It’s finally October! Halloween is on its way, which puts us in the mood for pumpkins, bats, ghosts, black cats, witches, skeletons, monsters, and candy corn.
My interview this week is perfect for this spooky season. Lindsay Gibson of Etsy shop Em & Sprout has always loved Halloween and is a believer in Halloween 365 — a year-round lifestyle instead of merely a special night.
The pins, hats, clothes, totes, mugs, jewelry, and art she sells at Em & Sprout reflect her obsession with cute but macabre, kawaii-influenced imagery and adorably creepy critters. Lindsay’s bright orange and black jack-o-lantern Mary Janes and pumpkin berets have been blowing up Instagram, so you may have already seen some of her products this season.
An artist and creator who enjoys making all kinds of things, Lindsay was influenced by the designs of Sanrio and Hello Kitty. Her style also draws from the pop culture she consumed as a kid — Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Return to Oz, Flight of the Navigator, E.T., Jim Henson, Disney, Studio Ghibli, Goosebumps, and classic Nickelodeon.
She now screenprints, appliques, and laser cuts her memorably whimsical designs onto a variety of products for other fans of ’80s and ’90’s-inspired Halloween cuteness to enjoy.
Read on to learn more about Em & Sprout and find out how Lindsay will be celebrating Halloween this year.
You’re the designer and owner of Etsy shop Em & Sprout, which features adorable screenprinted and appliqued clothing, totes, hats, mugs, jewelry, and other items that tend to fall into the cute but macabre category. When and how did you decide to open your own shop?
Over ten years ago, I decided I wanted to start making animals shoes. I hand embroidered and used felt to create cats, dogs, pandas, monsters, and more using Mary Jane flats as my base. Eventually, I started adding other products, including screenprinted items (a hobby I picked up in college), enamel pins, mugs, prints, and more! It really just expanded naturally.
Is it true Em & Sprout is named after your two cats?
I’m excited to talk to you at this time of year because Halloween is coming up, and this holiday is kind of a big deal at Em & Sprout. Have you always been really into Halloween?
Yes, I’ve always loved Halloween. The magic of Halloween never died as I grew up and whenever this holiday comes around again, I get all giddy and it just gives me a sense of comfort. There’s no other holiday as creative, fun, or magical as Halloween.
Many of the items in your shop feature pumpkins, skulls, vampires, ghosts, haunted houses, kawaii monsters, skeletons, bats and, of course, cats. Why do you think so much of your art revolves around Halloween, horror, and spooky critters?
It’s just what I’m drawn to I suppose! I really enjoy the idea of marrying spooky themes with cute themes because making really scary themes cute makes it friendly and approachable. It’s like thinking about death I guess — I’d rather envision a super cute grim reaper about to take me away than what he’s traditionally been depicted as.
You’ve created designs inspired by Stranger Things, Gremlins, Beetlejuice, Frankenweenie, Studio Ghibli, Disney and Star Wars. What are some of your favorite personal fandoms?
As a kid growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, I’m very nostalgic for that time period, which is why I love modern shows that throw it back to my childhood, like Stranger Things. A few of my favorite movies are Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Return to Oz, Flight of the Navigator, E.T. I love basically everything Jim Henson ever had a hand in creating, Disney, Studio Ghibli, Nickelodeon of my youth (Doug, AAAhh!!! Real Monsters, You Can’t Do That on Television, Double Dare, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, just to name a few!) I love Goosebumps, both the books and series! I could go on and on but you get the idea.
Were you into art and creating as a kid?
Yes! I was always in art classes, went to art camp, went to art school … but even without all those things, I was creating on my own. I’ve always loved making stuff in general, whether it be drawing, painting, cooking, baking, sewing. I love learning new hobbies and feel like the things we can all learn are totally endless.
Do you have any formal artistic training or are you self-taught?
I would say both because I have formal training but a lot of what I know is also self-taught (I think intuition plays a much bigger role in creating your artistic identity than any class can offer.)
Your style is adorable — more cute and kawaii than creepy. Tell me about how your personal style as an artist has evolved.
My style has always been simple and heavily inspired by kawaii art/design. I’ve been a huge fan of Sanrio since I was a kid. Some of my fondest memories involve going to the local Sanrio store on the weekends and ogling all the cool characters and products — that kind of simple cuteness has always been an inspiration for me.
The t-shirts and totes featured at Em & Sprout are designed by you and screenprinted by you and your husband Tyler. Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Honestly, I just make what I like. The overwhelming majority of the time, I create something because I love it or I want it!
Could you walk me through the process of screenprinting and creating one of your products? What techniques, materials, and equipment do you use?
Oh, wow, that’s gonna take me a long time to answer so let me just give this advice: screenprinting is very cool because it can be done on a small scale or on a large scale. There are tons of YouTube tutorials and DIYs online that are just bursting with resources for anyone interested in it. I started very small in college with a $150 kit I found on eBay and over the years have grown into a garage full of equipment capable of printing things at a fast pace.
What about the process of creating jewelry? I gather that you laser cut it from acrylic or bamboo, which produces a completely unique result.
I design my jewelry in Adobe Illustrator and send my vector files over to be cut by a company that cuts them out for me. Then when I get them back, I finish assembling them. One day I’d LOVE to have my own laser cutter, but they’re very expensive and it’s definitely a dream purchase for the future!
One of your designs features Mickey Mouse ghosts and Disney snacks, which to me is the perfect combination I never knew I wanted. How did you come up with that?
I just love Disneyland and Disney snacks, especially during Halloween time — so that just came natural!
Your @emandsprout account on Instagram has more than 33,000 followers. Clearly, a lot of people like looking at your designs. What do you think is the secret to your shop’s success?
Honestly, I wish I knew! Sometimes I’m baffled as to how many people like my work and I’m grateful every day. I put a lot of myself into the things I create so I appreciate the love.
As a big fan of Halloween, I love the fact that your shop features this holiday year-round. Why do you think so many geeks are into Halloween as a lifestyle, not just a day?
The idea of Halloween 365 or Halloween every day I think really stems from the fact that there are people who are looking for ways to express themselves year round instead of just one day a year. The reason a lot of people love Halloween is because of the ability to be whoever you want to be for just that one day.
It’s a cool concept that shouldn’t be restricted to just one day so why not have Halloween every single day? Besides that it’s just fun and the imagery is awesome so I get why there are so many people into Halloween year round.
So how will you be celebrating Halloween this year?
We love doing all the fun local things as a family. Trick-or-treating, haunted trails, hitting up all the pumpkin patches. Now that I’m a mom, I really get into it, not just for me but for my kids, too.
My daughter wants to be a robot and Steven Universe this year, so I’m making her Steven Universe outfit for one of our events and saving her robot costume for trick-or-treating. Me and my husband are dressing up as the Maitlands from Beetlejuice! I’m also really into decorating and baking Halloween treats!
Do you go all out with your Halloween decor?
YEAH! I love decorating for holidays but especially for Halloween. It makes the house so fun and warm and a little spooky — so fun!
Pumpkin spice or no pumpkin spice?
I love pumpkins and pumpkin pie and that’s about it, I’m not really into the PSLs and pumpkin spice everything.
What are some of your most popular/best-selling Halloween designs?
Do you have any future goals, hopes, or dreams for Em & Sprout?
Yes, I’d love to eventually illustrate children’s books. I guess that’s more of a personal goal than a brand goal but that’s where my head is as far as what the future holds for me.
In conclusion, I’d like to hear more about the feline namesakes of your shop, the real-life Em and Sprout. Tell me more about them!
They’re both 16 years old and very sweet, old grandma cats. They’ve been with me for so long and were my first children. Em is an eternal kitten and loves to play even if she gets tired easily these days. Sprout, on the other hand, is content to just lay around all day and just get up to eat and use the bathroom!
I don’t really talk about them as often as I should because they’re going through some medical issues that come with old age and it’s hard for me, but they’re angels and I love them so much.