This week’s Creative Crush has done what many of us wish we could do (read: just go for it!). She’s turned her pop culture obsession into a business. Margaret Kalejta is the CEO, designer, production manager, and assistant at Party Mountain Paper Co. In other words, Margaret is the creative brain behind some of the funniest greetings cards out there. Her playful illustrations, mixed with her light-hearted, pop culture-heavy puns, are a pure source of delight.
Read on to find out what Margaret’s creative process looks like, the worst advice she’s ever received, and so much more.
Party Mountain Paper started as an Etsy store. What has the process of transforming a passion project into a successful business been like? What have you learned along the way?
Party Mountain’s growth has definitely been a rollercoaster. When I launched our Etsy store we had around 20 orders in our first month and by month 3 we had hit 700 sales. That growth meant I had to learn a lot and I had to learn it fast. This has been a total crash course in business. I had to learn about shipping, taxes, social media strategy, bookkeeping, inventory management and we grew so fast that I had to learn them all on my feet and tackle challenges head-on as they arose.
I was working as a server at the time and had no plans of this becoming anything but a fun side hobby, but pretty soon I devoted myself to it full time because the demand was there and there was just so much to do.
Can you describe your creative process? Where do you start? What do you usually have on or around you?
I usually start with an idea; I’m either watching or listening to something and I think of a pun or wordplay and write it down. I have a list of card ideas and I need to carry it around with me because I found that if I think of a great idea and don’t write it down, I will just forget it forever. Having a notebook is my number one necessity – I’ve lost many great ideas by not writing them down. After I know what I want the card to say, I usually plan out the visuals by looking for reference pictures and sketching.
What do you do to get out of a creative slump?
Because my work relies so heavily on pop culture, I usually watch some TV or movies that I’m into to look for inspiration and tell myself it’s work research.
Honestly, I find that time helps. If the creativity isn’t there, I can’t force it, so I give my brain a break and just surround myself with things that inspire me. However, I have also learned that sometimes you just need to make stuff and power through.
Creativity is a process, but it’s also a discipline.
What is your favourite card that you designed, and why?
This is a tough one. I definitely think some of the cards I released this May are among my favourites because they marked a real stylistic achievement for me. I had done a design course in the winter and I feel like it really refined my understanding of design and made me such a stronger designer. These new cards are visually my strongest work. I think they marked a new chapter in the style of cards I’m looking to create. Out of those, my favourite would have to be my Moira and Alexis.
Schitt’s Creek is just a beacon of light in my life and I love that I can celebrate that show with my work.
Your work pops up in cards, mugs, pins and a whole lot of other fun accessories. What’s your favourite medium for your illustrations?
My favourite medium would definitely be mugs and totes. I love creating things that can be worn and used and bring joy to people in their day to day lives. Personally, totes are a staple in my life and I definitely need to get back to designing some.
The downside with these items is that they are usually a financial gamble because you have to invest upfront in printing and manufacturing the items and it’s so hard finding quality printing. It’s the reason why I try to be more selective with what I choose to put into production.
What’s one dream project that you would love to do or be involved with?
I’d love to create illustrations for a magazine or publication. I think seeing my work published would be unreal. If not, a collab with a brand I’m passionate about would be pretty cool.
What’s the worst advice you have ever received?
Can’t think of it off the top of my head but anything productivity or hustle-related. I do not condone anything that says it’s OK and expected to give up sleep and sanity for your dreams. I hate that mentality, because working from home and being self-employed, you can literally work 20 hours a day. To this day, I still feel anxious if I’m not constantly doing something and being productive, and had to consciously unlearn that and tell myself it’s OK to relax.
Carve out time for yourself, because any success that comes at the cost of your mental and physical well-being is not worth it.
What’s next for you?
Honestly, I’m at a bit of a crossroads with Party Mountain right now. I just landed my dream job as a UX designer, so I think a lot of this next year will be soul-searching and trying to figure out how to craft a life for myself that allows me to feel fulfilled creatively but also learning how to manage my time. It’s always been a learning process, so I think juggling my business and a full-time job will just have to be another opportunity to learn and adapt.
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