Friday, May 9, 2014

April's Featured Artist: Papersaurus Creative

The artist whose name was picked out of the hat at April's meeting was Sara of Papersaurus Creative! (Please excuse the lateness of this entry.  We are aware that we are well underway into the month of May, but here is the Featured Artist of the Month interview from April!)

Name: Sara (and Julia) Hickman-Himes 
Business Name: Papersaurus Creative
Etsy Shop:

Sara (bottom) and Julia (top)
Social Media (Blog/Website/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest):
Age: 33 (Julia is 32)
Profession/Day Job: I’m a graphic designer/writer/editor at the Post-Standard in Syracuse part-time, as well as an Employment Specialist with Heritage Christian Services, which means I help awesome people with developmental delays work in the community. I also do freelance graphic design work. Julia also works at Heritage as a manager in a group home.

Where in/around Rochester do you live? Brighton/Penfield area off of Browncroft

Craft(s) of Choice: Graphic design, sketching

Besides your main craft of choice, do you enjoy any other crafts? I love photography and jewelry making as well. And I’m a Daisy Girl Scout leader, so I’m all about kids’ crafts with glitter and glue.

Is there a craft you've always wanted to try, but never got around to learning? 
Painting. It terrifies me for some bizarre reason. But I’m daring myself to take a class at some point this year.

Did you go to art school or are you self-taught? 
Well, I was a journalism major with a concentration in magazine design, and I was one credit away from having a studio art minor. So I did have some training, but ironically, much of the digital work I do now is not something I learned in school. I learned the basics of old programs like Freehand and Quark, so when Adobe took over the world, I had to teach myself all of that software. But my training and my art classes definitely helped.

What’s your first craft-related memory? 
Heh. This is one I remember mainly because my mother enjoys telling it. When I was in kindergarten, they taught us to make these really simple pop-up cards one day that were basically a beak-like mouth inside that would move when you opened the card. Well, since I’ve been obsessive about crafty things my whole life, I went home that night, pulled out my construction paper and went to town making cards for my parents, my brothers, my neighbors, basically everyone I could think of. And when I went to write them, I wanted to write “To mom, from Sara”, etc. on all of them … But I didn’t know how to spell from. So I asked my mom. And she thought I said “thumb”. So I passed out like 15 cards with things like “To mom, Thumb Sara”, “To dad, Thumb Sara”, etc. It was my first hard lesson in the importance of a good copy editor for your finished projects. I’ll still sometimes address cards to my mom that way, just for fun.

How did you get started with Etsy? 
Julia and I toyed with the idea of doing a line of LGBT greeting cards for years, but just didn’t have the right push. But when we got married – 5 years ago now – our friends and family lamented about how hard it was to find an appropriate card for two women. And while we amazingly didn’t get any duplicate cards, we did get a large number of gender-neutral cards. And, let’s be honest, gay or straight, someone’s gender is a large part of why you’re with them.  So, with that knowledge and the gentle push from family and friends, Papersaurus Creative was born.

In your creative life and work, of what accomplishment are you most proud?  There isn’t really one major accomplishment, honestly. For us, with the business in general, it’s the feedback we get at craft shows and on Etsy. We often get people who will tear up when they see our cards and say things like “what you’re doing is so important, thank you”, which just makes me tear up right along with them. And then there are the special moments where a parent or grandparent will buy a pride item for their child or grandchild and it just makes my heart soar. This past Christmas, I actually had to take a little break to compose myself at the Cleveland show we did, because this adorable little girl, probably about 9 or 10 picked up a journal I had made with our Harvey Milk quote print on the cover about current generations paving the way and offering hope to future LGBT youth. She picked it up kind of reverently, and asked her grandma if she could have it. Her grandma looked at it and said “this is the one you want?” When the girl nodded fervently, her grandma smiled and said “okay, let’s get it”. After I wrapped it carefully, I handed it to the little girl and whispered – “that one’s my favorite, you have great taste – and a great grandma” and she just beamed at me. Knowing that there are kids who have supportive parents and grandparents around them as they figure out their sexuality and identities just makes me insanely happy.

What inspires you, or makes you want to go dashing off to craft? 
When something brilliant comes out of my wife’s mouth. I like to say she’s the brains and I’m the artist of our operation. She’s going through the ordination process to become a minister, and as such, she’s spent a long time developing her particular way with words, and she comes up with the bulk of the ideas for our cards. One of my favorite things to hear is the phrase “I have no idea how you’re going to design this, but …”

What influences your creativity? 
Our customers definitely do. Some of our most popular items have come from suggestions from people at shows who say they’d love to see a card for a particular event that isn’t addressed in the mainstream marketplace. I love taking their vague concepts and ideas and coming back with finished products that help fill a need.

How to do get past a creative block? 
Cleaning. When I feel like I’m not making progress with my professional work or Papersaurus work, I find that cleaning and organizing our apartment helps me clean and organize my brain. Once the clutter clears, that usually helps me move through the block. My newly discovered love of yoga is helping too. 

 What does your workspace look like most of the time?  
Like a tornado blew through. Especially during craft show season. Paper scraps were such a problem around the house this past fall that one of our cats used a particularly large pile to dive into like it was fall leaves. This is why I’m currently doing a work swap with a professional organizer. I’m hoping to be able to keep things contained all year long, even during heavy craft show season, because the clutter completely hampers my creativity. So hopefully, if you ask me the same question this fall, I’ll be able to say it’s pristine. Or at least not a disaster area.

What (if anything) do you like to watch/listen to while you create? 
I have to have sound of some sort when I work. I think it comes from growing up in a pretty full house. But I can work to pretty much anything, television, music, background noise at a coffee house. Shows I know by heart like Buffy the Vampire Slayer are best because they require no attention on my part, but offer the comfort of familiar background noise.

Do you craft with anyone, such as your kids/grandkids/friends? 
We have 20 nieces and nephews between us and I craft with them as much as I can. Unfortunately, it’s much less often now that I live kind of far away. But my Daisy scouts make up for it.

Did you have a "crafty" childhood? 
Very much so. Markers, construction paper, beads, colored pencils, you name it, if it was an art supply, my mom had a hard time denying me. Which I totally used to my advantage.  

Did you always want to be an artist? 
Well, at one point I was convinced I was going to be an Olympic swimmer who was a punk rocker in my off time. But other than that, I’ve wanted to pursue art of one sort or another, from writing to animation to music to graphic design as far back as I can remember.

What craft sound or smell do you love? 
I LOVE the smell of sawdust and cut wood. When I was little I used to hide in our end table and close the door because I loved the smell of the unfinished wood inside. I also love the vaguely earthy/chemical smell of printmaking inks. The smell of art stores and hardware stores in general smells like home to me.

What craft sound or smell do you hate? 
The sound of paper slipping/cutting improperly on the cutting board. It’s painful.

Glue gun or a soldering iron? 
Why do I have to choose?! Six months ago I would have said soldering iron hands down, but then I discovered a fine tip glue gun that basically changed my life.

Knit or crochet? 
I dabble in both, am better at crochet, but prefer the look of knitting.

If you could add to your craft/art line, what would you like to add? 
Actually, we’re in the process of adding hand-bound journals to our shop, which I’m super excited about. They’re fun to make and give me a more hands-on way to create. Plus, we combine them with our prints, so they fit right into the line. 

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in selling your work? 
Honestly, I think it’s myself. I worry way too much about how we will be received at shows because our line has a lot of nontraditional work that some could find offensive (language, LGBT-related content), or simply just not get. I am continuously surprised and pleased at the number of people who pick up our cards and laugh out loud or hold something up to a friend and say “I bet you don’t get this” like they share a special secret with us. It turns out the nontraditional nature of our work has actually helped us cultivate a following. So I just need to get out of my own way and stop worrying.

What has helped you the most in developing your creative business? 
My wife. She’s amazing and supportive and a great partner. I second-guess myself and my work constantly and she’s always there reassuring me. And yes, I know how lucky I am.

What kind of people do you envision your customers to be? 
I’ve stopped trying to pigeonhole them. Just when I think I’ve figured out who our main audience is, I get an email from a grandmother or someone from some faraway country about our work and how they appreciate it. I mean, I know we have a core audience of the LGBT community and its allies, but we’ve been blessed to have fans and customers that come to us through other avenues and appreciate our work.

What do you hate about your craft? 
The fragile nature of paper. Outdoor shows are always a gamble for us. Last year we got caught in a bad rainstorm at an outdoor show and lost more product to water damage than we sold … and we sold quite a lot. But it’s a love/hate thing because I’m a print designer through and through. Web design is so not my thing, so I am a slave to paper and its delicate beauty, despite the fragility.

What do you love about your craft? 
Everything. Seriously. Graphic design allows me to make a living with art, how cool is that? Granted, at my day job I have to play by other people’s rules, but with Papersaurus I can do all the crazy things I want to do. The infinite possibilities with color palettes, fonts, textures and so much more makes me a little light-headed with excitement. And yes, I am a geek, and super proud of it.


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