You might have seen me mention Paper Cuts Studio in other posts, but this is an interview I’ve been greatly looking forward to.  I always go to their etsy store when looking for some inspiration when I feel my creative juices becoming something that looks like a desert.  As I read through the interview, I felt like we just understood each other.  We both like making paper goods.  We both enlist the help of our significant others.  And above all:  we love our junk food.  Without further adu, I give you Paper Cuts Studio super sized with 2 bonus questions.

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Sweet Stuff Notepads Set of 3 $9.00

 

1. How did you begin crafting paper goods?
When I was a kid I really loved making little craft projects, but somehow as I got older I sort of forgot how much I enjoyed making paper crafts (or any craft project for that matter). But last October when I was helping my sister out with a big order (she owns Keepsake Couture, a handmade paper goods company specializing in home and office products) I started wondering, “Hey, why the heck did I quit doing this?” Paper Cuts Studio just kind of grew up from there.

2. Your illustrations have a fresh simplicity in them. Is that a style that you always use to draw, or is it one that you prefer for your journals and stationary?
Why thank you! It’s always so nice to hear when someone likes my characters. My illustrations definitely reflect my overall style, not only what I use to decorate journals and stationery.
Of course, it’s not that I necessarily CHOOSE draw in this very linear, cartoon-y style. It’s just what I really like and also what I’m best at. I really admire people who can draw photo-realistic images, but I’ve never been very good at drawing that way. I’m much better at drawing the things that are floating around my head rather than the things that actually exist.

3. Which comes first, the short story about the character, or the drawing?
Definitely the drawing first! This sounds silly, but I think the first moment that I start to really identify with a character is when I draw their face! From there, I can start thinking about who they are. By the time I’m finished with the line-work and the coloring, I have a good idea about who this character is. When I sit down to write their little story for my website or for Etsy, the character’s background finally solidifies for me.

4. What would you say is your favorite art/crafting medium?
Absolutely paper! There’s no limit to what you can do with it. Pretty much everything I do or think about doing is centered around paper crafts—which I guess is a good thing since the name of our company is “Paper Cuts Studio”!

5. Do you use a computer for the majority of your illustrations?
These days I use the computer for all of my illustrations. I bought a great, affordable pen tablet by Wacom called the Bamboo Fun and it has really inspired me to create new characters.
Part of it is that I enjoy the challenge of working with a new medium. Another part of it is that I feel more liberated to experiment because mistakes are easy to fix—just press “Undo” and everything is back where it should be!

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6. For those of us who don’t know, what is a linocut? And how are they made?
Linocut is basically a one-of-a-kind stamp that is carved out of linoleum. But the linoleum used for linocuts isn’t the same kind you’d find in your kitchen—this is much softer. Right now I’m pretty partial to Richeson Easy-to-Cut Linoleum, which really does cut like butter.
Unlike rubber stamps (which are better known by most crafty folks) linocuts tend to be able to transfer a lot more ink to create a really solid color. What I like best about linocuts is that the final prints have a nice, organic, handmade-y look about them. It’s not as polished as rubber stamping. Plus you get to create your own designs to use on prints, journals, or even clothing.
My process is pretty simple. Typically I’ll draw something then redraw it on some tracing paper. Then I lay the tracing paper on top of some linoleum with the penciled side down and rub the tracing paper to transfer the graphite on to the surface of the linoleum. You then have a mirror-image of your original drawing. Then I get out my trusty linoleum cutters and get to carvin’.
Of course, you always need to consider with line weight, negative space, and other factors. I usually don’t try to decide those things too far in advance, but some planning is (of course) necessary.

7. What is your absolute favorite craft to do?
Right now I’m obsessed with bookmaking! I seriously love it. I make excuses to make random little notebooks just so I can practice my bookbinding skills. It’s such a cool way to use my art to make a functional object.

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8. Describe the creative and production process of making one of your journals.
I start out with some object that I really love—that’s probably why I draw so much junk food! Then I plug in my Wacom tablet and fire up Photoshop to start on the rough sketch. This used to be the hardest part of the process, but over the past few months I’ve learned to relax a little more and just sort of let the shapes “come out” without criticizing myself too much.
When I feel like I have a nice base to work from, I create another layer just for the final line work. I draw some really, really thick lines—much thicker and yuckier than I would ever want in the final product. Then I just keep erasing and redrawing, over and over and over, until I get the effect that I want.
When I’m done with that, I start on the coloring. My husband used to do almost all of the coloring, but lately I’ve started taking a more active role in this part of the process.
As you can see, it can take a little while to get to the final illustration, but while I’m working on refining the drawing, little bits of the character are popping into my head. When the character is done, it’s just a matter of printing him or her out and binding the results into a book.
We recently switched to a Japanese-style binding process and I think that our books have really improved. There’s a bit of extra work now to get to the finished journal, but it’s certainly worth it and actually pretty fun.

9. Where do you draw most of your inspiration from?
I draw a lot of my inspiration from Japanese kawaii imagery. (Kawaii means “cute” in Japanese). I really love the art direction that comes from Japan—even a simple set of school erasers can be made into something that is adorable and unique.
I love Hello Kitty products. Again, the art direction is really inspiring. My husband, Matt, surprised me with a bunch of fun Hello Kitty candy shipped from Japan and I haven’t had the heart to eat most of it because it would ruin the beautiful packaging.
I also get a lot of great inspiration and suggestions from my sister and my husband. My sister (who also works with paper goods) has tons of great suggestions as well as a really solid idea of what it takes to create distinctive branding. My husband is great for bouncing ideas off of and brainstorming. Plus, he’s always willing to lend a hand when things get hectic, which certainly helps me have time to keep creating new characters.

10. What do you credit your success on etsy to?
It’s funny because this is the first time that I have ever thought of myself as a “success”! I read your question and thought, “I’m a success on Etsy?” But I guess I am doing pretty well, especially considering the relative youth of Paper Cuts Studio. I’m really grateful for this good fortune.
I think I helped myself out a lot just by simply giving myself permission to keep creating. It’s so easy to get stressed out when orders are slow. It puts you in a state of mind that really isn’t conducive to artistic expression. And that’s really unfortunate because the best way (in my opinion) to succeed as an independent craftsperson is to have a really distinct, evolving style. So I don’t let myself get too bogged down. I try to use the energy that I would have spent filling orders on challenging myself creatively or on marketing my products.
I also make sure to use all 14 product tags. This makes it much easier for customers to find you. Also, I work hard to make my product pictures visually appealing as well as informative.

11. What do you hope to see for the future of Paper Cuts Studio in the next 5 years?
Gosh, this question hits home! I just graduated with an undergraduate degree and right now I’m at a crossroads between continuing to focus on Paper Cuts Studio full-time or setting it aside in the fall for law school. It’s certainly a huge decision and I think about it constantly.
Honestly, my hope is that in five years, my husband and I will be super-busy filling orders from both wholesale and retail customers. I want our product-line to expand a bit and of course I want our existing products to keep improving.
I guess overall I want to keep doing what I’m doing now, but on a larger scale. I want to be able to say that I turned down law school to focus on Paper Cuts Studio—and that it was the best decision I ever made!

12. What are some tips to sellers on etsy that you’ve learned?
I have learned a lot from the Storque and the Forums. I can’t remember who said this, but someone in the Forums once wrote that top sellers aren’t just the ones who sell a lot of items—they’re also the ones who put in many, many hours of work.
I guess that’s obvious, but for me, it was a big revelation. I finally realized that I couldn’t just wait for success to arrive gift-wrapped on my doorstep. I would have to work my butt off for it! It also reminded me that success is not easy. Not that it necessarily has to be a grueling process. After all, I love crafting. I don’t think that will ever change.
If I had to offer advice to other new sellers like myself, I would say that working hard to develop your own artistic style should be priority number one. Marketing is incredibly important, but at the end of the day it is your products people are buying, not fancy words.
Oh, and great customer service is a real must. The main reason why I buy handmade is because of the one-on-one attention you get. It’s important to let your customers know how important they are to you. This means prompt shipping, emails, and little freebies in each order.

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