Meet SF Designer Viola Sutanto of Chewing The Cud

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When I started blogging 2 years ago, I didn’t know which path it was going to take me. The original intention of this blog was about shopping and product discovery, but as I got further along, I realize I was also very interested about the people behind the products — the owners, the designers, the makers, and the artisans. And today, I would have never thought I’d be surrounded by so many creatives and talented people in my life.

When BRIKA launched last year I was thrilled to have them as my sponsor on the blog. Not only was I discovering unique handcrafted products, but I was also discovering inspiring individuals who are doing exactly what they are passionate about. So I’ve asked BRIKA to connect me with one of their SF makers to get an even more in depth behind-the-scenes look. They connected me with Viola Sutanto of Chewing The Cud, who makes lovely eco-friendly and beautifully designed paper and textile products (some of her signature items are sold on BRIKA). I, along with the amazing photog Kim Thomas, went to visit Viola’s studio in the Dogpatch for a Q&A interview. We were even able to move our little interview to Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous for some reeeaaal good ice-cream, which is conveniently located right downstairs of her building! Talk about a fun Q&A date, right?! Let’s start picking Viola’s creative brain, shall we?

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When did you start Chewing The Cud and what was the biggest challenge to get it started? Chewing the cud was first conceived in 2008 as a design services studio where we were focused on branding and identity projects for small business owners. Since then, the studio has evolved into a creative space and our services encompass event concepts, and product development in addition to graphic design. I think the biggest hurdle was the courage to take the leap. ctd_3

Where do you get your inspirations from?  I know this sounds so cliché, but inspiration comes from everywhere: from reading literature, a fleeting scene from a film, overhearing a conversation on the train, venturing to unexplored places, re-visiting old favourite haunts, running, (I do this a lot when I hit a roadblock), life in general… the possibilities are endless. I think the key is to keep an open mind and PLAY. Don’t discount random or seemingly mundane thoughts, but also learn to edit during the design process.

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When running a design business, it’s easy to get distracted by other people’s work. What are your tips on staying focus? From a design perspective, don’t limit yourself to a “style”, but also know that you cannot be everything to every client/ customer. I think it’s about playing to your strengths, and recognizing that trends are just that. They come and go.

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Did you ever feel discourage during any point of running Chewing The Cud? How did you handle that? Sure, it happens a lot, especially in the initial stages of a start-up. I’m fortunately to have a very supportive family and community. I just try to take things in stride, and remind myself that I can’t solve everything immediately, and that’s ok

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What three things a savvy business owner should know?
Trust your gut.
Know that it’s ok to say no sometimes.
Take calculated risks.

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How do you get the word out about your products? Has partnering with vendors like BRIKA helped reach a wider audience? Through multiple channels, most of them you could say considered guerilla marketing. Word-of-mouth marketing and social media (blogs, facebook, twitter) has proven to be effective for me. The press has been very kind to me, which I’m grateful for. It’s also about getting your work out there through the different avenues, not just through direct retail/wholesale sales. Think licensing, royalties, co-branding, collaborations… etc. BRIKA is one such example. Besides, it’s fun to work together with nice folks like them! At the end of the day, despite the rampant use of electronic media, it’s really the long-term human relationships that count.

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What’s your most proud design or product in your shop right now? This is a hard one. I change my mind all the time. Currently I’d say it’s my fabric buckets.

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I know you’re a busy mom to a beautiful 3 year-old. What positive traits would you want her to learn from you? To keep learning and smiling.

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Where do you see Chewing The Cud in 5 years? Chewing the cud will continue to evolve and expand in terms of the services and products it will bring to market, but at the heart of every project, I hope it will remain true to being a sustainable and creative think tank.

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How do you define/ live A Well-Crafted Life? One that’s full of love and laughter.

This post is kindly sponsored by BRIKA – be sure to sign up to receive amazing deals and discover modern crafts through talented makers, artisans and designers around the U.S. of A.! And many thanks to Kim Thomas for the beautiful photography and the very insightful answers from Viola! I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I did. Have a great day, everyone!