Photography courtesy of Summer Space Studio
The past year has changed what we value, and how we spend our time.
Very suddenly, over a year ago now, we all had a lot more time on our hands, but not a lot of money and nowhere to go. With schools shuttered, sales of educational toys skyrocketed 367%. Michaels, North America’s largest arts and craft stores increased its income in 2020 from $173.7 million to $181.7 million year-over-year. And you have not been wrong in noticing that your social media feeds — and Zoom chats with friends and family — have been being populated with knitting, baking, and painting projects.
All of the crafting has provided more than just something to do, of course. It may inadvertently have been providing us all with the kind of therapy we have most needed; creativity improves our overall health, including our brain function, mental health, and even physical well-being, according to multiple scientific studies.
The past year has been especially transformative for creators. We sat down with Poy Kritchaya Twitchsri-Granati, whose life and career shifted dramatically in exciting, at times scary ways, offering an unexpected opportunity to dive in and turn her passion for making paper flowers into a business, Summer Space Studio.
To learn more about her journey, please read on.
NEW YORK MAKERS: Can you tell us how Summer Space Studio, which makes exquisite bespoke paper botanicals, got started?
POY KRITCHAYA TWITCHSRI-GRANATI: The entire project actually started in 2017. I had just finished attending New York University, where I received my master’s degree in interactive telecommunication, and I was having a hard time finding a job. It was extremely stressful looking for a job and constantly checking my email for responses. One of my good friends saw I was struggling, and she suggested I spend time focusing on other things. She told me about a challenge, where you commit to making things for two hours a day for 100 days. It can be anything — painting, cooking — it just needs to be creative. I figured, “what do I have to lose?” So I did it.
NYM: How did you decide to focus on making paper flowers? It’s such an esoteric craft.
PKTG: I’m originally from Thailand. I grew up there, went to undergraduate school there, and then came to New York to pursue graduate studies. Obviously, the weather is very different. So in the fall and winter, when it gets really cold here and the flowers die, I really miss Thailand. And growing up, I always loved flowers, especially the beautiful ones that my grandmother grew up with in the southern part of Thailand. I loved their colors, their shapes, their vibrance. I decided to bring the Thai summer here to New York by making intricate paper flowers. I also was drawn to the fact that they’re paper. I love flowers, and always have, but have also felt guilty picking them and bringing them inside, only to watch them die and have to throw them out.
NYM: How did the 100-day project become more?
PKTG: I enjoyed the two hours every day so much, but there were only so many flowers I could keep for myself. I started giving them to friends, and then their friends wanted them. Before I really had time to think about it, I started getting orders from friends and friends of friends. It was such a stress release, and such a fantastic experience that even when I got a job as a UX designer for Esteé Lauder, I continued and actually grew Summer Space. I began selling more flowers through my website, and, because other people wanted to learn how to create flowers out of paper, I began doing classes through CraftJam and holding pop-up tutorials at stores across New York City, like Madewell and Williams Sonoma. Slowly, it became an almost full-time job.
NYM: When did it become fully full-time?
PKTG: About a year ago. I lost my job during the pandemic, and I was of course upset and nervous, but I also realized it was an opportunity for me and for Summer Studio. Everyone during the pandemic was feeling isolated, and alone. They were looking for creative outlets. They wanted to connect with the people they couldn’t see in person. It has been incredible to see Summer Space evolve and touch so many lives, and it has allowed me to do what I really love full-time.
NYM: How do the virtual classes work?
PKTG: I have general sign-ups available, and I can customize them for individuals or small groups. I always tell people, use what you have. The paper doesn’t have to be super expensive or fancy. It’s about working with your hands and creating. Focusing on something beautiful, but simple. I can also send people kits so they have all of the supplies, and they don’t have to go out and shop for them.
NYM: Has it been busy?
PKTG: Very busy. Mother’s Day orders were insane. I feel very lucky. It’s definitely not 9-5, but I can work for seven days straight, and then take time off randomly on a Monday. It works for me. Because I’ve been focusing on this full time, I’ve also learned so much more about flowers. I’ve been making all kinds of flowers. I recently made flowers for a mother in Texas, and it was all Bluebells, which is the state flower. I make a lot of roses for New Yorkers, because that’s the state flower here. And of course I love exploring flowers native to Thailand. But my current favorite is Iris. They’re gorgeous, and I love the purple.
Bringing in a bouquet of handmade paper irises feel like a hopeful metaphor for the future after a wild year.