Making the Cut: Linda Majewski of Paper Home and Garden
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It’s no secret that I love my Silhouette machines and use them in as many ways as I can possibly think of. But I also love getting to know other Silhouette users, especially those who use their machines in a unique way. “Making the Cut” features some of those people, each of whom are artists in their own right. (You can find the first two installments of the series here and here.) I hope you enjoy reading about each of them and are as inspired by their work as I am!
I first “met” Linda Majewski through the Cutting for Business Facebook group, a group of crafters who run small businesses with their digital cutting machines. As part of the group discussion, Linda would occasionally post photos of her beautiful succulents. The arrangements were stunning, but made me wonder what the connection was between the Silhouette and her business. I thought perhaps she made gift tags or some kind of packaging to go along with the plants. I then saw her business name – Paper Home and Garden – and discovered that she had created the plants herself, from paper that she painted and then cut using her Cameo! I had to know more!!! Linda graciously accepted my interview request and it was a pleasure to chat with her and hear how she stumbled across this unique venture.
First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself and where you’re from.
I’m originally from Michigan, but I’ve lived all over. Home is now Delaware where I live with my husband, my daughter, my mom, and four cats and serve as the Executive Director of the Newark Arts Alliance.
Have you always been a creative person?
Yes and no. As a kid, I was interested in anything I could glue or tape together, mostly construction paper. Back then there were no craft stores like Michaels or AC Moore, but the stationery store was a wonderland and I loved to visit there.
How did you first become interested in creating paper succulents?
A few years ago, it was a stressful time in my life and someone suggested that I find a hobby, something I could do just for myself that would be fun. I’ve always enjoyed plants and gardening, but with four cats there’s not a live plant in my house. I also love paper, so when I saw something similar on Pinterest I thought “Oh, that looks kinda fun. I’ll try that out.” I made one and I liked it and wanted to make more.
My sister sews and quilts and makes bags, so I decided to make a few wreaths and things to sell at one of the craft fairs she was involved in. That was three years ago and the rest, as they say, is history!
When were you first introduced to the Silhouette?
I purchased a Cameo 2 in December 2015. I had done some shows prior to that and I was hand-cutting everything but I knew that wasn’t going to last for long, especially if I wanted to create in volume. I did a lot of research and narrowed the choice to either a Cricut or a Silhouette. With what they each offered at the time the Silhouette seemed like a better fit, since I like to do a lot of my own designing.
Did you experience a learning curve with the Silhouette and getting it to work with your projects as envisioned?
The initial challenge was the fact that I was not working from purchased cut files. I’m not a graphic designer and I have minimal experience with graphic design programs such as Photoshop or InDesign. Maybe some day I’ll invest in a drawing pad but for now I work solely with a computer mouse. Fortunately most of the commands in Silhouette Studio are similar to Microsoft programs that I was familiar with, such as Microsoft Publisher, and that made the keystrokes and concepts much more user-friendly for me. When I got stumped, I’d look things up on the internet.
Another challenge was working with paper. The cut settings vary for different types and weights of paper, so I had to learn through trial and error. You also need a mat that’s sticky enough, but not too sticky. I’d rather have one that’s less sticky than one that’s too sticky, so I use a lot of painter’s tape.
What type of materials do you use as part of your Silhouette crafting?
- Artist’s paper
- Acrylic paints
- 12×24 mat
Where do you get inspiration for your creations?
I look at books with nice photos of succulents and I live on Pinterest! My own Pinterest boards are divided into sections, including one for plant displays. I also spend a lot of time at yard sales, antique malls, and places like Goodwill looking for unusual containers.
On average, how long does it take to create a paper garden?
It’s hard to say because I work in stages. I start with pencil and paper. I look at photographs of plants and start drawing leaves in various shapes and sizes. Then I’ll add the parts I know I’ll need to construct the plant. I scan the drawing and import it into Studio and then go from there to create the cut files.
The painting part is quick but requires patience. I’m a self-taught painter. I mix my own paint to get the colors and shades I want, paint the white paper, and cut it into pieces that will fit on my 12×24 mat. Depending on the size of the plant, there can be anywhere from 20-200 leaves of various sizes and I try to utilize every bit of space on my mat.
Over time, I’ve created approximately 30 different plant styles, but the sizes change. The average design takes about five different sizes of leaves. Experience has taught me about how many of each size I’ll need for any given plant. I make plants until I run out of leaves, then I put plants together to make arrangements. Smaller plants are made from smaller leaves or leftover pieces from other projects.
Construction is the fun part and doesn’t take very long. I’ll put plants together while I’m watching Netflix or YouTube. Because of the white core of the paper, there’s also a fair amount of finishing work to be done once the plant is assembled in order to make it look realistic.
What is the smallest piece you’ve ever created? The largest?
The smallest is a group of three pots and each of the pots are about 1.5 inches tall and half an inch in diameter.
The largest is probably a snake plant I made that was about 12 inches tall. Leaves of that size are more challenging to cut and you need heavy paper to make them stand up.
What is the most memorable/enjoyable product you’ve created?
There have been a couple. I bought some toy plastic dinosaurs, cut holes in the back, and put plants in them. I was laughing the whole time I was doing it!
Another fun one was a piece for the annual Newark Arts Alliance Members’ Show. I found this cute ant-shaped metal candle holder that was about 3 inches tall and 5 inches long, stuck some plants in there, and called it “Plants in Your Ant”!
How do you market your creations?
I was really getting into selling when I took on my job at the Arts Alliance, but now I don’t have as much time for creating as I used to. For the past two years I’ve had a booth at a local Christmas craft fair, but unfortunately they won’t be hosting it in 2018. I also have some pieces for sale in the NAA Member Gallery Shop.
My husband is a great marketing director. As people walk by my booth, he’ll say “They’re made of paper.” Invariably, that makes them stop, turn around, and say “What???” Most people that see the plants from a distance think they’re made of wood, so it’s quite a surprise!
Paper plants are very popular with “brown thumbs” or people who can’t have live plants for one reason or another. The only way to kill them is to water them or set them on fire 😉 . I’ve had so many people tell me “I could kill a cactus!” that I’m thinking of adding a “Cactus Killers Confessional” to my booth!!!
I don’t do many custom orders because I don’t have the time to devote to them that I’d like. I want to be able to provide great customer service. I made one really neat custom arrangement in a blue piece of Polish pottery. The lady was extremely patient, and the finished piece was amazing, but it took me a long time.
I would love to sell on Etsy but the challenge is shipping. The arrangements hold up pretty well but they’re still made of paper. I love a good challenge though, so I’ll keep working to figure it out.
Do you enjoy any other hobbies?
As I said, paper has always been my favorite media. I used to do some Iris folding*, but now I work on paper plants in all my spare moments. When I first started, I had visions of making all kinds of paper things – paper flowers, paper plants, paper cards – but people responded to the paper plants and I knew it made sense to put my focus there.
Lately, I’ve been going to a monthly scrapbooking crop. It’s an all-day event and the hostess doesn’t care what we work on – and she feeds us! I make plants and an occasional card. It’s wonderful, distraction-free creative time.
My daughter and I also like to bake and we make cakes, cupcakes, and have taken some cake decorating classes.
*Iris folding is a paper craft technique that involves folding strips of colored paper in such a way to form a design. The center of the design forms an iris—a shape reminiscent of the iris diaphragm of a camera lens. (Source: Wikipedia)
When you’re not crafting, how do you like to spend your time?
Between work, family, and my paper crafts, I don’t have a lot of extra time, but I do enjoy playing the piano. About 12 years ago I decided I wanted to learn to play the cello as well. I purchased a cello, found a teacher, and went to my first lesson. My cello teacher turned out to be Jason Majewski, who is now my husband. He’s an excellent cellist, with a master’s degree in cello performance. At our wedding, we had a first duet instead of a first dance, which is the first and only time I’ve ever played cello in public. We’d like to play more duets together, just for our own enjoyment, with him playing cello but I’ll be playing the piano. The moral of the story is: never marry your cello teacher because you’ll never have another cello lesson!
Do you have anything else on the horizon?
I still find making paper plants to be very relaxing. The only real stress is when I’m getting ready for a show. I haven’t made any yet that are too large, but it’s on my agenda. I’d like to make some wall pieces that include several plants. I’m working on techniques to create vines. I’d also like to create a Fibonacci sequence with succulents. I have it all planned out, but haven’t done it yet.
Linda’s work is so awe-inspiring – not only her creative visions, but the talent to bring those visions to life. I encourage you to follow her on Facebook and Pinterest to find out more about what she’s working on. She was a joy to talk to and her enthusiasm for what she does is contagious. How fun it would be to chat with her in person and see some of her arrangements for myself! Maybe some day she’ll get that shipping thing figured out, but in the meantime I’ve added Delaware to my bucket list of places to visit 🙂 .
Until next time,
P.S. Do you (or someone you know) use YOUR Silhouette machine in a unique way? I’d love to hear more so leave a comment and let me know!
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Lycia is a lifelong crafter whose goal is to help others find value, confidence, and joy in whatever they create. She geeks out on using technology to supercharge craft projects with Silhouette Studio, Design Space, Glowforge, sublimation, etc.! Lycia teaches these skills and more through online tutorials and videos as well as in-person classes at both the local and national levels.