Chatting with Chelsea Shukov
Chelsea Shukov, Co-Founder of Sugar Paper
As a child, she began hoarding invitations and baby announcements her mother would get in the mail. Little did she know, this obsession with stationery would reveal itself later in life and change her career path. Chelsea Shukov, co-founder of Sugar Paper, creates beautiful stationery. Using a traditional letterpress, her elegant cards and stationery sets give life to invites, announcements, and special occasions everywhere.
Melissa: Tell me how you fell in love with stationery. How did you choose this path?
Chelsea: It’s funny because I used to hate stationery because my mom made me write thank you notes as soon as I could write. But then it becomes a part of you. When my mom would get baby announcements or Christmas cards at the house, I would hoard them, never thinking anything about it.
I went to college as a women’s study major. I was going to save the world, talking to women about body image and self-esteem. Then I read this paper about how women connect families through the art of Christmas cards. It was like a full circle moment.
When I graduated, I went into entertainment and hated it. Jamie [my business partner] and I went to an art store and she picked up a card and told me to feel it. It had some sort of letterpress in it. We couldn’t figure out how they were getting it in the paper. So I started googling what a letterpress is and ended up buying one off eBay and playing around with it. People started asking me to do invitations for their weddings and other parties. One thing led to another and I quit my job.
Melissa: How did you and Jamie meet?
Chelsea: We met at college and we were always up to no good. One day skiing, I tore my ACL and needed help making cards. Jamie was my friend and always down for anything so I called her, taught her to use the letterpress, and that was it!
M: What’s your favorite stationery project you’ve done?
C: My kids’ baby announcements.
M: What’s the most important stationery a girl should own?
C: Personalized stationery. It just has a special and sentimental feeling when someone receives it. It’s a calling card of who you are.
M: Where do you draw your design inspiration from?
C: Everywhere. Travel, shadows, stores, all over.
M: How do you design your greeting cards?
C: We start with words and work backward. We sit down and figure out what you want to say to someone, but you don’t know how to say it. We labor over the words. The color and design come after.
M: How often do you release new cards?
C: Right now, quite often, as our accounts are always wanting more. So, I’d say, every other month.
M: Where do you go to buy the retail items you have in your shop?
C: New York right now. We also just went to the very last National Stationery Show which is a 40-year-old show.
M: If you could go back to the start of Sugar Paper, is there any advice you would give yourself?
C: Yes! For us, it was all about the art and the client. We never really thought about the business at all. I would tell myself to really figure out costs and create budgets. Essentially, have a business plan.
M: How do your kids inspire your work? Would you let them create cards?
C: There are cards in our line of sayings we say to each other. People don’t know that. There’s this card that’s not really our best seller but I refuse to get rid of it. All it says is “you are very special to me” and it’s because my son didn’t know how to express himself so all he used to say is “you are very special to me”.
M: When you leave the house in the morning is there one accessory you can’t leave without?
C: My phone. All my other accessories are staples. I change my watches and bracelets but that’s it.
M: If we raided your closet, what accessory would we find most of?
C: Clutches. They’re a staple to me.
M: What are your daily rituals?
C: My husband always makes me a cup of coffee and I snuggle with the kids. I feel like I really need that at the start of my day.
M: Do you have a daily uniform you love wearing?
C: Citizens. I have them in every style!
M: Is there anywhere you’ve traveled that was really inspiring?
C: London. London is just it for me, it’s my favorite city. I studied abroad there. It’s the place my husband saw his dad for the last time. It’s our special place, and it’s so proper. People get what I do there because they’re used to it.
M: Is there something you have yet to design but are dying to?
C: We’ve talked about a baby book for years and finally ended up doing it. Right now, I’m wanting to go back and focus on letterpress and stationery. I don’t think we need more things.