It Will Be Known To Us is an Armageddon of creative outputs (you can already guess by the interestingness of their name). It is an electrical combination of the super powers shared by Emma Trithart and Lisa Ciccarello. We first discovered It Will Be Known To Us on one of our never ending online sojourns and we were swooped by the output and executions that we found on the platform, so we reached out to Lisa and Emma to tell us how they’ve been able to build this together, their process and creative magic.
It Will Be Known To Us is represented by a myriad of products/projects including Pins, Zines, Cards, Wallpapers, Gif Poems.
Lisa Ciccarello is the author of At Night (Black Ocean), as well as several chapbooks, including the recent I only thought of the farm (DoubleCross Press), & “Chief!” (InkPress). Her poems have appeared in Tin House, The Academy of American Poets, Denver Quarterly, the PEN Poetry Series, Handsome, Big Lucks, Corduroy Mtn. & The Volta, among others.
Emma Trithart is an illustrator, designer, hand letterer & cheese eater. Past clients include the Los Angeles Times, Boston Magazine, Disney Hyperion, HarperCollins and American Girl Magazine.
For Creative Girls: What’s the story behind It Will Be Known to Us? How did both of you decide to partner together on this?
Lisa: I had seen one of Emma’s illustrations on an album cover, and when my first chapbook was being published I cold-called Emma to see if she’d do the cover. Our aesthetics were clearly aligned, plus we seemed to “get” each other right off the bat. So we worked together on a number of other poetry + illustration projects, including a Zine called It Will Be Known to Us, which became the overarching title of our projects together. We did a series of gif poems & one of the illustrations made me want to wear it like a badge, so we looked into doing an enamel pin & that was when we first branched out. Things grew from there, and I can see it’s growing some more — we just did our first ever comic to go along with our latest pin and we’re hoping to see an even bigger project grow from it.
Emma: Once upon a time I illustrated an album cover for a recording artist from Michigan, who had them printed up at a printing press in Portland. Some time later I was contacted by Lisa, who had seen my album art in the shop and wanted to know if I’d do a chapbook cover for her! We clicked instantly – her writing was so beautiful and inspiring, it didn’t take long for us to realize that we needed to make a zine together. After that we just kept collaborating!
How have you made your creative partnership work over time, without it turning into a messy divorce?
Lisa: We have a lot of fun suggesting ideas and pushing each other, but I think we also take it slowly so we don’t pressure ourselves too much. If it looks like we’re not ready to finish a project or hit a deadline, we just back off. Maybe we go a little too slow at times — we’ve been swearing to make a second Zine since May 2013 (we’re so close!) — but our work together, no matter how much we may love it & want to see it succeed, isn’t our first (or even second) priority. In an ideal world, it would be, but rent is real. I think understanding that allows us to be pretty relaxed about it. And I think our enthusiasm for working together in the future overrides any tough times we might be having.
Emma: Our creative relationship is seriously some sort of magical unicorn! We know how to pump each other up when one is feeling down or stressed, and when we’re both excited there is a lot of SENDING EACH OTHER MESSAGES IN ALL CAPS WITH LOTS OF SPARKLE EYED ENTHUSIASM!!! I do think what it comes down to is a pinch of natural chemistry and a pinch of patience and understanding.
Do you have a team? How do you manage your team and diversify responsibility?
Lisa: We’re the whole team! There are certain things only one or the other of us can be responsible for, but we try to split work pretty evenly, and if something seems easier for one or the other of us, we just handle that part and figure it’ll all come even eventually.
Emma: It’s just us, technically! However, I’m always running design questions that Lisa and I just can’t decide on past my husband and friends, which is very helpful! They all have differing styles but excellent taste.
Keeping ideas fresh can be a tough point. How do you turn on the creative waterworks? Is there a creative process for you ladies?
Lisa: We have a pretty innate sense of what the other person might like, so we try to share possible influences. It could range from a movie recommendation to a historical tidbit to a lookbook. We also have a bunch of Pinterest boards where we’re like: Here’s a game trailer! Here’s a bog horse! Look at this landscape/magic ring/sword hilt! Our process pretty much just consists of yelling ideas at each other and then yelling support for those ideas. We never really say no to each other, though we have a HUGE pile of “on hold” ideas — sometimes things don’t come together easily, and no matter how far along we are, we just drop them to work on something else. We can always come back to them, but I don’t think either of us would do well for long in a stagnant state grinding away at something that wasn’t working.
Emma: Often times Lisa or I will see a movie/video game/song/image/etc and send the other a quick link, and sometimes that’s all it takes! Our Medjed pin started with Lisa sending me a link about his storied meme history (seriously, look it up if you haven’t seen it), which evolved into me getting really into him and then we made a pin!
I also find that because we work in such different mediums we often get fresh ideas from looking at each other’s work. Often times my interpretation of Lisa’s poetry will generate something entirely new and exciting, and vice versa.
How does Lisa complement you, Emma?
Emma: Lisa is amazing, first of all. Depending on what I need she can be an art director, a cheerleader, a font of inspiration, and just a great friend. Her writing always keeps me engaged and visualizing new things, which (as an illustrator) is so key.
And how does Emma complement you, Lisa?
Lisa: Emma is not only able to suggest awesome ideas, she also makes illustrations that inspire me, and she’s able to transform my words or ideas into gorgeous images or to push them further than I could alone. Often her illustrations offer me something I could never have imagined on my own, but at the same time is exactly what I’m thinking of! It’s pretty magical.
Can you please please share your daily routines with us, individually and together?
Lisa: I work in the service industry and my work days and hours are pretty irregular, so I’ve found it’s hard to have a set schedule. When I’m not working I’m a big fan of taking the morning to myself to have coffee and write or catch up on emails and plan out my day. I’m most creative when the sun is out — that’s when I have all my energy. I set aside the afternoons for errands or for reading in the sun during our all too short summers. I’m a bit of an extrovert so most evenings are spent with others. I’m a big fan of ritual, as well as organizing “nights,” so I’ve got a pretty set routine: game night, movie night, craft night, date night, etc. If I have a night to myself it’s a pretty big deal so I write outside if the weather’s dry, or huddle up and binge watch anime if it’s rainy.
Since we’re don’t live in the same state or have the same work hours, we don’t really have a routine together. We do pretty much everything online so we can work on things when they fit into our day. As we’ve started doing more projects closer together, we’ve switched over from primarily using email to relying on Trello as a way to stay more organized and keep ourselves up to date at a glance.
Emma: A usual weekday for me involves waking up and drinking some coffee while I answer any loose e-mails and do a little bit of my own freelance. I have a day job in graphic design, so I run off to that for 8ish hours, then come home (in Los Angeles traffic, yay) and do more freelance – either my own or things for IWBKTU. Most of my correspondence with Lisa happens at night when we’re both off work.
What’s your definition of creativity?
Lisa: I was mulling over this question when I noticed a document for a project I’m currently working on titled “Build a whole world!”–which is both an admonishment and an affirmation, a mission statement of sorts. That’s exactly what it means to me to be creative: to build a whole world that people can enter into and believe in, can take part in and enjoy. To create little alternate spaces for people to explore.
Emma: I think Liz Lemon said it best: “Creativity to me is just like… it’s like a bird, like a friendly bird that embraces all… ideas, and just like shoots… out of its eyes all kinds of beauty.”
How do you stay true to your values and mission without veering off?
Lisa: We’ve never expressly decided on a mission statement for IWBKTU but, I think generally our values and mission can kinda be summed up as “have fun making stuff,” which is pretty innate for both of us, so it’s easy to stick to. I hope we never veer away from either of those things!
Emma: It helps to have another person. I think we’re pretty good at eye-balling or reading something and saying “this might not be quite on brand” – and even when that happens there’s usually a nugget of an idea that is true to our values, so we can bring that out and make something that fits us!
Did you figure out the money-making aspect of your creative business from the beginning, or how did you decide on making money from It Will Be Known to Us?
Lisa: The idea of profit is definitely secondary to us. We release comics, phone backgrounds, gifs, etc. for free, and pretty much only charge when something costs us money to do. I dream of seeing things I think of made manifest in the world, and when that happens it’s enough for me. Making money, in this case, is honestly just a byproduct of the fact that we’re reaching people who feel connected to the things we make. I think there’s a bit of a catch 22 regarding the money, in that if we could give IWBKTU more time it would make more money, which would then allow us to give it more time, but at this point, both money and time are hard to come by!
Emma: Our first true collaboration together was a zine, which we did sell but I never really anticipated truly making money off of. The business side really kicked off when Lisa came to me asking if we could make some enamel pins. I would never have anticipated making money from our endeavors, but now that we do (although we put most of it back into more fun stuff for IWBKTU!) I couldn’t be more proud.
What do you usually do for fun?
Lisa: I love being with people, so I put together a lot of group activities: game nights (I’m into a lot of tabletop games, but especially MTG), brunches, dinners, camping trips and whatever seasonal activities I can. I’m also a big fan of hanging out while getting work done, so once a week I’ll gather a bunch of pals in a cafe to work on our separate projects. When I’m on my own I read (mysteries, sagas, myths, poetry, magical realism and lifestyle magazines), watch anime, and layout whenever I’m able (Portland’s hard on a sun-loving girl)!
Emma: Karaoke, video games, watch movies, eat pizza – or some combination of the four 😉