Our next installment of Behind the Stationery takes us to NYC with Paula & Waffle! Paula, the founder and illustrator behind the brand, shares about how she began illustrating, her illustration process, and where she gets inspiration for her cute and heartfelt designs. We’re so exited to have Paula (and her cute pup, Waffle) here today. Take it away, Paula! —Megan Soh
From Paula: Hi everyone! I feel so lucky to be doing something that I love every day and to be able to share a behind the scenes look at our stationery company with you! I started Paula & Waffle in the spring of 2014 and have loved every moment. Waffle is our five-years-young brindle white Havanese pup that my husband picked out for me for on our first engagement anniversary. He keeps me company when I’m designing and is the sweetest pup around.
Our designs are sweet and colorful and we always strive to make sure they’re friendly to customers of all ages. Our goal is to create more joy in the everyday and to really help foster connections between people.
I don’t have a traditional art or design background, so it’s been quite an interesting (and fun!) learning process for me. I graduated college in 2008 with a gender studies degree in a terrible economy, and ended up in the ad tech start-up world. I had a chance to work on incredible ideas with really smart people, but began feeling restless and burnt out. I decided to take a continuing education graphic design class at Parsons in the fall of 2013 and absolutely loved it. With the support of my amazing husband, I left my job in the spring of 2014 and jumped right into design and illustration.
The first few months were definitely tough. I spent weeks drawing and trying to develop my own style. I managed to design around 40 cards, opened an Etsy shop, and participated in a Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn that summer. Things were slow and uncertain; at the same time, a great ad tech opportunity came up and I decided to go back to working a day job in January 2015. I had already committed to exhibiting at the National Stationery Show, so I continued to plug away at the line and pitch retailers. We exhibited with 80 cards and were lucky that our hard work paid off at the National Stationery Show that spring, which enabled me to jump back into Paula & Waffle full-time.
We started out in our tiny upper west side NYC apartment and now work out of our 200 sq ft studio in Long Island City, Queens. Our building used to be the site of a car and plane engine manufacturing plant, so we’re lucky to have super high ceilings and lots of light. We package all of our paper goods ourselves, so we have walls and walls and walls of shelves and plenty of counter space. We’ve already outgrown this space and will be moving to a bigger space in August, which we are super excited about!
We’re lucky to live in one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Waffle and I (and now also Oreo, our new black and white Havanese pup) spend a lot of time in NYC parks and sketch from there. I also often work from cafes and public spaces all around the city. I draw on things I see around the city and at museums, as well as conversations I have with friends and family. Additionally, many of our collections in the past year for both paper and textile have been inspired by our trips to the National Parks, beaches (we love beaches!), and Scottish Highlands.
We currently have three fabulous ladies on our team, and we usually start our days around 10am. Every day is completely different! Some days are spent packaging cards and gift wrap, and on other days we might be re-organizing thousands of envelopes or managing inventory.
I keep a lot of notepads and sketchbooks everywhere! About once a month, I compile all of the ideas and doodles into a master list and create a color palette. From there, I usually take 3-4 days to create the next collection of greeting cards or textile patterns. I used to draw everything by hand and then scan and digitally color, but now I also do a lot of illustration work on the iPad, which has really helped streamline the process for me.
We’ve been so thrilled to see our designs on fabric via our collaboration with Dear Stella, and also as lighted marquees via our collaboration with Pulp Function. We have a few more collaborations in the works and are also planning to expand into a few other gift products soon — we can’t wait to share them with you later this year!
Until then, you can find us doodling away around NYC. You can follow along on Instagram at @paulaandwaffle and can find all of our designs on our website!
All photos by Paula & Waffle.
Interested in being featured on the Behind the Stationery column? Reach out to me at megan [at] ohsobeautifulpaper [dot] com.