Tag: Getting To Know

Getting To Know – Yas Imamura of Quill & Fox

Quill Fox Products

The Getting To Know series features interviews with makers, artists, designers and small business owners at all different stages of their careers. I’m always interested in how other adventurers in the world of creative entrepreneurship run their businesses, get inspired and how they got started in the first place.

As a stationery lover, I’ve been a long time fan of Quill & Fox. Yas Imamura’s illustrated products are modern with a hint of vintage flair, clever with a decent dose of quirk and oh-so-lustworthy. Let’s get to know Yas…

Quill Fox Profile Photo

Hi Yas! To start with, I’d love to know a little bit about you and your business.
I’m Yas Imamura, creator of Quill & Fox, an Oregon-based paper company. I grew up in the Philippines, moved here to study design and further a career in marketing. It was also how I met my now husband Andrew, the same person who got me back into illustration—a passion of mine that stuck through until I began college, until pressure to find a more “viable” career became a more pressing thing. I always loved art in story books and vintage illustration, which is why I’m eternally thankful to be able to make my own art and make a living out of it as well. I run the Quill & Fox shop from home with my Andrew who takes care of a lot of the day-to-day business operations.  It’s been a great ride!

Quill Fox in progressHow did you get started as a stationery designer?
I started getting into the art of paper and stationery when we got married. I was eager to create something truly unique. It was such a fun process, choosing paper, creating illustrations and layouts that were much more personal, something people would like to keep as mementos.

What’s the story behind the name “Quill & Fox”?
I’ve always loved foxes; there’s always a mystery to them in folklores, and they are really beautiful creatures in the wild. I also grew up reading the Little Prince, and a quote from the fox has stuck to me since; “..here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

I wish I had more profound reason for Quill. It was just such a pretty and word; I adore the aesthetic anatomy of the letter Q. The meaning fit rather nicely too for being a stationery shop.

Typewriter NotepadWhere do you find inspiration for each new line of products?
I like sifting through old adages and idioms, there’s always a classic spirit to an old saying that you can constantly reinvent visually. It’s definitely a huge inspiration for me.

Do you have a favourite piece in your latest collection?
Right now, I really love our Typewriter Notepad, just the vibrant colors and the clever placement of the typewriter and the blank paper on top of it.

Quill Fox Studio SpaceWhat does your typical work day look like?
We usually try to get all the orders out of the way. It can be hard to get creative and illustrate when there are little odds and ends that need to be dealt with first. Most of the day is spent on production, order processing and emails.

Yas ImamuraWhat do you love about running your own business?
I love that I work on my own time, elbow to elbow with my husband (he co-owns an animation company called What Now? Exactly! from home as well). I also enjoy dealing with customers directly, we’ve garnered a really supportive consumer base that appreciates small shops. I’m very thankful for them!

What do you find the hardest?
Keeping up with the rigid schedule of the industry can be hard, especially when it constitutes illustrating christmas in the middle of June. I just have to constantly find a way to get into the mood of things, no matter the season.

Notepad_Mag_New1-1024x737Your products are sold in shops big and small all around the world. Any advice for other makers on expanding into wholesale?
It’s important to have a clear set of guidelines and terms for your wholesale business and be absolutely friendly and helpful to your accounts. It goes a long way–I promise!

Do you have any secrets to balancing business and life while working from home?
That’s still a work in progress, even for me. Time managing yourself can be really challenging. I think it helps to have a regimen, something you can follow for a whole week that involves different areas of work and downtime. Don’t hesitate to kickback, have a day off in the middle of the week if your body and mind simply just need it. It’s one of the perks of being your own boss after all!

Quill Fox Products

What does your ideal Saturday look like?
At this time of the year, it’s waking up in the morning to go to the Saturday Market, which is a lovely 10 minute walk from where we live. Have some arepas, a small picnic with the dog and hubby.

terr_setWho are some other creators/designers/makers that you love?
I love Alfred Mahlau, Roger Duvoisin, and Wes Anderson.

What’s your favourite social media platform?
This is quite decisively Instagram. I’m a visually driven person, so it was the most fun for me to use versus platforms like twitter, and facebook. The interface is much simpler, interaction is much more straightforward. It also doubles as a really inspiring visual grid when you follow really great IGers too.

Treat Yourself To Quill & Fox Stationery

Quill & Fox Shop

Connect With Yas

Blog – Quill & Fox

Instagram – @quillandfox

Facebook – Quill & Fox

Twitter – @quillandfox

Getting To Know – Ros Lee of Polkaros

Polkaros Pop Up Shop

The Getting To Know series features interviews with makers, artists, designers and small business owners at all different stages of their careers. I’m always interested in how other adventurers in the world of creative entrepreneurship run their businesses, get inspired and how they got started in the first place.

Ros Lee is the Singapore-born, Tokyo-based designer and consultant behind the Polkaros brand. Polkaros is known for quirky and colourful lifestyle goods aka zakka. I’m particularly smitten with the personality-filled ceramic pots… and pretty much everything else too! Let’s get to know Ros:

Ros Lee Polkaros

Hi Ros. To start with, I’d love to know a little bit about you and your business.

Polkaros is a small lifestyle product design company based in Tokyo, Japan. We also provide design consulting, surface design and lifestyle product design services.

What inspired you to start Polkaros?

I’ve always wanted to make art for the living environment; things that can be enjoyed in our daily lives. I visited Japan 14 years ago and that was when I first stepped into a ‘lifestyle goods’ store. That inspired me to pursue my path in designing lifestyle products.

polkaros work

Why did you choose the name “Polkaros”? What does it mean to you?

I chose the name Polkaros because I hoped that the products I create would carry the same characteristics as the polkadot pattern – happy, cute, classic, timeless and simple. It always amazes me how you can find polkadots everywhere and in many different eras. This may be a bit overly ambitious but I wish that our products would add a bit of childlike fun in every household and last for decades.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration from old toys, folk art and ethnic cultures. I love to look at the motifs and colors from the past as they tell a story about a certain time and a different way of life.

Polkaros Workspace

What does your typical work day look like

Currently the majority of my day is dedicated to my consulting work – replying to emails, liaising with clients and negotiating with suppliers. Consulting is a full-time job on its own, which means I end up putting in some long hours to further develop the Polkaros brand. My nights and weekends are dedicated to designing Polkaros products, but this is a labor of love so it really doesn’t feel like “work”. There are a few ongoing projects. One is our handmade pots that we are producing at a local pottery studio. Another upcoming project is a series of bag items made with our Polkaros textile designs. We are constantly experimenting with new methods of making products with our hands.

Polkaros Pots

Do you have a favourite piece in your collection?    

I have started making a lot of new ceramic pieces in recent years. I think one of my current favorites is the Fuji-san pot that comes in pink and blue.

Besides designing your own line of products, you also work as a design consultant. How did you get started as a consultant and what does it entail?

I was working in an Interior lifestyle product design company in Japan for about four years when I was offered the role as a design consultant for a global cosmetic brand. I think it was my experience with the Japanese consumer market, working with suppliers in China and language ability that got me the job. I’m in charge of designing gift premiums for all the markets within the Asia Pacific region. The work entails market research, communicating with markets, liaising with suppliers and working closely with the headquarters in New York.


What do you love about running your own business?

I love the flexibility, the ability to plan my days freely. Also for the Polkaros brand, I love the freedom to create what I want rather than what my boss wants.

What do you find the hardest?

Not being able to switch off. When I first started, I used to work till midnight and sometimes until the sun came up. I would be replying to work emails, planning my next pop-up store or new products in the middle of the night. Now I have learned to stop at a decent hour but I am still thinking of new ideas when I am in bed.


Do you have any secrets to balancing business, social life and self-care?

I think allocating time for every aspect of your life, be it play or work is important. Creating a schedule/routine is a good way to balance business, social life and self-care. However, I enjoy my work so much that I am guilty of spending the biggest percentage of my time working.

How do you spend your free time?

During my free time I like to play the Ukulele, go to the gym, do some simple craft projects, blog, read, take photos around Tokyo. Recently, I’ve been camping with some friends and it’s lovely to be close to nature.


What’s your favourite social media platform?  

Instagram! I am actually a person of few words and it’s so much easier for me to express myself visually through pictures, drawings or my works. It also allows me to practice and experiment with some photo shoot ideas I may have for my products. I am very thankful that there is a platform like Instagram!

polkaros wrapping paper

If you could give someone just starting out on their creative business journey one piece of advice, what would it be?

Stick with it. I think perseverance is the most important thing when starting your own creative business. There will be a lot of hardship but if you are keen to learn from mistakes and keep doing it, you’ll eventually succeed.

Thanks Ros!

Treat yourself – buy a Polkaros Piece

Polkaros Shop

Connect with Ros

Blog – Polkaros

Instagram – @polkaros

Facebook – Polkaros

Twitter – @polkaros