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Colorful, subtle, quirky: Arthur's Plaid Pants illustrator shares story of turning art into business

Jen Husted-Goss, owner and illustrator of Arthur's Plaid Pants, gets inspiration for her work from the '80s and pop culture, and stays local by working with Michigan made paper and a Grand Rapids printing company.
Jen Husted-Goss with her stand at DIYpsi.

Jen Husted-Goss with her stand at DIYpsi. /Courtesy of Jen Husted-Goss

Where to find Arthur's Plaid Pants

Grand Rapids locations that sell Arthur's Plaid Pants:

Rebel Reclaimed (1409 Robinson Rd SE)

West Elm (1958 Breton Rd SE)

Eastown Streetfair

Arthur's Plaid Pants will be at the Annual Eastown Street Fair on September 12. This community event is free and open to everyone.

Michigan themed magnets

Michigan themed magnets /Courtesy of Jen Husted-Goss.

Golden Girls greeting card

Golden Girls greeting card /Courtesy of Jen Husted-Goss

Jen Husted-Goss has been making art ever since she can remember, so naturally she made it her full-time job.

She is the illustrator behind “Arthur’s Plaid Pants,” a business which sells everything from '80s pop culture inspired pins and “you’re my favorite ginger” greeting cards to “proud to be a Michigander” tote bags.

Husted-Goss says as a child, she would draw everything - even video game characters.

“I would get the Nintendo cartridges and draw all the characters - not really even play the games or anything, but just draw everything,” Husted-Goss says.

Though she began college “undecided,” about what she wanted to do, she later happened upon graphic design.

“I didn't realize you could make a living out of being an illustrator/graphic designer,” she says. Husted-Goss was born and raised in a suburb of Detroit, but after graduating with a BFA from Eastern Michigan University, she shortly moved to Grand Rapids. Wanting to “mix things up,” that same year, she headed to Chicago and ended up staying for eight years. She says she always knew she wanted to go back to Grand Rapids.

While in Chicago, Husted-Goss co-owned and ran a design firm. After four years, she decided to branch off on her own to focus on illustrating. Arthur’s Plaid Pants started in 2011, with growth including an etsy shop in 2012. In 2013, she and her husband moved back to Grand Rapids - but Arthur’s Plaid Pants continued.

The business is named after her grandfather, Arthur Husted, who Husted-Goss says was the most influential person in her life. Husted passed away when she was 12.

“He used to wear those polyester plaid golfing pants, but he didn’t golf,” she says. “I think he would find it hilarious that it’s named after him. I’m a really a sentimental person, so the name made sense.”

As a “child of the '80s,” Husted-Goss says her greatest influence is pop culture. She says she loves the "cheesy movies" and overall style.

“It’s mostly stuff from the '80s, but then I do stuff like Arrested Development - stuff that’s not too mainstream,” she says. “I’ll never make a product of something I don’t like.”

She says that she’s often been asked to do custom work of things she’s just not interested in, but won’t do it. Aside from not having the time, she wants to be able to connect with and enjoy the art she’s working on.

“I want to be able to talk about my product to people - laugh about it,” says Husted-Goss.

The artist does at times do custom work, though. She’s illustrated location-centric products to be sold in various shops around the country. She also recently designed the promotional poster for DIYpsi, an “indie art fair” based out of Ypsilanti, Michigan. She says the piece is one of her favorite projects she’s worked on.

All of the art for Arthur’s Plaid Pants begins with hand drawn illustrations. The images are then scanned in and digitally colored. With products like pin back buttons and magnets, everything from printing, punching, pressing and shipping is done “in house.”

Husted-Goss works with Grand Rapids printing company Eco Print, who does the printing for all greeting cards and prints.

Staying local is essential for Arthur’s Plaid Pants. Husted-Goss says when possible, she tries to get everything sourced locally.

“As far as sustainability, every year I up the standards,” she says. “I just found a new supplier for tote bags. Every single bag is hand sewn and 100 percent recycled. I won’t outsource things; I won’t get stuff from China; I won’t work with printers out of state.”

She works with Michigan printers and exclusively uses paper from the French Paper Company, a historic Michigan-based paper mill.

Husted-Goss works and gathers supplies locally, but Arthur’s Plaid Pants is sold at about 50 locations in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Here in Grand Rapids, her work can be found at Rebel Reclaimed and West Elm.

She enjoys being an artist in Grand Rapids and looks forward to seeing the continually changing city grow even more. She says that when she bought her house in 2013, it was for good.

"We’ve planted roots here, we’re staying here," she says, "Just the way this city is changing, especially in Eastown - it’s amazing. It's night and day from 10 years ago.”

She’s humble and says that sometimes since it’s what she’s doing all the time, it’s hard to see the uniqueness in her work. But, she says others have mentioned they find her style to be very recognizable.

“Colorful, subtle, quirky... a little abstract,” says Husted-Goss, grasping for words to describe her personal style.

For years, Husted-Goss says she bounced around working with different style and different mediums, but now feels good about where Arthur’s Plaid Pants is at.

“I think it took me a long time to get to that point, where I had this recognizable style that’s my own,” she says. “I just feel like this is what I should be doing.”

As far as what’s next for Arthur’s Plaid Pants, Husted-Goss says she’d love to expand. Hiring more people, doing more shows and being able to have someone who’s dedicated solely to packaging up the wholesale work so she has more time to focus just on the artistic process are hopeful plans for the future.

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