Up-close & Personal with Betty Suasnabar

Born in the highest city of the Andes of Peru, Betty Suasnabar was raised to be strong and fearless. Growing up with a room full of books opened her up to various arts and culture around the world, and this love for knowledge became the inspiration for her work.

History

Tell us a brief introduction about yourself.
My name is Betty Suasnabar. I am originally from Peru. I currently live in the USA, in the state of Arkansas.

When and how did you get your start in your craft? What drew you to it in the first place?
It all began when I was pregnant with my baby and my husband and I were getting rid of old calendars. One of them had pictures of one of my favorite photographers and I thought I might be

able to reuse them later, so I looked up my phone ways to reuse paper. I found the Youtube Channel of Helen from @journalwithpurpose and that was the beginning of the story.

I think I got engaged with stationery and decorated journals so fast because I used to make journals a lot when I was living in Peru. I documented both my professional life and my personal life very frequently. I worked in compliance in Peru so I had to keep track of everything with the companies I worked with. I did not document my personal life in the same way, but I used to write to myself, just because it was easier for me to “think better” when I was writing. It was very therapeutic, so when I realized how beautiful it could turn out, I did not have any doubts about doing it, but to be honest I have never thought about being an “artist”. I can not call myself an artist and I am really surprised and honored when people write to me asking for my handmade supplies. The very first time I decided to sell one of my supplies online, it sold out in a couple of hours which was unbelievable to me as a beginner.

However, I have to admit, I am more a supplier maker than an artist of collages. I do journals because I love doing them. I adore how amazing it feels when I cut paper and I feel the texture, but I am not as good in collages as many people on Instagram are. I am still surprised that people always think that my supplies are interesting and want to get them.

Although to me, doing this is a way of stress relief, I have to admit that I feel very satisfied when people consider my work as highly as they do. I think it is something I can’t help. Each time I get to do something I do my best, even if it is a hobby. I have never had a job or a boss or a customer who thought my work was not good enough.

Who or what is your biggest creative influence?
Definitely my mom. She is about the most creative person I have ever met. I mean, YouTube and Instagram are full of creative people, but you should see the work of my mom, she is just the epitome!

My mom was a kindergarten teacher for years, now she is retired, but she was always crafting for her students. They loved her so much that they called her mom. I never thought I had some crafting abilities until recently, but I am sure that if I have anything it has to be because of my mom.

Are you doing your craft as a full-time job or is it a hobby?
Crafting is a hobby for me. It is a stress relief and something to keep my hands and brain busy when I am not doing something else.

I think that any mom who has or has had a sick baby would understand me. My baby had really bad reflux for almost eleven months, he would cry and not sleep for more than 10 consecutive minutes if I put him down. It was too much stress under my shoulders and so I really feel like crafting has saved me. It helped me a lot with anxiety. I would craft with my baby pasted to chest and we were both happy.

What are your other interests outside of crafting?
Well, I do have a career that I really love. When I am not crafting, I try to be current in my career and I do some remote work from some clients in Peru. It is ideal for now because it allows me to still stay at home with my baby, but I want to go back to work soon. I love being a full time mom, but I miss my work so much and I think I deserve to get back to it soon.

Projects

What is the project you are most proud of? Who or what is your inspiration behind it?
This has a long background, but I will try to make it short. I was born in the highest city in the Andes of Peru, a very small city called Cerro de Pasco, it is cold and exposed to pollution because of the mining work there, but I think the main thing here is that is one of the cities ranked highest in aggression against women in Peru, last time I checked it was about 90% or more. So, my dad, who I will always be thankful for, having four daughters raised all of us and my brother to live and succeed in a world dominated by men. He worked really hard to make us strong and fearless. He raised us not in front of a TV, but with a room full of books.
He always said “what you will inherit from me will be your education” and he and my mom worked really hard to raise us as smart, well educated people.

I was asked more than once if I studied arts and I felt honored each time, but I was not really educated on art. However, I read a lot about it and I love art. When I had a really well paid job in Peru, I would spend at least 10% of my salary visiting museums or going to concerts or buying more books or something similar, it just makes me so happy.

If I have to find a common theme for all my days, I would say I spend most of my time with my baby.

All this background explanation was really important to me because the project I am most proud of is a collection of faux postage stamps based on the work of Leonardo Da Vinci. I did a double finishing process to the paper to age it and then I painted it with gold paint to highlight the beautiful pieces of art from that genius. Later, I did the same with Japanese flower and bird paintings, old fashioned car designs, and recently with airplane designs. I tried with some other art, but the result was not as good, and as I said, if it is not good or not to my satisfaction, I don’t sell it.

What are you currently working on?
I am working on printable black and white notebooks with art from the wonderful artist Mucha. I think black and white is undervalued by most journalers. That is such a rich option that gets you freedom to try many techniques. You can use the prints as they are or you can die them with tea, coffee, avocado, add color with soft watercolor, colored pencil, ink, or printing on colored paper, or about whatever your imagination tells you to do. My plan is releasing a full set of black and white printables and show people what you can do with them.

How do you decide on your next project?
This is really easy for me. It is decided by whatever I feel I need when I write in my journals. If I need a flower, I make flowers, if I need a postcard, I make one and so on and so forth.

What are the most common challenges you face when you create?
I think it is time. As I said, I like being busy and I like doing things right, as perfect as I can, so it seems that I never have enough time in the day. My baby of course gets a lot of my time and whatever time I have left I have to use wisely for all the other things I want and have to do.

How do you overcome these challenges?
When my baby is sleeping or playing with my husband, my mom, my sister or my nephew, then I do all the other things I have to do.

Routine

What is the one thing you need to start your day?
I would say, making sure that my baby is happy and healthy. It fills my being.

What is a typical day like for you?
There is not really a typical day to describe, it varies so much. Some days I have to work on my career, some other times I have to attend a lecture, some other times I visit my mom, some other times I spend the whole day with my baby. If I have to find a common theme for all days, I would say I send most of my time with my baby.

What are your studio must-haves or favorite supply?
Washi tape and stamps. It is not really that I need more, but I always end up getting more. In my defense, I have to say that everyone in my family spoils me, my husband, my oldest sister (she is the worst!), my mom and even my parents in law! That is crazy, I am always going back home with bags full of supplies.

How do you find time to get creative? What do you need to give up in order to find time for your craft?
Sometimes I had to leave my baby with my mom to finish up the production of physical items. It takes a lot of time, which is one of the main reasons why I decided to stop selling them.

I love making supplies and in fact, I always produce more than I need and I would love to share, but when I get too many orders, it is hard to keep up with the baby and the orders, so I would leave my baby with my mom for some hours, which is not really that horrible because I am trying to train him for when I go back to work and he will stay with my mom.

I can not call myself an artist and I am really surprised and honored when people write to me asking for my handmade supplies.

What habits do you think have helped you with your creativity?

I think it is to keep looking at nature and art. When I see nature sometimes, it gives me ideas of what I want to do next, and it is the same with art.

Process

How long does it take you to create and finish your project?
It really depends. As I have a baby who calls me pretty often, I can’t really predict how long a project will take me, but generally speaking, the design is the hardest part. I would say it takes 2 to 3 days and then testing would be at least another day and if I am happy with the result, then production for easy projects would only be one day, and for hard projects like my framed embellishments, about 2 days.

You have some of the most unique ephemera. Can you share your process in making them?
Thank you and yes, I would love to share. At the moment I only sell digitals, but from the physical items I sold, I think the Da Vinci stamps are the ones that have the most interesting process.

I think I explained the process of the stamps in a previous answer, but I will do it again. When I began the production of those, I would paint everything by hand, but one of the supplies that I used got too expensive after some U.S political decisions regarding Chinese imports and so I had to compromise with a second method that was harder, but had almost the same effect. So, I would design the stamps in my computer and then print them out. I put the paper in a double process of aging. First, the traditional tea soak process and, and then an additional process that I worked out to smooth the ink of the printer. This is important because if the ink is not smooth, then the gold paint would not work well and the stamps will not have the gold effect I love in them.

So, once they are aged, I would paint gold by hand on each stamp and let it dry. Later, I would iron them so the paper gets flat.

The final step is the perforation. At the beginning I used a postage stamps scissors, but I was not happy with the result, so after testing many different techniques, I finally convinced my beautiful husband to make a machine for me. It is not the most sophisticated or the most precise machine, but it works pretty well and I am happy with it.

How and where do you source your materials?
Mostly from shops online and donations from my family. My very favorite online shop is AliExpress, but sometimes it takes too long to get here, so I would use thrift stores, local craft stores and even Walmart to get supplies.

I have to mention, though, that I found a perfect paper supplier here and because she does not sell to the public, I feel so happy to use exclusive paper made with love only for me.

Now that you will be offering digital downloads instead of physical products, will you be sharing tips or tricks to your customers to producing on their own?

Yes, definitely. As I mentioned before, I only sell if I am happy with the product and in order to be happy, I need to test it. I will show how to use my ephemera, which paper is my favorite, how to produce certain things instead of buying them, and other topics.

Do you have any random household material or a found, unexpected object that you were able to use in your art?
Yes, I use fabric as a stencil pretty often. I love how the paper gets small or large patterns. I am now sharing more often this technique and I practiced a lot, but still, there is so much more to learn.

Also, I know it is not so unusual, but I am using crayons when I coffee dye paper. It is just amazing. I don’t know if other people use it, but while I was playing with my baby I noticed the paper he painted with crayon wasn’t as affected by the water Also, I know it is not so unusual, but I am using crayons when I coffee dye paper. It is just amazing. I don’t know if other people use it, but while I was playing with my baby I noticed the paper he painted with crayon wasn’t as affected by the water

Inspiration

How do you stay inspired?
I think it is seeing the world full of art that inspires me so much.

How do you get better at your craft?
I test everything. Sometimes, I finish a product and leave that on my desk for a week or two, and then I would look at it and realize there is something to improve. I love improving, I like making things better and better everyday.

Are there any traits you wish to improve upon when it comes to creating?
Yes, watercolor. I wish I was a lot better, but I still love watercolor and I am always trying my hand on that one.

What’s your favorite part of doing your craft?
Feeling the paper. It makes me happy feeling the textures in my hands.

Sometimes I look at my life in retrospect and I feel so thankful for everything, good and bad things, all the pain and effort, and all the happiness and rewards.

Describe the space or studio where you create.
It is very compact, but happy. I love having a space that closes up and looks just like a boring piece of furniture that has treasures inside.

Wrap up & Parting words

What are you most thankful for?
My family and how lucky I am. Sometimes I look at my life in retrospect and I feel so thankful for everything, good and bad things, all the pain and effort, and all the happiness and rewards.
There was a time when I wanted to stay single and alone for the rest of my life. I saw that as a way to be happy. I wanted that not because I could not find love, but because I wanted to be without love. But love found me and I can not be happier than I am right now.

My life is full, and of course there are things I could do better or I wish I could have or do, but I cannot imagine my life without all the people who are in it now. My parents, my siblings, my husband, my baby and my parents in law. Most of the nights, I sleep next to my beloved husband, looking at my wonderful baby and I feel completely drunk with love. That is something that I cannot be more thankful for.

What are the 5 things you can never live without?
I only need one. Love.

What advice would you give to someone getting their start in your field?
Just have fun.

Where can people find you and/or your products online?

https://www.etsy.com/shop/Lulinakuy
@lulinakuy_paper_lover

Are there any questions you wish I asked?
I would only like to add that crafting is different for everyone. Some of us need this as a therapy, some other people do this as a way of living, some others just want to try. No matter what the reason we all do this, we are a wonderful and fun community and I hope we keep it like that.