So let me just share a bit of my heart’s intention for this design advice column called ’Honest Tid Bits’. I briefly mentioned it on Monday, with my post on Blogging Plans for 2015. But I thought I’d just mention it again so we’re all on the same page, I have far too many creative friends that I’ve gotten to know over the internet, all of them which inspire me on a daily basis and I thought, “why not pick their brains to get their most honest opinions and experiences, then share it with the world.” It’s partially for my own selfish intentions too, because there’s just always more to learn! Some of the creatives have been in the industry far longer than I have, and some are just starting out; but all of them are downright inspirational and have some valid thoughts. I’ll be featuring a new interview every other Wednesday.
To kick it off, I have Patricia of Our Heiday! I have had the privilege of seeing her stationary company grow from baby steps, before she even had her products up and running online. It was in those early days, that Patricia sent me the most stunning package with a set of her designed cards. I have, till this day, only managed to give one of those cards away, because for the longest time I wanted to selfishly keep them to myself. It’s only been about 6 months since she first launched the online shop and today her cards have been picked up by numerous amazing paper stores. She has definitely become one of those up and coming stores getting featured all the time on blogs.
Tell us a little about you and what you do. Prior to starting up your stationery line, you lived another life, how did you find your way into the creative industry?
I’m the founder, illustrator, and hand letterer behind Our Heiday, a stationery and gift design company in downtown Los Angeles. I grew up in a suburb about 30 miles south of the city and have been a Southern California resident for my whole life, college and grad school included. You can’t take this city out of me - I really love it all! Before I started Our Heiday, I was pursuing a legal career (i.e. locked up in a cold dungeon of casebooks) at UCLA Law and it took two years for me to realize that I would never be an attorney; no matter which way I turned the kaleidoscope, the shapes never fell into place the way I had imagined. I left before finishing my third year and it was the best leap I’ve ever taken. I can never really pinpoint one moment where I thought, “YES, a stationery business. That’s what I’ll do.” But the company is a culmination of small steps that led to grander things. There was a whole pot of creative frustration that had been brewing for quite some time and like any pressure point, you press on it long enough and an explosion will come.
How long have you been designing for and how did you get started with your shop?
It’s been about a year since I first started designing for Our Heiday. We launched the site about six months ago in June 2014 with the intention that our line would be available to both the wholesale and retail markets. It took about six months prior to the launch of playing around with palettes, tossing no-go designs, and narrowing my own personal aesthetic before I was comfortable releasing our first collection.
I’ve never been professionally trained and all of my creativity was cultivated with a lot of love and heart by my mom and her four sisters, who are some of the most artistic people I know. I tell this story to everyone who’s willing to listen because it’s such a huge part of why I was able to jump out of law school and land (at times clumsily) in a bed of creative scheming. Growing up, we were a hodge podge of glue guns, loose beads, drawing pads, and paints and when the entire extended family amassed, we’d often be pulling needle and thread or piecing together different fabrics for quilt making. One of my aunts is a painter and she along with two of my other aunts (hard to keep track with so many, I know!) launched their own greeting card line about ten years ago using her original paintings. I think family histories have such a special place in businesses - it carves roots and depth into what we do. Our Heiday, which is a play on the word heyday, was named after my mom and her sisters (all of their Korean names begin with hei) and I owe so much of this company to their influence.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to get their own stationery line started?
Connect with others in the industry, do your research, and embrace the “business” part of your creative business. Or you’ll end up a creative with a really expensive hobby! Katie, founder of Tradeshow Bootcamp, offers a great two day camp that equips businesses with amazing tools and insights into the industry. Even if exhibiting at a trade show sounds like a nightmare, investing in a full-force information weekend that covers all of the basics of running a stationery line could be the best thing you do for your company. Connecting with others who can not only cheer for you, but also offer honest feedback can be incredibly enlightening. Be open to this! It’ll help you march into the industry waving your own flag, not the replica of someone else’s. Carina, the founder of the stationery rep group Crow & Canary, is one of the sweetest people and she’s been so kind and honest about telling me the things that I need to hear. And real deal: designing is only a part of running a stationery business. The other part requires managing orders and accounts, packaging and shipping, coordinating with printers, keeping up with all the math (yes taxes and accounting is serious!), marketing to the masses, and mounds of other tasks that I wouldn’t be able to list off here. We’ve been blessed enough to hire a part-time business operations manager (Veronica, you’re amazing!) and I still have plenty of days where I don’t even get a glimpse of my paints.
Do you think it’s important to keep all your pieces cohesive? If yes, how does one achieve that?
I think it’s most important to figure out what exactly it is that you’re trying to say with your designs. Sometimes getting wrapped up in cohesion can make me feel like all of my pieces have to resemble one another, which isn’t the case. I do think, though, that there’s great power in someone being able to look at your designs and think, that’s so [insert your brand here]. Brand recognition. So cohesion to me is discovering your point of difference and building off of that so as not to lose focus. Cohesion should pull your vision together with room for something new and unexpected each time a new collection releases.
What’s your biggest fear in terms of your business? And what are some future dreams?
I think my biggest fear is that I’ll succumb to the little fears. The little nagging ones that say you have such a long way to go, the world is too big. But we keep going, and I quiet those fears by trusting that there is a greater purpose in everything that I do, all that I’m given. Everyday is another door for something new and exciting and in the grand scheme of businesses, we’re still in our infancy. There’s still so much learning and growing that I need to do. I’m really so grateful for all of the support we’ve gotten along the way, from retailers who continue to believe in what we do and make our line available to their customers, to people who have ordered from all around the world, to the kind, encouraging comments left on instagram.
There are so many things I’d love to pursue, especially as I’m grasping my own style as I continue to create. We’re currently in production for a new line of notebooks and I’m constantly thinking of ways to grow our stationery line to other kinds of paper goods — things that make sense for our brand and stay true to our vision. But beyond that, I’d really love to design textiles and explore designs for the home and interiors one day. I love the idea of making a home beautiful and restful.
Now let’s get nitty gritty, what’s your biggest failure? In contrast, what would you say is your biggest success?
Ooh, this is tough. A bit cliche, I’ll admit, but I hate to think of things in terms of failures because each mistake has made me better, this company run stronger. But mistakes, gosh there were many of them. One of the biggest I can think of was before Our Heiday officially launched. In December 2013, as I was toying with the idea of designing stationery full time, I decided to release a small set of 4 cards just to see who would bite. No marketing, no nothing. I think we had them printed two weeks before Christmas. The dreamer in me thought that it would be a good idea to order 300 of them! My husband and I still get a good laugh thinking about that now.
Biggest success is also a hard one to pin down, but one of my happiest moments was launching the site and seeing everything come together after six months of long hours, nights, and weekends. Within the first week, our line was picked up by three amazing retail shops and that made my heart sing.
How long does one piece take to make? What’s your process, if you don’t mind sharing. And which is your favourite card/piece?
A card or print can take anywhere from two hours to two days to create. It really depends on what the concept is. I usually design in terms of collections and because I follow the wholesale calendar, I’m usually designing seasons ahead. It’s the strangest feeling, painting Christmas in June! I draw inspiration from so many different places, but I usually orient myself around a color palette that I’m drawn to, whether it comes from the runway or a warehouse mural in downtown. Once the collection comes together, I spend another few days or so editing the scanned version in Photoshop. The files are then sent to the printers that we’ve partnered with and depending on what the collection is, we’ll do a press check.
If I can think about my favorite piece this way, one of the prints that I’d gift to a good friend is Bouquet III from our recent Bouquet Prints release.
Any last words/advice/reads?
Don’t be afraid to keep trying and refining. You may feel like each thing you produce is a part of yourself, but that’s the beauty of it - things change and you change. Flexibility has been such an important tool for me. It’s okay to show yourself a little grace, scribble a mental note that your identity isn’t rooted in what you have or have not done, and move forward. And when still in doubt, read Seth Godin: “It’s not the medium or the oil or the price or whether it hangs on a wall or you eat it. What matters, what makes it art, is that the person who made it overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt and made something worth making. Something risky. Something human.”
My favorite piece from Our Heiday is this gorgeous Flowering Cacti print, like seriously, how cute is this.
Thank you lovely Patricia for letting us pick your brains, such note worthy advice. I know I’ll personally be re-reading and coming back to it as often as I need!
Hope you guys have enjoyed this first Honest Tid Bit Interview!