If you’ve ever visited us in our Minneapolis studio, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the large mural painted on the exterior of our building. You may be wondering if there’s a story behind that mural. And the answer is... of course! Did you really think that a bunch of people who love good stories as much as we do would just hire some random artist to paint some random picture? That’s not our style.
We’re pretty big on keeping things local and artsy and handmade here at Frostbeard. Jjust take a look at our logo, it’s a frozen Minnesotan! So once we moved into our new space , we knew that eventually, we would want to personalize the building by collaborating with a local artist to create something one-of-a-kind that spoke to who we are as a small business and book lovers.
As soon as we moved into our building, we knew we wanted to paint a mural, but... we didn’t know exactly what we were looking for. Luckily, our good friend Saman Bemel Benrud was more than willing to create a piece for our wall.
A bit of backstory first. Tom and Saman went to college together while studying art. During college, Saman and Tom hosted art parties, called Draw on Thursdays, where our group of friends would collab on one big piece painted on cardboard each week. We continued on with this tradition after we graduated and it’s through art that our friendship with Saman was cemented.
Saman’s artistic style is unique and he works hard at his craft. During college, he ran a t-shirt company called Minty Fresh Monster Apparel and produced a number of designs. We originally worked with Saman at our old studio in Northeast Minneapolis, where he painted a smaller mural on the inside wall of our previous space.
The mural depicted a lady reading by a tree, and we absolutely loved it. So naturally, when we moved into a space with a huge 70' blank wall, we knew we needed a mural and Saman was the obvious choice. While Saman had previously painted murals for kids rooms , this would be his first large-scale outdoor piece. But we knew he was up to the task.
Our Wants and Needs
Saying, “let’s just paint something!” wasn’t going to cut it when it came to our mural. While we didn’t have a concrete vision in mind in the beginning, we did know a couple things: it had to have nice colors and be at least vaguely book themed. After some brainstorming, we came up with the idea of storybook characters on parade, sort of like a fellowship of friends on an adventure.
We also knew that we wanted a variety of animals and people depicted in the final scene. The only ones we specifically requested were a llama and a cat. Because llamas and cats are cool. When it came to the color pallete, our thoughts were kind of similar. All we knew was that we wanted bright colors for our artistic neighborhood and to include our Frostbeard Teal. Overall, we were looking for a piece that was cheery and welcoming. And so, a vision started to come together.
What it all Means
As we said above, we wanted our mural to showcase our artsiness and handmade qualities. While there are some allusions behind a few of the animals and people, not every character is meant to have a specific meaning. Much is open to interpretation! What are the relationships between these different characters? Some are traditional storybook archetypes (witch, monster) or a couple could be local Minnesotans (hiker, tattooed lady). Is the bearded fellow an old timey lumberjack or a hipster? The main thing is they all seem to be getting along together.
In our interpretation, some of the characters do have hidden or deeper meanings outside of being pleasing to the eye. If you look closely, you’ll see a mage wearing a scarf bearing the colors of a certain magical house which brave wizards are typically sorted into. The lumberjack evokes a sense of Minnesota pride. The hiker lady reminds us of Saman’s sister (who also helped paint the mural). The tattooed woman on the phone is supposed to mean... something. We’re not going to lie, we kinda forgot what this one was supposed to be. Either it’s meant to depict distracted millennials or she’s reading an ebook. Art is subjective, so just choose whichever version of the truth you see more. Don’t judge us.
And lastly, we added lots of plants because we wanted the characters to look like they're adventuring through a forest. We also wanted the mural to look good with our raised bed garden boxes we built along the bottom. We’re nothing if not practical in our creatively.
Painting the Mural
Designing the mural was the easy part (thanks Saman!), getting the thing on the wall was hard. First, Saman was living in DC at the time, so we had to schedule a time for him to come to Minneapolis to paint it. We settled on a three day weekend in October, a few months after we had moved in.
Next, Saman sent several drawings and mock-ups to Tom beforehand so they could see what the mural would look like on our building using Photoshop. Tom then made a large grid system on the brick wall (literally Googled “how to make a mural”) so each 2' x 2' section would be broken down into smaller drawings, numbered by row and column. It was like an adult version of color-by-numbers. We printed out a big master plan of 2' x 2' sections which ended up filling several binders. Then it was time to start prepping the wall and painting!
The first step was to rent scaffolding and get paint. Easy enough, we were able to fill up an entire minivan with supplies. Next, we had to wash the dust off the wall and paint the entire thing with our background color. Not easy! This took lots of work because we were painting on a brick wall with lots of texture. Once the wall was clean (enough) we grid-coded the wall to match our photoshop grid using chalk pencil.
After that, Saman and Tom drew the main outlines of shapes to match the master plan, going color-by-color. And finally, it was time for a paint party! Frostbeard Crew, friends, and family came to help paint as we filled in the colored outlines provided by Saman and Tom. All that was then left to do was complete some finer details and finishing touches.
Finishing the Mural
All in all, it took us three full days of painting to get the mural finished, but we did it! Lots of Saman's family helped out, even some little kids! We had daily pizza parties and painted after dark using large lights. It was fairly cold with temperatures staying in the 50s, so sometimes we were painting in gloves with frozen fingers and were worried the paint would get messed up and freeze instead of drying. Tonks hung out and supervised the whole thing, and at the end of the three days, we had a beautiful mural on a space that we are proud to call home. We couldn’t have completed this project without the help of so many people, Saman chief amongst them.
If you’d like to come see our mural for yourself feel free to stop on by! We’re open Monday-Thursday from 10am-5pm, Fridays from 11am-3pm, and Saturdays from 11am-3pm. Roses are overrated, come in and smell our book themed candles and see our super awesome mural for yourself today!