The founders of The French Circus (handmade mobiles) are one of the most creative couples we know…they hold down their day jobs and manage to squeeze in being musicians and artists, all while being parents to Nico, their 6 year old. (We should know…they are dear friends, neighbors, and Pilar’s in-laws!)
Give us a little background on yourself/what you do/how you came to it. How much did becoming a parent shape what your business is?
We made our first mobile when our nephew Henry was born. At the time we looked around for mobiles to buy and could not find what were looking for. So we gathered sticks in the Adirondacks and sewed up some animals out of felt. And we really liked it so we started making mobiles for our friends who were having kids and eventually made one for our son Nico – toying with the idea of making mobiles to sell. With plenty encouragement from our friends we finally decided to started to make mobiles to sell. We approached Acorn in Brooklyn and they were our first clients and the response has been great! Now we are in Sweet William in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Los Angeles and Tantrum in SF.
Right now we enjoy making the mobiles part time, we both have other jobs – Gregg is the VP of Bennison Fabrics and is in the band Iced Ink, Andrea is a photographer/ graphic artist and to p/t tester for Agile Mind. After our son goes to bed we start cracking at the mobiles.
The process of making these mobiles actually helps balance our lives: it brings us back to a hands-on process of making art. It’s meditative and creative and grounding. We cut all the animals, sew them, the sticks are sanded down and stained, then the mobile is balanced and hung. We make all the packaging ourselves too – which includes a felt bag and a screen-printed box.
Both Gregg and I like to be in a world which is warm and full of joyful objects. Many great artists lived and breathed their art, the homes of Alexander Calder, Sol LeWitt, and Donald Judd among many others have been a big inspiration to us. We live by this; we have all kinds of things around ready for the next use and we hope our mobiles inspire a similar sense of whimsy and creativity.
Do you work in a home office, and if you do, how do you deal with working from home?
Home Office- I work when my son is at school and asleep.
My friends Winter Water Factory share their office space with me in Sunset Park where I can escape and screenprint!
What would you say is your “mom uniform”? And Gregg what’s your dad uniform?!
Mom uniform is Uniqlo jeans, Vans and Muji t-shirts.
My “dad” uniform is the typical stuff: jeans, t-shirt or flannel, and gym shoes. Recently I found these Teva swim shoes that have become my second feet all summer long. They are light and breathable and washable. They are the answer to all my prayers: they actually have arch support and they don’t stink when I wear them without socks! Hallelujah!
Do you cook much–if you don’t, what are your ways around not cooking, and if you do, what are your go-tos–both for yourself, and for your kid?
I cook most every meal- once a week we order in.
Our go-to meal is the Julia Child’s recipe for a Roast Chicken. Turns out butter is all you need!
What’s your weeknight family dinner routine?
We have the classic routine we grew up with: we eat an early dinner together as a family around 6:30 every night. It’s gotten to the point that we can barely go out to eat together on a date because we are so accustomed to our early routine, we eat like retirees.
How do you celebrate your Nico’s birthdays?
We usually have a family dinner- includes Grandma/Grandpa, cousins, aunt, uncle and our neighbors next door. We don’t really go in for huge expensive parties. Instead we keep it simple: family, a few friends, some silly paper decorations, a few presents, lots of love and a homemade cake.
Best kid purchase/bang for your buck?
I was pretty pleased with the Lego Cargo Plane. It was $130 and it has like a million pieces, including a motor and enough gears to confuse just about anyone.
Any rules about TV/screens?
iPad on weekends and Nico watches a show (Popular Mechanics for Kids) while I cook dinner. Probably more than limiting his screen time, we try to balance it with physical activity/non-screen time. If we have a whole day of biking in the summer or sledding in the winter then a movie in the evening feels great – or a morning of iPad play being offset by a day at the beach feels balanced.
We introduce some of the older movies first on vinyl, there are many story books on vinyl on eBay!
We also listen to podcasts, Nico’s current favorite is Brains On for Kids.
What websites inspire you and for which parts of your life? Preferred social media is….?
Le Petit Atelier Paris: their aesthetic and the space in which they create their art in is inspirational.
Instagram is preferred social media: I want to look at pictures more than I want to read about you.
What’s a typical weekend like?
Gregg and Nico go on biking adventures on Saturday, we like a big adventure whenever possible: a bike ride of Coney Island or a bike tour of the West Side Highway. The more epic the better!
Sunday we all hang out and try to make no plans to do whatever we feel like at the moment.
What’s the thing that always stays on your to-do list and never gets crossed off and nags at you?
Basically anything that needs to be done around the house. Ha! The biggest eye-opener of being a home owner (maybe more so with an old house?) is that something is always broken…In fact, it’s probably better not to fix one thing just so something else doesn’t break!
Do you have a fail-safe beauty product or routine?
I use the Epicuren line, simple and natural products.
Best family trip?
Every summer we go to the Adirondacks for a week with Gregg’s parents. It is the best trip for all of us and every winter I look forward to hanging lake side with all the generations together and playing board games late at night. We also have no cell service so it is a nice way to disconnect. It is our place to totally relax.
Any small business advice–like what is something you wish someone had told you when you started your business? And what is something you just can’t live without (could be a techie thing…)
When we are more successful maybe we’ll be able to answer that one.
Any personal/parenting “a-ha” tips?
Maybe not an a-ha, but it seems the more trust you place in your kid the better they live up to it. And that seems especially important when they’re really young: they can learn a lot when you let them and don’t get in the way.
Proudest moment in parenting?
My pride as a parent really comes from a slew of small things: riding a bike, being a good swimmer, loving Star Wars, saying things like “we should listen to more Iced Ink”
Best parenting advice you ever got?
Maybe that you have to enjoy yourself in order to be a good parent.