Introduction & Interview by Caroline Skou
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To honor this resilient class of 2021, we have launched The Class of MMXXI Story Series, to share your stories of resilience, creativity & community from this past year. Additionally, we will be publishing interviews with successful women about their careers & any advice they may have for the new class of alumni.To start, we interviewed the founder of Cedar Street Stationery, Callie Sweeney. Now more than ever a once clear career path seems muddled about winding career path, and her process for designing the limited edition KYLE CAVAN graduation stationery.
What I learned from all of the bouncing around is that it takes time to figure out what you really want to do with your life.
I know you went to Penn State with our co-founder, Elizabeth. What did you love most about your time there, and how did the university influence your career choices?
What I loved most about Penn State were the friendships. My parents had to drag me out of there after graduation. I gained so much happiness and confidence from having great friends while being independent for the first time in my life. As cliche as it sounds, I think I learned more about life than about what career I would want while at school.
Could you trace your career path post-college, and share what you’ve learned from wearing different hats?
After college, I moved to NYC and took the first job I could get as an admin at a real estate investment company. But when I was laid off from that first job, I took time to think about what I'd actually enjoy doing. This led me to take an internship with Us Weekly, which led to a job at Wenner Media, and then a few other Publishing companies. In 2012, my husband and I moved to Cape Cod and sold vintage clothing and home goods online. After that, we moved back to NYC and I worked my last Advertising job before becoming a stay at home mom.
I decided to give Cedar Street Stationery a go last April and here we are! What I learned from all of the bouncing around is that it takes time to figure out what you really want to do with your life.
What led you to take a leap & start your own company?
I have had Cedar Street Stationery in my back pocket since about 2011. I would gift family members little framed paintings, or playing cards with my artwork on them. I actually think it was quarantine that pushed me to take my business to the next level! I wanted to do more with my day and I got lost in painting. It's soothing and makes me feel accomplished.
Could you talk about your design process from idea to execution?
When I sit down to sketch or paint, I often get motivated to paint more than what I had intended. When I am painting a commissioned piece, I draw everything in pencil first so that the client can make adjustments if they wish to! I find lots of inspiration in Interior Decorating books and from the Designers I follow on Instagram. When I am not working on commissioned pieces, I often paint designs that are taken from the fabrics that I love. My most popular painting, the circus monkey, was a thought that came about by looking at a pillow I found at an Estate Sale!
The KC Collaboration stationery are funky, fun and different. These designs are a departure from my typical preppy designs, but I love them, and they feel right for Kyle Cavan.
We’re so excited about launching your designs for the limited KYLE CAVAN graduation stationery. Could you talk about any inspiration that led you to the final designs of the KC stationary, and what ‘message’ do you hope they convey?
The designs for the KC Collaboration stationery were a result of a brainstorm with Elizabeth and Kyle. That is the way I prefer to work with all of my clients. I want to know what they envision and wish for, then I do my best to make that happen. I loved the idea of graduation being the start of an exciting journey. It's so true! The compass design says ‘let this guide you wherever you go.’ The bamboo chair with cap and gown was inspired by my love for interiors but the message is, ‘you've graduated, you've got this, onward and upward. And finally, the Congrats design was inspired by Kyle's mood board. It's funky, fun and different. These designs are a departure from my typical preppy designs, but I love them, and they feel right for Kyle Cavan.
Our Little Luxuries campaign focuses on celebrating small victories with the level of enthusiasm typically reserved for big accompaniments. What is a ‘small victory moment’ you’ve had recently?
When I decided to go public on Instagram, I sent a circus monkey painting to a brand that I found admirable. The owner ended up posting it on Instagram and I gained a lot of attention from that. I was happy to gift the painting and felt so much gratitude when she shared it with her thousands of followers. Just knowing that other people love something that I created is a huge accomplishment.
What advice do you have for the 2021 graduating class? Especially for anyone who wants to pursue an artistic career.
My advice for the graduating class of 2021 is, stay close with your friends, you'll need them through all of the ups and downs, and don't put too much pressure on yourself to have it all figured out. Getting a job right out of college is a wonderful, a huge accomplishment, and something to be proud of. But if you don't, it's ok to save up for a year or two doing something less exciting. You have so much life ahead of you. If you decide to pursue an artistic career, do it! I don't think creating art will ever let you down.
To finish out, what are the things that make you most excited about 2021 and this next generation?
What makes me most excited about 2021 is the vaccine. Within the next generation I hope to see equality, better care for our planet and kindness. I see a lot of momentum from the younger crowd which is exciting!
Thanks Callie for offering the great advice & creating beautiful stationary for graduation!