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Today I’m sharing an interview with Viola E. Sutanto, a graphic artist and product designer. Viola’s new book, Packaging Your Crafts: Creative Ideas for Crafters, Artists, Bakers, & More, explores different materials and techniques that can be used to design pretty packaging for your handmade goodies. Using artisan profiles, tutorials, and plenty of pictures, she shares a ton of packaging inspiration with her readers.
Underground Crafter (UC): Tell us about your businesses, chewing the cud and MAIKA. What inspired you to launch them?
Viola: When I first started my studio (chewing the cud), I was working on mostly branding and identity projects, but since then, the studio has evolved into a creative space and our services encompass brand strategy, product development in addition to graphic design. There was a need to differentiate the service business with our own product line, hence the MAIKA brand was born. As the parent company, chewing the cud will continue to evolve and expand in terms of the services and products it will bring to market, but at the heart of every project, I hope it will remain true to being a sustainable and creative think tank.
Printed fabric drawstring bag by Soma Intimates.
UC: You come from a long line of entrepreneurs. What did you learn from growing up around entrepreneurs, and how did it motivate you to become one yourself?
Viola: Trust your gut and take calculated risks. Timing is everything. Know that it’s ok to fail. That’s how you learn. These are all qualities I learnt (and am still learning), growing up around entrepreneurs. Watching them fail, get up and try again is truly inspiring. As inspiring as watching and learning from their successes.
Hand-printed market bag with kraft card, hang tag by Nicole James, Yardage Designs.
UC: You recently published your first book, Packaging Your Crafts. What was the development process like for this book?
Viola: Like the saying goes, it takes a village. The team at RotoVision and Lark Crafts were instrumental in solidifying the book concept, and providing continual support throughout the process. It was fun to work together with my husband (also a designer) on the tutorials. He shot all the photos for the tutorials, and it was great fun collaborating with him.
UC: Why do you think packaging is so important for artisans and crafters?
Viola: Presentation is key. It can enhance the perceived value of your product and ultimately, your brand.
UC: What tips can you share for crocheters and knitters who are packaging their (often unusually shaped) projects as gifts?
Viola: Fabric packaging options such as cloth wraps or bags work well for unusually-shaped items. Boxes are also a great option as the item is protected, and makes wrapping that much easier. If the item is “fragile”, wrap it with tissue or papers first, before inserting into the box. All of these packaging materials can easily be embellished using stamps or stencils (see tutorials in the book) so they are “gift-ready”. Even adding a simple element like a pretty hangtag makes the item immediately more personal and gift-like.
Fabric bags by Amie Nilsson, Merino Kids.
UC: What crafts do you personally enjoy? How did you learn/get started?
Viola: There isn’t really a specific craft per say. I enjoy working with ink, paper and fabrics, and have a lifelong love affair with hand-lettering. But I have a 3-year-old daughter, so these days, many of our craft projects involve fishing household items out of our recycling bin and making something “creative” out of them. Monsters, rainbows, fairies, castles… you name them. I’ve been tagging these projects on Instagram with #lifewitha3yearold.
Inkjet-printed kraft bellyband by Christopher MacManus, Bittle & Burley.
UC: Are there any crafty websites/blogs you visit regularly for inspiration or community?
Viola: Honestly, with time being a scarcity these days, I rarely visit blogs anymore. However, I will own up to the guilty pleasure of browsing on Pinterest for some eye candy!
Fabric bundles tied with ribbon.
UC: What’s next for you?
Viola: This year, my goal is to keep building the MAIKA brand and expanding the product line. Other client projects include consulting on store design and strategy, and product development. On the personal front, we are moving to a new house, so I’ve been happily working on designing our new nest. Let’s just say, making home decor decisions with a partner who is also a designer is no easy feat!