Lots and lots and lots is going on here, I can hardly keep up! I’m hoping to write a blog post soon on everything that’s happening, but for today, I’m sharing a bit more about a line that we’ve carried for about a year now – Gotamago’s line of greeting cards, created by Lichia Liu right here in Toronto.
For the first little bit when we opened, we were a “pen + ink + paper” shop, and we weren’t really a traditional paper stationery shop that carried greeting cards. The nature of a bricks & mortar stationery shop, though, is that sometimes people come in looking for greeting cards, and we always had to turn them away. We thought for a while about carrying a line, but there are just so many amazing card lines out there, I didn’t even know where to begin.
One day, however, the stars aligned, and Lichia, the owner and artist of the Gotamago line of greeting cards, came in for a fountain pen. I didn’t think twice about it (what a surprise!), but then a few months later, I received an e-mail from Lichia with a link to her funny and charming cards. Cards about pho? And ramen? And sumo wrestling??
Lichia Liu trained as a landscape architect and worked in urban planning and design before starting Gotamago. It started as a hobby in 2007, and over time, selling cards at markets and online turned into wholesaling to more and more retailers (like us!). In 2013, Lichia moved to work full-time with Gotamago, and I can certainly appreciate the thrill and rollercoaster ride of making that leap.
Since then, Gotamago has exhibited at the National Stationery Show in New York, the largest trade show in the stationery world, and now you can find its cards on the shelves of Canadian and international retailers all over the world. Gotamago will be at the Toronto One of a Kind Show at the end of November.
Lichia was kind enough to answer a few questions about her beautiful line of cards. You may notice this Q&A seems a bit more polished than when I spoke with Philip Akin, and that’s because Lichia and I did our back and forth over e-mail, so I have all of her words crisp and sharp.
What’s your process for creating your cards?
It always starts with an idea – either a particularly strong image or a funny punchline. We keep a long list of card ideas, and 90% of them end up rejected.
Once we decide to go ahead with the idea, I develop several concept thumbnails. When I have a composition I like, I sketch it out full-size, and then with the help of a light pad, I use the rough draft to guide my final ink drawing on a fresh piece of watercolour paper – the same technique that Quentin Blake uses. After the ink is dry, I lay down watercolours, the fun part where everything comes to life. Then it’s scanned and edited digitally, and it’s ready for press.
Any favourite stories behind a card?
I painted the scene on the “Authenticity is Beautiful” card when I was traveling alone in Antwerp, Belgium. When I was just starting the drawing in my sketchbook, I made a mistake with a stroke. Thinking the drawing was ruined, I continued to paint, except now that the pressure of perfection was gone, my strokes became bold and carefree.
When I looked back at the finished painting much later, I saw the spontaneity that that I had been striving so hard to achieve.
Any advice for budding creative entrepreneurs?
Don’t worry about perfection; chances are you will have to tweak it anyway after you see how people react to your product.
What’s going on behind the scenes of Gotamago right now?
We are in the middle of scouting for a new studio space, as our business has outgrown the live-work studio apartment we’re currently in. I’ve been living in between boxes for the past few months — it’s bit of a desperate situation. Every night I dream of rows and rows of shelving.
(Ironically, when I dream of rows and rows of shelving, it’s mostly a nightmare, where someone has ordered something online that I know I have in stock, but I can’t find…)
I hear you love dogs as much as we do! How are your pups treating you?
With all the dog-related illustrations in our line, can you tell that we are big dog lovers? Christopher, my partner, and I are volunteer dog foster parents for two local rescues: T.E.A.M. Dog Rescue, and Black Dog Rescue. So far we have fostered sixteen dogs.
Any secret drawing tips?
The secret is this: all you really need for drawing is a good sketchbook and a good drawing tool.
We’re always thrilled to carry and support local products, and Gotamago is both a local artist and shares a love of tasty Asian puns.
The latest thing Gotamago has released is a dim sum calendar, and I am in love. Every time I look at this thing, I think about going uptown for some dim sum – each month features a dim sum delicacy. I think I’m sending this to everyone I know for Christmas.