Sara Fritsch + Studio Tigress

to start off the new year, we visited our friend Sara Fritsch, former longtime president of Schoolhouse Electric, to learn more about her new line of calendars from her debut brand, Studio Tigress.

read our full interview with Sara below, and visit Studio Tigress to learn more and use code A&JLOVE for 15% off her colorful calendars!

Why calendars?

I believe products should be evidence of our beliefs and I believe time is our most valuable resource. This is why the first Studio Tigress products are a collection of 2024 calendars. This is also why I love everything about Ace & Jig, as your products always feel like tangible evidence of your values. 

Over 10 years ago, my husband and I asked ourselves why we invest so much time, heart and skill into annual planning at work, but not at home? We felt we could directly apply our professional skills to benefit our personal lives, and we kicked off an annual planning process at home. Central to that process was always a large format calendar. For many years I would make the calendars by hand. After years of experimentation, I learned it was critical that the calendar was both functional and beautiful. It was important that we could see the entire year on one page, that we could write on it, and that we could enjoy having it hang prominently in our home as a visual reminder of our boundaries, priorities, goals, commitments and values. As our kids have grown (they are now 14 & 15) they also take an active role in the annual planning and what types of things make it onto the calendar (birthdays, important school dates, vacations, visitors, concerts, big games, etc. etc.).

Despite having done this for many years, we continue to learn and evolve our approach each year. I am already learning a lot from the Studio Tigress community about how they intend to use and enjoy their calendars. I can’t wait to account for those learnings in years to come.

Best advice on planning ahead?

At my house, the calendar is one step in a bigger annual process. We begin by reflecting on the past year’s highs & lows to make sure we learn from our past and use those lessons to make the next year even better. Inevitably that conversation leads us to want to make sure we repeat fun and important things (e.g., ski trips= fun, mammograms= important) so we make sure to pencil those things in. We also seek to understand why the lows happened and why they felt low, always looking for opportunities to learn and adjust in the new year. From there we go through this list to make sure we cover our bases:

Important birthdays & anniversaries
Weddings / Graduations / Baby Due Dates
Community service
Running races
1:1 date nights with kids and each other
Music and cultural events
School calendar
Visitors we plan to host
People we plan to visit with
Important annual doctors appts 
Seasonal family vacations (winter, spring, summer & fall)
Staycations at home
Personal days
Long weekends

Quickly, it becomes clear that the days are numbered and the year fills up fast. The discipline to fill out the calendar (even if just in pencil) thoughtfully in advance helps us remember that it is so important to make time for things we value because the days are going to pass by quickly whether we actively plan them or not.  Taking this deliberate approach lets us be thoughtful about how the days are filled (or not). 

For me, an introvert who recharges by being alone, the blank spaces are almost as important as the days we fill in. I know I need a lot of white space to be creative and to stay connected to myself. I also like to leave open space for serendipity.

It’s important to remember and respect that our plans are just a starting point. Sometimes the universe may have other plans for us. Sometimes we may change our minds. Often things don’t go to plan. Being open to adjusting or erasing is part of the process. 

Do you make a yearly new year resolution? 

Instead of a resolution, we hone in on a theme. This is one of the most important steps of our annual planning process. The theme is largely based on learnings from past years, active pain points, and goals for the new year. The theme makes a great filter for us as we fill up our calendar. The theme is usually related to how we want to feel more than what we want to accomplish. Some examples of past themes:

  • The Time Is Now - We realized that as we all age, there is a limited window where kids and parents can enjoy athletic endeavors together (see graph below). We wanted to capitalize on that window and we continue to be motivated by this concept year after year. This awareness continues to motivate us to stay in shape and prioritize sporty vacations and weekends. The year we committed to this theme we signed up for family surf camp, spent a lot of time on snow with small kids to establish their skills and love for mountain life, coached their teams, etc. Like many past themes, this one continues to inform how we fill in our calendar each year. 
  • Fun First - The kids were growing up fast and we wanted to make sure to keep things playful with and for them for as long as we could. Instead of a dining room, we made a pingpong room. Instead of a patio, we put in a mini turf soccer pitch. We penciled in a surprise vacation to Great Wolf Lodge (indoor waterslide park). Year after year we look at the calendar and make sure we create opportunities and space to prioritize fun for and with the kids. 
  • Enjoy It - This particular year we were feeling like time was going by very fast and we wanted to be very mindful of making time to enjoy all that we had worked hard to build. A warm home, great kids, a strong community, etc. The year of this theme we didn’t plan any big vacations. We stayed close to home, kept things simple and made sure to enjoy all that we had. This theme lives on year after year, as we now try to make sure to deliberately schedule staycations to enjoy our space, our hometown of Portland, nature, our health, our friends, our neighbors and one another. 
  • Energy Rich - We were feeling successful but exhausted and realized that is not the way we wanted to operate. Success without energy is not success to us. We tried to filter all calendar decisions through this simple question - will it give energy or take energy? The energy question continues to be an important filter in our annual planning and calendar commitments. 
  • Chase Levity - A few years ago we had some very heavy experiences personally and professionally. We didn’t see them coming and we experienced grief and loss in new ways. Rolling into our annual plan, we knew that levity was lacking. We learned that levity is hard to catch. We continue to value and appreciate levity, however elusive it can be in this heavy world. We learned that dark years help us to actively feel empathy for others when their worlds feel dark and they also help us seek out and savor our own lighter moments even more. 

What if I am not a planner?

In 2024 I plan to have two calendars going - one will hang in our mudroom for all of us to see and reference throughout the year. The other will hang on my closet door. Each night before bed I want to take a minute to write down or doodle something small or big that I want to remember from the day.

I hope this micro-journaling will create micro-moments to reflect, learn, feel gratitude, and generally process the day. At the end of the year, I can look back and remember small things that I likely would have otherwise forgotten.

What is next for Studio Tigress?

I have enjoyed launching the calendars and already look forward to doing them again next year. I have a vision for other products, beyond calendars, that remain closely linked to our relationship with time.

Beyond products, Studio Tigress continues to be an advisory partner to several value-centric brands. It has been a joy and an honor to help them chase their own potential while thoughtfully serving their unique missions and loyal customers.