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The Paper Fold

Arts & Culture Podcasts

Get your design fix in the stationery community's only five-star paper salon, where Sarah hosts a charming mishmosh of intriguing personalities & players.


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Get your design fix in the stationery community's only five-star paper salon, where Sarah hosts a charming mishmosh of intriguing personalities & players.




Christy Asper of Paper Baristas

Can a maker make the world a better place, one gorgeous, handmade sheet of Fair Trade paper at a time? For Chisty Asper, the answer is a resounding yes — and her efforts involve so much more than simply donating a small percentage of her profits to charity. Instead, every last Paper Baristas offering is brewed to do good by careful, complicated design. This Iowa house of paper has a lofty mission: Leave this earth better than its current state — emotionally, culturally and spiritually. By deeply aligning with IJM, a global non-profit that partners with communities to end modern slavery, exploitation and abuse, and employing survivors of sex trafficking in India, Christy and her husband Jon Marc help liberate people and families. In India, their employees, often victims of the Caste System, receive a living wage to up-cycle cotton rag discards into the brand's wood-free, pollution-free paper. Plans are also underway to start a similar operation in Mexico. If you ever thought one person couldn't change countless lives for the better, think again. For the 50 million people that IJM estimates are currently victims of modern-day slavery, freedom and safety are now that much closer, spurred on by every last Paper Baristas purchase. So while Christy's exquisitely letterpressed, deckle-edged cards and planners are inspiring in and of themselves, her never-ending passion and dedication to this cause is legitimately awe-inspiring. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Holiday Junkie: Jennifer Love Hewitt x 2021 Co.

It's officially the spooky season, so I've got a triple treat! The actress Jennifer Love Hewitt drops in The Paper Fold along with the power duo that is 2021 Co. — Nicole Couto and Emily King — to talk all things Holiday Junkie. This refers of course to the ever-growing collection the three have collaborated on to celebrate the joy and magic of various holidays — but it's also a certain state of mind. For Jennifer, Halloween is a way of life; for 2021 Co., it is a fresh category through which their brand can bring us closer to those we love. Jennifer is not just the biggest celebrity to champion stationery that I can recall, her approach to connecting through the medium is as fresh as it is funny. Jennifer obviously brings star power to the table and is a clever card-writer extraordinaire, but it is really authentic connection that lies at the heart of every Holiday Junkie design. Don't miss out as we examine the distinctive power of paper to traverse time and space — and how that has shaped each of us both personally and professionally. It's downright impossible not to be inspired by the spirit of collaboration among these three powerful women, so listen in to bring your own personal Holiday Junkie to life! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Suzy Ultman

I really like Suzy Ultman’s chutzpah … and you will too, nerds! Suzy is a lifelong and prolific illustrator, card and stationery designer, toy creator, and bookmaker. The simultaneously sophisticated and simple objects that she brings to offbeat life delight young and old alike. Really, every last one of her playful creations — and even her much-loved Instagram feed — are but a medium through which she spins many a tale to her super-engaged audience. Now, on the heels of her vibrant letterpress card collab with the esteemed Egg Press, Suzy drops in The Paper Fold to share not just her story, but her backstory as well. Don’t miss our chat on licensing, creativity, the creative process, beginner’s mind, collaboration as well as thoughtfully conceptualizing merchandise in a waste-filled world. And, since Suzy and I are both Jewish, and September brings with it the Jewish New Year — a time for looking backwards and forwards — we discuss how those values, memories and traditions guide us. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Elicia Castaldi of Girl w/Knife

Where does stellar design begin and end? I used to think I knew the answer, but witnessing the ascension of Girl w/Knife, I've found myself rethinking that. Over the last several years, Elicia Castaldi has sliced not just a singular path through stationery, but home décor and even home design as well. Her stylish wake reveals that rewriting the rules to your own liking is simply a matter of confidence and vision — preferably accessorized with a pair of killer stilettos, of course. Extending as it does across many product segments, Girl w/Knife is both a lifestyle and a mood, but at its core is the 'digital photoshop collage' process Elicia invented. This framework truly blooms in her greeting cards. She painstakingly paints and collects visual elements, then layers them with just the right copy, reflecting our beautiful but too-often sad world with truth, heart, fashion and the occasional sharp edge. As such, receiving one of these from a loved one during one of life's highs or lows is bound to solicit a deep emotional response. Unsurprisingly, in the stationery domain, Elicia has won a slew of Noted@*Noted Awards and Louie Awards, including the highly competitive 2022 Artist of the Year. Elicia drops in to discuss not just her design process, but the autobiographical elements running through all her work. From childhood cat best friends to otherworldly interactions with spectacular insects, it's all just fodder for Elicia's next fantastic, elevated creation. Just remember: the biggest consistency here is an element of surprise. Today you might find Elicia on the American Dream Network discussing the renovation of her latest Knife/House in Palm Springs; tomorrow she may be at a book signing promoting her inclusion in the just released Wisdom Of Wildly Creative Women. Yet Elicia is a paper person through and through — and that element remains the lifeblood of her brand. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


THE Mary Engelbreit

This month's dynamo guest is a trailblazer in countless senses of the word. Mary Engelbreit debuted at National Stationery Show in 1983 with just a dozen card designs and a decidedly under-decorated booth — but neither that quantity or the booth mattered. Mary paired her distinctive illustrations with clever messaging that transported viewers to an unexpected, charming place — and the world had never seen anything quite like it! Mary's cards caught the eye of a NY Magazine editor during that market, and a design empire was born. Today, having generated nearly 6,500 products and over $1 billion in lifetime retail sales, Mary shows no sign of slowing her prolific roll, lately releasing everything from wallpaper to paint-by-number kits. And, she documents it all in her excellent Instagram feed. (If you want your feed to resemble Mary's, try following @housewrenstudio @noodleandlou @heybilljoyce @sarahvbattle @vintagebycrystal @davidwalker.) The mark of a truly inspired maker is the ability to evolve. To reflect our challenging times, Mary created her stark yet still eloquent Engeldark. Any followers she lost were more than mitigated by those she gained. Landing an interview with this doyenne of design was a dream come true for this paper nerd. Mary's thoughtful, informed perspective on design, licensing, expansion, authenticity, activism and collaboration offer countless insights for the entire stationery community. MYgY7Eb3livjxGFnzqi6 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Behind the Graphic

The sixth season of The Paper Fold kicks off on a new network — Evergreen — and a slightly different format, but just this once. Instead of focusing on stationery within commerce, I am examining instead stationery within activism, with an admittedly personal bent. When he was just 14, my nephew Sam Schwartz lost his first cousin, Alex Schachter, at the Parkland Massacre on February 14, 2018. In the ensuing years, both Alex’ dad Max Schachter, and Sam’s mom Gail Schwartz, my sister-in-law, have dedicated their lives to making sure no other families go through what they have. Several weeks back, Sam, now a rising sophomore at the Boston Conservatory, decided to hold a week-long sit-in outside The Capitol Building to to demand a vote on an assault weapons ban in the house and the senate, regardless of the outcome. It would all be in Alex' honor. He needed a graphic, and that's where I came in. So, I introduced Sam and Gail to my dear friend Lindsay Henry of Inklings Paperie (Listen to her first drop into The Paper Fold here). After a few rushed emails, Lindsay brought this graphic to compelling life. Did I mention she was also prepping for *Noted, a major community event, at the same time? Everyone was thrilled with the final result. The image did not just live online, however. With a little help from my Canva account, Sam turned it into a greeting card/invitation, which he then printed and hand-delivered to every congressperson and senator over the course of several days. Meanwhile, the graphic also took root on social media. It appeared in Laura Dern's Instagram feed; the actress and her daughter Jaya Harper even stopped by! Meanwhile on the Sunday evening of the sit-in, Sam was interviewed live on CNN by Jim Acosta. His next interview was with The Paper Fold, but with a far different focus. I am so intrigued by the overlap between art and activism, and how a powerful image may invite tangible action and change. So listen in to hear both Sam and Lindsay discuss creating compelling imagery for this space — and how those in the maker community can dive in as well if they so choose. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Alyson O'Connor of Rust Belt Love Paperie

Stop what you are doing this instant, Nerds, and listen up to the newly crowned, Louie Award-winning Writer of the Year! Alyson O'Connor is one half of the decade-old Rust Belt Love Paperie (RBL) team — husband Nick is the other half — but she shapes our stationery community in a big way, all on her own. RBL's greeting cards spotlight the centuries-old letterpress medium exquisitely, and as such are gorgeous, artful creations in and of themselves — but their messaging elevates them into modern communication tools that hit you (and those you love) squarely in the feels. It's an enormous challenge to communicate emotions that most people can't fully articulate until they see them staring back at them from a shelf, but Alyson spills on her process. We also touch on inclusion and multi-occasional versatility, which are both incredibly trendy topics in our community. Finally, fresh off her win and this Louie awards program, Alyson is now officially the Greeting Card Association's Louie Chair. As a fellow Louie Committee member, I cannot pass up my chance to see where she wants to take the awards program during her two-year tenure. Don't miss my audience with this award winner! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Emily McDowell of @emilyonlife (Part 2 of 2)

Paper nerds, here's the second part of my interview with this one-of-a-kind stationery innovator and disrupter! @emilyonlife and I kick off discussing The Long Table Collective. The collective provides invaluable mentoring for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian artists & creative entrepreneurs as it attempts to even out the design playing field. Five ultra-lucky artists receive one year of professional mentoring in a small-group format, meeting virtually twice per month with Lisa Congdon and Emily. If you are interested in being a part, get on it: Applications close May 8! Through the collective, Emily has mentored Carlos Carmonamedina of The Culture Curious. This "citizen of the world" creates stationery that focuses on the universality, not specificity, of card-sending occasions, with utterly vibrant, heartfelt results. This direction ties into a trend both Emily and I are seeing, where one card speaks eloquently to several occasions. This flexible approach ties into our collective desire to simplify as we authentically connect with others — but mastering it as a maker is more challenging than you may think. Whatever role you play in stationery — from maker to disrupter to frequent card sender — miss my audience with Emily at your own risk! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Emily McDowell of @emilyonlife (Part 1 of 2)

A decade ago, Emily McDowell of Emily McDowell Studio sparked a greeting card revolution and evolution with the release of her Empathy Collection. Her card reading, "There is no good card for this" was both an acknowledgment that the market didn't reflect real life, and a challenge to makers to begin doing just that. Emily's self-named stationery brand would eventually become Em & Friends; in 2022 it was acquired by Union Square Publishing, the publishing arm of Barnes & Noble. While she currently serves in a part-time consulting role, she is no longer an employee or part of its leadership. Since @emilyonlife is currently on sabbatical from many of her endeavors, I am beyond grateful that she sat down with me to reflect on the art of disruption; the importance of timing; writing, rewriting and then rewriting again — as well as the dimensions and ultimate limitations of success. This interview was so compelling, I had to stretch it over two episodes! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


amy.atnynow of NY NOW

For this extra-special episode, my Paper Planes Cocktail Hour Podcast co-host and I decided to try something different. For decades now, Amy Loewenberg and I passed like stationery ships in the night, walking the same shows and stationery shops. Ironically, we never really got acquainted until lockdown in 2020 — that's when we developed and starting churning out our NY NOW podcast once a month. While I have so enjoyed tag-teaming in our maker and retailer podcast interviews, we never turned the tables on each other ... until now that is. So, February finds me in the hot seat on the Paper Planes Cocktail Hour Podcast, and Amy is dropping back into The Paper Fold! With her vast experience on both sides of the aisle, Amy's perspective on the stationery and gift space is priceless. We look back on where stationery has been ... and where it is going. From pop-ups to zoomers, from hybrid market experiences to the inimitable power of connecting in person, you don't want to miss this interview of my brilliant partner in podcasting! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Sadie Teper of Twentysome Design

True progress may occur only at the macro level, but it begins on the micro level. Just ask Sadie Teper, founder of the feminist stationery and gift brand Twentysome Design. Her hand-lettered range draws big laughs as it voices our often unspoken thoughts — just ask her craft fair patrons, or the stores across the country that stock her. But beneath the humor, the message is always a positive, inclusive one, which is that much more powerful held in your hands. Thus one card reads, "I love watching you rise/Congrats on your promotion"; one of my favorite Twentysome birthday offerings reminds the recipient that "age is beauty." Vinyl stickers meanwhile share modern dictums like "love yourself first," "worthy + deserving" and "angry women will change the world." Now the self-confessed plant whore, also recently named a Stationery Trends Designer to Watch in 2023, drops in The Paper Fold to spill on her big-picture goals, varied inspirations, upcoming collaborations, to say nothing of how her magnificent, distinctive hand-lettering — AKA Bad Bitch — evolved. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Sharon Glassman of Smile Songs

It's tough getting any stationery brand off the ground, but one that goes an entirely new direction is a real challenge. Just ask Sharon Glassman of Smile Songs. This Brooklyn fashion writer turned Colorado songwriter actually came to stationery circuitously — as she was envisioning a way for her listeners to access her anytime, she actually was planning on making music boxes at first! Sharon quickly realized that our smart phones ARE our music boxes ... with a little help from QR codes, that is. But a product that requires explanation can feel incongruous to its category counterparts, so Sharon decided that rather than exhibiting at a traditional gift show, she would instead try the resort and souvenir route. So, she created her Natural Happiness Collection, featuring earthy symbols like mountains, water, flowers, and sun, pairing each with an inspirational message and a song about personal growth and happiness. Then, she took a deep breath and set up her very first table at her very first trade show, The Las Vegas Souvenir & Resort Gift Show. Sharon relaxed once she got her first sale within the first hour, but was really surprised on her last day, when she received the show award for Best New Product Flush from her success, Sharon drops in The Paper Fold to discuss how she developed Smile Songs, and that although the paper medium may evolve, the message is just the same. She shares lessons learned from her first trade show, and how she is bringing next-level collaborations to her most harmonious brand! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Kristen Ley of Thimblepress

What is success exactly? That is the question Kristen Ley began asking herself following the meteoric rise of her paper and gift brand Thimblepress. Taking her creations from Etsy shop to Target shelves in a few short years was a dream come true, but at what cost? Caught up in a mindset of "hurry rush do," Kristen became scattered. "I was spinning out, doing way too much, and not taking care of my mental and physical self," she wrote me. "I had put off doctor's appointments for years, I was cutting my own hair, and I was eating a very poor diet that kept me in a perpetual cycle of sickness. I was a mess." So, Kristen decided to look inwards, slow down to an almost complete halt — including on social media! — and truly reevaluate what was actually going on in her business and heart. As a result, she completely restructured her business — and mindset — so that Thimblepress serves her, not the other way around. These days you will find Kristen not only developing her own product range, but collaborating with others for a true design win-win. Whatever role you play in our community, you'll be inspired by this industry powerhouse's grace, strength and wisdom. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Libby Llanso of Seedlings

Most of today's young stationery makers grew up swooning over our medium, but Libby Llanso of Seedlings literally grew up working in our trade. As the daughter of Legacy Publishing Group's Cathy and Carlos Llanso, her childhood was filled with packing orders, attending various markets and helping her mom select art for the next year's release. But rather than continuing the status quo, when Libby came on board, she was able to create the range she envisioned. Thus Seedlings sprouted from Legacy — much like wildflowers spring from every last Seedlings envelope. With its focus on vibrant color, authentic messaging and sustainability, this innovative range keeps the medium exciting, fresh and fun. This organic approach has distinguished Seedlings in a rather crowded maker market. The Louie Awards are the greeting card equivalent to the Academy Awards, and last April, Seedlings' gorgeous and heartfelt sympathy design snagged the stationery equivalent to Best Picture: Card of the Year, over $5. Then, last summer, Libby was named to the 2022 Gift + Stationery 40 under 40 class, another enormous honor. Not too shabby for a 26-year-old! Tune in to hear Libby spill on the lessons learned from her upbringing, and what she seeks to originate. Her devotion to sustainability is not only passionate, it is practical, as Libby is helping bring necessary change and progress to the industry as she simultaneously keeps the medium mesmerizing to the next generation of paper nerds. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Jocelyn + Roland Kirouac of Ümlaut Brooklyn

If you ever wanted to put your truth out there and hesitated due to the response you feared you’d get, hesitate no longer. Just ask Jocelyn + Roland Kirouac of Ümlaut Brooklyn. Although this range has a reputation for having the proverbial potty mouth, their product actually doesn't contain a lot of profanity. What it does have, however, is the couple's uncensored and occasionally shocking take on the world around them. Thus, while their stationery is practically guaranteed to make you laugh out loud — "outrageous times deserve outrageous cards" is their working mantra — their Instagram feed reflects their belief that it's impossible to separate your personal views and politics from your creativity. COVID-19 continues to color their approach to exhibiting in person at markets. For Jocelyn and Roland, the plague is not yet over. While they hope and plan to return to in-person market appearances — a notion I heartily endorse! — for now they're relying on those often-overlooked sales dynamos, road reps. They have so many, they can't name them all — and these "trade shows on wheels" literally drive their wholesale sales, even on Faire. Finally, nearly every brand is expected to have a cause-related element, but Ümlaut Brooklyn carefully considered the inroads they wanted to pave before establishing their Young Artist Grant. Their philanthropic approach is as heartfelt as their cards are zany, and I'm hoping other makers in our community are inspired to similarly nurture the next generation of creatives! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Brittany O'Brien of Brittany Paige Designs

If you've ever felt creatively restricted by your corporate job, move over! Brittany O’Brien of Brittany Paige Designs feels your pain, but better yet, she acted on it. She launched her namesake brand in 2017 with six greeting cards — all concerning break-ups — and although the release was small, it proved to be incredibly powerful. With it, Brittany was officially uncensored, untethering herself from how she was in her words "taught to be small." Unsurprisingly, her stationery and gift range struck a collective nerve, and this one-woman operation accordingly grew exponentially — just ask her 500+ stockists, or maybe one of her 20K+ TikTok followers. When the Dobbs ruling dropped in late June, Brittany channeled her energy into not just representing and interpreting the collective frustration of many Americans, but infusing some financial muscle as well. First she pre-released a powerful "They Won't Stop at Roe' sticker June 24, with 100% of proceeds benefiting Arc Southeast. Then she got 29 other gift and stationery brands on board to donate all online sales for one day — July 12 — to The National Network of Abortion Funds. In all, over $15K was raised, with Brittany donating a cool grand. Brittany opens up about her approach to infusing her beliefs into her merchandise, lessons learned from July 12 and a peek into what she's showcasing at NY NOW. Finally, her take on that "cringey app I was resistant to," TikTok, is not to be missed! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Stacie Bloomfield of Gingiber

Do you want to unleash that creative powerhouse that resides within you? Then you absolutely cannot miss my chat with Stacie Bloomfield. This design dynamo was just named a 2022 40 Under 40 Honoree by Stationery Trends and Gift Shop Plus magazines, and it will become pretty apparent, pretty quickly, why I gave her a perfect score when I judged the entries. Stacie literally grew Gingiber, her Arkansas paper and home goods company, from her kitchen table to a seven-figure business now carried by over 1000 stores around the globe. Interestingly, her Gingiber journey began when she couldn't find nursery art she liked for her childrens' rooms, but as her children have grown, so too has her voice blossomed. But Stacie didn't stop there. Genuinely wanting to encourage other makers, she founded The Creative Powerhouse Society. Stacie is as transparent as she is vulnerable, sharing every last pitfall and win, and ultimately freeing everyone in her powerful orbit to forge their own path, and completely customize it to their liking no less. From the potential hazards of sharing your personal views to the knowledge that your follower count does not dictate your income, Stacie drops bits of creative and entrepreneurial wisdom like proverbial crumbs in the forest for us all to follow. Miss this empowering episode at your own risk! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Rosanna Kvernmo of Shorthand

Hold onto your undated planners everyone, Rosanna is here, and my, does she have a lot to spill! When I last checked in with her, pre-pandemic, the founder of this letterpress brand and Los Angeles shop had just lost her husband and co-founder Joel to brain cancer, leaving their 18-month-old daughter Judith behind as well. Our stationery community is such that we rallied around Rosanna from around the nation however we could, but it was Rosanna's fortitude and mindset that enabled her to triumph. Not only has Rosanna survived, she and Shorthand have thrived, with the latter growing according to the traditional definition of a corporation — "work being done by a group of people that cannot be achieved by an individual" — and she proudly and stably employs an ever-growing team of LA gig-economy creatives. Shorthand also has a new official name as well as its largest release ever this summer, exhibiting at the Dallas and Atlanta markets respectively in June and July and Shoppe Object in New York in August. So just like the office goods and stationery Shorthand lovingly creates and curates, there is a lot more going on here than initially meets the eye. This episode takes a deep dive into life, love and letterpress, and as such is not to be missed! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Wendy Hind of Tiny Poetry Project

We all know that a life lived in letters is a far richer one, but what about the letter itself? Former university vice president, professor, policy advisor, attorney and poet Wendy Hind tackled this question, and you may be surprised at the results. The mission of her Tiny Poetry Project is to give, not receive, so for her poems printed on plantable paper, being stationery is just one step in its circle of life. After being read and digested, each notecard or postcard can be planted to yield wildflowers; any envelopes are 100% recycled and card sleeves are plant-based and compostable. Tiny Poetry cards are kind to our hearts and the environment, Wendy emphasizes. The tagline of Tiny Poetry Project, medicine for the soul, alludes to Wendy's attachment to narrative medicine, which began after her own son was born with a life-threatening congenital heart condition. This medical approach utilizes patients' narratives in clinical practice, research, and education as a way to promote healing, and Wendy also conducts narrative medicine workshops and contributes to various poetry and medical humanities blogs and podcasts. So, although Wendy is brand new to the wholesale stationery game, her perspective may just leave you rethinking not just your approach, but the magical potential of the medium to connect and even heal. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Bonnie of The Bonnie Marcus Collection

Every last woman stationery maker you see today is building her brand upon the shoulders of the women who forged their paths before them — and the younger generation may not even know it. Bonnie Marcus has been a prominent figure in the stationery and gift industry for 20 years, counting celebrities like Cindy Crawford and Kathryn Heigl among her custom clientele and snagging the prestigious American Express “Make Mine a $Million Business” contest for women entrepreneurs. Yet it only appeared easy from the outside; as Bonnie was building the Bonnie Marcus Collection of invitations, stationery, partyware and gifts, she was also raising three sons. For years at National Stationery Show, she would duck away from her booth while writing wholesale orders for baby shower invitations and announcements to nurse in the restroom next door. Such is the Mom-friendly spirit of our paper community that the booth space itself was implemented onto the show floor by management just to accommodate this new Mom's needs! Today, two of those sons are college age, and Bonnie has shifted much of her wholesale business to the licensing model, but she still brings her unmistakable sense of style — to say nothing of hard-won wisdom and a surprise or two — to The Paper Fold. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit