Letter Writing Saturdays with PapaLlama

Writing letters and sending cards has this amazing, quite literal way of connecting humans to humans.

We chatted with Risa Culbertson from PapaLlama to find out how she ended up in printmaking and why she created Letter writing Saturdays! Find out more about Letter Writing Saturdays here.

Write_On: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Risa: My name is Risa, and I’m the creator and printer behind PapaLlama. My line is designed, created, and printed here in my letterpress studio in sunny San Francisco (I don’t know where that fog went). I’m mischievous by nature and also a hugger.  I’m extremely good at taking knots out. I prefer waffles over pancakes, and donuts over everything.

Write_On: What is your first stationery memory? 

Risa: Stationery was a big part of my life from the get go. My mom is Japanese, and so half of my family was on the other side of the planet. Letters to and from Japan were always in our mailbox. I remember watching my mom as she sat with a cup of coffee, writing to her friends and family. Letter writing became important in my life during my summer vacations as a kid in the middle of nowhere Japan, a.k.a. my grandma’s house. My best friend, Kiki, and I would write one another all summer long. It was before cell phones and emails so we wrote pages of random information and doodles of what was happening in each other’s worlds. They were always something to look forward to, and writing them was just as fun.  

Write_On:  Favorite part about being a Stationery Boss?

Risa: My favorite part of being a Stationary Boss is finding my own voice and using it to be a part of a larger human connection.  I like making things that help others express themselves, especially those who don’t really connect with what’s available at their local drug store. It makes me happy to nourish both the snarky but sweet sides of life so that we can all get a good laugh in...because let's face it, life is too serious sometimes! It's rewarding to think that my designs can pass on a message, which then someone can also add their own personal thought. It's sort of like a secret collaboration. 

Write_On:  How did you get your start in the stationery game? 

Risa: The truth is that printmaking found me.  I had no prior experience with printing and never in a million years thought that I would have a stationery line. I didn’t even really know how to print or that there were printing presses, so in the beginning I was printing everything by hand.  There was definitely a learning curve going from using my hand as a baren to my Heidelberg windmill now.  Essentially PapaLlama started out with one lino cut card, inspired by my friend’s over excessive use of the phrase, “awesome sauce."  I was working at a store called Nest here in San Francisco, and the owners got a kick out of it and told me to put some cards out. I did, and they sold, much to my surprise! I made more, and those sold, and so on and so forth and that started this whole adventure. 

Write_On: What does writing letters/cards mean to you? 

Risa: Writing letters and sending cards has this amazing, quite literal way of connecting humans to humans. Time is something that has become harder and harder to find in our busy lives, so the pure inconvenience of whole thing is something that is really special. It takes time to form thoughts & write your letter, it takes time to get it to the destination, to then write back, and ultimately, receive the response.  You get to take your time and build layers of ideas and depth that just doesn’t seem to happen via text; conversations can last for letters and days and years. The writing and reading of letters helps me see things differently, savor moments, and give that person special time and attention. 

Write_On: What is Letter Writing Saturday? 

Risa: Letter Writing Saturday is an all day writing space that occurs every Saturday. I wanted to create a spot where people (myself included) could start making the habit of writing a letter. Supplies are provided including paper, envelopes, Sakura pens, a typewriter, and stamps! All you have to do is show up, sit, and write. The end. Oh, yeah, and put down your phones! 

Write_On:  Do you have some favorite testimonials on what Letter Writing Saturday means for those who attend? 

Risa: I’m a sucker for a good love story. I’ve had regulars who come in and continue to write back and forth love letters to their sweethearts. One woman, in a long distance romance, writes in between dates as a way to get to know one another better, and I just love that I can witness her journey.

Write_On: What do you like best about Letter Writing Saturday? 

Risa: I get a kick out of watching kids write a letter, or use the typewriter for the first time. Seeing them get in to the process of writing, thinking about who to write to, what to write, choosing the right paper and pen is really fun to watch and hopefully, leave wanting to write more letters! Who knows, maybe they will feel inspired to express themselves via pen to paper more often. 

Write_On:  How do you hope Write_On can help people connect? 

Risa: I think the Write_On challenge is going to be a great way for people to not only connect, or reconnect, with their friends and family but also gain a possible fantastic experience for themselves. Commitment to a challenge of any sort results in our learning more about ourselves and reinforces what we’re capable of, maybe even more than we realized.  I, for one, am up for and excited for the challenge!

Blog post by Sakura of America