S2 Eats + Awareness Project: Entering New Waters

In the next coming months, I’m going to launch a HUGE project. And I mean HUGE. And it involves food. If you know me, or have gotten to know me, then you shouldn’t be surprised by this at all.

This past Saturday, I found myself in a magical place. It felt like a home actually. It is a shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, named Archestratus, that is part cookbook and cooking related books book shop and also a cafe/restaurant. They host Blue Plate Dinners every Thursday night and a monthly Cookbook of the Month Club. The owner, Paige, is incredible and so nice. We got to meet her yesterday and talk to her and well, can we say “friends?!” all together?

I told her quickly about this project I’ve been working on and said to her pretty confidently as we continued talking, “when my project is ready, I’m calling you.” She was completely for it. And I now know where most, if not every event I host in NYC for “CIC” will be located.

I should also mention that I was with a friend of mine and a teammate for a project I’ve been working on as part of a program called Do Tank in NYC. Sana is her name and she is a fellow food lover. We talked and walked around the books and carried a ton to a table and shared food while talking to Paige. Sana is going to end up being a much larger part of this project than even I am aware of right now. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t even know yet what her role will be, but she will have a role. It may even be in the form of representing Pakistan.

Anyhow, this idea that I’m vaguely sharing with you now has a ton of moving pieces and a few people, all whom I trust with my life involved. I have a cousin helping with logo and branding design, my brother and his best friend involved in videography, another friend and past roommate willing to help with web design, my mentor as a board and planning member, and my Mom, too – she’s cooking. I’m sure I will bring on many, many more people, both trusted and untrusted. That is how you bring about change, after all.

This project has been in the works since the summer of 2014. That is the summer that Israel and Palestine were at war and the summer of the massive influx of migrants traveling from Central America to the US to get away from heavy gang violence and crime. Those migrants were children, many of them traveling alone, whose parents probably took loans out that they still cannot afford to get their child(ren) across the border to saftey. With both of these instances, for the first time in a long time I looked at the world and thought, “what the fuck is going on?” It may also have been the first time that I truly felt as though I needed to get involved. That my voice needed to be heard in a constructive manner. It was also a point when I realized that no matter what I do in life, my life has to be used to help stop the injustice of others.

Now, I’m not promising to change the world completely. No, that requires collective force. I am, however, proposing to use my stationery company, design skills, and extensive communication background to help shift and shape appreciation, acceptance, and change. This is daunting. It cannot be neatly designed. I am bound to offend many. I hope to impact many more.

To get this started, I’m sharing a collection of photos of foods that I’ve recently created over the past few weeks and months of putting “CIC” together. I have a long road to go, but food is the of the main focal points of this project. From this post onward, one a week will be dedicated to a recipe – some food(s) I’m devouring religiously, experimenting with as I develop and perfect, and/or am inspired by – I cannot promise that these recipes will coincide with exactly what I’m working on, but they will help build connection for when it is ready to be released into the world.  (SOON!)

Saturday night, as I walked around Archestratus, I thought about my life and the wild ride it’s been thus far. I thought about how food has always been a focal point in my life. I carry a lot of weight because of my relationship to food, both good and bad, but this project isn’t about that. No this project is about the nourishment food brings us all, across cultures and countries and religions. My unofficial slogan for this project is: “Even the most immigrant hating Texan eats tacos.” This project is about that element that brings us together even in our fear, differences and hate.

Walking around Archestratus allowed me to remember my abuela Herminia, who was a strong and rebellious female who created change in her own way. I thought about being a three and four year old helping make Honduran tamales with her and my mom. By helping, I really ate most of the ingredients and would annoy her, but my abuelo always had extra as backup. I still help my Mom make tamales every Christmas and the legacy continues. If I ever have children, they will learn and my soon-to-be three year old niece, will learn soon.

This is what life is all about. It is about the changes we make individually as well as collectively. It is about passing down our histories, cultures and family stories. It is about connecting over the pieces that make us all human. I hope you’ll join me for this journey. I hope you’ll help me share these stories and cultures and histories. I hope you’ll help shift your conscious as well as the greater conscious. Most importantly, I hope you’ll enjoy this.

To learn more and stay up to date, you are invited to sign up for our the newsletter on the Awareness page of the S2 Stationery website. (Scroll to the bottom!) You’ll get the good, juicy bits when you do…think of it as the fond at the bottom of a pan of caramelizing onions, or from a roasted chicken. Yum!

Until next week, keep your stomachs a bit empty, your hearts full, and your mind open to expansion and food. And don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter!!

 

 

 

Introducing “Litterati,” an Organization After This Gal’s Heart

About a year and a half ago, I decided it was time to make trash more noticeable. See, I noticed while walking around on errands in my every day life, that while I would notice overstuffed garbage cans on corners and trash on sidewalks and streets, others would (and do!) casually walk past either not seeing, or simply ignoring.  Out of irritation, on some occasions I would pick up the trash and dispose of it properly.

After a handful of these occasions, I sat down and created this tumblr page, “The Pursuit of Trash.”  Inspired by the Kid Cudi song, “Pursuit of Happiness”, I liked the ring of the title and went with it. How often do we find ourselves in pursuit of something? How many times is the pursuit instrumental to our soul and evolution? How many times is the pursuit nothing more than temporary? The Pursuit of Trash is nothing more than finding what trash means to me, to you, to the world and doing something about it.  As with every social media campaign, I had high hopes of it growing and starting a movement of conscious garbage creators and disposers. My goal was to open the eyes of people all over the World to see the high and unhealthy levels of trash that we dispose of without any thought.

My trash awareness came to me a few years ago. I noticed that I was buying disposable clothing and food in plastic. Both things that are the norm for many, but when the clothes get holes and the food is eaten these items get tossed.  My question became, “tossed where?  I had read articles about NYC shipping trash to other states to sit in landfills. I read about housing developments on landfills and started wondering about toxins and pollution and the other side of that, our limited natural resources – the energy that goes into creating one disposable piece of clothing and then shipping it to some store that uses more energy to be open so I can shop. I started thinking about the workers in the factors making these disposable items.

I started thinking about my footprint.  I watched films about artists using waste to create art, and landfill pickers in countries like Brazil. I started composting my food scraps and buying food from farmers, where I can put lettuce and other items in cloth reusable bags to carry home.  I’m not so idealistic to believe that every piece of trash I pick up gets recycled; I’ve often wondered just how these recycling centers work. My solution was to stop buying things I couldn’t recycle. If I can’t figure out how to use the entire item, I won’t buy it.

Now, I don’t expect everyone to take this attitude, but I think if more people considered their trash as they threw it in the nearest garbage can, waste might dramatically decrease.  I walked around carrying trash and thinking that I was crazy. It didn’t help that many other people told me I was crazy for being so obsessed with trash.  Yet, it didn’t stop me. In one case, I co-hosted a party with a friend whose apartment building didn’t recycle. I told her, I would carry all the recycling to my apartment in Astoria.  She thought I was nuts and yet, I walked several blocks from her apartment to the N train with 3 shopping bags full of beer cans and wine bottles and then carried them the additional seven blocks to my apartment to recycle them.  At that point she decided she would start recycling and I forged ahead with my attempt to document the over-abundance of trash on the streets of cities I visited until last fall.

Last fall, I went to Japan to study Washi, Japanese paper and paper making. That’s a longish story for another time, but while out in Japan, I discovered that while they are a country that consumes, they are also a country that recycles.  They are not perfect by any means, but every day involved me having to figure out where to put my trash.  I’ll never forget the day I ordered a coffee and had it placed in a bag with a holder in the bag. It was all paper, so it was easy to recycle, but as I drank my beverage on the street, I was left carrying a bag and had no way to dispose of it. I ended up carrying the bag and cup back home to throw it away properly according to Tokyo recycling rules.

All of this left me wondering, “how could we implement the same system home in America?” Then something miraculous happened!

While reading Good.is a few weeks ago, I came upon an article about an organization called “Litterati.”  Litterati is a social awareness movement. Using the hashtag “#litterati” on the photo social site Instagram, Litterati gathers data on litter and then, uses the other two social media behemoths, Twitter and Facebook to spread awareness of the cause and the movement. Litterati is allowing other conscientious citizens around the world an outlet to document litter with photography, share, and then properly dispose of each piece.

While reading the article, I gasped! I was utterly amazed that there was someone else in the world doing something similar to me.   In excitement, I posted an encouraging comment to the writer of that article, whom also happened to be the creater of Litterati, Jeff Kirschner.  Jeff immediately responded back and he and I have had several conversations about our mutual ideas and how to possibly make this movement bigger and stronger.

My own movement on “The Pursuit of Trash” has been a bit spotty. I moved to New Jersey recently and have been driving, meaning that my exposure to trash on the street has been limited, but I haven’t removed the tumblr page. In fact, I’m hoping to post my #litterati posts onto tumblr as a way to link these two ideas together.

When I originally started the tumblr account, I opened it to the public. I wanted others to notice trash, photograph it, and post it on the site.  My thoughts, after posting photos on Instagram using #litterati, are that “Litterati” is doing a much better job of engaging on the social level. In fact, many of the poster’s photos look so artistic they could be framed and sold!

Just to give you an idea, the “Litterati” impact has thus far documented 15,966 pieces of litter.  The top countries are: United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, and Germany.  The top States within the US are: California, Minnesota, Oregon, Florida, and North Carolina.  Cigarettes are the most commonly documented trash, with 1,019 documented butts.  A full list of items photographed and disposed of can be found on the statistics page of LItterati’s website.

Please know that this is not a competition. I am humbled that I have connected with Jeff Kirschner and am part of the Litterati community.  Even more I am humbled to know that there are other people in this World that want to make a difference and take responsibility for their actions.

“The Pursuit of Trash” will remain with a few tweaks. In the next few weeks, I hope to integrate my posts on Instagram onto tumblr, but I encourage everyone looking to bring awareness to litter on the streets, or the enormity of the trash issue to become part of the Litterati community.  They are a great group of people, like you and I, who are connecting and moving in a positive direction, one that the entire world can benefit from with enough action and engagement.

For more information on Litterati, visit the following:

Website
Instagram
Twitter

For more information about me, Sara Stroman, and all of my passions visit:
Flavors.me

S2 Learns Paper Making in Asia

Hi Friends!

Happy Labor Day! I hope this email finds you all well, happy, and healthy!

Today, I’m writing about an adventure more important than an endurance event, my three month plus trek to Asia to study paper making. For those of you who aren’t already aware, in 2009, while finishing my travels in Italy, after completing the Rome Marathon and the death of my father, I had a dream that inspired me to start my stationery and design company, S2 Stationery and Design. The dream was followed by signs along the way, with the ultimate sign being an image of a tree with the saying, “le papier c’est la vie” while waiting to change trains to Paris. I still have that piece of paper, as it has more meaning that any of the other signs I have been given in my life.

My friends, so many of YOU, have been incredibly supportive and encouraging these past three years. Many of you have purchased stationery from me, or have come to me for projects that have left me humbled.

When I started S2 Stationery and Design, my original goal was to be as eco-friendly as possible. To use paper with high recycled percentages and from upcycled fibers. The more I worked with paper and different paper companies, I realized that they just weren’t cutting it for me. While some papers from bamboo and cotton are awesome, their process of being made may not. It made me wonder about the process of taking a tree from a lumber farms and the process to make it a single sheet of paper that we use every day regardless of it’s form. As I began to do research, the more I got involved in looking at handmade papers and a lot of my projects took on inspiration from those papers. Handmade papers from countries like Thailand, Nepal, India, Japan, Vietnam, and even China have woven their way into my heart and now I’m set to learn. Which is where you guys come in.

I am using all my savings and investments to make this trip happen over the next three months. If I can raise a bit more money (see my indiegogo campaign) then I will take myself beyond Japan to South East Asia to paper making communities in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, and Cambodia to learn from their paper artists as well. I don’t have a return flight yet, but that’s because if in January, I leave Japan and head to South East Asia, I won’t be back until April or May.

As of now, my itinerary (and my money) is for Japan. I am leaving New York on October 1, 2012 and flying to Istanbul, Turkey to visit a friend before heading to Japan. I will arrive in Tokyo, Japan on October 10th and will spend a few days with one of my best friends in the entire world. On the 15th, I will travel West to a town named Echizen, which has a rich paper history and a washi paper museum to boot. I will be working with a paper artist, Rina, who helps coordinate and manage the museum, who has had her paper art displayed in cities around Europe. We have already discussed collaboration and have shared our excitement to work together. From Rina, I will learn paper making, Japanese and art and from me, she will learn marketing tips for the museum, English, and anything else I can share. Rina has also asked me to teach a week’s worth of classes in December while she travels to Nepal to work with an artist there (Jealous! Nepal is on my list of eventual countries to get to to study paper making.)

This may be one of the best experiences of my life, but I won’t be able to do it without your help, support and encouragement. As you know, I am a huge believed that my life is enriched by each of you. Every minute of contact I’ve had with you has helped make me who I am, as much as my parents, grandparents, siblings, and family members. Every step of 26.2 miles that I took in each marathon, I carried all of you with me. Not just those that donated to the cause, but those who lent encouragement and support. All of those, who stood outside along the road with signs, or even just sent a mention on facebook the morning of my race. It is all those moments that really matter.

If you can’t donate to this endeavor, then I ask that you spread the word and send me some kind words. I’m not sure what my connection will be while in Japan. I plan to disconnect as much as possible, while also updating my blog regularly and sending short email updates of where I am and where your donations and support have gotten me at that point.

My campaign on Indiegogo, S2 Learns Paper Making in Asia has a video of me (ugh, a video!), providing the same details that this email has, but a way for you to contribute along with a list of items you’ll receive when you do donate. They will come from Japan and everyone who donates will get an email from me letting you know that they are being mailed out to you and your home.

This trip is very much about my development growth for my business and my passion, but it’s also a journey that you will come along with for the next three or more months. I will be as open as you know me to be every step of the way.
Thank you!

2012 National Stationery Show, A Recap Complete with Thoughts on My Industry and Trash

On Sunday, May 20th, I attended the National Stationery Show. (I know you know this because I’ve mentioned having gone several times just this past week!)

This was my first time walking around the show as a stationer. But it was not my first time being there or walking through the Stationery Show. Back in 2007, I was able to attend my first ever Stationery Show as an employee of a booth exhibitor. The exhibitor was this woman, who had a profound effect on me at the ripe young age of 26, who I worked a few hours for each week at a shop that sold soaps and baby items on the Upper East Side. The store has since closed, but my almost year of working at her shop taught me a lot about running a brick and mortar shop and being creative and working endlessly and tirelessly to make your product sell.

She invited me to work with her and allowed me to walk through the endless aisles of exhibitors. This was two years before I would start even think to start and start S2 Stationery and Design. I had no idea the enormity of being there at the time, I just remember being awed and a bit overwhelmed by the experience.

Fast forward to two weeks ago and now we’re at the 2012 Stationery Show and I’m a guest of Gina Mulligan, who last year, I designed a printable stationery sheet and helped run a promotion for her letter writing breast cancer organization, Girls Love Mail. This year, the Stationery Show had a HUGE impact. As I walked through the aisles, I remembered my first Stationery Show and I walked around awed as ever. Awed at the talent and at the enormity of the Stationery and Card Industry.

I also walked around awed at the amount of waste and trash an exhibit like this, with 8,000+ exhibitors, and I don’t even know how many visitors (according to their website, they anticipated exhibitor participation of  800; anticipated worldwide trade attendees:  11,000; attending stores:  8,500 and; attending trade & consumer press:  300), walked through the aisles can and did produce.

Please know that I’m not being negative at all. In fact, I thought a lot of exhibitors did an amazing job with their displays ranging from simple and minimal to loud and large, but even still, when I think about the level of responsibility that all of these exhibitors, management of the Jacob Javits Center, and the company that puts together the National Stationery Show I am again, overwhelmed. Every booth had something they were giving away. Plastic was everywhere. The food court, well they just help create waste via plastic bottles, uneaten food, etc. The bag of samples I came home with was heavy and will more than likely end up in the recycling bin, which makes me wonder why I took these things in the first place.  Every booth had carpet!!! (What happens to the carpet after the fact?) And then there is the shipping and transportation, many exhibitors came from out-of-town and shipped their goods from miles away and will have to ship them back.

A huge industry, yes.

A huge industry with a responsibility is what this screams to me.

Just yesterday The Atlantic posted an article online, “2.6 Trillion Pounds of Garbage: Where Does the World’s Trash Go?” raising the awareness of trash and where it goes. In the second graph down it shows that 17% of trash is paper. 17% is a big deal and we as stationers have an obligation to do better than that. At least THIS stationer does. I already know something I’m going to start doing to help get the message across that at the very least people should recycle paper if they can (I’ll share in a soon-to-be-written post) and if not, then to at least think about their choices.

But I don’t want to sound too negative because I did enjoy the Stationery Show and I thought the talent there was enormous and I was impressed. Walking through the Stationery Show I was inspired in ways that I didn’t think I would be:

  • I was inspired to NOT join the letterpress bandwagon YET;
  • I was inspired not to get too into the Americana theme (there was a lot of that on display this year);
  • I was inspired to get to know people in my industry, to ask them questions and to hear their stories;
  • I was inspired by the amount of stationers I know and recognized (even Gina was amazed every time I said, “oh, I recognize that company!”);
  • I was inspired to work on telling my story, solidify my pitch, and to work on my branding so that buyers who go to my website recognize me as they go to my Etsy shop, and when they see me at craft markets.
  • Lastly, inspired me to pay attention even more so to the output of my own business and personal trash.

That’s a whole heck of a lot of inspiration, isn’t it?

I know!

But the truth is, as much as I enjoyed the Stationery Show and enjoyed meeting people and seeing everyone’s lovely, unique and different cards, invitations and take on product lines, but I didn’t feel like my industry is being very innovative.

Maybe stationery shouldn’t be innovative?

Maybe the question can only be answered by the individual designers creating, but I still felt, as I walked through that I didn’t see anything that made me stop and reconsider what I am making.

In fact, I felt like everyone was following the trend mobile and while the trend may be what they are passionate about, it is nonetheless here and now, a trend.

Now, don’t take that the wrong way because I simply mean that I didn’t see anything that I looked at and thought, “Damn, I wish I were making that!” So I suppose I’m saying that I felt no jealousy and that’s a good thing, definitely, but you know sometimes jealously, or at least I know it does for me, makes a person rise to the challenge of designing something that can be better or be recognized. And maybe that’s the wrong attitude to have, but I think it’s the attitude of any business person and very reflective of the quick-moving world we create in now. Not to mention, I don’t believe the stationery industry is just a bunch of women, and some men, who sing cumba ya and hold hands in a circle never getting jealous of wanting to be better than the other.

I think better yet, I simply didn’t feel the anxiety that I thought I would by being a stationer walking the Stationery Show and seeing things prettier than mine.  And so I walked around loving lots of pieces, but without the feeling of “I am doing what other people are doing” or that I should be worried about my “competition” in the stationery world.

In fact, I thought to myself, “wow, nobody is doing what I’m doing!”, so I’m just going to keep on doing what I’m doing.

Again, I realize that different people prefer different things, and for many, my products may not be what they like and that is totally fine, but I left the Stationery Show inspired to keep being Sara, to keep designing what I’m designing and to keep preaching writing and communication over cards and design while trying to be innovative and not in the letterpress, Americana, and just plain typography way. I am also going to really work on curbing my own trash. I do the best that I can now, but I need to get better.

I do hope to display at the Stationery Show at some point in the future, but it will take funds, it will take me being in a different place in my business (not too far away, mind you) and it will also have to be once the management of the Stationery Show can prove that they care more for the environment. I want to showcase my products in a way that sticks to my environmental morals.

Until then you can see some pictures of products, displays, and cards that really made me stop and either sigh, or chuckle.

So there. Finally, my thoughts on the 2012 National Stationery Show. If I offended any of my fellow stationers, I didn’t mean to.

I am taking a mini break from all things electronic until Monday. I have one more recap from last month and a few big posts planned for the next few weeks. Keep your eyes peeled. Enjoy your weekend!