Papercranes Design makes whimsical planners and paper products

08 Dec 2022

Straits Times, 8 Dec 2022, Papercranes Design makes whimsical planners and paper products

A love of illustration pushed Ms Aerilynn Tan to give up a career in architecture and try being her own boss in the stationery world.

The 28-year-old is behind Papercranes Design, a one-woman show turning out hand-drawn notebooks and other lifestyle accessories.

Having always loved art and illustrating, she had gone into architecture thinking it would be related – but found the construction industry more technical than anticipated. After two years in architecture research, she left her job in end-2019 to focus on her budding business.

Papercranes began as a hobby in her second year at Singapore University of Technology and Design. She dabbled in watercolour and calligraphy, and making phone case inserts which she gifted to friends, who encouraged her to sell them.

Around the same time, she joined a collective of illustrators that sold and printed their artworks on products. Through this platform, she realised she wanted more control over the end-to-end process of product design.

When the platform ceased operations in 2015, she decided to “go solo” and sell her designs – on postcards, prints and phone cases – on Carousell. The business gained traction and she was invited to be a seller on the Shopee Marketplace the following year. She is currently listed on Shopee Mall.

Inquiries for corporate jobs and wedding invites came streaming in.

When she had to start turning down collaborations and opportunities because of her full-time job, she knew something had to give. “It felt like a sign to take the brand to the next level. I knew it was an eventual thing I wanted to do.”

The brand’s offerings have evolved from its paper product roots.

With a focus on nature-inspired themes, her illustrations can be translated onto notebooks, journals, tote bags and mousepads. This year, she expanded to homeware such as cups and coasters. Prices range from $10 for a notepad to $42 for a planner, her best-selling item.

Ms Tan is also a part-time designer at local nail-wrap brand Nodspark, which she joined in January 2020. She first connected with the brand, which frequently features local artists and illustrators, to collaborate on a capsule collection of nail-wrap designs in 2019.

When founder Eugenia Yeo later put out a posting for a part-time designer, Ms Tan, looking for both a financial safety net and an avenue to hone her design skills, volunteered herself.

It turned out to be good timing as the pandemic hit soon after, she recalls.

She has an upcoming Papercranes collaboration with Nodspark for Chinese New Year, which will include nail wraps and red packets.

Earlier this year, she made a milestone investment in her business – signing a rental lease for her first studio in Katong.

“It’s one of my big goals to work on textile prints next, and it’ll be a dream to collaborate with any local fashion brand on a collection together, hopefully next year.”