Making a big decision: Shifting the focus of my art

A view from my recent retreat to the Olympic Peninsula.

A view from my recent retreat to the Olympic Peninsula.

At the end of 2015, I made a big decision for myself: Starting in January 2016, I would turn the full focus of my work toward creating stationery and journals. So I finished up the fine art projects I was working on and after the New Year I went on a retreat to the Olympic Peninsula to work on new stationery ideas.

For the last few years I’ve been creating my fine art and also making stationery and journals. As I created these two separate types of work, I noticed a decrease in my overall productivity. I haven’t been as prolific as I know I can be, because I’ve been hopping back and forth between projects mentally and physically. I’ve learned that I work at my best when I have one or two projects to focus on, rather than having many irons in the fire. I admire the people I know that can do that successfully, but I know it’s not optimal for me. 

Part of why it’s taken me so long to commit to this direction is because I felt guilty about putting a hold on my fine art work. Even thinking about it felt like I was abandoning my art, rather than feeling like I could take all of my skills and head toward something I am really passionate and super excited about. I feel relieved in my decision now, because while I won’t be any less occupied, I can put all of my energy in one direction. 

So why stationery and journals?

I love writing letters! My family moved a few times since my dad was in the military, so keeping in touch with friends and family through letters was an important part of my life. Over time I became enthralled with stationery, heading straight to that section in bookstores rather than looking at books. When I started making my own greeting cards while also working at an incredible stationery company, I realized that designing stationery is it’s own art form. The process wasn’t so different from making my fine art prints. As I worked at the stationery company, I took notice of how the owner creates her line and saw just as much love, care and work in her stationery as I saw in the museums and galleries I was visiting.

Journals have also always been an important part of my life and it’s become a sacred space for me to be serious, silly and irreverent. My dad gave me a journal in middle school and since then I’ve written in them to document my thoughts and ponder larger questions in life. When I was learning to bind books in grad school, I enjoyed creating the blank mock-ups just as much as I enjoyed creating my artist books. Just like stationery, I’d scour the journal shelves in bookstores, poring over the different binding techniques, cover styles and paper textures.

When I started creating my own greeting cards and blank journals, I loved their affordability for a larger audience than my fine art can provide. I loved that my friends and family can take joy in using them just as I have since I was a kid. It gives me immense joy to know that for relatively little cost, someone could have a beautifully crafted object made by hands and with great care.

I don’t know about you, but with paperless billing and email, I don’t get a ton of mail anymore. I still get junk mail though, and it’s a bummer. Amidst the useless and boring mail I receive, nothing brightens my day quite like opening the mailbox and seeing a colorful envelope with handwriting addressed to me. And based on what people tell me, I’m not the only one that takes pleasure in getting fun letters in the mail! I’m so excited to be spending more time and energy creating new objects that can capture that feeling when you open your mailbox or sit down to spend time with your thoughts.

Where it goes from here

So now I'm designing new ideas for greeting cards and journal covers. I’ll spend the rest of the winter and early spring in design and production, and if all goes well, those designs will be available for sale in May. My plan is for more designs to be available to you on a regular basis, starting with releases twice a year. 

Even though I finished my fine art work last month, I will still be making my work public through exhibitions and other opportunities that are a good fit. I just posted images of a new monoprint series and next week Nicole Geary and I plan on officially releasing our collaborative artist book, Fossils & Whispers, so I’ll be sharing more about it then.

I’m so very excited to head in this new-ish direction with even greater concentration and I can't wait to share what I make with you! 

What about you? Is there anything in your life you’re turning your attention toward this year?

Cat Snapp