Interview with Kaylie Bodeker of Paper Crab
Holly Bodeker-Smith | On 13, Jul 2015
With her eclectic range of ethically made Thai pieces, Kaylie Bodeker of Paper Crab reunites the buyer with the artist. â€œItâ€™s so common that things are made in factories and shipped off â€“ but where is the story?â€ she asks.
Kaylie Bodeker is the owner and curator of Perth-based jewellery and accessory label, Paper Crab. Beyond that, she is a humble advocate for storytelling.
Her eclectic range brings the soulful, cultural tapestry of Thailand into the every day in Australia. These pieces include old-worldly, leather-bound notebooks, magnificently detailed tote bags, and brass pendant necklaces of sprouting lotus & paper plane.
Kaylie and her business partner, Sahil seek and choose the artists on ground in Thailand. It is here that they divide the line between the creator and the wearer, and create economic opportunity for these incredibly talented artists.
This longing for connection, for storytelling is something deep-rooted in Kaylie. Long before the days of Paper Crab, she was a self-professed op-shopping addict; perpetually intrigued by the histories of strange and delicate items.
This curiosity transcends into the bright and celebratory aesthetic of Paper Crabâ€™s pieces. It is a range that is paradoxically diverse and coherent, it presses the buyer to question the origins of these pieces.
We speak to Kaylie about the importance of storytelling, the experimental creative culture in Thailand and running a small business.
TCI: What were the beginnings of Paper Crab?
Kaylie:Â Paper Crab began when my partner, Sahil and I were doing long-distance between Perth and Thailand. We were both travelling to and from. We had such a special experience in Thailand, and we were so blessed and grateful for the endless inspiration that we received from the culture there. I guess it was our way of giving back, as well as creating a connection between our two worlds â€“ which were pretty separate at the time. Doing long distance has its ways of bringing people closer together. It started as bringing a few pieces back over to Perth, and slowly grew to incorporate more pieces.
TCI: At Paper Crab, you are very much about community; connecting the buyer and the creator. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Kaylie:Â For me that is what drives Paper Crab. I think everyone really wants to have that connection, but that itâ€™s being lost now. For people all over the world it seems, we donâ€™t engage so much with our hands anymore, or in community. Thatâ€™s whatâ€™s so awesome about these pieces; they are living pieces of art and story. Each piece has a beautiful creative process behind it, which often involve someone sitting down for hours and eventually deciding, hey, Iâ€™m going to make this with my hands and share it. I think that people are more and more intrigued by something that is handmade, and you can see that on our pieces. On the bird whistles you can see each brush stroke, you can see all of the imperfections. In a way they are imperfectly perfect. I know that people are drawn to that.
TCI:Â Tell us a bit about connecting with the locals over there. Whatâ€™s that like in terms of running the business?
Kaylie:Â I think thatâ€™s probably one of my favourite parts. Thatâ€™s the reason why we get out of bed every morning. With any business it is very easy to slip into that money mindset, but meeting the creators makes it so much more about forming a connection. Itâ€™s so special when weâ€™re travelling around, and we come across these humble artists who are so engaged in their creative expression. To be able to stock their products and show them that their art is being shared in Australia â€“ sharing pictures of our customers with their pieces â€“ thatâ€™s so incredible.
It’s so common that things are made in factories and shipped off â€“ but where is the story? That is always what intrigues us, you know? Even about op shopping, we are always thinking, where did this come from? How was this made? And, Who loved this before I loved this? So that connection, that process of storytelling, is really what drives us.
TCI: Do you recognise a different outlook amongst artists and creatives in Thailand?
Kaylie: To an extent, definitely. Thailand is an amalgamation of different cultures, existing in a very creatively experimental culture. For me, the main difference is the attitude here that, â€œmy idea is my idea, it belongs to me.â€ But really, nothing is original. Different things always inspire us, and we never really know where inspiration is going to come from. In Thailand, there is more of this notion that the artist is the medium, or the channel for that higher energy, and that is to be shared rather than kept secret. There is the idea that if you keep it, you block the flow, and thatâ€™s not beneficial for anyone â€“ itâ€™s very much like an ecosystem.
For example, the artist who makes our brass earrings. I remember seeing someone else in the market copying his work. When we told him about it he was so shocked, he was like, â€œOh my god! Iâ€™ve been doing this for ten years! And no oneâ€™s copied me! No one! Where is he?â€ and he went down and shook this other guyâ€™s hand. He was so happy that this other man was taking inspiration to engage in that creative process.
TCI: It almost seems as though they appreciate the process more than the product.
Kaylie: Yes, itâ€™s a completely different perspective. Often, when you focus on the product, rather than process, you tend to focus on abundance or lack of abundance. One interesting thing about Thailand is that everything is a celebration. Even the hardships that come happen for a reason, and theyâ€™re there to teach your something. Rather than being swept up in the fear or not being able to express or create, itâ€™s like, â€œhey I stuffed up but look how awesome this turned out,â€ or, â€œlook where I was able to get because of that process.â€
Weâ€™ve got these incredible crochet necklaces, which take about 7 hours to make. A super groovy 70-year-old grandmother makes them; she says that is her meditation. She has seven grandkids living under her roof. So after a long day of taking care of them, she sits down and makes these necklaces. For her, it is about slipping into that trance. It is such a meticulous process. For her, itâ€™s not just about the outcome.
Here, it seems like we fear the process, and that fear itself. We are often too scared to go where you donâ€™t want to go, but often thatâ€™s the place that teaches you the most.
TCI: What advice would you giveÂ to anyone whose thinking about starting their own business?
Kaylie:Â For me, the most important that is to follow what you love. But also, to make it a point to love what you do. Often, it can be so easy to get bogged down in the small tasks. There are so many times when Iâ€™m sitting there doing something quite boring or menial, and I have realised that you need to be able to make that fun. That lesson is so important, and it transcends into life in general â€“ to be able to find beauty in the chaos, lightness in the dark, or strength from fragility. Iâ€™m so fascinated with that balance.
And thereâ€™s only so much that you can push uphill, before the stage when you must ask yourself, what pulls me forward? What do I want? In the first year of the business, I was a bit of a perfectionist. And I took myself so seriously to the point that is wasnâ€™t fun anymore, it was stressful. When I returned to Thailand I remembered that I was doing this to be able to connect with people, to travel and see the world, and share that story and that beautiful gift of love and generosity with other people. Thatâ€™s really what drives people.