(Photo: Courtesy Ashley Phelps; illustration: Jessica De Jesus)

Forget Toxic Chemicals: These Arts and Crafts Paints Are Made From Plants

Ashley Phelps is being honored by In Her Company, a campaign celebrating the power, creativity, and impact of 30 inspiring women entrepreneurs.
Nov 19, 2014· 2 MIN READ
TakePart Staff

Artist-turned-entrepreneur Ashley Phelps knows firsthand that bursts of creativity can happen off the canvas. Recognizing the need for nontoxic art materials, she created pigments from botanicals and started Glob—a new picture of success.

HQ: Bend, Ore.
Industries: Manufacturing,
eco-friendly art supplies
Founded: 2009

Glob makes natural art supplies, specializing in craft paints and Easter egg dyes made from fruits and veggies. Glob’s products are sourced from recyclable and biodegradable materials, offering safe, creative products that are also environmentally friendly.

TakePart: How did you come up with the idea for your business? Was there a turning point that convinced you to start your own business?

Ashley Phelps: Being an artist, I have been exposed to all kinds of paints and art products. And though I had reactions to the chemical additives, I suffered through it, thinking it just came with the territory. However, after working as a children’s art teacher, I began to look for healthier, all-natural solutions. Unfortunately, there weren’t many green art supplies on the market, so I decided to create some myself. It took some time, but I finally found an all-natural formulation for arts and crafts paints using only natural, botanical, and food-grade color sources: plants, vegetables, and herbs. These pigments are organically vibrant and have been used safely and effectively for color since the beginning of time.

TakePart: What excites or inspires you? What do you care about?

Phelps: I am proud to have developed safe and natural eco–art products for crafters and kids. It’s gratifying to be able to offer parents a safer choice. I am inspired by others who also appreciate natural alternatives to what is being synthetically manufactured and sold in the marketplace. I hope consumers in the U.S. and worldwide continue to seek and educate one another so that quality, sustainable products are in greater demand.

TakePart: Do you see any common challenges among female business owners and entrepreneurs?

Phelps: I have sold primarily in the retail, gift, and grocery markets. These arenas are saturated with women, and nearly everyone I encounter is female. It’s hard to gauge the challenges, as it seems within this environment there are no limitations. I have found that women try and emulate men to assert their business expertise. Women can be very supportive and also critical of one another. I would like to see the expectation that women should behave like men diminished. We can accomplish just as much with different business styles and personalities.

TakePart: What’s the best mistake you ever made?

Phelps: Getting a bad batch of “wet paint” from my first manufacturing run. The original concept of premade paint would not have worked with the raw materials and long-term shelf life. This mistake forced me to look at dry pigment options, which ended up making much more sense for my product line.

TakePart: Why is sustainability important to you? How do you incorporate sustainability into your product and business practice?

Phelps: I started working with botanical pigments because the synthetic and chemical ingredients in other art supplies were harming my health. Once I created a safer, all-natural alternative, I wanted to share what I had created with the world, and using green packaging and using sustainable ingredients whenever possible seemed like a logical extension not only of Glob’s mission but also of the way I live my life. I’m a recycler and “repurposer” by nature.

TakePart: What’s one financial lesson you learned the hard way?

Phelps: I expanded my product line beyond what I could sustain financially because stores and reps kept asking for more and new items. I wanted to keep sales up. My money was then tied up in inventory, not allowing me to grow. It took time to sell off inventory so I could ramp up production on my more popular, better-selling products.

(Photo: Angie Warren)

TakePart: What’s surprised you the most about starting your own business?

Phelps: I was surprised by how having a business opens you up to criticism. Unless someone has started their own business, they don’t know how hard the process can be. At first I felt bombarded with input and criticism, or “helpful” suggestions. However, over time it became apparent that the more directed and clear I became, my business matured and the unsolicited feedback subsided.

This post is part of the series "In Her Company," created in collaboration with Eileen Fisher and designed to celebrate the power, creativity, and impact of women-owned businesses. Check out more stories at takepart.com/in-her-company.