On today’s episode of the Craft Industry Alliance podcast we’re talking about paint-by-numbers with my guest Rachel Austen.
Rachel has a background in graphic and web design. She founded her paint-by-number kit company – Elle Crée – in 2017 out of her desire to create a nostalgic product from her illustrations that customers could interact with and that would spur their own creativity.
Rachel’s company seeks to reduce its impact on the environment by carefully sourcing eco-friendly components that are locally- and USA-made whenever possible. Elle Crée’s custom paint colors are mixed from USA-made acrylic, and their kits are assembled with the help of a small staff in Portland, Oregon.
Elle Crée’s kits made O Magazine’s list of best Made in America products in the summer of 2021. In 2023, Rachel launched successful collaborations with iconic illustrator Mary Engelbreit and Academy Award-nominated film studio, LAIKA.
In the past 7 years, Elle Crée has become a premier manufacturer of American-made kits, being sold in over 500 gift shops nationwide.
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We begin this conversation with Rachel talking about her childhood and college years. We also talk about Rachel’s early career and then we turn to how she came to the idea of starting a paint-by-numbers kit company in 2016. We also talk about the name Elle Crée and how it came to be.
Rachel shares a little about the history of paint-by-numbers in the US, some of the stigma that can be associated with it, and how she came to love the aesthetic of paint-by-numbers artwork and believe in its creative potential. Rachel is not an illustrator by training and it’s inspiring to hear how she taught herself the skills needed to draw the designs for her company. She explains the types of designs she started the company with, what she learned along the way through market demand, and how she pivoted to create projects at the right size and scale for her customers.
Rachel also talks about renting commercial space and hiring in order to scale her business. We talk about sourcing kit components and creating kit packaging for retailers. We also talk about the advantages of offering parties and events locally, as well as collaborations Rachel’s done with well-known artists and companies, including Mary Engelbreit, and plans for the future.
Mixing paint colors is a big part of Rachel’s business and we talk about how that was done originally and how it is done now. Elle Crée offers a paint guarantee and we talk about why that’s important for customers. Rachel shares how she navigated the pandemic with her business and the boom it brought to craft kits companies that provided activities to people who were stuck at home during lockdown.
In this conversation, we reference:
And, of course, I ask Rachel to recommend great stuff she’s enjoying right now. Rachel recommends:
- Whatever Happened to Paint-by-Numbers by Dan Robbins about the history of paint-by-numbers
- Melanie B’s Creative Studio on YouTube for kit reviews and painting tips
- Falcon board as an eco-friendly replacement for foam core displays and projects