CatPrint Interview: Colleen Attara Studio with Colleen Attara

This month, CatPrint is excited to present the fourth installment in our Customer Q&A series. Artist and entrepreneur Colleen Attara spoke with us about her business, Colleen Attara Studio, and inspirations. Read her story below:

What does your business offer?unnamed

I have a line of greeting cards and prints. I am very good at tapping into feelings and truths that others feel. My cards are my stories. They are pieces of conversations and thoughts that go through my head. These stories become other people’s stories, too. My words are bridges between people expressing joy and sometimes sadness. I love creating cards that have the words others have been trying to say. I also teach people how to heal through altered book pages and I script words that are cut from salvaged material that I ship across the world as part of the One Little Word movement.

Could you describe your background and how you got into design?

I have been a full time artist for several years. I started out creating original three dimensional art created from repurposed business signs. I created small pieces for private collectors and then started working on larger commissions in public spaces. Prior to that I was pretty corporate and worked in television selling commercial airtime.

I launched my card line at the National Stationery Show in 2014. My card line is a lovely collaboration of everything I adore doing: photography, writing, painting, and reusing. This definitely is the truest work I have ever done.

How would you describe your style of design?

There is a nostalgic quality to my work. I love to reuse materials in different ways. I take my photographs, tear them, change the composition and then sew them back together again. I add in bits of found and collected ephemera and some little words to emphasis a part of my message. And colorful thread is a big part of my esthetic.

ColleenA2

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Everywhere! I have to pull over when I drive to write down thoughts that pop into my head. To write greeting cards, you are a student of everyday life and conversations. I am able to capture those basic moments and thoughts and get them on paper. My family and friends are big inspirations. Sometimes the words are there. Other times a picture is a huge inspiration.

 

Where are you located?

My studio is on a historic farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. I create in a stone cottage dating back to the early 1800’s. It is where I play with paint, paper and ideas. My computer and printers are in my home studio. My cottage just has a coffee pot, a microwave and a typewriter.

What outlets do you use to sell your work?

I am in about 55 retail outlets across the country, such as bookstores, boutiques, mailing stores, and card stores. I license my designs as well.

How long have you been printing with CatPrint?

Since the very beginning. Working green and earth friendly is really important to me. I love the paper my cards are printed on. And I love the shipping cost and edible shipping peanuts that they use.

What is the biggest difficulty you’ve encountered in starting your own business?

I always looking to find the balance between the creative part of my work and the managerial part. I hire others to do the work that I do not feel passionate about, like the bookkeeping. But you need to be really organized before you can hand everything over. I am always balancing studio time with office time. I share an assistant with a close artist friend. That has been wonderful. I also have a design company who oversees my website, branding, and my shop. That really helps so much. And it keeps me in my studio more, where I want to be.

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists looking to start their own business/sell their art?

Raise your hand high. Put yourself out there. Take risks. Use social media to connect and promote, but do not look at what everyone is doing and compare yourself to others. Show up often and just be the artist you are in your studio. Whenever I am doing a show, I am always attempting to bring my studio along with me. I move the furniture in. I show up as me and recreate the surroundings I am comfortable in. I support and love the art community around me, but I am not looking at their work for inspiration. I am always looking inward for my own inspiration.

I would also add that is very important to partner with people who share your values.

Where can people find more about your work?

My website is www.colleenattara.com and all my cards, prints and eco-friendly art can be found there. There is also a list of stores in the U.S. on my site that carry my cards. I love Instagram and my studio is also on Facebook.

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CatPrint Interview: Paper Traveler with Beverly Jones

Continuing with the 3rd installment this year of our Customer Q&A series, we recently spoke with Beverly Jones, owner of Paper Traveler (www.beverlyjones.co) to discuss her greeting card business, design style, and inspiration. Check out the interview below:

What does your business offer?

I design greeting cards which fall into three collections, a collage collection, a vintage envelope collection, and a photograph collection.

I love arranging handmade papers and vintage envelopes, and have fun snapping photos, whether I’m out for a neighborhood morning walk, or a trip around the world.

cardtexasmerci

Could you describe your background and how you got into design?

I’m self taught. I’ve collaged since kindergarten, and I’ve had loads of fun wandering around with my camera, a gift from my boyfriend. Over time, playing with design has become more formal and focused. I also used to be a buyer for a card and gift store; the designers I ordered from were my inspiration for becoming a creative artist on a professional level.

When did you create your first Paper Traveler design?

I created the first cards I felt comfortable about showing to strangers in 2003, and took them to Eastern Market in Washington, D.C. where I sold a few. It took several years for me to get to the next level, though. I started testing new designs in 2012, in the store I managed, and finally released them out into the wide world in 2013.

cardwhitehouse

How would you describe your design style?

Many of my designs are nature inspired, whether I’m collaging with floral prints and subtle Japanese papers, or photographing pretty flowers or plants. My vintage notecards evoke nostalgia. Each time I pick up an old envelope I think of the connection between the sender and the receiver of the letter, and try to evoke an equally strong feeling for today’s shopper as I work with the design on my computer.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Almost every day I go for a morning walk, and when I do, nature, words scrawled in chalk on the sidewalk, and the street art I see all speak to me. I also love going to vintage malls and flea markets to find old, interesting envelopes. Other designers and small business owners are all around to encourage me, and help me to believe in my art and myself.

fr046doinggreat

Where are you located?

I’m located in Reston, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C.

What outlets do you use to sell your work?

So far, my cards are sold online, in bookstores, hardware stores, tabletop stores, card shops and boutiques, museum shops, and party supply stores. I’m excited to see what other venues are available, too, and I enjoy connecting with other small business owners to see if I can provide new products for their stores and companies.

How long have you been printing with CatPrint?

CatPrint has been my printer since late 2013. I love the flexibility that I have with CatPrint to do small print runs, especially as a micro business owner. CatPrint’s quality is consistently excellent, and I love the working relationship that we have.

cardgoldflowerscherryblossoms

What is the biggest difficulty you’ve encountered in starting your own business?

I didn’t realize how big this issue was for me, but actually believing in myself was extremely difficult for a long time. There were days — and sometimes weeks — when my attitude really crippled me, and I was unable to move forward to build my business. I finally realized that I had to give myself permission to grow my company, rather than make excuses and wither and die. I’m sure I’ll still have times like that, but I think I’m over the biggest self-confidence hurdle, and can now focus on other challenges, like cash flow!

cardbluecherryblossom

Do you have any advice for artists looking to start their own business?

  • Believe in yourself. 🙂
  • Hire a coach, if you can, to help you focus on your next steps.
  • Join an artist group/community on Facebook, Instagram, or other social media, for encouragement and support.
  • Find multiple ways to sell your art.
  • Continue to look for joy and inspiration in everything you do – it will carry over into your work, and it’ll help you to feel great!

cardjetaime

Check out Beverly’s work online at:

www.beverlyjones.co

Twitter: @papertraveler

Facebook: Beverly Jones, Paper Traveler

Pinterest: papertraveler

Instagram: @papertraveler

CatPrint Interview: La Familia Green with Mollie Green

CatPrint is excited to present a new Customer Q&A with Mollie Green, owner of La Familia Green (www.lafamiliagreen.com).  Mollie is kind enough to share some insight on her business and give entrepreneurial advice from her personal experience in the design industry.  Check out the full interview below!

La Familia Green Greeting Cards

La Familia Green Greeting Cards for the Holiday Season

What does your business, La Familia Green, offer?

I offer greeting cards, buttons, and wrapping paper – all featuring my illustrations and cut paper collages.

Could you describe some of your background and how you got into design?

I have a BFA in printmaking from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. After graduation, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I took a job working at a wonderful stationery store in Chicago. I was very inspired by the burgeoning small press greeting card scene, and started to make my own cards.

La Familia Green Greeting Cards

La Familia Green Greeting Cards completely hand drawn by Mollie Green!

When did you create the first La Familia Green design?

10 years ago in 2005!

How would you describe your style of design?

Analog, organic, folksy – I do almost all pre-press work by hand.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

La Familia Green Greeting Cards

La Familia Green designs are inspired by animals like cats!

 

I am inspired by food, animals, and interesting people. I also love finding little things that my audience instantly connects with – cats in boxes, city-specific trends, omnipresent weather chatter, etc.

Where are you located?

My home and my studio are both located on the far north side of Chicago, in the Rogers Park neighborhood. It is very tree-sy, funky, and near Lake Michigan.

La Familia Green Greeting Cards

La Familia Green Birthday Greeting Card

Is your business online only, or do you also have a storefront?

La Familia Green is carried at retailers around the world, and I have a website and etsy store.

How long have you been printing with CatPrint?

I started printing with CatPrint in 2008 when Anthropologie placed a big order. Up to that point, I was making everything by hand. Thank goodness for CatPrint!

La Familia Green Greeting Cards

La Familia Green Greeting Cards are of her own personal style

What is the biggest difficulty you’ve encountered in starting your own business?

Trying not to stress out too much! Like not worrying when times are slow and not freaking out when they are busy.

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or entrepreneurs to use when building a business?

Trends come and go – you will have better long-term success if your stick with your own look and unique ideas.

Where can people find La Familia Green designs?

La Familia Green Greeting Cards

Many examples of La Familia Green Birthday Greeting Cards

 

Stationery stores, boutiques and independent bookstores and at lafamiliagreen.com

Insureon’s Interview with CatPrint

CatPrint was recently interviewed by Insureon! Check out the interview below!

As seen on Insureon: Small Business Spotlight: Business Growth Tips from CatPrint:

Mitch VanDuyn and Jan VanDuyn are CTO and CEO, respectively, of CatPrint in Rochester, New York. CatPrint is a boutique color printing company offering premium short-run printing services.

We talked with Mitch and Jan VanDuyn about the growth of CatPrint from its humble beginnings in a basement to its current expanded facility. Learn how small-business owners can recognize when it’s time to grow. The transcript below has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What’s the story behind CatPrint?

Our CTO, Mitch, was born in Bangkok, Thailand, and our CEO, Jan, is a Michigan native. Both attended and graduated from Michigan Technological University, then eventually moved to Rochester, New York. Mitch worked at Xerox for over 20 years, which was where the idea for CatPrint originated.

In 2004, CatPrint started in the basement of one of our old houses in Rochester. We used to own four cats and wanted to associate the beauty and cuteness of cats with printing.

What inspired you to pursue digital printing services?

At the time CatPrint was started, custom short-run printing wasn’t something you could do. You generally needed to meet minimum fixed quantities of 100, 250, 500, etc. If you lived in a small town without a local print shop, how could you get three greeting cards printed? You couldn’t. Now all you have to do is upload your designs through the web and they’ll get delivered right to your door on a pre-determined delivery date.

Who’s the typical CatPrint customer? What sets you apart from other printing services?

All types of people use CatPrint, including graphic designers, DIY brides, greeting card designers, business owners, and comic artists looking for an affordable venue to pursue various projects – whether it’s one poster or a thousand brochures that need to be printed.

The number one thing that customers are always raving about is our exceptional customer service. Every single order that is placed is checked for general quality and common file issues, and if there are any concerns, we contact the customer. We go out of our way to make sure that the customer is satisfied.

What’s it like to work at CatPrint?

We aspire to promote a friendly, relaxed, creative, and open atmosphere. All levels of the company are completely open, and every employee can always speak with anyone in the company, including the executives, if they have any questions, ideas, or concerns. We don’t want to be the type of company that has multiple cubicles with minimal interaction.

This open interaction has allowed most of our processes and procedures to be developed and implemented in-house based on employee suggestions and ideas from all levels, not just management.

We have a relaxed and casual dress code for the most part, and we invite individuality. We are also pet friendly, as long as the pets are also friendly! It’s not uncommon for at least three employee animals to be roaming the offices on any given day.

When did you realize it was time to expand CatPrint to a bigger workspace?

As with any business, as sales increase, the number of employees and equipment also increase. When we first moved out of our basement and into our first actual facility, we needed production stations that would never fit in a home basement. We’ve moved and expanded over five times in the past nine years. Moving is always an issue.

Since moving into our current facility, we decided to expand the second floor because we purchased new equipment. Obviously, if an area is too crowded, workflow efficiency decreases. With the extra space now available, efficiency has increased in customer service, research and development, and production.

What “growing pains” did CatPrint experience during expansion?

The first part of the expansion was probably the hardest. The original space needed significant remodeling, reconstructing, and wiring. We knocked down some old walls and added new ones. Waiting for the space to be ready felt like a long time. Everyone felt crowded and simply needed more space.

Now for the moving part: there are no elevators in our building and the doors are pretty narrow. Anything that needed to be moved upstairs was difficult, especially bulky items, like desks, because they had to fit through the doors. In the end, all of the patience and hard work was well worth it! We were definitely able to see improvement in production efficiency because of the added space and new arrangements.

Did anything surprise you about starting and expanding CatPrint?

Not that CatPrint has ever done anything wrong, but most people don’t realize that when you start a business, you have to make sure you don’t do something that could potentially break the law. It’s been a learning process for everyone with all of the rules and regulations that are in place – to actually know them and make sure that our business practices are legal.

Does CatPrint have future plans for more growth?

We probably won’t look into expanding our office space again in the near future. However, we are always working to expand our service offerings. We just launched our Template Gallery at the end of 2014, which allows customers to customize ready-to-print designs with their own details and images. It’s a very useful service for people who aren’t designers themselves but still want to CatPrint their items.

What’s your advice for small businesses struggling with the decision to grow?

Whether or not you’re a big fish in a little pond, or a little fish in a vast ocean, if you’re really good at something, then do it. There have been massive printing companies for decades, but no small shops for everyday people and small businesses that only need certain quantities printed. We stepped in with the idea that everyone can print something and have it delivered to their door by a guaranteed delivery date.

When we first started this company, we had many experts and advisers tell us that what we do is impossible. But we believe in what we do and we’re good at it, and that’s what other businesses should also do.

Tell us about CatPrint’s Foster Cats.

As mentioned earlier, CatPrint got its name from the many cats that we’ve owned over the years. Our current customer service manager, Nicole Gallo, used to work with a local animal rescue group called GRASP, Inc., so we began fostering stray cats that needed a temporary home in the office. Most people don’t understand that some stray pets that are kept caged get depressed, making their situation even worse. Animals need love and care, just as humans do, and we feel that CatPrint is a perfect environment for a pet down on its luck.

Check out previous posts in their Small Business Spotlight series for more small business stories and tips.

CatPrint Interview: GreenSpirit Arts with Sally Smith

GreenSpirit Arts - Logo

Continuing our Customer Q&A series, we recently spoke with long time CatPrint Customer Sally Smith, owner of GreenSpirit Arts (www.greenspiritarts.com / www.greenspiritarts.blogspot.com) to discuss her work, what inspires her, and how CatPrint helps her business to succeed. Read the full interview below!

GreenSpirit Arts - Shire House

GreenSpirit Arts – Shire House

What is an environmental sculpture?

The term “Environmental sculpture” has a broad range of applications. In general, it is sculpture that is made from predominantly natural materials and is usually displayed or constructed outdoors. It also includes sculptures that are made by dramatically altering the landscape itself into new shapes or forms.

Andy Goldsworthy and Martin Hill are two well-known Environmental Artists, but it is a growing art genre with talented artists all over the world. Some artists choose to make sculptures only with what they find and can manipulate with their hands. Others are willing to use minimal tools and/or structural materials to make the construction easier or safer for the viewing audience.

Often the works are ephemeral and all that remains of the sculpture are the photographs that were taken at the time of completion. The idea of making artworks created solely from Nature that are allowed to return to Nature with minimal impact is a key element of this kind of work.

In my work, I have two subsets of environmental sculpture: my Faerie Houses, which are just what they sound like, and what I call “Eartherials”, which are the more pure art forms that are created in the moment and are not generally representational. The Eartherials inevitably are left in place where they were made and because they were constructed without harmful materials can just dissolve gently back into the Earth. Some sculptures disappear in a few minutes and others take a season or two to be reclaimed by the landscape.

GreenSpirit Arts - Leaf Dancers at Sunrise

GreenSpirit Arts – Leaf Dancers at Sunrise

How long have you been creating environmental sculptures?

All my life really! But doing this professionally began in 2006 for me as it was then that I started recording my sculptures using photography with the idea of creating a portfolio of work.

GreenSpirit Arts - DandiCircle

GreenSpirit Arts – DandiCircle

What do you draw inspiration from?

From Nature itself, mainly. Nature is full of color, texture, and patterns. I love finding these and seeing what can be done that works with the elements at hand.

For instance, when the dandelions first arrive in spring, there is a huge wave of blossoms that turn our green fields into a golden yellow. This is the best time to work with them because there are so many flowers. But you have to know the materials well, because in this instance Dandelions will begin to wilt approximately 20 minutes after being picked, so you have to work quickly.

Knowing the seasonal cycles and the intrinsic limitation(s) of any given material is a big part of creating a successful sculpture. You have to take risks and be willing to fail. There are a lot of art disasters that didn’t make it to my final portfolio!

GreenSpirit Arts - Reeds and Feathers Portal

GreenSpirit Arts – Reeds and Feathers Portal

What is the most difficult part of your process?

Every sculpture has its own particular challenge. But for me the weather is often the biggest challenge because where I live it is so variable. I can begin working on a piece in the morning in full sun and by the time I’m finished several hours later the clouds could have rolled in and ruined any chance of getting good photographs of the sculpture. This means the whole day has been a wash because without good photos, I can’t add the sculpture to my portfolio and have good images to sell.

Ultimately, a visual artist has to have images to sell if they are going to make a living. A painter can sell their paintings, but because my work is so ephemeral, the photographs are what I share with the world as a record of my work. But without good light, it is hard to get good photos of my sculptures. I suppose if I lived in a sunny climate, this would not be such an issue but it is a big headache for me sometimes.

This is why I make a lot of my Faerie houses in my studio now and do installations of the sculptures when I can. I can spend weeks on creating the piece and perhaps just a few hours (on a good day) finding just the right landscape to host the piece. But it still has to all work together and look as if it was always there. This is what creates a successful image for me.

GreenSpirit Arts - Dragon Faerie House at Waterfall

GreenSpirit Arts – Dragon Faerie House at Waterfall

Where are the environmental materials sourced from?

Most of my materials are what I have personally collected here in my location. However, for my elaborate Faerie house constructions, I often purchase natural materials from other collectors. My personal rule is that everything has to be harvested ethically and without harming any living materials.

For instance, there are many lovely pine cones that come in a variety of shapes and sizes that are not available here in the Northeast, so I often purchase them from reputable sellers from other parts of the country. The awesome sugar pine cones from Northern California and Oregon can be 18-24 inches long and have massive “scales” that make wonderful “shingles” for my Faerie House roofs, so if I want to use those, I have to purchase them. However, I try to source as much of my own materials as I can as it helps keep a sense of integrity to the piece if all the elements work harmoniously together.

GreenSpirit Arts - Blueberry Cottage

GreenSpirit Arts – Blueberry Cottage

Where are you located?

I am located on what we like to call the “East Coast” of the Adirondack Park in northern New York State. I live in a tiny hamlet on the edge of a larger village that has its history deeply rooted in agriculture and forestry.

How long have you been printing your work with CatPrint?

CatPrint has been my only printer for my greeting card line and I honestly can’t remember when we got started… I think it was in 2007 or 2008. Since my work is so deeply entwined with the Environment, it was essential to me that I work with a printer who used sustainable practices in their production. I was thrilled when I found CatPrint because they make decisions based on what will least harm the environment in addition to what will make the most beautiful printed item. It adds a lot of value to my greeting cards to be able to say to my customers that they were produced using wind power and recycled papers .People pay attention to details like that in addition to the high quality printing that CatPrint provides. It helps sell my cards to be able to show that an appreciation and reverence for the environment has been present in every step of the process from conception of the art to the production of the final greeting card.

GreenSpirit Arts - Chapel Pond Spiral

GreenSpirit Arts – Chapel Pond Spiral

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists looking to start their own business/sell their art?

It is a lot of hard work to be working artist. Making the art is only 30-40% of the process! A lot of artists are good at the making of their art, but making a living from your art requires that you wear a lot of other “hats”, some of which are not a lot of fun to wear. That said, the Internet now allows us to reach customers literally all over the world so there has never been a better time to be an independent artist. You have to have a website and be willing to work long, long days (and nights) to make it in this world, but if you love what you do, that is usually not a problem.

GreenSpirit Arts - Autumn Leaf Staff Spiral

GreenSpirit Arts – Autumn Leaf Staff Spiral

CatPrint Interview: Printing Your Own Game Cards

CatPrint interviewed one of our customers, Josh P., regarding how he created and printed his own card game!

What’s the appeal in creating your own game using cards over other mediums?
There’s a lot that is appealing about cards. From a game design perspective, cards have a bunch of interesting properties: they’re large enough to write rules on, small enough to use as tokens, can show partial information when facedown or hide information altogether (when not in play). They can have orientation or spatial relationships to other game elements. Plus, they’re very familiar to most game players, and are easy for people to handle, randomize, sort, or conceal.

For the design stages of a game, it’s easy to get ahold of blank cards and write on them, which makes prototyping and iterating really fast. Even quality printed cards are inexpensive to produce, compared to dice, boards, or miniatures.

As a bonus, they travel compactly and are not choking hazards (though you probably still shouldn’t let children put cards in their mouths).

Cool examples from the Card Game

Cool examples from the Card Game

What did you look for in the artwork?
Since I’m not an artist myself and I wanted to build this game independently, my first requirement was that all the artwork be in the public domain, CC0- or CC-BY-liscensed. The art started out as an afterthought – I just tried to find illustrative images appropriately licensed on the Internet. However, as this project has matured, I’ve found the visual appeal of the artwork to be a large part of the fun. So, now I’m looking for art that can inspire the imagination and enhance a gamer’s mental image of the people and places in the game.

In concrete terms, I guess I like images with high contrast, displaying motion or action or relationships. The art has to fit the light fantasy/adventure theme of the game.

What did you look for in materials?
The biggest drawback of using cards is that they’re not terribly sturdy, so it’s important to offset that weakness by printing on high quality materials with a good finish. The ideal cards are elastic, crease-, tear-, and water-resistant. Rounded corners contribute to the longevity, and the cut and thickness of the material affects how well it survives shuffling. Plastic playing cards are a little nicer in many of these aspects but I haven’t found anyone who is printing on them for a competitive price.

Who do you see playing your game?
I’m shameless in that I only tried to make a game I want to play, without another specific audience in mind. It probably involves too much information and reading to be appealing to most children, so that leaves adult and teen gamers. It doesn’t have a collectable aspect so it may be more accessible for beginner gamers, and it plays fairly well across age gaps. Given that, the elements of chance, and the theme, I imagine it would mostly be played as a family game.

What was the most difficult aspect of designing this card game?
Well, I don’t think I’m done yet. The most challenging part of the process for me is play testing. It’s not easy to get a group of 5 people to sit down to try it, and then try it again, and again. Definitely most of the work comes after the first design, and the game looks and plays very differently from my first ideas.