a great group of people working here and knowing that each day we’re working together and learning how to take it to the next level.
Brooks: Yes, no step in the process has been easy but the hard work and struggle has proven to take us to another place that we had hoped to get to. I like to slow down and appreciate the moment of each phase that we’re in. I feel like we have so far to go but It’s always important for me to know that I have everything I need right now. That keeps me inspired and motivated to want to see where we can take it to next.
Do you see Electric Ghost expanding in the future?
Shannon: Electric Ghost started out on a one station printing press out of an apartment 8 years ago and has been expanding and growing since. Now we’re printing for local and national companies and have equipment that we’ve dreamed about so we’re super happy about that but we’re quickly learning that we’re always evolving. We’ve added a retail store to the screen printing company which has been another adventure. We hope to eventually add more retail locations and keep adding more screen printing equipment to grow our customer base.
Your favorite memory during your time at Electric Ghost:
Shannon: The day after we were handed the keys to our new space I went up there (it was a Sunday I believe) with several gallons of paint and painted our new darkroom black. I put on my favorite playlist and walked through the empty rooms with my headphones in. It was the first time that all of the hard work and dreams really felt real.
Brooks: Yeah, I remember that feeling too. Then all of our family and friends, and new team were moving everything in to the new space and we were just overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement.
Shannon: A Euphorbia. They come in so many varieties but each one is unique and very alien looking. They’re often mistaken for Cacti because they have thorns and can be columnar in shape.
Brooks: A Snake Plant. I think the shape is amazing and they can grow to be so big and they really do look like a barrel of snakes which is strange because I’m terrified of snakes but for some reason this plant really gets my vibe.
What is your top tip for successfully growing succulents?
Shannon: Don’t overwater and do give it lots of bright sun. Overwatering is the most common killer for our little desert pals.
What type of effect do you want to have on your local community?
Brooks: We want to push ourselves and our community to take creativity to its highest potential and to always be exploring and discovering the different sides of artistry in ourselves. It’s also Important for us to be aware of the history in our neighborhood (SOMA district, downtown) and to maintain a relationship that bonds our neighbors who have lived here for years with the people who are moving into this progressive area.
Who inspires you most?
Shannon: I’m really inspired by a lot of movie directors. I think it’s incredible to have a vision and turn it into a reality that gives viewers a glimpse into a different life and a change of perspective. A few that I love are David Lynch, Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, The Cohen Brothers and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
Brooks: Ooooh, yeah. Inspiration comes from so many different types of artists but for me there is one artist that really speaks to me the fullest and that’s Andy Goldsworthy. Anytime I go back and watch his documentary Rivers and Tides I feel reconnected to nature and art.
What do you do to get creative inspiration?
Shannon: I spend a lot of time researching online or in books. I usually focus on one thing and then when I feel like I’m really on to something I like to turn on some instrumental music and sit with my eyes closed for a while so I can think freely. I come up with my best ideas when I tune everything out and close my eyes. I used to be really scattered with so many projects at once that I never really dove in but then I started reading about how a lot of my heroes used transcendental meditation during their creative process and when I tried it I felt a certain clarity that I was lacking before.
Brooks: I’m sort of a gatherer first. If I’m designing a wall or a space I like to pile up a lot materials that I think belong in the room and then I just start putting them together like a puzzle. Little ideas usually jump out during that process that can end up being kind of cool and can even reshape the entire vision into something better than I had originally thought. I’ve really taken that same approach to any sort of art that I make. I think It’s important to just throw your hand in and start working and then the bigger picture starts becoming clear once things are in motion.
If you could hand one person a custom printed shirt what would it say and who would it be?
Brooks: I want to give Shannon a t-shirt with my face on it that says “I’m with handsome”
Shannon: Haha, I want to give Brooks a shirt with a picture of Hanson that says “I’m with Hanson”
Brooks: HA! Make it a picture of Chris Hanson and you can count me in.
Shannon: How about we go goth with it and do Marilyn Hanson?
Brooks: Perfect, this is why I married you.