The inspiration on Opinion9 is just overflowing this week! Today, we’re talking about the witty + gritty bits about running a colourful business. Melinda and Meredith work together, and they make some amazing cards, prints, cases and more..all with their statement colour and witty vibe.
I especially love the way they incorporate thoughts, their play on words and trends (Marble-ous?), and vibrant colours (especially watercolour! My fave!) in their work.
Aptly named..The Witty Gritty Paper Co. Let’s hear what they have to say!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi! We’re Meredith & Melinda Preve, the mother/ daughter designers behind the stationery line: The Witty Gritty Paper Co. We are both self-taught artists, who run our business from our cozy studio in Buffalo, NY.
I love your witty and colourful work! How did The Witty Gritty Paper Co start?
Well, we’ve both always shared a mutual love for words, paper and humor… especially for humor! Last autumn, we were just chatting over a cup of coffee, both coming to a pass in our professional lives and all of these loves started to come up in conversation. Suddenly a major, fluorescent-level lightbulb went off in our heads. “Hey! Maybe we could make a living making people laugh!” Right from the beginning, we knew we wanted to be different than all of the other card and print companies out there; we wanted our products to be designed by hand, not by software. Being a colorful brand was also a must from the first, because let’s face it, bright colors just make people happy! The next few months following were kind of a blur. Even though we were a little gun-shy at first (neither of us had much experience with commercial printing,) we managed to design 24 original pieces for our debut collection, design our website, and begin to grow our social media, all within half a year. As they say, “The dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately!”
What inspires you both the most in your creative process?
For me (Meredith, the daughter), inspiration primarily comes from my new experiences. Whenever I go to a museum, restaurant or even a state park, I always spend the car ride home wondering how many of the things I saw I would be able to paint with my watercolors. I imagine the different layers and washes it would take to recreate it and before long, a new piece is just bursting with urgency in my mind. Usually in my process, first comes the subject and then the witty words follow suit. For my mom, it’s the opposite. She starts with the clever quips that just pop into her head and then she molds them from lots of sketches to final product!
The fact that you are a mother-daughter duo working together is really inspiring. How does it feel working together as a team? Has it gotten you even closer?
Thank you! We sort of act as each other’s filter because we have so many complementary strengths and weaknesses. One of the things we enjoy most about creating our line is the difference in our generational perspectives that comes out in our products. We love the idea that we can appeal to a diverse type of market, filled with other mothers and daughters who have always been on the hunt for appropriate correspondences for all of the different people in their lives! There are definitely days where we struggle a bit with harmonizing our different styles, but overall I would say it has only made our relationship stronger!
(Love their cheery space!)
How do you balance your creative thought while maintaining a business approach when it comes to selling your art?
I think it’s always going to be a challenge for anyone who makes things to take the pure, right-brain joy of creating and try to keep it alive and healthy while they navigate through the pitfalls of small business. Being a pushy sales-person or staring blankly at market research all day just doesn’t come naturally to most creatives. We’ve found that the best way to stay balanced is to carve out time for simple, yet special novelties. For example, we’ll take a drive together in the country with the music blasting, or visit a new farmer’s market and cook a meal together. Basically, we make sure to still do things together (and apart) that don’t revolve around our business. Some of our best ideas have come to us in the moments when we stopped trying to chase them down.
What are your favourite movie(s), book(s) and colour(s)?
Mine would be “Titanic” (I won’t let go, Jack!,) the Matrix series (because I’m kind of a closet, science-fiction nerd,) and all romantic comedies involving Meg Ryan. For favorite book it’s got to be “The Catcher In The Rye”, and it changes all the time, but right now my fave color is soft peach. Mom’s picks: “Finding Nemo,” anything by Erma Bombeck and periwinkle blue.
I adore your yappy dog, Gizmo! In what doggy way does he contribute to your creative process :)?
Well, actually he is a she, but you wouldn’t know it by her lack of ladylike manners! The constant barking keeps the mailman on his toes and on the days when the internet won’t cooperate, the envelopes are like 1,000 miles away stuck in Montana, and my favorite pen has run out of ink, it’s a blessing to have her adorable little face around!
(Gizmo actually looks pretty calm here! ^ Taking a break, maybe? )
The fact that you combined your different artistic talents- Melinda’s doodling and Meredith’s watercolour- is lovely to see. At that time, what were your initial thoughts about starting a business?
Before Witty Gritty, we had never combined our artistic talents. But, when we started to realize that our different art mediums could be connected through words, a business to sell them through just seemed like a natural next step. Originally, I was only designing the art prints and my mom was only designing the greeting cards. By our second collection, we had discovered through trial and error that our brand was most cohesive when we both had a part in every product.
Where do you see yourselves in a few years?
That’s a loaded question! Part of us sees ourselves branching out into a brick & mortar location, and another part sees the company growing to have a big, more behind-the-scenes style wholesale domain. It’s my personal aspiration to develop our Instagram presence into one of the most entertaining and widely known accounts on the platform (one of my many lofty goals!) One thing’s for sure; we will continue to design more out-of-the-box paper products in the near future. Not to give too much away, but there will be hilarious Post-it notes involved.
How did you come up with your brand name?
This may sound uninspired, but it just came to me one day. And the second it popped into my head, I knew we had to do it, because that was too awesome of a name to not use for something!
Could you give us a glimpse in a typical day on your life?
On account of pesky day-jobs and chores, most of our work gets done on nights and weekends. You will often find us starting out the day by discussing business over brunch. Then we split up for our individual tasks. I’m usually painting like a watercolor madwoman, answering e-mails, pitching to retailers and editors, and filming and shooting content for our social media channels. Meanwhile, mom will be busy balancing out the books, sketching new ideas, or tracking down leads on the marketing and production fronts. We break a lot for coffee. Also for C.S.I.
Do you have any advice for people starting their own business and making it work?
Work hard. Work really, really hard. Don’t be discouraged by any expectation that wasn’t fulfilled when you thought it would be.
Some things will work, others won’t. Success belongs to the people who see the value in both outcomes. There will be a lot of things that won’t make sense to you; a lot of things that will make you reconsider your worth (and your sanity.) But the great part is, if you can make it through the not-so-glamorous moments, you will be part of the small group of people in the world that get to do what they love more than anything else for a living, and that, my friends, is priceless.
Thanks Melinda + Meredith for this little glimpse into The Witty Gritty Paper Co! Here’s to your witty + gritty success!
You can find more on The Witty Gritty Paper Co here: