A Closer Look: Etsy Holidays – Cards by Blue Snail Papers



Blue Snail Papers – Elizabeth and Rachel

Snowy Night Card


Peace and Joy Card


By Arwen O’Reilly

Blue Snail Papers is run by two sisters, Elizabeth and Rachel. Each one of their beautiful cards brings up another era of printmaking: lovely William Morris botanical woodcuts, Japanese nature prints, Arthur Wesley Dow landscapes, cheeky Andy Warhol flowers. I’ve been really excited at the wonderful range of young stationers I’ve been seeing start up, selling at independent bookstores, craft fairs and Etsy, whether they use letter press, screen printing or Gocco machines. Blue Snail Papers is in a long line of artists and artisans blurring the line between art and craft, and their images are just darn awesome to boot. Quirky and elegant, they’re one of the reasons that Hallmark cries in its sleep.

Arwen: How did you both first get involved with crafting?

Elizabeth: We both started making things as very small children. Our mother is a great seamstress and our father is a photographer and builder. I can’t remember a time when every member of the family did not have their own unfinished project spread out somewhere.

Rachel: Yes, I remember doing little patchwork squares on long car trips, and designing whole fashion collections (on paper) featuring lots of lilac and aqua. And lots of drawing.

Arwen: What is your background? Have you always been artists, or was crafting the first outlet for it?

Elizabeth: I have no formal art training. I trained and worked as a teacher until recently. I have a problem defining a lot of “craft” outside the context of art. To me, there is a great deal of overlap.

Rachel: I had vague thoughts in college of majoring in art, but discovered that producing art in a classroom setting wasn’t my thing, so I ended up majoring in French. I really appreciate the “craft” classification, because it takes the pressure off me to produce something “artistic” and just lets me create things (although, as Elizabeth pointed out, there’s a lot of overlap).

Arwen: What process do you use? (I noticed that one item mentioned a Gocco printer.)

Rachel: We’ve exclusively used the Print Gocco up till now, but we will eventually be branching out to other methods, like traditional silk-screen and block printing. The Print Gocco is a wonderful little Japanese silk-screening machine–the procedure is streamlined and mess-free, perfect for people trying to create things at home in small spaces. We’re really sad that the company has decided to discontinue production [for more information, see savegocco.com].

Arwen: What inspires you?

Rachel: I like to go the library and load myself down with coffee-table books–art, design, geography, etc. I have also been really inspired lately by all the wonderful photography on flickr. Another thing is movies, usually foreign/old/arty–I often watch movies more for the images and colors than for the story lines.

Arwen: What’s one tip you’d give to other crafters?

Elizabeth: Find something you enjoy. If a process or method is uncomfortable or tedious to you, find something else. Creating things is supposed to be deeply satisfying.

Arwen: What are your favorite crafting books/magazines/websites?

Elizabeth: I think craftster.org is great fun. I love that it was the vision of one woman (Leah Kramer), and she almost single-handedly made it happen. I greatly appreciate the efforts of savegocco.com. I admire the work of Shu Ju-Wang (another gocco artist).

Rachel: I really enjoy ReadyMade, although I never end up following any of their project instructions–it’s just fun, and it always sparks a lot of ideas for me. I also like 70s craft books, both for the specific instructions and the esthetic.

Arwen: What are some of your most important influences?

Rachel: I’ve been really encouraged and inspired by the craft/design blog movement. I’m not sure I’ve been stylistically influenced by the many blogs I read, but I have found them hugely encouraging as far as trying to make a business selling handmade things. And I think we’ve both been fundamentally influenced by our parents, who gave us the idea that if you want something, you can make it yourself.

Arwen: Your style is really varied (some images seem like traditional woodcuts, others seem more 60s pop inspired). How do you decide how you are going to represent your image?

Elizabeth: I am more of a minimalist and Rachel’s designs are much more detailed. We are also both pretty eclectic in our tastes, so that makes for a great deal of variety.

Arwen: Ok, one more question: what’s the age difference?

Rachel: Elizabeth is the older one–three years older than me.

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