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Paper Stories Letterpress Studio Tour

August 21, 2008

My name is Kelly Maron and I run the little Chicago area letterpress studio, Paper Stories. I also author a blog under the same name and I have an etsy shop. I am so thrilled to be filling the guest spot for Holly today!

Paper Stories Letterpress Studio Tour

I make a variety of letterpress paper goods from cards to art prints to invitations. For today?s post I’d like to share a bit of my studio space with you, where my inspiration comes from, and the struggles of running a small business as a new mom. I think we only see the ‘good’ face of most businesses online and I’m here to show both the good and the ‘real’ life stuff that goes on behind the scenes. :)

Paper Stories Letterpress Studio Tour

Paper Stories Letterpress Studio Tour

I always love seeing a good studio tour but secretly feel a tad bitter by those ?showcase studios?, you know the ones? the warehouse with the original hardwood floors from the days when the space used to be an early 1900?s sewing factory, soaring 12 foot tall windows covering the exposed brick walls, a healthy dose of antiquated metal cabinets and large wooden work tables, and of course there is always some sort of lounge area filled with mid-century modern furniture, like the infamous Eames lounge they just happened to find on the side of the road. Did I just describe my dream studio? Perhaps; but if you are anything like me, with a young business, you need to keep overhead low which means making what you have work for you. I understand that ?fantasy? studio tours give you something to aspire towards but I’m here to show you a more realistic space. My space. If you have been making excuses for not making your own studio space, perhaps this will motivate you!

Paper Stories Letterpress Studio Tour

I work from home in a converted one-car garage where I house my 1200 lb 8×12 Chandler & Price printing press. I do all the printing and cutting in this space. It is a small space and gets rather cold in the Chicago winters, but it does the job and it’s free! I have also commandeered an extra bedroom that is more of an office space. This is where I keep my boxes of envelopes and other paper goods, store my inventory, and can sit with my laptop or just sketch out ideas. Of course at any given time, I may also take over the dining room table for the purposes of boxing up cards or getting things ready for a show. In mid September I will be a vendor again at the Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago so right now, it looks less like a house and more like a tornado in a paper factory.

Paper Stories Letterpress Studio Tour

Since my studio is small, being organized is important. I have dedicated spaces for printing, sorting, and cutting. I have tried to fit as many tables, shelves, and cabinets as I can without hindering my ability to move around comfortably. Most of the things are either thrifted, like the vintage French kitchen tins that hold my gloves, ink, and miscellaneous printing things, and the dartboard that serves as my makeshift inspiration board, or were built from your typical hardware store supplies. I use a lot of pegboards for keeping supplies within arm?s reach. Of course, the occasional trip to IKEA never hurts either for organizational supplies.

While my studio isn?t glamorous, it is cozy and comfortable plus I have a lot of photographs and collected ephemera hanging up that makes it more personal. Unless you also have a half-ton printing press, it shouldn?t be that difficult for you to carve out a little workspace for yourself.

If having the perfect workspace has held you back from following some sort of artistic pursuit, get over it. Find a little corner, organize it, decorate it and get to it!

Okay, so you have the space. Now for the inspiration. I am going to say it? coming up with ideas is hard! Wait, I take that back? coming up with ideas that will sell, is hard. I have so many ideas at any given time, that if I were my only customer, I would be perfectly satisfied. Since that is not the case, I need to think about what sells. I find this a bit frustrating at times especially when it is April and I am designing Christmas cards. Perhaps if I were only a designer, then I could comfortably rest into my delegated role. However, I am the designer, the printer, the webmaster, the shipper and anything else that needs to get done. This can be draining. However, as many one-person business owners know, you really can?t do it all yourself and sometimes you need to take a break.

For the last three years I have been doing everything myself. Two words: Not good.

I convinced myself that I would have better control over everything that way. (Serious type-A personality issues.) Finally, a few months ago I took on an intern. A wonderful girl named Lisa comes over once a week or so and helps me with various business related things. She has been a great help and is also super fun to talk to. I have found myself looking forward to her visits and have remembered how much I love to work with other people. This has encouraged me to start collaborating with others.

Paper Stories Letterpress Studio Tour
Illustrations from the portfolios of Angela Navarra (left) and Jen Renninger (right).

Still in the negotiating and development phase, I am working with some wonderful illustrators to create some super fabulous letterpress goodies for next year. Angela Navarra is a wonderful illustrator who I am very excited to work with on some upcoming cards. Keep an eye out for those as early as this winter. As for next year, I can?t wait to get started on my collaboration with Susie Ghahremani of boygirlparty. I can?t even tell you what we are cooking up but I promise that if all works out as planned, it will be divine! I am also chatting with my cyber-friend Jen Renninger about a collaborative project. Oh, it makes me all so giddy inside. I hope it all works out. Talking with all these talented ladies has gotten me so excited to get printing and has also recharged my batteries so-to-speak. I?ve realized that sometimes the best inspiration can come by working with others.

Paper Stories Letterpress Studio Tour

However, when I am left to my own devices searching for personal sources of inspiration, I can be all over the place. I absolutely love patterns, especially ones that are found in nature or in architecture. Vivid colors make me go ga-ga. A warehouse filled with antiques makes me weak in the knees. When it comes to my card designs, I have used everything from wrought iron and vintage embroidery patterns to a city streetlamp and cupcakes as inspiration. I prefer things that are bold and graphic to soft and subtle. Having a sense of humor helps as well. Give me a card with a snarky saying and I am a happy camper.

Paper Stories Letterpress Studio Tour

Recently I drove nearly 2400 miles visiting seven different places. I went from the plains to the Atlantic Ocean to the mountains and back again, all the while keeping an eye out for things that inspired me. Above is a little peek of some patterns that I found inspiring. You never know what will translate into a card. Walking around with a camera is a great way to record things.

Once I am swimming with a head full of inspiration, my biggest struggle seems to be finding the time. I am so amazed by other artists who seem to balance their home and work lives successfully. I have been running Paper Stories since 2005 and was doing pretty well with time management. I had left an established career as a high school teacher, with the support of my husband (also a high school teacher) to start my own business. It wasn?t until last October that I worried that my home life might conflict with my business. I had a baby boy; Jackson Calder. He is the coolest little guy. I feel very lucky to spend every day with him. Currently we don?t use daycare so all of the day time I once used for printing, filling orders, and contacting clients has been replaced with feedings, diaper changes and walks around the block. Typically I watch Jackson until dinnertime when ?Daddy? gets home, then Paper Stories is open for business. I work until late at night doing all the things that once occupied my days.

I am not quite sure how I am pulling it off, and some days I would argue that I am not at all, but somehow I seem to be busier than ever with orders and upcoming projects. I must be doing something right even if I feel like I am getting on by the skin of my teeth. The past two months have been easier since my husband, Russ, has been off for the summer but in a few weeks he will head back to school while I chase a ten month around at home.

For all you creative mums and pops out there, feel free to leave suggestions for how you manage it all. I would love to know how you do it! In the meantime, guess I am just going to have to baby proof that paper tornado I was mentioning.

Paper Stories Letterpress Studio Tour

Coincidentally, I was just reading an article on how to raise a happy baby. Edward Hallowell, author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, wrote that children, like adults, must pursue their own interests to feel fulfilled in their successes. He says the happiest people are often those who master a skill. Something for us all to work on I suppose. Put together your space, find some inspiration and make some time, then happy mastering!

Well that is it for now. Thank you to Holly and all of you lovely readers for allowing me to share what it is like to have a small business, along with all the inspirations and frustrations that come with it. Hopefully I have given you a bit of something to relate to regardless of whether you are just dipping your toes into the creative waters or are a seasoned veteran.

(photos and text from Kelly Maron)

Home Tours

SFGirlByBay Home Tour

August 15, 2008

Hi! This is Victoria from sfgirlbybay dropping in on decor8 today while Holly is away. One of the more popular, regular posts on sfgirlbybay is called ‘Unexpected Guests’, and since Holly is a fan, she’s asked me to turn the tables on myself and to answer the questions I so often ask of others on ‘Unexpected Guests’. So without further adieu, here goes. I never realized before how tough this is!

SFGirlByBay Home Tour

Where do you live?
I live in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of my favorite city in the world, San Francisco.

SFGirlByBay Home Tour

What is your idea of a perfect day in your city?
This is tough because San Francisco has a lot of diverse things that I love to do. But a favorite day would be waking up early, grabbing a coffee from my corner coffee shop, Tulley’s and heading over the Bay Bridge to the Alameda Flea Market with my girlfriends. We’d shop ’til we dropped, and then probably indulge in one of the yummy grilled sausages with sauerkraut that you can buy there. Then we’d head back to the city and I’d do a little home decorating with my new flea market purchases. After a nice nap, I’d take a long bubble bath with a book and just enjoy the luxury of that. Then I’d dress and head out to meet friends at Zuni, one of my favorite restaurants for a Bloody Mary, oysters on the half shell, Caesar salad and we’d all share Zuni Cafe’s famous roast chicken with bread stuffing. San Francisco is for food lovers, and as you can see, I am one of them!

SFGirlByBay Home Tour

What don’t you leave home without?
My camera. A comb, lipstick, and my wallet.

SFGirlByBay Home Tour

What’s your favorite local shop?
I love Nest on Fillmore Street, with Swallowtail on Polk Street a close second. I probably love them equally and would love to have a shop of my own that would emulate their aesthetic. I love the eclectic, vintage and cosmopolitan items they carry.

What’s on your wish list?
I’m searching for the perfect daybed for my bay window. I’d really love an Eames Case Study Daybed.

What’s your favorite bargain find?
My buffet, which I found at a yard sale for $5. It was covered with awful creme-colored paint and I stripped it myself, sanded and refinished it.

SFGirlByBay Home Tour

What is your biggest interior design nightmare?
I hate that too-perfect look of cookie-cutter furniture from a chain store. Brown plaid sofas and neon beer signs are pretty awful, too.

Who is your favorite artist? And why?
I think my favorite artist is photographer Diane Arbus. I love the way she photographed outsiders, and captured their dark souls with her camera. I also love the work of William Eggleston.

SFGirlByBay Home Tour

Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere, really. A lot of my friends are really talented artists, photographers and crafters and their work constantly inspires me. Magazines, other blogs, films, galleries and museums.

Who do you admire and why?

I admire my friends. They are a constant support system for me. I don’t want to name them all here, but you know who are. The people who came to my side through broken ankles, surgeries, the passing away of my beloved dog Cooper – good times and bad. They are the friends that don’t ask what you need, they just show up. I love you all.

SFGirlByBay Home Tour

What’s the last great book you read?
I used to read a ton, but with the blog it seems I rarely have time to read these days. But I recently read The Night Watch by Sarah Waters which took place during the blitz in WWII and is the story of three women’s lives converging. It was beautifully written, very descriptive, and I loved it.

What’s your favorite film?
Hands down, Breakfast at Tiffany’s with Audrey Hepburn, one of my personal heroes. I also love anything from Wes Anderson, and Sophia Coppola.

SFGirlByBay Home Tour

If you could photograph anyone in the world, who might that be?
Wow, who came up with these questions, this is tough! ;) I love photographing a special friend of mine and capturing his happiness.

Who would you like to sit down to drinks with?
Jon Stewart. I love him and it would be great to chat with such a smart, funny man. If we could bring along Dorothy Parker, that would be cool, but she’s deceased!

SFGirlByBay Home Tour

Do you have a guilty pleasure?
I’ve got some pretty cheesy songs on my iPod that I sometimes listen to while working out, or walking… Faith Hill, Britney, nsync. It’s sad, really.

What would you eat for your last supper?
I believe I would like my mother’s breaded veal cutlets with mashed potatoes. For some reason, I can eat stacks of these – it’s quite disgusting.

SFGirlByBay Home Tour

What is your most treasured belonging?
My cameras.

What souvenir did you bring back from your last trip?
My last big trip was to Italy, and I bought a small oil painting of the countryside from a local artist in Venice. I love it’s soothing colors.

SFGirlByBay Home Tour

Greatest indulgence?
It used to be books – I could never be just one. I always bought them in triplets. But lately it’s camera equipment.

What is your idea of living hell?
A nine to five job in a bank, having to wear skirts and nylons everyday. And, a tract house in suburbia. It’s just not me.

SFGirlByBay Home Tour

What are some of your favorites websites/blogs to visit?
I love Poppytalk, design*sponge and decor8 (not just saying that – I find tons of inspiration from these women). I also love dooce, Letters From The Consumer End and The Sartorialist.

Thanks Holly!! xx,

Thank you so much Victoria for joining us today on decor8! It was fun to get into your head a little so thanks for telling us about yourself and what inspires you. Readers: All photos above are of Victoria’s apartment in San Francisco… Don’t you just love her aesthetic? So pretty! – Holly

(images and text from victoria smith, sfgirlbybay)

Home Tours, Inspiration

The Home of Talented Emma Cassi

August 4, 2008

My friend Kat just wrote in to suggest that I feature French stylist and jewelery designer Emma Cassi. I’d not heard of her before but the interior of her home blew me away this morning. I’m smitten. The casual elegance, the soft color palette, all of the texture and natural light… Thanks Kat!

The Home of Talented Emma Cassi
The Home of Talented Emma Cassi
The Home of Talented Emma Cassi
The Home of Talented Emma Cassi

This really inspires me because I am about to embark on furnishing a one-bedroom apartment from scratch and though I have plans laid out, seeing interiors such as Emma’s goes a long way right now since I’m eager to get started on my own place.

With so many of the same elements already in place that I hope to put into my own home, Emma’s space gives me a huge dose of enthusiasm and hopefully the same will be for you as well. What a glorious space, Emma — You possess a style that clearly extends beyond what is considered mainstream decorating and I love it.

The Home of Talented Emma Cassi
The Home of Talented Emma Cassi
The Home of Talented Emma Cassi
The Home of Talented Emma Cassi
The Home of Talented Emma Cassi

Don’t miss her beaded jewelry collection — it’s as exquisite as her home. And don’t miss her professional portfolio, lovely.

UPDATE: Aug. 4th@ 10:18 PM EST. My bloggy friend Irene from Bloesem wrote in to let us all know that she has an interview with Emma Cassi on the BKids blog. You can read it here (I’m on my way over myself.) Thanks so much, Irene!

(images from emma cassi)

Home Tours, Inspiration

Two Beautiful Dutch Apartments

June 26, 2008

My friend and travel partner Danielle, who I actually met via decor8 in 2006 when she showed her apartment to readers and a friendship blossomed from there, just purchased a gorgeous home outside of Amsterdam. I can’t wait until she shows you the photos once she gets into the space and makes it her own. It is a fantastic home with beautiful property — very magazine worthy for sure. In preparation for her new home, Danielle and her boyfriend are selling their current apartments.

Two Beautiful Dutch Apartments The apartment of her boyfriend. He has great style!

This is by no means a sales pitch, I have no interest in helping her sell these properties as I’m sure her broker is completely capable and I’m willing to bet both will sell rather quickly without any help from me. But I was so completely inspired by how Danielle lives, and of the apartment in which her boyfriend resides in The Hague (Netherlands) that I want to give you a sneak peek.

Two Beautiful Dutch Apartments Danielle’s apartment.

You can go to her blog to see all of the images, they are just wonderful. You can tell Danielle is a stylist — she did a great job staging both apartments for a quick sell. Enjoy!

(images from danielle delange/the style files)

Arts + Crafts, Home Tours, Interviews

Meet Pretty Little Things

June 5, 2008

I’d love for you to meet a lady who turned her passion into a small business. Her name is Lori Marie, the artist/designer behind the California-based business Pretty Little Things. Based in Oakland, Lori started out as an aerospace engineering major at UCSD and decided to take some art classes, “to balance out my math and science courses,” Lori said. “It wasn’t long before I realized that my passion for innovation and creativity was better applied to pattern making than rocket science…so I transferred to FIDM in San Francisco and graduated with a degree in fashion design instead.” This is a lady who followed her heart! Would you like to know a little bit more about Lori and see her work studio? Sure you would. ;)

Meet Pretty Little ThingsSome of Lori’s handmade creations.

How did you get started after your studies at FIDM?
Lori: My first design job was as a pattern maker for a leather handbag company called Libaire. I learned a little bit about everything in this position since I hand drafted all the patterns and worked directly with the sewers to see the designs through production. I needed a change after 2 years and so I began freelancing as a textile artist for Pottery Barn Kids. I got the job the old fashioned way, through the classifieds, followed by a series of interviews and … Voila! I worked with them for over 4 years doing hand embroidery and appliqu? samples for childrens’ bedding collections. I am currently working with a brand called Whistle&Wink (launched in 2007 by the original design director for Pottery Barn Kids), in addition to creating handmade designs under my own label of course.

Meet Pretty Little Things This is where the magic happens, in her little art house. How sweet is this!?

What inspires your work?
Lori: I am inspired by all sorts of stuff, but mostly by print and pattern. I like to combine interesting colors with unexpected details to create fun and functional pieces of art.

Any favorite designers/artists on your radar right now?
Lori: There is certainly no shortage of inspiration online these days and you never know where you might end up after a series of links. I love to search aimlessly through etsy listings when I need a good dose of inspiration. I am constantly adding to my list of faves.

Here are some of her favorite spots in her art studio…

Meet Pretty Little ThingsMeet Pretty Little ThingsMeet Pretty Little ThingsMeet Pretty Little ThingsMeet Pretty Little Things

What is the best business advice you’ve heard and applied to your own business?
Lori: I think it’s easy to get lost in the crowd with so many talented ladies willing to share a glimpse of their world with us through blogging. It can be a challenge to stand out and sometimes I wonder where I fit in. I have to remember not to compare myself too much to others, but just keep on doing what I love and hope it will shine through. {note: Lori’s blog can be found here.)

Where do you sell your work?

Lori: Since I still make each and every pretty little thing by hand, I sell them exclusively through my etsy shop.

Any advice for those looking to start their own business?
Lori: You better make sure that you LOVE what you do because you will eat sleep and breathe it!

Meet Pretty Little Things
Psst: Lori was on the Martha show this past February, here’s a project of hers that you can try yourself at home!

Thank you Lori for visiting us here on decor8 and a special word of thanks to reader Michele for telling me about Lori in the first place!

I’d also like to mention that Lori makes a super point about how one can easily start comparing their work to that of others and what a downer that can be. I think many of us battle with this tendency, it’s human. When you find yourself doing this think of what Karl Lagerfeld once said to pull yourself in and regain focus, “Personality begins when comparison ends”.

(images from lori marie)

Home Tours, Rooms

Cookie Magazine Home Tours

March 19, 2008

Speaking of design in Berlin, check out this Berlin apartment via Cookie magazine. Michele Reeb and family occupies a beautiful apartment there that I just love. These are very typical apartments in northern Germany (I’ve not been to the south, so I can’t comment as to what they are like in say, Munich), high ceilings, spacious, wood or pergo flooring, large windows. It’s what the average Bostonian or New Yorker could only dream of finding. And these apartments are so affordable which makes everything that much more appealing. Here’s a glimpse of Reeb’s space below, you’ll have to click over to Cookie magazine to see the rest.

Cookie Magazine Home Tours
Cookie has a slew of inspiring home tours from their readers up on their website if you have a moment to browse them today. They have a nice collection over there.

Cookie Magazine Home Tours Elisabeth Dunker’s home in Gothenburg, Sweden.

I especially enjoyed the five-story pagoda home of John and Cynthia Hardy in Bali (that bed!), Elisabeth Dunker’s kids’ rooms in Gothenburg, Dutch bag designer Esther Veereschild’s place in the Netherlands, and Stephanie Congdon Barnes in Portland.

Cookie Magazine Home Tours Links to this artwork here.

One thing I notice in all the stylish homes I come across is a beautiful array of artwork in kids’ rooms. After noticing this for a long time now I decided to write about it today over at Real Simple so if you’re interested in reading about Art in Kids’ Rooms I’m sure you’ll find this helpful.

(images from cookie magazine)

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