Photos & Video by Ryan Stopera
Meet Gillian McLaughlin, the entrepreneur behind Bitter Buffalo, one of the 12 purpose-driven businesses that have come together in support of Pollen’s mission to change our collective story for the better. Together, they challenge Pollenites to raise $20,000 by Give to the Max Day on November 14, which they will match dollar for dollar.
All About Bitter Buffalo
Gillian makes hard, honest work created thoughtfully and produced by hand. From textiles to paper goods and anything in between, Bitter Buffalo thrives on creating pieces that get messages into the world with great care and attention. Screen printing is such an old medium and Gillian made a very conscious choice to honor the art form by seeing each project with an artist’s eye and creating things that are really good, not just quick.
“I approach every project with an open heart,” says Gillian. “It’s so important for me to be accessible and provide everyone with a service that suits their needs.” Bitter Buffalo works with clients of all sizes and industries to help produce really great products that help tell their stories. “I’ve chosen to continue printing every single piece by hand, from 1 to 10,000, because I think it makes a difference for clients to receive artist-produced work full of heart and compassion and care.”
As a PTSD survivor, Gillian has found a lot of healing in putting her talent and hard work into Bitter Buffalo, and has felt the rewards even while feeling so vulnerable. “I’m so, so thankful. I trusted it and I’ve been trusted by so many in return.”
POLLEN: Do you have a favorite mantra or quote to keep you going and inspired?
I totally don’t. I’m tempted to say, “Imagine your pain is a white ball of healing light. — Tyler Durden.” But I also do not want to explain that. Ha.
POLLEN: How has your approach to connecting with community changed since you started your business?
Oh, how I wish there was more time in the day to engage and foster my community. It’s been very tricky to manage time with my son and build this business without sacrificing too much time in any one direction. I think I actually just sacrifice sleep which I definitely need to stop. For the last year or so I’ve been so busy in the studio (yay!) but that prevents me from participating in artist and maker markets like I once did, so I’ve had to find some other ways to be involved with things I find important. I host a holiday shopping event with my beautiful friend, Aisha of Everthine Jewelry, that showcases local and shockingly talented makers as a way of giving back to an environment that was so welcoming and instrumental to my success and to lift up other makers that have so much potential.
I’m also thrilled to be a founding member of The Coven. While I don’t get to spend nearly enough time with those wonderful people, being a part of that community and absorbing their energy and conversations helps me remain connected. And luckily, my son thinks my job is cool and I get to print with his classmates and introduce kids to this world. Just like Whitney, “I believe the children are the future.”
POLLEN: What are some of the biggest challenges in being a small business owner?
Finding a balance has been, and will likely always be, my biggest challenge. I have a human child and I have a print shop child. I love them both and need to nurture their growth. But, I’m a solo parent and honestly, it ain’t easy. I’ve spent this past year ‘noticing’ (shoutout to my therapist) some of the patterns and behaviors I have around work and even parenting — two jobs, both important — and have realized that I actually forget about me. So, now that I know I lose myself a little bit while I strive to take care of others, I’m trying diligently to make sure there’s still some time and space for me. So much easier said than done.
POLLEN: What does the future hold for your work and your company?
I love not having an answer to this question. I’ve had growth every year so in the most basic terms, the business will grow. But really, that’s not my end goal. I really just want to keep working, I want to keep loving what I do and trusting my body to keep up. I truly enjoy making good work and getting it out into the world, I’ve never worked so hard or been so proud.
Join Gillian: DONATE TO MATCH THE HIVE TODAY
Find Bitter Buffalo and give Gillian an online hug for supporting Pollen.