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A conversation with Sandra Garcia of Papelitos Lindos

A conversation with Sandra Garcia of Papelitos Lindos

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Stationery is near and dear to my heart. There’s something about a beautiful and aesthetically pleasing card that moves me. Sometimes, I buy cards not so much to give away but simply to display and decorate my desk and walls. After all, stationery is art.

Enter Sandra Garcia, founder and owner of Papelitos Lindos, a Chicago-based stationery business. Sandra’s creations resonate with me and the Latino community because she designs stationary that celebrate her Latinx roots.

In a society in which Latino culture is often misrepresented or simply not represented at all, Sandra’s work with Papelitos Lindos takes on an extra layer of significance. 

Here’s a brief conversation I had with the Chicago-based maker.

When people ask the dreaded “What do you do?” question, how do you answer?

I am building a stationary business that holds representation of the Latino culture through designs, patterns and phrases. I am creating something that is relatable to the Latino audience and creates an understanding of who we are and what we represent. I am also In the process of learning and growing. I am learning to use more technology to create my cards and I am learning how to manage and grow my business. It can all be challenging the process of explaining, creating, learning and growing but right now I love what I do but most importantly I love why I’m doing it. 

What is your background?

I am Chicana from the south side of Chicago, born and raised. I am the youngest of three kids in my family and a first generation college graduate. I attended Northeastern Illinois University and majored in sociology and minored in Social Work. After graduating college I began my career in education as a teacher assistant then transitioned into teaching Spanish. I am proud to say that teaching and working with kids has been one of the biggest joys of my life. Children are so incredible and so damn resilient. They challenge you in ways you never thought a person would or could. I have interacted with so many amazing kids and families along the years and I have had so many amazing teacher moments where not only was I teaching them but they were teaching me as well. Currently I find myself in a life transition, I had a negative  experience at my last school that really broke me to the point of no return. 

Now, I am trying to figure out what’s next for me and this has honestly been incredibly challenging. Everything feels so uncertain and I freak out in uncertainty. I try to remind myself that this phase in my life to “figure it out” is an opportunity. The women in my family before me did not have this opportunity, they worked hard for their families to provide and create a better life, not having it figured out but ultimately working out in the end. I  am learning to trust myself and to follow the path that is being laid out for me. I don’t know where it’s going but I know it’s going to take me somewhere great. 

How did you come up with the idea for papelitos lindos?

My brother got married in 2016 and his wedding inspired the first thing I ever made which were his Save the Dates. This sparked joy in me and made me want to create representation of my cultura on cards. There are cards in Spanish but I don’t feel like there are cards with artistic images that represent my cultura. I am trying to build Papelitos Lindos as a brand that represents cultura through artistic images with very few words. I am proud to say that I am not alone in this process of creating representation for stationary. Nathaniel Matos is a Chicago based illustrator and also my partner. Nathan helps bring some of my ideas to illustrations and onto paper. His support and work have helped me grow and challenge my ability to create and learn more. 

Tell us about the Latinx cultural references in your cards.

A lot of my influences are from people and things that are significant to my upbringing and life. For example “Ponte las Pilas” card is something my dad would say to me often when I was caught slipping. What a pretty way to phrase get your shit together and be ready for whatever is to come your way, right? Another great example is my Mariposa card, monarch butterflies are known for the migration journey to Mexico each winter. Butterflies like people migrate to avoid harsh, unlivable environments and migrate for survival. I take pride in creating something so small but yet holds so much significance to a present day human rights issue of migration. The cultural references on my cards are what makes me want to continue to create, from Selena, Frida Khalo, family, images and phrases they are representations of not just me but so many other people who look at my cards and can relate to them. My culture influences drive my work everyday  to continue to create it is so rich, beautiful and I am trying to create that artistic representation on paper in the card aisles in every store. 

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What is your creative process like?

My creative process can vary from day to day. When I feel I creative work flow coming on I get this desire to power clean the entire apartment and leave my work space last to jump into creating once everything is clean. I try not to clean or cook during this process because it distracts me from working at home. I do like to reward myself with being social during this time, it gives me a break from working and I love sharing with my friends what I am working on. 

What are your goals for Papelitos Lindos?

Papelitos Lindos has grown so much over the past few years and I am so thankful for the opportunities that have come my way. I have had so much support from different communities. From vendor opportunities to work shops and sale opportunities, I would not be where I am today without the support of my Pilsen community.  

Papelitos Lindos are currently sold in two locations, Tienda Tzintzuntzán  at the National Museum of Mexican Art and Mestiza Shop. Having a space in two stores that represent love, art, cultura and a home for so many other creators is such an honor for me. I would love to sell in a few other Chicago locations and one day in larger stores to see that representation everywhere we go. I want Papelitos Lindos to be in different spaces and places to hold that representation everywhere they go.  

I also want to create more custom stationary for clients. Wedding stationary is something that has always intrigued me and I would love to use my cultural influences to create more wedding suites for clients. Going back to where I first started with wedding stationary is a current goal of mine and it’s in the works with a few upcoming weddings.

Some personal goals would be to  continue to grow and learn, believing in my brand full heartedly while building the confidence I need to be a business owner. I want to kick that little voice that says “this isn’t enough” to the side (forever) and allow myself the opportunity to believe in something beautiful in order to meet the full potential of what Papelitos Lindos can truly be... 

What makes you happy?

One of the things that makes me happy is interacting with people while vending. Their reactions and compliments to my work really fill my core with so much damn joy. Knowing that I create something that people love and relate to makes me so happy. My family, friends and partner make me happy. I have surrounded myself with some of the best people and I could not be more thankful for the constant love and support they bring me. I also love dancing. It’s my escape from reality and has always been such a huge part of my life that will instantly make me happy. Getting out on the dance floor with my favorite girls is always my favorite way to destress, regroup and reconnect with myself. 

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