Meeting the Makers: Nanako of Pig & Fish

pig + fish, pig and fish, nanako o'donnell

Oh My! Guest submission by Nanako O’Donnell of Pig + Fish

Up until the spring of 2010, we lived with an internet monster named ‘Dial-Up’.  This monster would make you very frustrated + impatient, which meant we engaged very little with the world just beyond this beast’s cave.  When DSL finally made it onto our island, we felt like a superhero came to the rescue!   Coupled with a new laptop, this once foreign online world suddenly intersected with our life.  The ability to connect to the internet with ease and speed meant access to an unexplored galaxy – it meant possibilities.  We saw it as an opportunity to share our work with a worldwide market, but we never imagined it would also mean finding community.

pig + fish, pig and fish, nanako o'donnell

Like starved captives, we dove into bringing our product to market, devouring google search results for building our own e-commerce website.  That internal fire that keeps you up until the wee hours of the morning was burning red hot + determination was leading the way in the dark.  Big yawns, weary eyes + a steep, steep learning curve finally delivered a WordPress e-commerce website.  Phew!  But where were all the hungry buyers?  The ugly truth was quickly being absorbed; simply showing up isn’t enough.  We did not have any brand recognition or established relationships – nobody even knew we existed.  There was too much to digest with SEO, social networking, and email campaigns – all we saw was more poking around in the dark.  It became clear that we needed to be a part of an established community instead of hanging out alone in cyberspace.  We took down the shop page on our website and turned our focus to Etsy.

We showed up at the Etsy party all bright eyed, but golly there were a lot of people + once again – nobody knew us.  To get acquainted, we began making treasuries – a tool that allows you to showcase 16 of your favorite Etsy items together.  Shortly after, we were invited to be a part of the Elite16 treasury team where we were instantly introduced to a small circle of fellow shop owners.  Through treasury cross-promoting, our work was being shared within the Etsy community and the ripples grew bigger.   We saw real value in being a part of this team, so when we were asked to take over the leadership with Red Tile Studio, we said yes.  Despite not knowing Red Tile Studio beyond our casual conversations, we soon realized that we worked very well together, shared similar goals and interests.  An unfamiliar pattern began unfolding – getting to know someone you’ve never met through the portal of the internet via a flat computer screen.

Not only have we been running the team together for a year, but we maintain a blog together and we’ve also launched a collaborative line named in honor of the distance between our 2 studios, 1901 MILES.  They ship their modern prints to our studio where we then adhere them to the background of our functional products, creating truly unique home decor items.  All done through the internet from our little island studio.  But more than that, we’ve been able to meet people with whom we feel a true connection and people we may have never met otherwise.  The internet made this connection possible and we’ve even been able to meet in person twice – both in Dallas and Maine!

pig + fish, pig and fish, nanako o'donnell

Having a shop on Etsy has been a very positive experience for us and one that has helped our business grow.  In the year and a half that we’ve been open, we’ve learned that having an online business requires more than a solid product, professional photography, and a URL.  It requires courage, organization, enthusiasm, and lots of hard work laced with passion.  There are many layers to being a successful business owner and we wanted to connect with a larger community of entrepreneurs to relate to where we could find current resources relevant to our business. When we saw a tweet flash by about shining in 2012 with a small business giveaway – we couldn’t resist a ‘click’!  By responding to this call for entries by Jessika, we found a group of professional entrepreneurs like ourselves.  A community of creatives from a variety of different disciplines and backgrounds – all bringing with them a wealth of experience.  We found our virtual coffee shop where we can meet up to chat, exchange notes, and participate in a supportive and nurturing environment.  Chai Soy Latte, please!

pig + fish, pig and fish, nanako o'donnell
Community to us has meant the difference between walking alone in the dark with a little flashlight to walking together with friends under the bright sunshine.   The Etsy community has opened doors for us, our connection with Red Tile Studio has brought a new product line + a friendship, and being a part of the OMHG community has been inspiring + informative.   Dial-up challenged our perception of what the internet had to offer and we assumed that it was a lifeless + cold environment – just flat pixels on a screen.  We now know that the internet is very much an alive + vibrant place, ripe for all sorts of connections.  Our business growth has been shaped by people supporting + guiding us from beyond those pixels.  It is because of community that we are where we are today and for that, we are very grateful!

So now we ask you,

“How has community shaped your business?”  

About Pig + Fish: Pig + Fish is a 2 woman design studio based in Maine featuring useful art home decor products by Deb Gill + Nanako O’Donnell.  We consider all our products to be useful art – work that is not only visual, but also functional.  We are involved in the fabrication of the entire piece – from cutting + sanding the wood, bending the metal, to making our own hooks – we even mix our own paint colors!  We find value in living a creative life + surrounding oneself with well crafted, useful works of art. We embrace color, function, + the work of the hand in all we create. It is our hope that the work will uplift + enrich your everyday.

Connect with Pig + Fish through their website, Etsy shop,  Twitter & Facebook!


  1. Amber says:

    Fabulous post Nanako! We are so happy that we met you and Deb. We never thought we would meet anyone online and it really does feel like a community even though it’s just on the internet.

  2. Fantastic post Nanako! It’s so exciting to hear how you’ve have shaped such a special community on the internet. I never thought I would find myself making friends as a result of my Etsy shop!

    Pig + Fish, RedTileStudio and the 1901 miles collaboration offer awesome products, but what makes them even more special are the amazing women who run them! Cheers, ladies!

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