I like to say that I can make anything out of paper, and every once in a while I get an inquiry that challenges that statement! A client reached out a few months ago to see if I could create a logo out of paint chips. Of course I said yes!
It was so interesting to learn how to work with paint chips, which require a slightly different handling than plain paper. It was exciting to work with such a range of colors, since I tend to work mostly with white paper. And it was a fun challenge to pull the whole thing together.
Earlier this year, Etsy put out a call for entries for their first ever “Etsy Design Awards” or “The Etsies”. I submitted my custom house portraits to the contest, and then went on with my summer. Between keeping up with commissions as they came in, and making sure I had inventory for my summer events, my days were full!
I got a call late summer letting me know that Etsy chose me as a finalist. Out of all of the entries, my house portraits were chosen as one of the 150-ish finalists! There are some amazing items in my group of finalists, the “Creative Collaboration” category, all products that are custom or customizable.
I’m now focused on getting through all of the orders I promised in time for holiday gifting, and orders are still coming in for shipping in early 2020.
As part of the publicity around the Design Awards, I was interviewed in my studio by our local NBC news station. We talked about the Etsy contest and I shared a little peek behind the scenes. They filmed me going through each step of the custom house portrait creation process. It was so much fun to spend a few hours in my studio with the crew! They did a fabulous job telling my story, and you can watch the video here:
March marked the 12-month point from when I created my first paper house portrait. Since March of last year I’ve delivered 24 custom house portraits to art lovers in 7 different states. The commissions range from a famous church in Greece to a girlfriend’s childhood home in the Midwest, to a family’s vacation home in Florida, to a construction company’s office, and more. Several were gifted to clients or friends who just purchased a new home, or as a wedding, anniversary, or birthday gift. It has been remarkable to be a part of such momentous occasions in people’s lives, and be able to create an heirloom that will hopefully be a tangible reminder of the memories and relationships that center around these homes and spaces.
My primary observations after a year, in no particular order:
I’ve challenged myself to work larger. My original portraits were 8″ square, and lately I’ve been creating more pieces that are 11″ x 14″, and even one that’s 20″ x 20″. Working larger has allowed me to add more nuance and detail to the houses, since I’ve learned that one can only cut a piece of paper so small before it kinda just falls apart.
I’ve experimented more with using colored paper for different areas of a house, to add contrast between the roof and the walls, or the walls and the shutters. I look forward to exploring this more, and I’m currently trying to figure out how I can store more different kinds and colors of paper, so that I can expand what I keep on hand to include more colors that make sense for homes and buildings.
I’ve learned that porches are tricky to make, especially the kind with lots of posts and a roof. I can’t tell yet if it’s the sort of thing that will get easier with practice, or if every house portrait is so unique that every porch will be tricky. For one of my house portraits, I spent an entire day just trying to get the porch right. I may have to add an extra fee for houses with big porches, but I’m going to try a few more times first.
As I head into the summer art show season, I have temporarily shuttered my online shop so that I can focus on the house portraits already in my queue and spend some time coming up with fun new products (and hopefully making progress on organizing my workspace – it’s been a disaster for a long time). The shop will re-open mid-May, just in time for my first weekend of outdoor shows, the Bedford Plant & Art Sale and Inman Eats & Crafts.
Fall is my favorite, it has always been. I’m a sucker for back-to-school season and its emphasis on stocking up on pens and paper. I love apple and pumpkin and cinnamon any day, so it’s pretty delightful when those flavors are suddenly everywhere I look! Fall crafting is pretty great, too, because it’s such a visual season: leaves, pumpkins, apples, fall flowers, Halloween characters, turkeys – so many options! I decided to put together some pumpkin craft ideas, since pumpkins are an icon that spans the full range of the season!
I’ve rounded up a wide variety of mostly paper-based pumpkin craft projects here on my Pinterest board:
Most of these projects use things you have around the house, like newspaper, old books, or those five random sheets of orange tissue paper that you never know what to do with.
The biggest pumpkin sports stick-on googley eyes and a cut-paper nose and mouth. The smallest one has similar features also cut out of black paper and stuck on to the pumpkin with bits of tape.
Pro-tip: if you use masking tape, you can take the face off after Halloween and keep the pumpkin around for the rest of the fall decor season!
This medium-sized pumpkin, the one on the left, got a face before I assembled him. After I folded along all of the pre-scored lines, I drew a face with pencil on the inside of the pumpkin. I then used a craft knife to cut out the shapes! Drawing on the inside of the pumpkin means that the lines aren’t visible once it’s assembled. Which is good, because the lines I cut didn’t perfectly line up with the shapes I drew! This pumpkin glows like a real jack-o-lantern if you put a little battery-powered light inside.
I decided to make this pumpkin more appropriate for Thanksgiving. Before I assembled it, I got out my watercolors and painted polka dots in a few sizes and colors. The pumpkins are made of really sturdy paper, so they can handle markers, crayons, or even paint!
I’d love to see your ideas for decorating or modifying these pumpkins! Tag me on Instagram or email me photos, and I’ll add to this post!
Last but not least, I have a free printable project for you!
This paper pumpkin printable is a scan of a watercolor wash and pumpkin leaves that I painted. In order to turn this square of orange into a pumpkin shape, follow the directions for a traditional origami “water bomb”. There’s a link to the video on the sheet you’ll print out, too.
A little over a year ago, August 2017, some friends asked me for some ideas for a special gift they wanted to give. Their old church was closing down, and they wanted something special to give to the pastor to remember and celebrate the community and the building. I totally winged it, found paper approximately the right color, and made this 3D paper construction that would fit inside of an off-the-shelf shadow box frame.
Then I spent the rest of the summer and fall moving, and the winter doing as many holiday markets as I possibly could!
As I recovered from that season, taking some time to rest and review and dream at the beginning of 2018, I thought back to that little paper church and wondered if that would be something with a broader appeal and market.
I first created a version of my own house, to test out the process, and put it out on Instagram to see what my online friends thought:
It was pretty well-received, so I listed a trial run of 5 houses for $50 each in my Etsy shop, and figured that given the overwhelmingly positive response, they would sell pretty quickly. Three of the five sold in the first few days, and then, maybe because I stopped talking about them for a while because I was busy working on them, the last two orders took a while to come in. Since then I’ve sold a few at what I’m calling my normal price for now, $150, as well as some special commissions with colors and other details that for now I’m quoting on a case-by-case basis.
This has been such a fascinating process. It’s such a different kind of work – more like the graphic design work I used to do, where I’m working directly with another human being to make something that they hopefully find beautiful and meaningful – unlike my product design work where it often feels like I’m making things, throwing them blindly into the world, and hoping the right person comes along and buys them! I’m still processing that, and feeling out what this change means for me and how I work and how yeiou exists in the world.
Heading into the holiday season, I’m feeling a little uneasy about the new breadth of my body of work – I’ve also added one-of-a-kind framed paper pieces to my repertoire. They are a lower price point than my custom house portraits, and help me build my skills and invent new techniques for rendering architectural details in paper…and I think they’re quite beautiful, too! But they’re another “thing” that I do, and it’s all quite hard to explain to random people I meet without pulling out my phone to show pictures!
At in-person events these additions feel risky to me, because I’m still figuring out how to tell a cohesive story about my full range of work. In the past, the story my display told was about creativity and the therapeutic qualities and infinite possibilities of crafting. It was all “yay” banners and bright colors. Now, my display is still mostly fun and colorful and enthusiastic, but there are also a few one-of-a-kind pieces that tend to be mostly white-on-white and about details and subtlety, as well as information about custom house portrait orders! It’s a lot to process, and I realize that, and I’m just going to go forward with the faith that I will figure it out eventually.
Anyway, because I wanted to see them all together, and maybe you do, too, here are all of the house portraits I’ve completed so far, in the order they were created:
I’ve been obsessed with houses and architecture since I was a child, always staring out the car/bus/train/plane window, paying attention to what the buildings look like where ever I go. I never actually studied architecture, though, so it just became an observational past time.
When Brian and I moved to the east coast about 10 years ago, it was pretty mind blowing to suddenly be surrounded by historic homes and buildings, some of which pre-date the formation of the United States. Extra mind-blowing, there are buildings from that era that are used for things like housing college freshmen! Anyway, I love looking at buildings.
When I started working on my paper house portraits earlier this year, I began by focusing on the big picture, figuring out perspective, and making sure the house ends up being the right shape—I added some details here and there, but it was mostly about the shape/form of the house and the dramatic shadows for the windows and other cut-out elements.
With each piece I created, though, I found myself adding more and more little details, and wishing I could add even more! But when you’re trying to create a whole house in an 8×10″ or even 11×14″ space, there’s only so much detail you can add with bits of paper!
As I’ve been observing all of the different architectural styles in my neighborhood and on trips this summer, I realized that one area where buildings really show their character is in their windows, so I decided I would experiment with creating pieces that show a window and really hone in on all the details. My long term plan is that by making larger versions of architectural details, I’ll be able to make them more detailed when they’re smaller as part of a paper house portrait, too.
I began by researching Victorian era window styles*, and collected inspiration images from real windows as well as doll house window designs. Once I had my reference material, I designed the basic elements to create the multi-paned window, the moulding around the window frame and up the sides, and the decorative pieces above and below the window. I’ve been using those same building block pieces, and then adding additional pieces or modifying pieces, to create a series of Victorian-inspired paper windows.
*To be clear, by “research” I mean I did a Google image search and collected some of the images that popped up with that search.
I try to keep one or two of these in my Etsy shop, but since they’re all one-of-a-kind that can be a little tricky as we approach the end of the year. If you’re interested in a window and there’s nothing in my shop, email me and I will let you know what I have in stock, or make one special for you!
I launched my little paper villages last spring, and didn’t really have a plan for them. They were an evolution of my generic little paper house design. I was selling them singly or in sets, and people seemed to really like them, and be interested in more variety of design. The first village combined a mini version of my paper barn and animals kit with two pretty basic little houses, and I added three more village designs over the last year and a bit.
I realized a few months ago, though, that calling them “Village Number Two” or “Village Number Three” was not only kinda lame, it meant that as I grow my product line I have to decide whether to just increment the numbers, or replace the existing #1 with a new design….it felt confusing just thinking about it!
So, I sat down with my chief strategy advisors a.k.a. my husband, Brian, and our cat, Bash:
Brian had the brilliant idea to name each kit after different trees that grow in the New England region. It seemed fitting to name these paper products after the plant they come from. Bash just knocked things on the floor. He was definitely less helpful.
We landed on tree-themed street names, specifically. The neighborhood I grew up in had a mix of trees and states for street names, so it reminds me of my home town, but lets you also imagine your own neighborhood around these kits.
The original village kit is now “Spruce Lane”, a nod to the less-saturated colors and cooler feeling:
“Beech Street” for this kit that feels very New England summer:
“Village #3” became “Willow Road”, a nod to the bright, light, springy feel of this color combination:
Village #4, all decked out in heart-shaped windows, is now “Pine Drive”:
These little neighborhoods are also begging to be made into a map, so stay tuned for that – just have to figure out what to call it! Yeiouville? The Village of Yeiou? Yeioutown? Let me know if you have a brilliant idea!
I discovered Mr. Printables when I was collecting ideas for my Paper Fun Pinterest board. There is a TON of content on the site. They have everything from calendars in the shape of a weird accordion rabbit thing to 3-dimensional paper alphabets to decorations for every conceivable holiday.
I’ve tried a few of the free paper craft projects as part of my #100daysofpaperfun project this year. I found the quality of the templates to be a little hit or miss, but you can’t beat the price! The illustration/surface design is lovely and fun, and some of the ideas are really creative. My frustrations were more with ease of assembly. Sometimes the flaps are pretty small, and it’s always tricky to get the last flap adhered when you’re working with closed shapes like the fruit.
My favorite so far has been the paper fruit. I’ve assembled the paper watermelon and a paper lemon. There are a few more paper craft fruits printed and waiting to go. I think the kiwi is next!
I also experimented with the 3D alphabet a little. Ultimately, I decided that while it’s a great resource, if I want to make 3D paper letters, I’ll be happier making my own!
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve likely seen me posting random paper projects for the last month or so. This random little goat “faux taxidermy” piece I created on a whim was sort of the impetus for the project:
I realized I have all sorts of random scraps and pieces and materials that I’m “saving” for a “special” project, and that in addition to the mental health benefits that come from doing something fun, it might be good to experiment and see if I land on any new product or project ideas.
I’m 32 days in, as of today, and it’s been really fun! I’ve made some random thing, tested craft kits and paper craft projects designed by other people, and had fun modifying and decorating my own products. Some days the open-ended-ness of “fun” is a little overwhelming, but I’ve been trying to be intentional about doing what feels good, and sort of following my energy (even if that meant taking a day off because I had no energy).
Highlights, in no particular order
I made a paper chicken, something that I’ve been meaning to work on for…a long time.
I played with embroidery and cross-stitch on paper! I’ve been wanting to play around more with embroidery for a long time now, and combining that with paper was pretty awesome. Definitely planning on more of that in the future!
I’ve also done a few experiments with cutting and folding tabs, this one was hand cut, so it has a nice organic feel (that’s what I’m telling myself, anyway), almost like fish scales or something. I’m thinking about ways these sort of shapes/tabs might be interesting as elements on a 3-dimensional form or on something flat, like a card, or maybe even a shadowbox?
Some people can’t stand the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard, or the squeaky noise that styrofoam makes. Some people get aggravated when they see garbage on the ground, and some people get annoyed by poor grammar in an email from a colleague. We all have our pet-peeves, our things that people around us probably don’t even notice, right?
My pet-peeve is kinda weird…I get riled up when I encounter situations that are awkward or inefficient because of poor design. Everything from kitchen tools that fall apart when you try to use them (spatulas with a rubber scraper and a wooden handle, I’m looking at you) to websites that make it hard to find key content. One of the things that landed on this list quite some time ago was invitations, especially wedding invitations, that have a lot of little pieces, and no good way to keep track of them.
In my invitation design work I typically address this issue by using pocket enclosures that go inside an envelope and have their own little pocket that holds all of the bits and pieces. This can be an expensive option, though, as the enclosure itself costs at least $0.70 per invitation, which can be a significant percentage of an invitation budget for a piece that doesn’t actually communicate anything, just looks nice.
It was the intersection of these two problems: lots of pieces, and expensive pockets, that I set out to solve, and I came up with this:
Teal, gold, and triangles. A shimmery gold envelope coordinates with the metallic ink on the bright, handmade paper band around the invitation.
The invitation is a generous 5″ x 7″ (A7 size) which feels big, but isn’t ridiculous.
The accordion fold reveals plenty of space to describe all of the details of your big day, from hotel blocks to directions and RSVP information, as well as a little note instructing guests that they can pull the three panels apart at the perforations to make this:
With this invitation design, I wanted to solve the “loose bits” problem in a more cost-effective way, but I also started thinking about what happens to the invitations after they arrive at their destination. I take a lot of care when I’m designing and making these things, and it seems sad to just have the invitations be destined for the bin after the wedding is over, so this invitation doubles as a decoration that guests can hang in their home as a cheery pick-me-up for birthdays, holidays, or all year. The added bonus, I suppose, is that if they hang it up somewhere in their home, they’ll also know where to find it when your wedding day comes around and they realize they don’t know the way to the venue!