With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I found myself thinking about spreading love and kindness (through stationery, of course). Atiliay is a gorgeously hand-crafted stationery line that incorporates hand-lettering, stamping and stitching. These cards are created to bring happiness to their recipients and beyond. Atiliay is committed to supporting charitable causes through the sale of each card. Olivia Lin, the designer behind this line of paper goods that give, understands and embodies the spirit of giving.
I always say that everything sounds better in French. Tell me about the origin of Atiliay’s name.
Atiliay’s name is based on the French word “atelier” which means a workshop or studio, especially for an artist or designer. I have always loved the sound of the word and spelled it the way I pronounce it. The meaning was perfect, too, as Atiliay is my space for making and creating.
I think it actually started back when I was a little — I remember being 5 or 6 and seeing those commercials that were asking people to donate to help feed hungry children. I might not have fully understood it back then, but I feel like those images stuck with me. As I got older, I started to learn more about world hunger, human trafficking, women’s rights, and animal rights. The more I learned about the horrible things that were happening, the more I felt a sense of urgency and need to do something about it. I also realized that I didn’t need a lot of money, power, or fame to help — I could use what money I had, what time I had, my voice, or change my own lifestyle to contribute.
In 2007, I had the opportunity to go to South Africa with TOMS shoes on a shoe drop. We met a non-profit called Food4Africa (F4A) who acted as our guides. We went to the same towns and schools they provided meals for to give out shoes. F4A is a small organization but they help so many children and are incredibly passionate about it. It was really touching to see what they were doing as well as meeting the little ones they were providing meals for. I left knowing I wanted to support their efforts and somehow incorporate that with my creative work. Even though we are miles apart, I am really happy to say that we have kept in touch and I continue to support their work through Atiliay to this day.
Food4Africa is not only a huge source of inspiration for me, but they are also the reason why Atiliay exists! Four Valentine’s Days ago I decided that for a donation of $5, I would make a hand stamped card and send it to your loved one for you with the proceeds going towards providing meals for a preschool I started sponsoring through F4A. I was able to secure over a year’s worth of meals, which was so awesome! The fundraiser made me realize that my first love has always been art and crafting and that making cards for a cause was a way I could fulfill my own passion while enabling others to join me in making a positive impact.
How do you select the organizations that you donate to?
I want to make sure that each customer’s purchase is going towards a good cause and making as much of an impact as possible. I try to select organizations that I have personally volunteered with or know someone who has. I have also researched and found great non-profits to support on my own. I look for organizations that are 4-star rated on Charity Navigator and I also try to choose non-profits where the funds go directly to the programs. As cards aren’t very expensive items, my goal is to pair each one with programs where a small amount can make a large difference — for example with Food4Africa, one meal costs only 5 cents, so donating a portion of a $5 card can make a substantial impact. It’s also very important to me to donate towards programs that are vegan-friendly — when I am making Kiva loans I make sure to choose ones that do not bring harm to animals.
Your stationery items are hand-crafted with great care and some incorporate multiple art forms. Please tell me a bit about your creative process.
Each card starts with an idea — sometimes it’s a sentiment or phrase I like, a picture I have in my head, or imagining up something I wish existed. I try to write down/make rough drawings of everything, otherwise I forget! I take whichever idea is really resonating with me and sit down to figure out how I can incorporate stamps and stitching, or whether it should be hand-lettered and all text. Sometimes I know immediately what I want to do and sometimes there’s a lot of playing around with different ideas and tweaking. For example, with the long-distance love card, I had everything finalized except I wasn’t sure what to connect the states and heart with — stamps were too hard as each path would be different and I didn’t think drawing matched the look of the stamps. Out of the corner of my eye I saw some embroidery thread on my desk and that is where the stitching on cards began! It can sometimes take a bit of experimenting, sketching, and trying out concepts to see what will work. Once the sketch is finalized, I move on to creating the stamps or lettering. I make a sample card, make any last adjustments, and the card is complete!
How have you developed your hand-lettering? Any sources of inspiration? Any advice for someone starting out?
I’ve made a conscious effort to invest time into practicing lettering — I will write letters and words over and over again until I like how it looks and experiment with different looks. Sometimes my hand is so used to writing a word a certain way but I’ll do something different and go super loopy or really long and narrow etc. to experiment. Practicing and trying new things has really helped me improve and develop my style.
I was really inspired by Sharisse of @PiecesCalligraphy to really focus and to begin exploring lettering. I came across her feed because she was donating to a fundraising IG auction I had heard about. Her feed is beautiful and she gives a lot of useful tips and advice. She is one of the founders of @HandletteredABCs which is a wonderful community of folks who letter! They provide different prompts and challenges (the first one was writing a letter of the alphabet each day, hence the name) and everyone is so encouraging and inspiring — I have made some awesome friends there and am currently participating in this year’s round of ABCs. I also find a lot of inspiration from Nina at @anintran (the other founder of HandletteredABCs), Lindsay of @thepostmansknock, and Amanda at @AmandaArneill. They all have different lettering styles and I love seeing what they are creating!
For someone starting out, I’d say to dive right in! Start small with the different strokes then start putting them together to create letters (a lot of the IG accounts I mentioned post lettering lessons and tips which are so helpful). I’d also recommend looking at examples of work that you like and try to imitate the lines and shapes to get started. Most importantly, don’t get discouraged — there are some days when I don’t like anything I have written! But if you keep writing and working at it, you will get to a place where you see yourself improve and are happy with your work.
You use lino cuts, hand lettering and embroidery in your work – are there any other art/craft mediums that you’d like to experiment with?
I LOVE the look of letterpress and would love to dabble in that! I have also always wanted to take pottery classes and work with a wheel — it’s a goal of mine to someday live in a house where I make all the dishes, plates, and mugs (it might be sometime in the very, very distant future!). Another thing I’d really like to try my hand at is macrame — I feel like there are so many possibilities with this craft, from the designs to the type of fiber you use.