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She was the co-founder of the game-changing ReadyMade magazine, and then we discovered Grace had started a new company Paper Punk, which gives grownups the necessary tools (not to mention impetus) to be make things with their hands. Let’s just say, we love everything about her, from her visionary approach to business to her totally inspiring (and totally unorthodox) take on birthdays…

Give us a little background on yourself/what you do/how you came to changing gears from publishing to your new creative venture. How much did becoming a parent shape what your business is?

As an artist, publisher, author, and educator I’ve dedicated my life to inspiring and enabling people to be creative. After spending almost a decade running ReadyMade, the magazine that paved the way for reuse design and ignited the resurgence of craft, I created Paper Punk, an origami meets Legos mash-up tool + toy, so anyone can exercise their creativity and make things with their hands. Both my parents were business owners and immigrants, so a tireless work ethic and anything-is-possible attitude were instilled at an early age. Becoming a parent has made me more conscious about how I’m passing down those two traits to my children. I want them to really understand that they are the makers of their destiny and I think having them see me work my tail off will help with that. If nothing else, they love all the art supplies stocked in my studio, it’s heaven for them.

How old are your kids… names?

14 yr old Weimaraner dog, Tannin (our real first baby)

10 yr old son, Garrett

7.5 yr old daughter, Tyler

Where do you live?

Mill Valley, CA— like a mini Swiss ski town just a mere 15 minutes north of San Francisco.

Do you work in a home office?

I am so lucky to work at a studio space that’s a 10 minute walk from my home (even if I don’t walk). After almost a decade of heavy commuting in a car and on airplanes for the magazine, I’m test driving a work/home proximity with my new start-up that’s been absolute heaven. The kids’ school bus stop, local market, coffee store, etc are all within a two block radius from my studio.

What would you say is your “mom uniform”?

Mom uniform = work uniform for me. Jeans, t-shirt, sweater/hoodie. Any variation usually comes from my shoes depending if I have lacrosse coaching duties that afternoon or not. I’ve been favoriting a pair of Golden Goose short boots with a metal accent at the toe- they’re rad! I cram my Peek-a-boo with so much work stuff everyday that I’ve had to refurbish the strap a couple times already.

Do you cook much–if you don’t, what are your ways around not cooking, and if you do, what are your go-tos–both for yourself, and for your kid?

My family and I LOVE to eat and cook. We really appreciate the experience of a great meal. Since that kind of sit and savor eating experience is scarce during the weekdays, we sort of indulge on the weekends. So to-go burritos and take-home rotisserie chicken on weekdays, homemade osso bucco or lunch in Napa on weekends. If I could master every recipe in the Momofuku cookbook one day, I’d be in heaven!

How do you celebrate your child’s birthdays?

Birthdays are usually a simple family affair. Balloons, handmade cards, a few gifts and the honor of picking a restaurant for dinner. We only do birthday parties every five years so they’re extra special. For each of the kids’ fifth bday, I set up a handmade carnival at a community hall where a bunch of five year olds threw pennies, knocked over cups and tossed bean bags to win little prizes — totally old school. A Krispy Kreme Doughnut tower took the place of a frosted cake. For my son’s tenth bday, we took the boys in his class to pizza and a basketball game. That was scary….ten year old boys are crazy, bottomless-pits!

Best kid purchase/bang for your buck?

Our trampoline — It’s provided countless hours of found sanity.

Any rules about TV/screens? (Side note: I gave my daughter the Paper Punk cat and it occupied her for at least an hour…I think we all need to have many of these on hand at all times!)

We are terrible about TV/screens. I’d be lying if I said my kids never watch TV or play on an iPad. The screen has served the role of parent self-preservation and relaxation agent in our household. I actually think my son learned to speak watching the movie Nemo. I sort of have a tumultuous relationship with technology. On one hand what would I do without my iPhone or laptop? On the other hand I despise how technology  seems to be replacing hands-on experiences. It’s one of the impetuses for starting Paper Punk. After taking my son to his first/last chess tournament and watching a bunch of 7 yr olds swarm the one kid with the hand-held video game on a sunny day, I was frustrated. I wanted them to all be outside playing with real sticks and balls. In my course on creativity at Stanford’s d.school, I use everyday office supplies for the exercises. It really boils down to having real-world interactions and experiences. As a parent, I think it’s about being mindful about what other activities the screen time may be eclipsing and what the kids are watching/playing.

(ps: LOVE that your daughter worked on it for an hour! that experience was broccoli for her brain:)

What websites inspire you and for which parts of your life? Preferred social media is….?

I am a social media luddite. I finally joined Linkedin four months ago and only got a twitter handle because Stanford required one for an event. I set up a FB account so I could create a Paper Punk presence. Managing one more thing like social media is not on my to-do list. But that being said, I’m realizing that I should be more active for the sake of the business. Is there a cheat sheet on twitter and instagram etiquette anywhere? I’m a blog junkie for work + personal inspiration. Some things I like to surf online include: I-D, paidContent, Colossal, AnOther, Kidscreen Daily, Publishers Weekly, swissmiss, Selectism, Highsnobiety, unbeige, Playthings EXTRA, DesignMilk, Sartorialist, CoDesign and new arrivals at Barneys.

What’s the thing that always stays on your to-do list and never gets crossed off and nags at you?

So at the beginning of every year, I do a little recap and planning in my journal. I get to cross off, edit or add stuff that happened. The items that didn’t get accomplished get carried over to the new list for the new year. The items that keep carrying over are music and health. I never practice my cello, an instrument I picked up as an adult, and definitely do not exercise enough. It’s a reminder that despite myself, I’ve become my mother. My mom owned a dress shop for 35 years and always put her work and family above herself. I know that’s not a healthy balance long-term. She got cancer right after she retired and now constantly nags me to take better care of myself. After launching/running/selling a business and having two kids without a maternity leave during my 30′s, I sort of emerged out of a fog when I turned 40. I felt like had been sleepwalking through my life. So now, with Paper Punk, during my 40′s, I’m hell bent on setting up a situation  that will bias towards a better life balance.

Any small business advice–like what is something you wish someone had told you when you started your business?

My small business advice: No matter what you do, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons and that there’s a purpose larger than yourself built into those reasons. If the intention of what you’re trying to do isn’t pure, it will have a higher probability of steering the wrong direction. I wish someone had a secret tip for me about being patient…great things aren’t born overnight and we have to allow our projects to breathe and gestate and emerge when the time is right. I know this, but have a hard time practicing it.

And what is something you just can’t live without?

I cannot live without La Mer lip balm….dry lips nevermore!

You feel your best when?

It’s a sunny day and I’m outside playing a good game of tennis or walking on the beach with my family.

Guiltiest pleasure?

SHOPPING. I really hate the idea of sounding like a consumer, but I love the act of shopping, it’s relaxing for me. I can do it anywhere and everywhere for inspiration. The colors, textures, shapes, smells, and displays are all mind candy for me. I especially love hardware stores, stationery stores, the grocery store, and also online shopping sties.

Worst moment in parenting?

My son was maybe 2 or 3 and waking up SUPER early. I was working late hours. So during this period where he’d wake up really early, I’d get him from his room, sit him in my bed, turn on a Baby Einstein video, and let him munch on a baggie of cereal I packed on my bedside table the night before. On one of these occasions, it was still dark when I got him into my bed and after the video was on and everything was set, I felt a really weird tickle on my face. I sat up and turned on my bedside table light. To my horror, the ziploc of Cherrios he was eating was swarming with ants! And they were all over the bed and on my son who was completely oblivious to the situation. It was a really bad mommy moment!

Best moment in parenting?

Hearing my kids laugh together….I want to bottle it up and distribute it. I think the sound could help cure some terminal illnesses.

One more thing I’m curious about–how did you decide to go back to school–was it an intimidating process? I think a lot of us that are in the mind frame of wanting to reinvent ourselves are intimidated by the idea of school–the getting into it part, the being the oldest person part–and just what to do…I mean, am I projecting here or what?! 

Your query triggered a bunch of thoughts below:

I ended up as a Consulting Associate Professor at Stanford’s design institute somewhat unintentionally. After Meredith closed ReadyMade’s Berkeley HQ and none of us elected to relocate to Des Moines, I applied for a fellowship there thinking it would serve as an educational sabbatical of sorts. As it turned out, the fellowship was for post-graduates at Stanford (which I clearly was not), but they said, “Hey we want you here so we’ll create a position for you.” And that’s how I found my ReadyMade replacement community. Like ReadyMade, the d.school has a group of people who are collectively working on a mission larger than themselves in a very selfless, pure way. It’s really hard to come by. I’m really lucky.

I’m all for continuing to educate ourselves- whether it be formally or casually. When the curiosity stops, the potential of life stagnates.

People with a multidisciplinary career background usually turn out to be better at what they do than people who have a singular career track because they have experience and perspective outside of their practice. I remember a mid-career PR woman who wanted to become a journalist and interned at ReadyMade for free while she honed her writing chops. I remember interviewing film distributors in grad school and the one exec who started his career working in a medical lab had the most interesting insights about his business.

Who we are or who we become is not a finite destination. It’s a series of experiences that string together and is constantly evolving. Essentially we are the summation of our experiences, and the higher the volume and the more varied they are, then our potential outcomes increase exponentially. (this is the basis for the creativity class I teach, we pile on as many Iron chef challenges for your brain in a two-hour session as possible)

After I turned 40, I consciously let go of a lot of grudges and hangups like what others think. It’s really liberating though hard to practice all of the time (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care about other people’s opinions at all).

I say “Don’t just talk about it, be about it.” There are so many reasons not to do something, so have a bias to action and just get started. Action begets action, etc.  and we undoubtedly will surprise ourselves at where we end up after we get going. The act of starting is not easy and something we need to practice so it becomes intuitive.

Also, so what….like what’s the worst thing that’ll happen if you do X. (I’m currently prototyping a course on failure and resilience at the d.school and trying to create tools that allow people to map this thought process visually. If the top three worst outcomes do not include death or an irreversible situation (i.e.: having a baby) in some form, then we’re probably in pretty good shape.)

I also usually tell people: Always take the meeting bc you never know what it’ll lead to. So take a class, apply and see what happens, audit a class, etc….you probably have nothing to lose other than the time you’ll waste when you’re 80 wondering what if….

 

 

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Comments (2)

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  1. Posted by: jen miller

    amazing interview. i love the last paragraph the most. she really nails the fear and ambivalence we have at times in our careers and manages to bring it down to a reasonable size.

  2. Posted by: Melissa Hanson

    This is the most inspiring interview I’ve seen in a long time!

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