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  • Writer's pictureCarissa Potter

The Papersmith Series

The Papersmith Series — Carissa Potter Carlson | Oakland, California

Posted by Rebecca Lee on February 18, 2018

Carissa is an artist, writer and founder of People I’ve Loved, a printmaking workshop based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Alongside a team of talented ladies (who are all practicing artists), she spends her days working from a sunny farmhouse studio creating inky illustrations for cards, pins and a whole manner of charming accessories and homewares.

People I’ve Loved was born out of the desire to bring people closer together. In 2010, after studying print, she started Colpa Press with pal Luca Antonucci where they published affordable yet unique books and objects. She has also written her own book, I Like You, I Love You about the whirlwind stages of relationships.

Having long been fascinated by social interactions and human idiosyncrasies, Carissa enjoyed the idea that she could used the printed medium to create an authentic connection between two people.

A self-confessed hopeless romantic and lover of a happy ending, Carissa’s designs are heartfelt, relatable and full of positivity. They enable us to reach out to our friends and family, but remind us to give ourselves a little pat on the back more often. Catching up with Carissa, we’re reminded of the power of small pleasures - cooking, gardening and spending time with friends.


Hello Carissa, tell us how an illustration start its life? Do you enjoy scribbling solo, or brainstorming with your team? Has anything stuck with you recently that’s made it onto a card?

Hummmm. This is something I have been thinking about alot lately. I live in fear of not being able to make things. Or just that feeling of nothing coming to mind. I keep trying to develop a system or routine to my practice that I can just get into and trust something will come. But I am terrible with consistency. I love doing it both ways. I love people. And as I get older, I also love being alone. But as a rule of thumb, I think lots of minds are better than one. And I cannot do anything without a little feedback - it feels like swimming in an ocean alone with no land in site. I think as humans we only know where we are in relation to each other so we really need each other to make sense of anything.

How does stationery play a part in your creative process? Do you have any favourite tools?

I am really into sumi ink. I think that having a background in printmaking and being endlessly fascinated with humans makes stationery a convenient vehicle. Lots of times I think what would I do if I could do anything? Without the restrictions of what supplies I have and know how to use, etc. I find that really stifling. I like limits. I like to have things working within a set of rules. When the possibilities are endless, I go nowhere. I guess in this regard I feel more in line with a designer - solving problems and arranging the things I have to work for the things I need.

The Bay Area is such a creative hub. What is it about Oakland that you adore?

Lots of things. The air. The sun. The people. The bugs. The veggie section at the store. I think all places are creative places. I wouldn't say that here was more than anywhere. I guess it depends on how you define creative. I think that people everywhere are trying their gosh darn best to make life work, which I think is a creative struggle. I love it here. I do. But this place has its issues. Rent is crazy.

What’s the most memorable job you’ve worked on and why?

I worked at a gallery after grad school. And the owner was so crazy! He would say things like, "Go take my car and drive off the bridge." Or "I'm sorry I made you cry, I just don't care about you all that much." And somehow despite this, I loved him. And wanted to have him care about me back. Not in a romantic way, but in a we care about each other as humans way. Not too long ago I ran into him in a parking lot in the city. He asked me if I could pay for his parking and offered me his card. I couldn't tell if he remembered me. Then I gave him a cookie I made, after I paid for his parking. He took one bit and said, "These aren't very good." And somehow that feeling of wanting someone to think you are an ok human rushed back to me as if no time had passed.

Name one or two zines or artists’ books on your currently reading list?

I have been really into Chris Kraus as of late. Also, I am reading Why Time Flies.

Tell us about the last letter you wrote (or received)?

I wrote a valentine yesterday to Josh. I am really into letters. Getting them and giving them.

And lastly, how do you switch off and save from work overwhelming?

If you find a good way to do this, let me know. This sounds cliche, but I had a mental breakdown in 2016 and since then I garden. Watching things grow and having non-structured time is really great.  

Follow Carissa on Instagram Images © Nicola Parisi 2018

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