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!
Through a happy accident and punny opportunity, Krishna Chavda found her way into the stationery world to begin her career as the owner and card designer of Nanu Studio. Find out more about Krishna’s joy-spreading- style, inspiration, creative process, and even her exciting underwater hobby here. . Find out more about Krishna’s joy-spreading- style, inspiration, creative process, and even her exciting underwater hobby here.
How did you begin your card-making career?
I’d been making and sending cards since I was a kid but my card-making career started with a typo!
In 2014, I got a text from my dear friend Catherine. It said, “Vincent van Gopher – make it happen.” Little did I know that those words would propel me straight into the stationery universe, where greeting cards, stickers, and art prints abound. It’s basically the world of all my childhood obsessions. #sticker-hoarder #stationery-stash #I-can’t-use-it-it’s-too-pretty (I’m hoping you can relate.)
It turned out Catherine’s student had misspelled van Gogh as “van Goph” on a test and while grading, all she could think about was Vincent van Gogh as a gopher. As a fellow lover of puns, I couldn’t refuse the opportunity to draw this hilarity, so I obliged.
The Famous Animals floodgates opened. Vincent and my other illustrations were insta-hits with my family and friends, who soon requested art prints and greeting cards. Who was I to deny them?
I’d finally found the perfect outlet for the illustrator, wordplay lover, and stationery collector in me — the world of greeting cards!
Needless to say, since its inception, NANU Studio has been spreading joy, laughter, and connection one card at a time!
Where do you draw inspiration from? Food? Pop Culture? Timeless Motifs? Playful Puns?
Inspiration comes from all around me and from all the different parts of my life. My ideas, verbiage, sentiments, etc., as a whole are inspired by conversations I have, things I’ve overheard (my ears are like, pop culture, history, and my love for wordplay and puns! I try to dig deep and come up with pun and image combinations that are as original as possible so that the illustrations are unexpected.
Animals, plants, and nature in general are common themes in my work. One of the reasons I absolutely love drawing animals is because I grew up in Tanzania.
Tanzania is known for its national parks like the Serengeti in the north and Gombe National Park in the west by Lake Tanganyika. The Serengeti boasts expansive savannas and animals like cheetahs, lions, leopards, and many more creatures big and small.
Gombe is known for its chimpanzees. It’s where Dr. Jane Goodall spent decades living, researching and documenting chimp behaviour. Dr. Goodall would visit my school and give talks – I don’t remember much as I was a young child. But, I remember her saying to a chimpanzee “hello”. In early grade school, I joined Jane Goodall’s youth program, Roots & Shoots.
Being so close to these great parks, going on safari with my family, and learning about chimps instilled in me a great love for wildlife and nature. All these experiences influenced me, my drawings, and my commitment to sustainable business practices.
One of my personal favourite NANU Studio cards is Prime Mates. This one was directly inspired by and honours the chimpanzees. (I also donate net proceeds of all Prime Mates products to the Jane Goodall Institute to support their dedication to wildlife and nature conservation.)
I finally got to visit Gombe National Park for the first time in December 2021 with my parents. We hiked up and down the park’s slopes to catch a glimpse of the chimps (along with other animals like baboons).
Our efforts were rewarded and I even got to sketch them! Maybe these sketches will lead to another full illustration in the future!
What does your day look like as a card maker and designer?
I don’t have a typical day as a card marker and that’s because I have a full-time job! By day I work for a swimwear company designing textile patterns for girls’ swimwear. NANU Studio is what I do on my own. So, an average weekday for me looks like: 9-5 job, gym (2x during the week), come home, dinner, veg out for a bit, prep for the next day, then I finally dive into NANU Studio.
Sometimes that looks like sitting on the sofa with my iPad sketching new ideas while watching some TV (I use the word “watching” very loosely, usually a TV show is a glorified audiobook!). Sometimes I’m in my home studio working on marketing, preparing files for production, invoicing, and putting together orders. About once a week, my friend Janine of Kwohtations and I hop on a video call and do our work together. It helps to have someone else around to bounce ideas off while keeping you on track!
What is your preferred medium?
My go-to medium for most-things-business is digital, specifically Procreate for sketches, and Photoshop and Illustrator for final art. More about this in the next question.
My all-time favourite media are pen and ink on paper with watercolors. These are the supplies I take with me when I go on vacation and draw what I see! The following photo is from my trip to England in 2022. I loved these little colourful cabanas in Wells-Next-The-Sea on the east coast of England.
I also love to paint with gouache on wood panels, which is something that I do just for me and just because! The first of these two images shows a few 2″ mini paintings on wood. The second is a painting of a secretary bird. My paintings tend to be more realistic than my usual way of illustrating.
What does your creative process look like?
My creative process starts with sketching ideas in Procreate. I usually do a few different versions of the idea and see which composition works best. I pull the sketch into Photoshop where I ink the final linework and add colour. I also use Illustrator to help with typography layout. Occasionally, I use Photoshop on the iPad for my inking before bringing it to the desktop version for color.
My colouring process is a bit like collage and it’s my favourite part. I have a library of watercolor textures I made years ago. I layer these textures onto flat colours I block out in the artwork. By the time I’m done, the illustration is vibrant with a watercolour-y feel. Here’s a link to an Instagram post that shows a timelapse of my coloring process.
What are you most proud of as a creator and card maker?
There are so many ways to answer this. Here’s one:
I’m really proud of my perseverance and unwavering desire to create for myself. Working full-time and building/running a business is hard work. But I really love drawing, making cards, sending mail, and making people laugh with my cards. It keeps me going!
Any personal tidbits? Special talents/fun facts?
I love drawing underwater! I started SCUBA diving about 10 years ago. During one of my initial lessons, I learned that you can write underwater using a regular graphite pencil on a slate – usually a hard, plastic surface. Naturally, I wanted to try to draw underwater and after some searching, I found a small notebook that had waterproof paper. The notebook also comes in handy for communicating underwater. I take this book whenever I dive and try to get at least one or two sketches during the dive. It’s a fun challenge to maintain buoyancy and draw while current is moving you around and creatures underwater are also constantly moving around!