Insight: Female Not Factory
a chat with Meredith Brockington
the lady behind the curtain at Amie aka #FemaleNotFactory
as she launches her first store location, Meredith gets real with me over the ups and down of owning a small business, her endless support of female artists, and #MeToo
Meredith is one the busiest, most graceful, and warmhearted women you'll ever meet. There's an ease to the way she conducts and presents herself to the world, and a calmness that resonates across the multitude of work that she's involved in. With her hands not only in photography and art direction, but also brand and social marketing, she's been developing and growing her own small business, Amie, over the past year. She currently features and sells products from 16 female artists that are hand picked by her, each with intricate and nuanced backstories that make the products she features feel extra personal.
We met in photography school at RIT, but didn't fully connect with each other until a little later on. We both left behind creative positions in corporate environments around the same time in pursuit of working for ourselves, with her launching a brand that focused on women, and me taking the plunge into freelance photography full time. A natural conversation ensued about working together in whatever way we could. Ever since I began working for myself, I immediately realized that a focus on working with, featuring, and hiring women was of the utmost importance to me. Being an advocate for women in photography and across creative fields is something I believe in strongly, especially after watching and experiencing some all too common situations where women work against each other rather than together, particularly in corporate settings. I've found that the most positive and productive way that I can change that conversation and energy, is to connect the women in my circle to others that they may not know, facilitate dialogue where we're sharing ideas, not hiding them, and do my best to encourage and assist the women around me in any way that I can. This summer has been so fulfilling in that way, as I've connected and worked with so many lovely ladies and small business owners. You may remember the feature I posted last November, showcasing a handful of Amie's first round of products, and I'm over the moon to be able to support #FemaleNotFactory in this space again, just in time for its opening.
Meredith has been empowering and championing women artists long before she launched Amie, and it's been so lovely and inspiring to watch her brand and business grow over the past year. Her recent months have been a bit of a whirlwind leading up to the opening her shop's first location, and I caught up with her in Portland, Maine just as she was in the thick of it. She's taken such care to get everything up and running while juggling her other creative endeavors, balancing it all with grace and enviable organization. She opened up in the most transparent, raw and honest way she could in this space, and I'm so happy to share a peak at some of the details behind her business. Thank you Meredith for graciously taking the time out of your brimming schedule to answer a bunch of my questions below.
BH: Tell me a bit about the decision to open a brick and mortar, after Amie mostly existing online over the past year.
Meredith: Amie is a constant evolution— which launched online and included pop-up shops throughout the year to promote the brand. While I loved the creative challenge of pop-ups, they had an expiration date. It wasn’t sustainable for Amie to constantly move around. The truth is everything changed after I felt a magnetic pull to attend a lecture series hosted by the PMA (Portland Museum of Art). Thelma Golden, Director and Curator of the Studio Museum of Harlem spoke about women in leadership and her career trajectory of ‘creating space,” space for Black artists to showcase their work, share their stories, educate, engage community, and share history through visual and interactive media. Her lecture was absolutely brilliant and I felt reinvigorated to create a space that paralleled her strategy of cultivating art and conversation under one roof.
The Amie Shop is a workspace and gallery showcasing handmade art. The minimal environment spotlights each piece. I had custom benches built to encourage friends to sit and share in conversation. This model fits our brand, allowing artists and customers the chance to slow down and engage with each other and the work. We’ve come full circle— sharing her process, studio, story, and showcasing her art in a curated gallery.
BH: You came from a corporate setting before launching Amie. Can you tell me a bit about how striking out on your own, and leaving a corporate environment behind has been for you?
Meredith: The contrast is shocking. I underestimated the self-motivation, grit, energy, and sleepless nights it takes running a business. I don’t have a child, but I presume it’s quite close in comparison. I’m exhausted all the time and can barely get a shower in, but I love it and wouldn’t change a thing. As you could guess it’s not a walk in the park seeding the business. I have many side hustles shooting for clients to pay bills and fund Amie. Creating balance is tricky. My theory is you have to die to self a little to build and grow a brand. It’s worth it.
"a woman business owner has even more adversity. I am the only one that quite literally stands between me and my business. All I can say is, me too. Forgiven, but not forgotten."
BH: You've been championing and supporting female artisans for a while now, was there a specific moment you realized that Amie was ready to come to fruition?
Meredith: Timing is everything. Amie hit the market during the height of Future is Female, Women’s March, and the Maker Movement. Right place, right time. I recently received an Instagram message from a young woman following Amie based in L.A. She sent me a note saying she was out having a lady lunch and her girlfriend brought up Amie. The fact that people 3,000+ miles away are championing our brand IS mind blowing. I’m humbled by the impact it’s making on the artists and audience.
My father called me once. I answered the phone and before he could say
a proper hello, he enthusiastically said “No one is going to forget Female, not factory.” He may be biased, but I think he’s got a point. It packs a punch!
BH: Your tagline “Female Not Factory” is a beautiful and impactful statement. Did you plan on that being such a prominent part of the message before you launched?
Meredith: Female not factory was embedded in our brand identity from the beginning. We also used the mantra We are makers, not machines but have phased it out. It’s too wordy and doesn’t have the same impact as FNF. I often describe Amie (female friend) as what we are and Female, not factory as who we are. We’re in the process of FNF™. My father called me once. I answered the phone and before he could say a proper hello, he enthusiastically said “No one is going to forget Female, not factory.” He may be biased, but I think he’s got a point. It packs a punch!
BH: Running a business by yourself must be challenging, particularly in the early stages. Have you had any harrowing moments as you work to grow Amie?
Meredith: Absolutely.. Running a business is similar to walking a treadmill on an incline. It’s painful with no end in site. Being a woman business owner has even more adversity. I am the only one that quite literally stands between me and my business. All I can say is, me too. Forgiven, but not forgotten.
Amie artist Kristi Frank (Salt Grass) said, “Focus on your art more and what others are doing less.” I remind myself of that daily.
BH: I know you've mentioned other channels you'd like to see Amie expand to. Can you talk a bit about where else we might see Amie going over the next few years?
Meredith: The Amie brand position can be summed up in 3 phrases: Show her process. Share her studio. Tell her story. My goal is to take “her story” to the next level. I crave narratives and visual storytelling. Although I believe I’ve done the artists justice, no one can tell their story better than they can. Their voices are distinctly unique. I’d like to have a podcast platform that gives them an even greater voice. We’ll see how it shakes out. Amie artist Kristi Frank (Salt Grass) said it best, “Focus on your art more and what others are doing less.” I remind myself of that daily, as I focus on how to spotlight our female artisans on omni channel platforms. I’m also dyinggggg to get all the women together for a retreat. We need that time to connect, listen, teach, and make art together. I have some plans to roll out an Amie label next year. We’re shifting to be an artist outfitter and would love to work with artists to create clothing that empowers artists of all shapes and sizes. Stay tuned!
BH: There's a noticeable point of view across all of the products you're currently featuring. Is there a particular way you go about finding new artisans?
Meredith: I have very high standards when it comes to art and design. Products need to be minimal, thoughtfully designed, and have a story. I stumble upon artists traveling and on social media, Pinterest, blogs. We’re humbled to receive Amie artist inquiries- I pinch myself every time someone says how much they love Amie and want to be a part of it. I wish I could support every single one.
"Being an artist can be isolating. We carry the weight of creativity, take our craft seriously, and are sensitive to criticism. Our expectations are sky high. Inclusivity ensures we’re not alone and emphasizes the importance of connecting and collaborating with other artists. That’s Amie."
BH: You hit the ground running last year and it seems like immediately Amie was being noticed far and wide. Have you had to turn anyone away that was looking to be a part of it?
Meredith: I’m blushing, thank you! Amie is growing at a steady incline. As I mentioned above, I receive emails from female artisans who are interested in being a part of the community. The collection is curated, all limited edition and many original pieces. It’s impossible to carry everyone. I’ve encouraged the artists to keep shining their light. ALL the female artists are incredible because they are foraging female not factory paths of their own. I wholeheartedly believe there’s a place for everyone at Amie. Our business can’t sustain supporting each artist tangibly, but will continually champion, uplift, and plug positivity as much as humanly possible.
BH: Advocating for women across the board has been a defining thing for you. What are ways you’ve found that creative women can really help each other grow and empower one another?
Meredith: Inclusivity. As you know all too well art is subjective. Being an artist can be isolating. We carry the weight of creativity, take our craft seriously, and are sensitive to criticism. Our expectations are sky high. Inclusivity ensures we’re not alone and emphasizesthe importance of connecting and collaborating with other artists. That’s Amie.
Meredith is hosting a ladies-only private opening event for Amie on Thursday, September 6th
If you're in the Portland area and would like to attend, or know any women who might be interested, give her a shout
an invitation to the public, First Friday event on Friday, September 7th can be found here
follow #FemaleNotFactory on Instagram + Pinterest