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Work It Wednesday - Jessie Chui

We're heading at what feels like rapid speed towards the holidays, and we've recently been inspired by all the incredible local entrepreneurs and designers in Toronto! After all, we want some ideas for our Christmas list. This led us to choosing the one, the only Jessie Chui, paper flower artist extraordinaire from Crafted to Bloom, for our Work It Wednesday Feature this week! Are you ready for it?

1. First off, share a little about YOU. Who IS Jessie Chui and what's your brand all about?

I am a paper flower artist, so my art is my brand. My art is organic, intricate, and realistic. It is dramatic and gloriously beautiful. My passion is in handcrafting custom crepe paper arrangements and bouquets. I work out of a little studio in my home in Mississauga, but my clients are worldwide. I am also a mother, and my followers know that being present for my son is a priority to me. 2. How did you begin making handcrafted paper flowers? I started handcrafting paper flowers when I was preparing for my wedding in 2015. I wanted something that was uniquely handmade, that would last a lifetime, and could be a gorgeous gift for my bridesmaids and guests. I've always been drawn to florals in my art, so DIY'ing my entire wedding with paper florals was an exciting challenge to me. Initially I turned to Pinterest for inspirations and for paper flower tutorials, which led me to Lia Griffith's online tutorials. I learned a lot from her original tutorials and I credit her and her work for inspiring me to find a style of my own. After my wedding, I didn't really think I would return to making paper flowers on a regular basis, however, after posting some of my paper flowers on Instagram, it became obvious that there was interest in my work. 3. What are your main platforms for finding clients right now? Mainly Instagram and my website. I've been very careful about how I attract and find potential clients. I run my business on a very part-time basis, so it's extremely important to me that every client I have is a client I want. I closely guard the time I have, as every minute I spend making paper flowers or keeping up with social media and my blog posts is a minute that I am not with my 13-month old son. Instagram has been incredibly rewarding. It's a fantastic platform to showcase my portfolio. I've been very fortunate that most of my clients have followed me for weeks or months, so they are very familiar and appreciative of my art. I use my website to showcase a gallery of my work, and I use my blog to post updates or tutorials. There is some overlap between the people who follow me on Instagram and on my website, but generally, I've found that they are very different followers. 4. What¹s been the biggest challenge for your brand so far?

The biggest challenge, by far, has been trying to differentiate myself from, as one of my paper flower friends describes it, the "ocean" of paper flower artists. When I started paper flower making, there were only a handful of paper flower artists and they each had their own distinct and unique style. Since then, many more have joined our small community of makers (yay!) and they are all doing a lot of amazing stuff. We are all very supportive of each other and we often share ideas and techniques. I think we push each other to experiment more and make better paper flower products. On the flip side, it also means that a lot of our work start looking the same. So it becomes even more important to find a way to stand out. 5. What advice would you give to someone just starting to build their brand online?

Be true to yourself about your product, your strengths, and your weaknesses. I'm in the creative field, so my brand reflects who I am as an artist. And as an artist, it takes time to both find your creative style and nurture your skills. When I first started receiving requests from potential clients, they had plenty of questions and a lot of them wanted me to make bouquets or arrangements that looked like some other paper artist's work. I spent an inordinate amount of time responding to inquiries and worrying about whether or not the client would accept my quote. I also wasn't particularly interested in a lot of the inquiries because I didn't feel like I was part of the client's vision; I felt like they were just shopping around for a paper flower artist, and I just happened to be one. Eventually I came to the realization that I did not want to compromise my art just to get business. In all honesty, at the time, I was still in the process of establishing a style of my own, so it was probably quite reasonable for people to be unsure of what to expect when purchasing from me! My brand was still in its early stages of development so my message was unclear and likely all over the place. It took a few months before I was really able to build up my portfolio with pieces that reflected my taste and style for delicate and realistic paper flowers. Around the same time, I was incredibly fortunate to cross paths with an old friend who commissioned me to make a bouquet with free-reign on how it would look and feel. This was a huge opportunity for me to show what I could do and further establish my brand. It was also a turning point for me. Making that bouquet made me realize that my strength was in creating intricate arrangements. Today, this is what my brand is known for. This also means that I have to accept that my style might not be everyone's cup of tea, but hey, that's ok because I¹m passionate about my vision. 6. Tell us about a few of your favourite local brands and why do they stand out to you? It's so hard to just list a few! We have so many fantastic entrepreneurs in the Toronto area. Here are a few of my favourite local brands right now: - Yolanda draws/paints adorable comic-book inspired superheroes and Harry Potter-inspired characters. She also paints large and colourful acrylic fluid pieces. With three kids, she somehow still finds time to appear at all these local art shows. @2clvr_designs - A fellow paper flower artist, Laura creates amazingly life-like paper flowers from cardstock! @shokochocolates - Royce is a high school friend of mine who is a teacher by day and a chocolatier by night. He creates chocolate confections and posts top-notch styled photos of them. He used to sell his chocolates under the name Shoko Chocolates, and now runs a blog @smoothiesandsundaes @christieathome - Christie's brand is all about living a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Her recipes are simple to follow and filled with delicious and fresh ingredients. I salivate every time I see her posts. 7. Where do you see your business heading in the next 3-5 years?

I see my brand continuing to work with brides and also expanding to larger projects, such as installations. I'm also looking into doing some smaller projects, and possibly selling tutorials online. I would love to do more collaborations with other artists, and work more locally in the Toronto area. 8. How do you #workit everyday? Oh boy, since my main day job is taking care of a little person who is just learning to walk, my day often doesn't go as planned. I'll be lucky to be able to get one thing completely finished as planned. I am a meticulous planner and multi-tasker though, so I love making lists and planning a week at a time. Yes that's the lead time I need to get one thing done! Sticky notes are my best friend. When I have an order, I'm usually planning out my flowers and the colours and papers I'll need, and I schedule out time to dye and prep the paper, and make flowers. Other than the or two when Tristan is with my parents, I generally have two time slots per day - a 2 hour time slot during his first nap, and a second time slot after 9 p.m. when he sleeps. So, I often burn the midnight oil to stay on schedule.

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