After feasting your eyes on Vana Chupp’s unique silhouette designs, you won’t need much convincing that this entrepreneur and mom of two is doing exactly what she was meant to do. Although today she works as the owner and creative director of Le Papier Studio, you might be surprised to find out that Vana actually left behind a career as a freelance architect to work full-time at her dream job. And, happily, that passion project of hers has also given birth to one dreamy studio space.
Upon moving to Richmond, Virginia, Vana knew she needed her own space that would inspire her and allow the creativity to flow. Her current space features the bright and open layout that she always envisioned, offering her the perfect place to showcase her growing collection of custom designs. Below, Vana allows us a glimpse inside her quaint workspace, speaks on what it takes to build a successful business and also offers honest insight into how she manages to balance work with family life.
When and why did you decide to launch Le Papier Studio?
Le Papier Studio was established in 2008 in an effort to satisfy my creative passions while fulfilling an even higher calling: Being a mom. I was a mother of a toddler freelancing in architecture and longing for a creative outlet. My silhouette craft was first born as I began documenting the personality, emotion and playfulness of my son at the time.
What extra inspiring accents do you keep on your desk to help get you through the workday?
I am surrounded by photographs and art works that make me happy—mostly family photos of my boys and our closest family. On my desk you will find a cup of coffee, my Simplified Planner and notecards I use to write to customers and friends.
Best business advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice that I received early on in my business was this: “Keep doing what you do best, and hire out the rest.” It even rhymes!
What future projects are you most excited about?
I am in the midst of wrapping up some new collections, which will be debuting this upcoming holiday season. Something else I am really serious about is studying for my architectural license. It’s a long process and I have more than seven exams to pass, but it’s something that currently excites me.
Any standout storage features in your studio that could help inspire our own office organization systems?
The long bookcase and also my storage space, which you can see here.
What’s your favorite, most functional piece of furniture in your office? How does it simplify the running of your business?
The two desks that we use to make one long desk are the most functional furniture pieces in the office. They help me set up a few stations and keep me from having to move from one area to the next too often.
Tell us about your books! What was the process of going from your idea to the bookshelf?
The first book, Silhouette Art, is truly my love child as I poured my heart into it—from the concept and organizing the various projects it features, to styling them for the photo shoot and the photography itself. I can honestly say it was a wonderful experience, and working with Chronicle Books was the cherry on top. I was approached by Chronicle Books to write this book, and was given full freedom and very minimal art direction. It was a bestseller for its category and won a design award for the format, too.
The second book, Pretty Paper Parties, was a fun one but didn’t sell as well. Perhaps because the concept wasn’t something new in the world of paper crafting. Nonetheless, I had a fun time putting it together.
What’s the one thing that made the biggest transformational impact in the design of your studio and office space?
The office actually used to be the master bedroom. We picked the largest room in our house because we needed all the space. Plus, it came with a wonderful walk-in closet, which makes for one killer storage space (and allows me to still be organized—something I love more than anything about running a business). We wanted the space to be inspirational but also family- and kid-friendly because we spend a lot of time in there. When the boys go down for the day, my husband, Aaron, and I sit and do work side by side.
Tell us about a few of your favorite apps and pieces of software, and describe how they benefit your business.
Ever since we switched our online shop to Shopify, I have been obsessed with all the apps. Right now, some of my favorite business apps are SpringBot because it analyzes marketing efforts across the board and helps automate a lot of tasks; OnlyPult for scheduling my Instagram posts (it’s very affordable and easy to use from my phone and desktop computer); Instagram because it allows us to connect on a more personal level with our customers as well as share our story; and Viber and FaceTime for keeping in touch with family overseas. As for software, I love Photoshop and Illustrator for making everything beautiful!
Find your niche and what you’re passionate about. Early on, you may not bring in a large revenue, so it’s important that you absolutely love and are passionate about your work.
What is your favorite piece in the Le Papier Studio collection, and why?
Hands down, the Tiny Charms Silhouette Necklace because it was inspired by something extra personal: My mom’s tiny birthstones necklace. As a child, I would run my fingers through it and play with the three birthstones, one for each of her children. It was comforting and I always will remember that. With the Tiny Charms Necklace, I wanted to create that same feeling using silhouettes—tiny silhouettes. I love how dainty this piece is, yet it captures the smallest of details in the silhouettes. I love that you can keep adding tiny charms as your family keeps growing, and we have a lot of customers who come back to do just that.
Do you have any tips or tricks for other artists and designers looking to get their work out there?
Find your niche and what you’re passionate about. Early on, you may not bring in a large revenue, so it’s important that you absolutely love and are passionate about your work. Differentiate early on if you want to run a business or a hobby. One makes money, the other doesn’t. Even though I wouldn’t worry too much about the number in the early months, I would urge you to have goals in mind and a clear plan on how to achieve them. Also, network, network, network!
Got any advice for newbie work-from-home moms? How do you stay on task while still taking care of your family?
I get asked that question a lot—like all the time! I don’t have a clear formula on work/family balance, and what works for me might not work for others, but here is how it breaks down for me.
Prioritize! My family takes priority over work (always!)—it’s how I built this business. I have put systems into place that allow me to do that. For example, I work only two half days per week with no interruptions. During those days, I crank out design work, orders, set up automations for the week (email, social media, everything!) and then I send work off for the production phase (i.e. laser cutting, fulfillment, etc). The rest of the week I am present for my family, but also work a bit during the evenings. Most of my work at that time consists of answering emails, social media, etc.
During crazy busy times, my family members all know Mom needs to close the office door and get work done. I even hire help and am glad for it!
What gets you going on a Monday morning?
A strong cup of coffee and a long hug from my hubby!
What’s your idea of the perfect weekend in Richmond?
We are still fairly new to Richmond, but are beginning to love life here. We particularly enjoy the slow-paced lifestyle—it’s one of the reasons we decided to move here! When the weather is promising, we like to explore the parks and museums. The food scene here is pretty awesome, too—even compared to Chicago, which we absolutely love. Believe it or not, Richmond was named the number-one city for the most restaurants per capita! I also enjoy making connections with local creatives. I love learning more about their businesses and finding ways to support them.
The best business advice that I received early on in my business was this: “Keep doing what you do best, and hire out the rest.” It even rhymes!
Where can we find you when you’re not at work?
You will find me spending time with my boys by the pool in the summer months, traveling to and from visits with family, hanging out with friends (both new and old), and, of course, studying for my architectural exams!
Drawered cabinets // Ghost chairs // Rugs // Blue bench // Pillows // Tree Stump Anniversary Print // Boys Pencil Portrait by Corrie Wessman // Important Dates Print // Family Tree Print // Gold Foil Print // “Our Story” Print // Kids Silhouette Print // Watercolor Portrait
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