Prepare yourselves to be wowed. To say that I’m excited about this week’s interview with Cathy Van Hoang of Petit Beast would be the understatement of the year! I have the biggest love affair with sea urchins, which dates back to my early teenage years and all began during a trip to the tide pools along the coast of Corona Del Mar. I spent a day during the summer collecting the
shells and quite literally stumbled across the abandoned homes of sea urchins. While many of the sea urchins I found were worse for wear, broken homes if you will, I did find a few that were in pristine condition.
When I happened upon Cathy’s shop, my heart nearly leapt out of my chest with amazement.I felt like
I’d caught a glimpse of sea urchin heaven — where every time a bell rings a sea urchins gets its tentacles and becomes a jellyfish … or something. Cathy’s photographs are so ethereal and pleasing to the eye, I could see myself visiting her shop time and time again just to gaze at her brilliant photography and post-processing.
Without further delay, enjoy this wonderful interview with Cathy.
Share a little bit about yourself.
Hello! My name is Cathy Van Hoang. I grew up in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. I have a BFA in Graphic Design and I was lucky enough to go to art school in Florence for a year. My true passion is photography. I come from a long a line of photographers. My dad was really hardcore when it came to photography. With him, there was no such thing as taking a quick and simple photo. Everything had to be a perfect. He would spend a considerable amount of time making these elaborate setups with various props and then making everybody pose for what seemed like hours. That was no fun and nearly killed my interest in photography. But despite all of this, I somehow managed to pick up the camera myself and I’m glad I did!
Share a little bit about your shop.
Ok, I’ve got a confession to make that may surprise you. Like many people reading this, I’ve got a black thumb. In the past, I’ve caused the demise of many plants and flowers. When I discovered air plants and how hardy they were, I simply fell in love. I became an overly-enthusiastic air plant collector (hoarder), and our place was quickly becoming too densely populated. My boyfriend suggested that I start selling some of the plants in order to keep my collection from taking over our home and our lives. A couple photo sessions later, my Petit Beast shop was born!
The idea of turning air plants into jellyfish was an accidental one. I had the right ingredients to make them from the start. Sales really started to pick up and I was running out of space, so I started to hang them from the ceiling and voila. All of the positive responses I’ve been getting from people makes me very happy. I’m really glad that people are able to relate to them.
What’s the story behind the name of your shop?
Air plants are incredibly fascinating to me. Each plant is really unique. It’s almost as if they have their own identity and personality. It may sound kind of crazy but, I like to think of them as pets. They’re little beasts that I adopt, care for, raise, and then send out into the world! So, the name Petit Beast was a natural fit for the shop.
Share a little bit about your workspace.
Like most online sellers, I’m doing all this from home. My boyfriend and I live together and rent a beautiful green Craftsman home in Long Beach, CA. Our space is small, but incredibly cozy. We have an eclectic mix of antique wooden furniture procured over several years of hunting at flea markets, swapmeets, and on Craigslist. My workspace consists of any flat surface that is available to me.
Lately I’ve been hogging up an old desk we’ve affectionately named Lion Desk. It has those cool lion head brass drawer pulls and the desk’s feet are lion paws.
What does a typical day look like for you?
By day, I am a freelance Art Director/Designer. For the most part, that involves working for various design studios in LA. I recently started my own design and photography business called Studio CvH, so I work from home between agency gigs. In my downtime from the day jobs, I run Petit Beast. I do everything for the shop myself: caring for the plants, photography, graphic design, advertising, listing, supply purchasing, packaging and sending out orders, answering emails, and customer service. All of this while daydreaming about food. I’m a total foodie!
What’s your most-prized nature-inspired possession in your home?
It would have to be an antique wooden console table that we purchased from our awesome neighbors for $50. The piece is amazing! It’s over 100 years. It has an extremely intricate floral motif that was all hand-carved.
What are a few things you enjoy about nature?
I think that nature has a real calming effect on all of us. Whether we are in a natural environment or just simply having some plants around the house, nature really makes us all feel good.