An Artist at Heart
Chris Kline, owner of Eric and Christopher, developed a passion for screen printing in high school, which fueled the formation of his first business, Kanika, a t-shirt screen printing business. He shared that he “was fascinated that you could print the same image over and over again!”
Between 2008 and 2009 Kline sought creative ways to overcome the economic challenges his business faced and found ways to continue artistic collaborations successfully. Kline initiated an art show called Push, Pull, Print where he could share his t-shirt screen printing.
“My only goal in creating the show was to help ‘Push’ other artists and myself, to ‘Pull’ the best out of them and to ‘Print’ the ideas that they came up with,” Kline shared. He gathered 20 artists that worked with a variety of mediums and creatively transformed their work into screen printed art.
In 2011, after the last art show, Kline partnered with one of the artists to form Eric and Christopher, which designs and creates all its merchandise in-house at its Bucks County, Pennsylvania location. Today, the Eric and Christopher team is composed of 25 individuals, all with artistic backgrounds that include design, sewing, screen printing, quilting, oil painting and more.
“The diverse backgrounds and personal, creative interests are what help keep the team creating new products for the world to enjoy,” he emphasized. “Most (if not all) of our designs have a story behind them that people fall in love with. For instance, the little mouse with a Santa hat and present was a pet of one of our screen printers.
He brought the mouse in one day, and her name was ‘Haddie.’ We thought she would make the perfect model for a Christmas item, so we put a Santa hat on her and put a present in her hand, and then screen printed her image onto fabric,” Kline shared. “She is our top selling Christmas image on pillows and tea towels for three years running!”
Other top performing designs include the Red Cardinal Pillow, Kitten with a Christmas Present, Sunflower Pillow, Tote and Tea Towel, Baby Goat Tote and Mouse with a Santa Hat and Present. Additionally, Eric and Christopher now includes licensed artwork and collaborations in its product offerings.
“We currently work with four outside artists and will be introducing three additional new licensed collections in 2023,” he detailed. “For 2023-2024, we are developing some very exciting product offerings geared towards designers and consumers.”
Eric and Christopher now have a central focus on custom and private label creations. “We’ve been creating custom products for the home and gift industry for about nine years. Within that time, we’ve seen trends change regarding design aesthetic and what sells. One consistent thing that hasn’t changed is our approach to helping customers create something special for their store that no one else has,” Kline said.
The business works with small gift shops, museums, hotels, historical sites, garden centers and other retail establishments to create unique products that are specific to each environment. “One of the big differentiators in working with us is that we offer art and design services as well as the production of the items,” Kline detailed. “We have in-house artists who can take your idea/concept and create a beautifully designed image on products of your choice. We also work with companies who have artwork ready to go to print, and we are happy to make custom products for them.”
Product development takes time and Kline shares that the overall process can take as long as 6 months to two or more years, depending on the specific product. “When we select artists to collaborate with, that process is typically a little more lengthy as we like to get to know the artist and see what their wishes are to create a home and gift collection,” he said. “We brainstorm about their artwork and how the pieces will translate well to our popular types of products such as pillows and totes.”
The team works diligently and conducts thorough research prior to launching into new creations. Kline explained that fabric samples are acquired, test prints are completed, visual inspections are conducted, samples of the product are developed, and a thorough review is performed during product development meetings where a vote is taken to determine if a product moves into the production cycle.
“Just this past year, we put together product development teams focused on different collections and new artists. The teams usually are composed of two to five people, and it starts with a brainstorm of the style and the artist we are working with, and who the intended consumer audience is,” Kline said. “We review imagery and pair the imagery with our popular product types such as pillows, totes and tea towels, and try to come up with new product types in the process. This process from start to finish takes about a year.”
The Eric and Christopher team finds inspiration “EVERYWHERE!” — the beauty of local farms and even beautiful scenery seen on road trips — Kline emphasized Sometimes, inspiration comes from a test product. “A lightbulb moment goes off, and someone says, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be fun to…do a bunny in a pink tutu?’ So then maybe we do a bunny in a ballerina tutu during our next design session and it ends up on a pillow!,” he described.
Eric and Christopher also focuses on ways to assist retailers. “Our current minimum for wholesale orders is just three items. If you order through Faire, the minimum there is $100,” Kline detailed. He said the lead times for products featured on the website are between one to three business days. Kline shared that during the months of September through November, delivery time may be a few additional days, “but typically not more than one week,” as it is a very busy time.
Custom and private label orders run four to eight weeks after a deposit is made and artwork is approved. “We try to make it as easy as possible for the customer, communicate accurate production times and deliver beautiful, customized products,” he said.
“We value the opportunity and growth that go hand-in-hand through meeting good, positive people, and collaborating with others,” Kline emphasized. Eric and Christopher focuses on bringing out the best in the artists’ works and the quality of the final product.