Happy Tuesday! I’m thrilled to bring in Cat Seto for this next installment of Behind the Stationery. I met this lady way back when I showed with Fig. 2 Design at the National Stationery Show and she was our booth neighbor! Ferme à Papier is her newest endeavor and she’ll be sharing the way her brand grew and evolved from Cat Seto to Ferme à Papier. She has since collaborated on projects with many esteemed brands including Chronicle Books and GAP. Here’s Cat! –Megan
Hello! My name is Cat Seto and I am the owner and creative director of Ferme à Papier, a design and stationery company based in San Francisco. For several years prior I had a paper goods and custom wedding collection under my name, but a trip I took to Paris three years ago for stress relief changed it all. I had never been to Paris and I was overtaken by the architecture and the mod Parisians interpreting plaid. I even took some side trips to biodynamic farms in the countryside.
I came back and thought, “Wow…that was an amazing trip,” and set out to continue doing business as usual. Instead, I began to obsessively sketch and paint for three weeks and I was soon looking at dozens of little paintings that looked nothing like my old collection. Dark navy blues, grays, stripes and artisanal themes appeared when I was previously working with pastels, pops of color, and florals. It was a genuine and sincere surprise. That’s when I decided to re-brand and call the new collection Ferme à Papier.
Ferme à Papier has a Paris-meets-Brooklyn kind of feel. We create greeting cards, art prints, calendars, planners, gift tags, gift wrap, and they are all first hand illustrated. Our products are eco-friendly and 100% PCW, Chlorine free. I have a wonderful family-style team who see to the flow of the studio, design support, and production.
Our products are packaged and inspected here at the studio before going out to our retailers. We have a several hundred retailers in the U.S. and internationally ranging from small independent shops and bookshops to museums and larger retailers like Anthropologie and Paper Chase. There’s a lot to do in a day as our studio operates a curated retail shop in the front to support local designers and artists, but we wouldn’t have it any other way as we get to be inspired by the the vibrant community of San Francisco on a daily basis.
In addition to designing for our wholesale retailers, I collaborate with publishing companies, private clients, and corporations. I have clients whom I’ve worked with for years to create custom illustrated portraits and invitations, a service I hope to expand and offer more of. It has also been a true joy to work on several projects with the beloved Chronicle Books including Mom, Inc., a book on starting a creative business and being a mother (co-authored with Meg Ilasco), and a stationery collection called Joie Du Jour.
Photo by Lyn Aldana
One of my favorite collaborations was with Gap – where I got to design decals for their jeans for their back-to-school campaign. My son was able to go to one of the events and pick out his own decal, which was a lot of fun. I believe collaboration and mentorship is key in this day and age for any designer. It’s important to work with talented folks and to share information, inspiration and ideas to push your creative realms. And for young designers, I always advise to mentor with someone to keep it real and develop a humble work ethic!
A day in my life starts off with dropping my bouncy six-year-old off at school, then I do a hardcore workout – it’s truly the best way for me to get energy and organize my schedule for the day. After that it’s getting down to the business of paring down and answering as many emails and correspondence as I can. We split our duties into several buckets, but the two main ones are design and production.
We have calendars with forecasts for deadlines involving trade shows, when retailers expect new products, and when we should prepare the studio shop for seasonal offerings. We have a production workflow document that spells out all of the quality control measures, and the team is responsible to upholding and supporting one another on this. Our days are always variable and there are many times a press deadline or an urgent large order from a retailer comes through that takes precedence and we try to budget for that.
Design and art happen for me after work and in the night when I think the world is asleep. I think my grad school days of pulling all nighters are numbered, but I always warn my team not to panic when they see emails coming from me at 1 or 2 in the morning. There are always a lot of plates in the air, but it has been a true lifestyle choice. As hectic as it is, I feel very lucky to be able to share my dreams with others and it is beyond rewarding to think it might bring a smile to someone’s day.
Interested in participating in this column? Reach out to Megan at megan(at)ohsobeautifulpaper.com for more details about Behind the Stationery.