“Spotlight on the Makers,” is the Seattle Made Youth Board’s first and multifaceted project, with the intention of offering career exploration resources for youth. The project consists of two video interviews and one written piece all posted to the Seattle Made website and social media, created collectively by Cody Small, Huma Ali, and Sydney Brusnighan. In this, the stories of three local businesses are shared, and a series of career exploration questions are asked. The purpose of such is to provide fellow youth a chance to explore careers, particularly regarding entrepreneurship and small business ownership. It allows youth a chance to learn about and break away from the standard career options advertised to them. Through the various mediums, the pieces take a look at partners of Seattle Made: Molly Ray Fragrances, Northwest Wood Design, and Of The Earth.

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Spotlight on the Makers Features

A piece by Youth Board member,  Huma Ali

When Kevin and Lori Graham, Seattle’s very own papermakers, were preparing for their wedding, they realized they couldn’t afford what they’d hoped for. So Lori used her skills as a paper artist to make their wedding invitations, and a positive response to such sparked the creation of their business: Of The Earth.
Of The Earth is a handmade paper store, where services range from custom wedding invitations to memorial pieces. The store is located in North Seattle on Aurora Ave, and is open to the public, with the back reserved for production.
When the shop was just starting up, Lori was making each and every product by hand, in parallel with other work. Kevin had just left a career as a commercial fisherman and Lori was a recent graduate from The University of Washington’s fiber arts program. Their desire to start their own business consisted of various factors, the primary being the flexibility of having one’s own schedule and working on one’s own terms, while having a means to express one’s creativity. It isn’t just the freedom that draws them to papermaking, but also the emotional fulfillment aspect, and ability to give back to the environment, (by embedding seeds into the paper so that flowers sprout when they degrade) that creates for a captivating craft.
Before Of The Earth, Lori outlined her time working for small businesses, where she was doing seemingly unimportant work to pay the bills. But, she recounts that such time allowed her to learn about small businesses, and apply such knowledge to her future. Though the situations were uncomfortable, she recognized the benefit of enduring t.
After asking Kevin when he knew he wanted to start his own business, his immediate response was “As soon as I started working for other people.” He explained that he works better as a lead. “You hear it a hundred times: do what you love. I don’t love paper. I like paper. I love working in a creative position where I have control.”
This advice is more powerful than it seems at face value. People do always seem to say “do what you love”—but what does that even mean?
Kevin has finally quantified such a saying in a comprehensible way. If you find something, be it a craft or position, that you have a passion for in some regard, it means that you will stay committed to it. If you are working towards a goals that you care about, you will not give up—and this is what is meant by that “love”.
In response to an inquiry of the disadvantages of their work, Kevin remarked “paper cuts.” On a more serious note, the couple outlined that as business owners the must work many hours, and be ready to add to their weekly workload because things always come up, be it staff, shipments, letter of recommendations, or anything unaccounted for.
But still, it is important to let go, and let your products enter the world. You have to step back and realize you can’t do it all.
“It’s hard to create—it takes a lot of energy and emotion—but it’s rewarding. And you must remember you have a community of creators that support you and understand your experiences. In owning your own business you must remember to give yourself credit, because what you know is valuable and so is your time, so price yourself accordingly,” Lori explained. In essence, you’ve got to value your skills, look at the time you’ve put in, the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired, and assess its worth.
Not having a boss, being the responsible one, and not meeting anyone’s standards but your own, are the benefits.
When asked how youth could get involved, I was informed that papermaking is usually an industry one falls into, rather than trains for. But for those interested, Daniel Smith’s Fine Art Materials offers occasional papermaking courses, and has materials needed for such. Of The Earth also sells papermaking materials, and puts out occasional calls for staff. But Lori’s primary advice for getting involved is to contact companies and ask to intern, and gain hands-on experience.

Molly Ray Fragrance and Northwest Wood Design