Etsy Journal

Explore ideas and inspiration for creative living

Featured Shop: Cynla

by Julie Vadnal

Nov 11, 2016

This upstate New York illustrator (and new mom!) creates lighthearted greeting and holiday cards in a style all her own.

Photo by: Cynla

When Cindy LaColla first started designing cards for Cynla, her line of hand-drawn paper goods, she took inspiration from what surrounded her: New York City’s cloud-reaching skyscrapers, bustling groups of people, and…a lot of stress. “I found that I drew a lot of ‘Relax’ and ‘Take It Easy,’ cards,” she says. So when the artist moved to the Hudson Valley with her husband and began drawing from her home studio overlooking a lush backyard, the designs took a new, more relaxed bent. Even the lettering on her cards began to resemble the vines and flowers that surrounded her. “I love to study nature,” LaColla says. “If you look really closely at leaves, there are so many patterns in them, and my art is an interpretation of that. I have a million pictures of plants on my phone!” Read on to learn how Cindy's work continues to evolve, and shop the Cynla collection
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How did you become a greeting card designer? It sounds like a dream job.
I was working in the corporate world, doing graphic design for a legal publishing company. The work was very text-heavy, so I started taking classes at the School of Visual Arts as a creative outlet. I took a greeting card design class, which I didn’t even know existed. That class taught me about building a line, the business side of it. I got hooked. Plus, it was always my dream to find work that I loved that I would be able to do from home.
Speaking of, what is your studio like?
It’s on the second floor of my home, and there’s a window where I can look at trees — right now they’re changing colors. I usually find different spots to draw, either outside on a lounge chair or inside on the couch where the cat crawls into my lap. I recently had a baby, so it’s a little harder to find time to draw now. I’m mastering holding a baby in one arm and drawing with the other hand.
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In your shop's About section, you say that drawing is the best medicine. How so?
Instead of journaling or talking, I feel like drawing is my therapy. It helps me relax and deal with anxiety. To draw, I have to sit in a comfortable spot; when I’m not relaxed, my drawings don’t come out that well. I really have to be relaxed to feel inspired and get my ideas out.
How do you come up with the messages for your cards?
My husband actually inspires a lot of the cute phrasing. He’s a teacher, and he has a way with words. A lot of the love-y cards are inspired by love notes that we wrote to each other when we were dating. When we started living together, we would leave notes like, “I love you more than all the work that piles up in the world.” So it got me thinking in that way for my cards.
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Which card is the most popular?
I used to sell a lot of starry designs, and I still do. But oddly enough, one of my best sellers is a whiskey card. My husband drinks whiskey, and sometimes it’s hard to find cards for men, so I made that one for him. I sell that card to people around the world!
What else do you have coming up for the shop?
I just released a calendar for 2017 that I’m really excited about. It’s a moon calendar, and each month has either a moon phase or a moon phrase, with drawings of animals on the moon. It was a lot of work! I did all the illustrations and I also hand-lettered the months and numbers and days of the week. And of course, I made my husband double-check for any mistakes.
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Why is it important to send handwritten cards, even in the age of email?
Greeting cards connect people. Any time you’re celebrating a moment or a life event, they embody that. It inspires me when I go to a celebration — a birthday party or a wedding or baby shower. I get so many ideas. People are always happy at those events, and I try to capture that in my cards. I like it when people say, “This is the perfect card!” because that means I’ve captured something that speaks to them. Follow Cynla on Instagram and Facebook. Photographs courtesy of Cynla.

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Julie Vadnal

Julie Vadnal is a writer and editor in New York City.