Visual Communications Grad is a Chocolatier Designing Her First Shop
Visual Communications Alumna Julisa Wright is opening a classic literature-themed chocolate shop, Storyboard Delights, in her hometown of Longview, Washington, drawing on her rich background in design and storytelling. She came up with the concept of the store as a student in FIDM Instructor Brad McCall's class. We caught up with her to find out more about her entrepreneurial journey.
Where were you born and raised? In the southwest region of Washington state. Longview, Washington to be exact. It's a small town weirdly known for their squirrel bridges.
How did you hear of FIDM? After going to a premiere for a crappy movie I was in I decided to change career paths. I wanted to finally follow my love of design after 10 years of the acting biz, so I googled design programs in LA. I hoped to find something that I could do while still being able to be the primary caregiver to my daughter, and when I came across FIDM and the one year Professional Designation program, I knew I found the perfect fit.
What was your major? At first I looked into Interior Design, but I had so many interests in all aspects of design I felt a bit boxed in and limited. Then I heard about the Visual Communications major -- I finally felt at home. I could study all the things and that was completely normal to want to know about everything. I wasn't a scatterbrained weirdo. I found my people. I attended the Los Angeles campus and I graduated Spring 2018 right before having our second kiddo in May.
How did you and your husband become chocolatiers? My husband read a book about bean-to-bar chocolate in the winter of 2018, started making chocolates at home, our friends really enjoyed them, and he seemed to have quite a knack for it. When we decided to pick up and move from LA back to my Pacific Northwest hometown, he found a bakery that would let him use their commercial kitchen so he could sell chocolates online. Initially, I thought I would start working with some interior designers and stylists in the Portland area, but I saw what Eric was doing, it was super unique, and no one was making sculpted chocolates like him.
He had married his love of sculpting with chocolate making and after seeing his dismal Instagram and website, I couldn't help myself and jumped on to work on actually creating a brand. As orders picked up I started making the chocolates, too. He made the sculpted bars and I created all the different flavors of ganache to pair with book characters for our bonbons. I loved storytelling with flavors.
How did classic literature come to inspire your creations? Eric and I both have a love for reading, although with two little kids, it's a rare thing. While in LA, we worked on a few film projects together and one of our favorite parts was creating the storyboards for the film. You could tell so much of a story in just one little frame; Eric's first chocolate bar was the image of the Big Bad Wolf in Grandma's bed waiting for Red Riding Hood. Since the classic literature stories are now all in public domain, we didn't have to worry about royalties and we had an endless supply of stories to pull from.
We also loved the sense of adventure and being whisked away in a book. We hoped that our chocolates could do that as well. Our hope is that we can inspire people to take a moment to slow down from this crazy chaotic world and just sit and enjoy a chocolate, a bit of book, and a glass of whatever.
How did FIDM help prepare you for this career? I think the biggest prep was the strengthening my skills to learn whatever I put my mind to. I was taught some really great research skills and I wasn't afraid to say, "I don't know, but I'll go figure it out." Another huge skill was learning to live in the creation stage a bit longer. Not rush to a finished product, be okay with making mistakes, going with "Let's see how this goes." FIDM was a safe space for me to take risks and push myself design-wise and imagination-wise and know that my job wasn't on the line. I came there to learn and find out who I was as an artist. I never really felt that when I went to acting school 10 years prior.
Now, I had had a decade out in the working world and to come back to school as an adult felt like going back to the playground and getting to appreciate my short time there. I'm not afraid to say I'm a beginner or still learning. Every day I learn something new (or aim to), and it's all about progress not perfection. That's how I stay sane as we start this crazy new business. We are constantly learning about how create and play with chocolate, and I'm also trying to figure out who we are as a brand and how to visually communicate that to our audience. It's a work in progress. It will never be perfect or finished and I think I'm okay with that.
What can you tell us about the store you'll be opening? Since we love making chocolate and telling stories, we will be a chocolate and book shop. My hometown doesn't have either, really. I'm insanely excited to use all the skills I had learned in my classes for creating a storefront in the real world. I get to design and decorate our very own store. We plan to create a space where people can buy unique artisanal chocolates, watch us make them, hold workshops to teach others, and be a place where the community comes together.
Chocolates, books, comfy chairs, a huge family style table to gather around, and maybe hide all the outlets so people will have to look up from their screens and see the world around them. It's a bit eery that I already designed this store in Mr. McCall's class a little over a year ago with no idea it would be planting the seed to reality.
Visit her chocolate shop at storyboarddelights.com and follow on Instagram @storyboard_delights.