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Stephanie Mullen-Kavanagh: ShivTrain Studios

I spent the morning with Stephanie (ShivTrain Studios) in her studio as she was working away on some of her handmade paper products. The time with her made me truly appreciate the attention to detail and thought she puts into every single piece she touches. Nothing beats original handmade products that are created with care and intent and this is exactly what she does and what she encourages her little ones to do. Seeing her little helpers circling about, you can feel that this is a family business: they are at the very heart of ShivTrain Studios and everyone helps out to support Stephanie's vision. If you have an upcoming event or need a personalized card, support this local business!

Business name: ShivTrain Studios

Number of years in business: 4

Location: Wakefield Quebec

Link to website or social media:

Website under construction – aiming to launch online store in January 2017.

1. Describe what you do.

I create unique, handmade greeting cards and customized event, party and wedding invitations and decorations. I work closely with clients to design one-of-a-kind personalized paper products for the celebrations in their lives.

2. What is it about your work that motivates you?

I have always enjoyed being creative, but with a busy family and a demanding job, finding time was often very difficult. When I had the opportunity to change careers and find a better balance for myself and my family, I knew I wanted to start a business that would channel my creativity and allow me to spend more time with my kids. When I began ShivTrain Studios, I wanted to show my children that work could and should, be fulfilling. I wanted to show them that their creativity and their imaginations are worth nurturing. I wanted to show my children that there is value in choosing to do what makes you happy and that its not just about how much money you make at the end of the day. Now that ShivTrain Studios has become part of our lives, I see my children exploring their creativity more often then ever before. They share with me design ideas they have for cards, they make handmade birthday cards for their friends, they help me when I need extra hands to package, price or get ready for a craft fair. They see how much I love what I do and all the new things I have learned along the way (and continue to learn!) and this motivates me every day. I want them to learn that they can choose to do whatever they love in life. No limits.

I would say my secondary motivator is knowing that I created a card or an invitation that really captures the sentiment my client wants to convey or captures a personalized story between individuals. It is such a special thing for me. For example, I had the pleasure of creating a card for a granddaughter whose love for her grandmother came to light in a card that celebrated her grandma’s 100th birthday. As a child, my client had fond memories of planting flowers alongside her grandmother during her summer holidays. She described to me that she remembered a particular day when she and her grandmother planted a flower bed full of daises surrounded by red geraniums and that her grandmother always sang along to songs on the portable radio while they worked. I took that story and created a card depicting a little girl alongside her grandma kneeling in front of a bed of white and red flowers, with a radio resting alongside them in the grass. Knowing that a card I created has so much meaning to the giver and the receiver and that it brings joy to someone else during their celebration, motivates me to create the most personalized card I possibly can each and every time.

3. What is the biggest challenge you face when it comes to your work and how do you deal with that challenge?

With a hubby, three kids under the age of 10 and a puppy in the house, I find that fatigue regularly hampers my creative juices. As my children grow and their extracurricular schedules expand, I find myself often working late in the evenings when the house is quiet and I can relax and focus. I’m learning that being creative is not necessarily the easiest thing when you are surrounded by the chaos of the comings and goings of a busy household! I have to say though, on my busiest of days, getting to sit in my studio, take a full breath, enjoy the quiet and try out a new design I’ve been tossing around in my head all week, is sometimes my saving grace. I feel the stress of the day just melt away. I manage this challenge by scheduling my time in studio around the kids’ schedules as much as possible and my husband steps forward when this cannot be done. He really has always supported my efforts around ShivTrain and he helps me whenever and wherever he can. He knows that prior to a craft sale I am often preparing stock and he will take the lead on the kids’ activities on that day so that I can have dedicated time to work in the studio. It’s a balance that works for us and I couldn’t do it without him some days.

4. What do you want people to know about you and your work?

I guess I would want people to know that I love the process of meeting a client and designing something really special for them that they will love and maybe cherish for many years to come. Combined with getting to be creative, I love the personal interaction aspect of my work. Meeting folks, hearing their stories and their ideas about what they would like the invitation/card/banner to look like and then finding a way to make that a reality is a challenge that I find to be so much fun. I want my clients to feel heard in the process so that we can come up with something special and unique that is a reflection of their personality and/or their feelings. I actually get emotional about it sometimes – its very personal to me and I take the importance of the sentiment they wish to convey to heart. I want them to have that special moment with their loved one or their friend or their colleague and I’m honored if something I created for them can be a part of that moment. Sappy, I know, but I guess my “creative spring” runs a bit deep… lol…

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