Out of the Recyle Bin & Into Your Own Two Hands- Meet Denise Thompson w/ Black Eyed Suzie Designs
Many customers visit our shop and are curious about paper making. Meet Denise Thompson the visionary and creator of Black Eyed Suzie Designs- paper maker extraordinaire! Denise has been operating a full scale business for nearly 30 years making handmade cards literally out of her kitchen and garage studio using very basic equipment with the paper scraps normally headed to the recycle bin in her home. We're so inspired by the beautiful cards she creates and thought it was high time we share a little bit about Denise and her process.
How did you start your business? I started making paper shortly after we moved to the Black Hills. The catalyst to try it was a friend in California. She had been an exchange student in Japan and when she gave you a pair of earrings they were on a beautiful piece of handmade paper. I bought a paper making kit with instructions but it took me a while to figure out the process. When I started I did not intend this to become a business. And now, nearly 30 years later, I am still going strong.
What materials do you use to create your handmade paper? I am a self-professed “scrounge” so I love that I use recycled paper (100% post consumer waste - PCW) from our home. You would be surprised how much we, or people in general, generate. I love that I make so many different types. I have tried many things that failed, but I still find new materials to add.
I was surprised to learn that your process is very low tech but your work is so prolific! Tell us about your set-up. For a long time it was the blender from my mom’s kitchen and she thought she should get some of the profit! I shred the paper, soak it, then grind it to make the pulp. The pulp can then be poured or pulled with materials or inclusions added. Depending upon what I'm making the thickness really matters.
What was the inspiration to add botanical specimens to your handmade paper?
One day I looked at a dandelion head and thought why have I never tried those? I did and I loved it! Some of the materials are harvested wild, some are grown in gardens or hothouses, some are from a florist, some are used fresh (aspen and grasses), some are pressed (pansy, larkspur genista), some are frozen to make them easier to work with (tulip, carnation, stock). I make paper with inanimate objects too- confetti, postage stamps and mica schist.
I harvest lots of leaves and flowers throughout the year. I think the reason I still enjoy making paper so much is because it's a seasonal activity. I am always excited when I get my first bag of Napa Valley mustard in for the season, or see one of my favorite wildflowers blooming, or harvest maple leaves on Mapleton Hill. I always have a press book when I am on a trip because I never know what I might find on my travels.
What do you create with your handmade paper? I have made wine labels, lamp shades, fans, journals, invitations, etc. But most of what I produce now are the small handmade squares. These are adhered to the cardstock using a spray adhesive and it's the only time I use any chemicals in my process.
How did you begin selling your work at Two Hands Paperie? We lived in Boulder many years ago and I was back visiting friends when they mentioned this small store (then located around the corner on 8th Street) that I should check out. I went in and was in awe. I asked why they would buy paper when they made so many. The person working told me they bought all that paper. I have been selling to Two Hands Paperie ever since- more than 25 years! I visit a lot of stores, and I'm always looking for somewhere new to sell my cards, but Two Hands is truly unique.
We typically carfully select individual cards when you are visiting Boulder. It's so much fun for us to look through the many boxes jam packed with your inventory. Honestly it's mind boggling at the amount of work you have on hand. Approximately how many different specimens do you have represented in your card line? Hmmmm....No idea. 100? I could pour myself a glass of wine and count. I am curious too- TBD.
We have to ask this question...do you send snail mail? I write someone almost every day! I believe letter writing is not a lost art. I guess that is why I continue to produce cards and find joy in it after all these years and of course I love receiving a note in the mail.
How did you name your business? My mom used to call me her little "black eyed Suzie" when I was young. I have dark brown eyes and that flower grows in the wild in Iowa where I was raised.
We're so proud to sell Denise's handmade cards for so many years. Stop in and see for yourself what we have in our shop on Pearl Street or view a curated selection of her card packs on our website including Aspen, Queen Anne's Lace, Japanese Maple, Ginkgo, Fern, Boronia, and of course Black Eyed Susan. We can definitely say with confidence that each card is unique and made with a labor of love. Thank you Denise for all that you do!
You can find Denise on Instagram: @denisethompson794