The Card Designer Spotlight is a series featuring independent makers whose greeting cards you can find in Paper Source stores. Meet and be inspired by a new designer every month on our blog!

This month we want to introduce our card designer Lichia Liu of Gotamago. Find out how Lichia uses her platform as a representation of personal identity while featuring motifs like food to diversely connect people and share her greeting cards nation wide.

 

How did you begin your card-making career?​

I’ve kept travel sketchbooks most of my life, documenting what I see in foreign environments. After one particularly long period away from home, working and travelling in Asia and Europe, I began sharing some of my sketches online – first just with family and friends, and then more broadly on social media. To my delight, I began receiving inquiries from strangers on where to purchase my art. In the beginning, I made them into art prints and sold them on Etsy. It wasn’t until a retailer asked if I’d consider making them into greeting cards for consignment that I realised I’ve stumbled on something exciting. I spent the next few weeks teaching myself how to create a wholesale stationery business, and soon after, launched Gotamago with eight card designs at a local art market.

 

Over the years, I’ve come to understand that cards are an extremely democratic way to share art. While original paintings may not be affordable for everyone, a greeting card makes for an accessible and versatile piece of decor. When our customers share their photos of cards framed on their walls, I’m heartened to know that my art is a part of their everyday lives.

Where do you draw inspiration from? Food? Pop Culture? Timeless Motifs? Playful Puns?​

I always start from things that I love: cultural exchange, urban sketching, and word play.

 

When I first started designing cards, I didn’t see any of my Taiwanese-Canadian identity represented in the cards available on the North American market; so, I made them myself. Food is one of the easiest ways to connect cultures, and so Asian food is a prominent theme in many of my designs.

 

Urban sketching was a natural progression from my travel sketching days. I’m a part of a global art network called Urban Sketchers, whose mission is to document the world through sketching. I am fascinated by the ways people interact with their environments, and can sit for hours sketching on site, absorbing the urban landscape around me. It’s my favourite way to discover new cities.

 

And finally, wordsmithing is a powerful force behind my creativity. Sometimes the phrases come when I’m walking the dog or doing dishes, and I’d be so excited that I text my husband Christopher and see whether he laughs. If it’s original and funny, it’s a winner.

 

 

What does your day look like as a card maker and designer?​

After dropping off my kids at school and daycare, I head to the studio to start my work day. We operate out of a small building in a sleepy neighbourhood in East Toronto; at the front of the studio is our flagship retail shop, Silver Antelope. I make coffee, and spend a bit of time basking in the quiet before the team arrives. This is my creative time, and I will sometimes draw, or do some planning and strategizing, depending on my mood.

 

Our team starts filling the studio around 10am. I check in with Heather, Kelly and Ellie about our current workload, wholesale and retail order fulfilment progress, and we all laugh over the latest reel that Amy’s made about the mysterious googly eyes that are popping up all over the studio. Rowan and I discuss new window displays and things that are low on the retail shelves. I confer with Lauren and Amy about newsletters, social media posts, upcoming design releases and creative workshops. Christopher takes away the day’s order deliveries and supply lists, and I send out purchase orders for products that are running low. We don’t print anything in-house, but we work closely with our local printers and manufacturers at every step of the process, something that I am very proud of.

 

In the afternoon I try to ignore emails and social media, and tackle larger creative projects. Then it’s off to do school pickups and make dinner! After the kids are in bed, I may curl up on the couch to do bookkeeping in front of the TV.

 

Everyday feels like a whirlwind, but we have an incredible dream team, and I feel very lucky to be able to spend so much time with my family while doing what I love.


What is your preferred medium?​

Though I have all the digital gadgets, I still love drawing directly on paper the best. Most of my illustrations are done with ink and watercolour, and many of them are taken directly out of my sketchbook. Though not as refined as work done in the studio, sketchbook drawings convey a certain “in the moment” feeling that can’t be duplicated.

 

More recently, I’ve been experimenting with direct watercolour – that is, spontaneous watercolour painting without any ink or pencil outlines. It’s challenging and runs contrary to all the ways I’ve worked in the past, but it also gives me a rush of freedom and joy. I am a planner by nature, so learning to embrace the unpredictable side of watercolour has been a humbling process.

What does your creative process look like?​

When ideas come to me, I jot them down in my sketchbook, no matter how arbitrary. Sometimes the smallest doodle will jump back at me years later and develop into a beautiful design; it just needed incubation time! Once I’ve settled on both the illustration and the greeting phrase, I start making ink drafts.

 

I have a lightpad, which I use as a guide to draw the ink outlines over and over again in order to develop muscle memory and nail down the right expression. (I was delighted to learn that Quentin Blake uses the same method.) When I’m satisfied with the outline, I move on to my favourite part – adding watercolours and seeing the illustration come to life.

 

Lastly, I scan and edit the illustrations digitally, and then hand write the greeting with my Apple pencil. I used to do this part with fountain pens and scanners, but moving it onto the ipad has sped things up considerably. Once everything is edited, we can move to layout and formatting for the printer.

 

What are you most proud of as a creator and card maker?​

Seeing my work transformed into products that are shared and enjoyed around the world is the best feeling. Over the years, I’ve received letters from wonderful strangers, telling me how my cards have touched their lives. There are stories of my cards used in marriage proposals, in personal correspondence to presidents, and as words of encouragement during tough times; I collect these stories like pearls on a necklace, and revisit them when I need a reminder of why I make art.

 

I am also incredibly proud of the business we’ve built together as a team; we’ve created not just a studio and shop, but also a community hub, with a strong tradition of giving back. When my daughter tells me she wants to be like me when she grows up, I feel like I’m doing something right.

Any personal tidbits? Special talents/fun facts?

Over the last year, I’ve been teaching myself visible mending, mostly because my kids keep tearing their clothes, and I can’t bear to send them to the landfill. It’s wonderfully meditative, though maybe not the most practical creative outlet; as it turns out, my kids adore the visibly mended clothes and will wear them even more vigorously after they’re mended, resulting in…yup, more tears!

 

Find Gotamago Cards, such as Lager Than Life Birthday Card, and Rarest of Them All Father’s Day Card at our local store or online at papersource.com. For more inspiration and behind-the-scenes action, follow @go.tamago on IG

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