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Analog Friends 05: Elsie on Creating, Kakpoot, and Believing in Your Dreams

Hello, Analog Friends! This month, I talked to Elsie from Elsie with Lovea Malaysian artist well-known for her adorable Kakpoot character!

In this series of Cafe Analog’s blog called ANALOG FRIENDS, I invite you to enjoy long-form reading at a slower pace (preferably with a cup of coffee, tea, or chocolate!)—while getting to know the people behind Cafe Analog’s products you love.

Enjoy!

Hanny (H): Hi, Elsie! Have you always been an artist? What makes you interested in pursuing the art/creative industry in the first place? Coming from an Asian background, I get that “being an artist” or pursuing a creative career may not be something the society/family in general will understand—did you also deal with this?

Elsie (E): Hello, Hanny! Well, what I do know for sure is that I have always loved art. Since I was a child my favorite pastimes have been painting and drawing. I never leave a blank page behind. Art allows me to freely be myself. Just like you said, coming from an Asian background, we have a lot of rules and protocols for everything. And so art is my refuge. When I create and draw, I feel free. There are no rules to it and it allows me to have full control of the whole process. It’s liberating.

As for choosing the creative career path, I must say I am one of the super lucky ones. Mama Cat has always been super supportive of my dreams. From my choice of pursuing my major in Interior Design in College, till today when I decided to plunge into this rubber stamp-making world; which is a different scope! She never once said it’s not possible or things like you-can-never-make-it. She was there right from the start and has given me 100% support. So are the rest of the family members, including Ryan, my brother in particular. Without his full support (diving straight into this with me as my partner in crime), patience, and support, I wouldn’t be able to come this far. So I am truly blessed to have such a supportive family. They are my greatest asset in this journey.

However, it did take me a while to tell others about my occupation. I remember I used to have this discomfort to fill in forms where I needed to state my occupation. Artist is an uncommon career path from where I am. Whenever I attempt to explain to people I design rubber stamps and stickers for a living, I can see those bright red question marks on top of their heads. (laugh)

That’s one of the motivations that keep me going! I love sharing my knowledge of journaling with people and the art form itself. I feel really happy when I see how surprised and curious they are about this art form. I think that me sharing my knowledge, helps me to overcome the judgements and insecurities too. When people understand what you are doing, it’s easier for them to accept. 

H: How did you start your creative business, with Elsie with Love? What makes you jump into this and makes you believe that this can be your calling? 

E: Actually, Elsiewithlove is a brand name I established a very long time ago. I started using this brand name when I first started selling my handmade creations in art markets and roadshows locally. I am a craft addict, so I explore and dab in all kinds of crafts, from cross stitch to clay art. I have an obsession with paper and would hoard gift wrappers and pattern papers. Mama Cat always says that I have such a huge collection of it I can have them for breakfast lunch and dinner instead. No more rice is needed (laugh). After trying out so many types of craft, nothing feels more natural to me than journaling. 

My earliest memories of keeping a journal were as young as 10, and I was already keeping receipts and sticking movie tickets into my journal way before I knew there were others out there doing it too! I only then found out that there was like a whole community all around the world that shared the same passion with me when YouTube was introduced. And when online shopping was accessible, I would save up all my savings so I could purchase that very special sticker or rubber stamps! I can’t stop admiring all the beautiful rubber stamps and stickers that were created and collected so much of them.

In 2017, I had a chance to check off my bucket list and work in a stationery store! I started hosting and teaching journaling workshops which sparked my interest in perhaps being able to own my line of stationery. 

Since then, I have known that journaling is more than just a hobby, it is my Calling.

H: Can you tell us a bit more about your famous Kakpoot character? Where do you get the inspiration? Do you think Kakpoot is a representation of Elsie? 😀 

E: Ah, yes, our beloved Kakpoot is also known as Cactus/Kaktus in our native Malay Language and poot as in Pot. Kakpoot is a Cactus in A Pot! How this little Character came to me during the lockdown: my daughter, Amethyst, and I tried to kill time during the lockdowns, and we started doodling these darlings!

Together we came up with this funny name, Kakpoot, without much thought. And it still feels so unreal that this little creature of our imagination has landed in places we could only imagine. They made it to you in the Netherlands! We couldn’t be more grateful.

I still remember Desiree, our beloved Fairy Godmother, once told me that Kakpoot has another meaning in Dutch. And that was my first Dutch lesson! Kak meant poo! We laughed so hard together but I still decided to keep the name as it meant a lot to me and my little one. I would love her to be a part of this adventure wherever it may take me. 

I got the inspiration right from my very own Stationery Desk. I have some cactus and air plants, and terrariums decorated on my stationery desk. That is where did idea of a mythical creature comes to life.

I have never actually written Kakpoot’s full story until now. It was all hidden in my mind, my little world. But I think it’s time to share it now. Here is a short story of Kakpoot’s origin:

“Kakpoots are magical plant creatures from the forest that one day decide to seek shelter from the Storm in Elsie’s Home and find a lovely spot on her stationery desk to rest for the night. They were so comfortable and happy with their stay they decided to stay for good. Hidden from the hoomans who do not know of their existence, Kakpoots secretly watch Elsie journaling, scribbling for hours pouring out her thoughts, and decorating her journal. And that’s how the little Kakpoots found their way into the stationery world. A whole new world to discover!”

I think Kakpoot represents a part of me that I wasn’t able to portray. I was always known to be outgoing, bubbly, and fun. Nothing bad about that! It’s just that, there is also a part of me that is scared, shy, and unsure—just like Kakpoot when it first discovers the new environment and new challenges. 

Although Kakpoot may be a shy creature in nature, it never runs away when it faces challenges. Instead, it patiently grows at its own pace. Slowly but surely overcome obstacles one by one. Also, they are never alone. They are in groups and always helping one another! I think that’s what we can learn from these little ones. To always be there for one another, lifting each other, challenging, and encouraging each other to grow!  Here’s a favorite quote Elsiewithlove likes to highlight: Together We Grow.

H: We know that people always say “You’re lucky because your passion becomes a business!” — but of course, we know that it’s natural that things are not always rosy all the time. Could you remember some tough moments/challenges in your business, and how did you overcome them? What keeps you going during tough times?

E: You are right about that. I am truly grateful to be able to turn my passion into a career but it does come with a price. It’s kind of funny, now that designing stationery is a career, I have less time to play them. And also it’s hard to separate work and play time now! So what I did was I tried my best to make sure I had a personal journaling time, just for pleasure during the weekends. It is purely for me to just have fun and play. Enjoy the process again. I think that’s very important. To maintain a balance.

H: Running your own business and being the face of your business can be very personal, right? It can be a bit tricky to separate the two, for instance, when Elsie is down, tired, or not feeling so inspired—do you think this also affects the business? Do you have any tips or experience on how you deal with this; and do you have a self-care routine or set boundaries (in life + work), to make sure that you’re thriving in your business and also personal/creative life? 

E: Elsiewithlove is truly very personal to me and as a small business owner, we do have to do everything on our own! As you already know our stamps are crafted right from our little studio. You will be surprised how much detail and planning are needed for just a little stamp! Hence, it is so easy for us to lose track of time and get so carried away working nonstop. feeling burnout is something very real. 

So whenever I am feeling stuck or unmotivated I would find the time for a quiet moment for myself. I turn to doodling and a quiet coffee time. I would go out very early in the morning to my favorite coffee place, hide away in a corner, put up my headphones, and tune off. I would start doodling or reading a book. I make sure I turn my phone to silent mode and stay away from social media, dedicating my one full hour to heal, to just be in silence and calmness. It works like magic for me. 

As for those really difficult times, relationships, and financial worries… I know it sounds so cliché but I truly Turn to God. I pray and continue to believe in Him. I would also confess and constantly manifest all the positive quotes and affirmations to remind myself. When there is a will, there is a way. Nothing is impossible. Always keep an open mind. And if I never give up, no one can make me. And that’s how I keep going. Hence all the positive Kakpoot illustrated posts on my stories and feeds! They are my little cheerleaders, cheering me and you! 

H: I feel like you have grown a lot, from your Tofu Studio to your TravelFish brand… what comes next for Elsie? What are some dreams or goals that you want to achieve with Elsie with Love? 

E: I hope one day, Elsiewithlove will be a little place filled with not just stationery but artisanal items that will bring joy to its owner. A place where travelers would stop by in Penang and be wowed by all the amazing local talents. A place showcasing our local talents! At the same time, a space for locals to find what cool things “Travel Fish” discover in their travels. Elsiewithlove would be a platform where you find artisans from various genres working hand in hand to help each other grow. Ultimately flourish into a positive creative community. 

H: How are your journals these days? 😀

E: My journaling style these days is much more freestyle now. I am leaning towards junk journals and collaging more. This year I am sticking to the A5 Midori MD Notebook Diary Journal for my more personal daily records, Regular Traveler’s Notebook for travel journals, and I also use a little Planner by Hightide (square vertical weekly diary) for simple planning. love how compact and handy it is! I also have a second-hand ring-bound leather journal for creative junk journaling. 

Journaling allows me to express myself in ways my voice couldn’t. A place where I replace words with doodles, stickers, and illustrations! No words—but people could still feel what I had to say. Journaling is an art form to me. A platform where I have chosen to share art in the form of stationery. More importantly, I journal because It makes me happy. 

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