Life can sometimes feel like you are wading through a swamp of negativity - battling criticism and self-doubt at work, fielding spiteful comments on social media, facing increasingly disastrous world news. This is why it is so important to surround yourself with positive mantras - to create balance and cultivate inner peace and happiness.
Kristen Drozdowski of Worthwhile Paper is here to help. We chatted with Kristen about her mission to bring positivity and beauty into the world. Her artwork is not only gorgeous, but genuinely inspiring. Read on to learn more about how she’s turned her passion for spreading happiness into a brilliant independent business.
Tell us about the birth of Worthwhile Paper.
Fun fact: the birth or Worthwhile Paper sort of coincided with the birth of my son, who is now 4 :)
Starting out was kind of a fun domino effect. Before I officially launched my line, I was two years out of college where I studied fine art & graphic design. I was dabbling in a huge variety of things: freelance design, gig posters, calligraphy for invitations, I had a job at an awesome local card & gift shop called Rock Paper Scissors designing wedding invitations and shop marketing materials, and had been working in the art department at a screen printing shop called VGKids. I fell in LOVE with screen printing in college when I got an internship to design and print posters for the university art gallery shows, so working in a screen printing shop was a dream come true. On top of all of that, I was always drawing and designing things for fun, mostly screen printed posters and art prints, and started bringing them to local craft fairs.
My first card designs were actually just fun add-ons to the extra space of posters to maximize the screen use! The cards did so well at our in-person events, and I loved hearing reactions from shoppers about who they were going to give the card to, and that feeling is really what solidified my enthusiasm in the idea of starting my own paper goods line. Branching out from posters to smaller items was a really fun new adventure for me.
Did you always want to be an artist, even in childhood?
I always loved creating things from scratch when I was little, and always remember really enjoying creative things. I remember OBSESSING over my hand writing in middle school - trying out different handwriting 'styles' in my notes to friends and for class. I always expressed myself creatively and thought outside of the box. My mom often had to cope with how 'differently I did things'. I'm not sure I even knew the reality of "being an artist for a living" when I was little, so this really is a dream job.
What is your favorite medium to create with? Describe your process.
For my card designs I always start with pencil and then make my final design in ink. This starts with a simple, usually very quick pencil sketch to get the idea into the visual realm, and I build up from there. I start the final design in pencil and use a light tablet for tracing, then I get to a finished design in black ink. After that, I scan the design in the computer, fine tune it digitally, make color separations for screen printing, and push 'save'!
I am also extremely into growing my art practice. Lately I have been exploring painted textures and minimal geometric collage, and am working on a series of imporvisational paintings on wood panels.
Your cards have a "feel good" vibe. What inspires your designs?
My own very real need to feel good is what inspires my designs the most. Often I make things I want in my own life, things that really bring me healing, comfort and happiness :)
What's your solution for combating “creative block” and maintaining productivity?
When I am stuck in a rut creatively, for me that usually means I am uninspired at that time. When I have inspiration the work just flows like crazy. When I'm trying to force it, it doesn't show up at all. SO when it's there, I have to take advantage of that time knowing it's not always there! When it's not there, I usually have to accept that, and take a step back, give it time, focus on something else for a little bit and wait for that magic of inspiration to return. If I don't want to take a step back, I might try something new - a new way of drawing, doing something I haven't done in a long time and see how my approach may have changed, or trying something I've never tried.
Artists often feel like they are expected to be inspired at all times, but that's just impossible. Sometimes we need to accept that it's okay - and actually super important - to give ourselves some space to make room for inspiration to really move us when it wants to show up again.
What does a typical day at your studio look like? How do you manage your time?
My reasonably perfect day would be split between business tasks and creative time. I really like the days where I can be on the computer taking care of things in the morning, and then take a lunch break, followed by creative & technology-free time for the rest of the day. Lately I have been on the computer A LOT more than I'd like to, so I'm really hoping that balances out soon.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced to get to where you are now?
My biggest and current challenge is feeling pulled in two directions as a creative business owner, because 'creative' and 'business owner' are pretty opposite things and yet I am called to be both. I can't have one without the other, and they both need each other, sort of like a yin yang. The challenge is making them unite instead of compete.
How does the culture of your city contribute to the development of your independent business?
Ypsilanti, Michigan is Awesome! We have such a diverse, creative, supportive community here full of very unique individuals and businesses. I feel very supported by the creative culture here.
What do you enjoy doing in your “free time?”
Enjoying time with my family, practicing yoga every day, being outdoors, taking mineral salt baths.
We hear you just launched a card deck. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Yes! I have been working on a card deck for the past 8 months and it's available now! It's called Inquire Within: 53 Hand Illustrated Cards To Inspire Inner Wisdom, Growth & Connectedness
I am beyond excited to be able to share this work!
Each card is a meaningful phrase, reminder, word or prompt to help bring guidance and comfort to everyday life. Self healing requires a willingness to explore deeply, to ask yourself questions – to inquire within. The purpose of this deck grows from the idea that you yourself can heal you yourself. I hope you find joy in this project that was created in a slow & carefully meaningful way, and that the words and images inside serve as gentle reminders of the magic you already have in you.
Throughout this last year I have made it a point to hold myself accountable in my intention to practice making art / work that comes from an authentic place. The idea for a card deck of simple, healing reminders bubbled up out of the creative ether when I was going through some of my past journals. A lot of the time when I journal I make a lot of realizations about myself, and end up naturally coming up with words of encouragement, affirmations, or just simple phrases that bring me extreme comfort, motivation, or sense of relief at that moment.
There is SO MUCH more I have to say about this. To read more about why I made this, read my introductory blog post a bout my own healing journey and the process behind the project here.