I absolutely love paper. Seriously, I’m addicted — sturdy notebooks, stylish correspondence cards, a pretty stack of patterned origami paper… I never seem to be able to resist a nice stationery product! So when the incredibly talented and stylish Joke from Tokketok, who I have been following for many years, launched her new stationery collection, I knew I was going to be in deep trouble. And indeed, her collection is so, so beautiful!
Funnily enough, even though we’ve been following each other forever, I’ve never met Joke in person. So I loved reading her answers to the questions below! She’s such an energetic, adventurous person. And it is just wonderful to hear how much thought and care has gone into each of her designs, and what she hopes to achieve when her products are used: a small gesture definitely can be a very big gift! Here’s the interview with Joke:
I’m Joke Vande Gaer, I’m the owner of Tokketok and mom of 2 boys: Oliver (8) & William (5). I’m Belgian but I lived most of my adult life abroad as my husband and I moved to Portland Oregon when I was 23. We traveled around North and South America, met people who are still my best friends in the world and both our kids were born in Portland. In my heart, Portland is my home and it was a tough decision to move to China after 8 years there. Portland was easy to live in, comfortable, familiar — Shanghai was the complete opposite but it was a true adventure that we all enjoyed for an exciting 3 years.
Last year we moved back to Belgium, our kids spoke English, some Mandarin but not a word of Dutch! A year later they speak Dutch with a cute English accent, and while they love living close to their cousins, they are already asking: where will we live next? Will we ever move back to America?
I love taking them on adventures; we just wake up and say…let’s drive somewhere today! Let’s take the train to London! They might not be perfect everywhere we go (they are kids!) but they are always up for something new and I love that about them!
2. Tell us a little bit about your brand and how you came to create it.
I started Tokketok in 2008, after graduating Marketing and Graphic Design in Portland and having our first son Oliver. During my last year in designschool, I studied letterpress and fell in love with printing. It was more than love, it was my passion so I bought a Vandercook printing press, turned my garage into a studio and started my own company.
I was looking for a company name while teaching Oliver animal sounds. He loved chickens and ran through the house all day screaming tokketokketokketokketok. Tokketok was born! (William asks me often when I’ll start a company after his favourite animal, haha). I met wonderful people when I started out who were happy to help me find my way in entrepreneurship, I’ll be forever grateful for their support. I remember the first photoshoot for Tokketok, it felt so special to see my designs this way. Or walking into Anthropologie and seeing my products displayed in their store. My favorite part is being tagged in images of people using my product, or when they send me an email on how they used the products for a special occasion.
3. What is important to you when designing your products? Where do you look for design inspiration?
I’ve always been a paper fan, I’ve been collecting paper for as long as I can remember. I wouldn’t ever use it all up, I would always keep a little piece of everything I collected. When I design I need paper samples around me. Touching the paper, cutting it, playing with it, colouring on it is a big part of the process.
Most of the designs I made are happy accidents. The designs would start a little too perfect and by working with the paper and with the press the final design would come to life. One of my first products were confetti cards but they were never intended to be confetti cards until I started printing. I originally designed polka dot cards, made a mistake on my press and loved how the colours overlapped. I started cutting my printing plates into pieces, mixed a dozen inks and I printed for hours until I liked the result.
The thought behind the products is simple: what small act of kindness, with a personal touch can make someone smile/happy. When I had Oliver, my friend Marybel came to visit me every day with a hot meal and she would keep Oliver busy for 30 minutes while I showered and ate. Those things inspire me the most, the sort of kindness that can change someone’s day. I can’t pour that kind of thoughtfulness into a card but I think about how someone will use the product and what it will mean to the receiver.
4. What is your current favourite product in your collection?
Without any doubt the flower notes. I love giving flowers but for me it doesn’t always have to be a giant bouquet. Flowers are never inappropriate, they just always fit (okay, unless someone is allergic). Flowers are so easy, on a Sunday afternoon, when all stores are closed, you can still find a little flower or a pretty leaf somewhere that you can place into the card. I love giving the card, I love making mini arrangements in them and I got a smile from every card I gave to someone! This weekend I drove around to deliver flower cards to friends and family, just because, and the happiness creates is so fun! I always have some flower cards in my car, when my kids see some flowers they like they will want to make a card!
5. Where are you based and how is your workspace set up? Do you work from home or do you have an office/studio somewhere?
I work from a studio 15 minutes from home, where we have 2 Heidelberg Degel presses, one is setup for die-cutting and the other one for printing. When I work on freelance designs I like to drive around to another city or town, walk around a little and then sit somewhere with a coffee and work away on my laptop. I love the sound of people around me.
I always have some products at home to take pictures. I like to involve my kids when I work (when I have the time for it). When they “help” me during a photoshoot it’s cute how they really get into it. They’ll shout “take a picture of this one mama — it’s ready” or when they think they are writing the notes that I send with the orders. They know what I do and they love to use the products, very sweet!