Biely Shoaf Presents Louise Mulgrew

Sandesa’s Shape-Shifting Stationery

Part of what makes stationery so special is that it both captures a moment and endures for posterity. And, leave it to the newest generation of makers to play with that idea and explore every last artful dimension.

Just witness Sandesa, which means “message” in Sanskrit. The AAPI brand was co-founded by Grace and Jae, two far-flung best friends who are reimagining and redefining the entire handwritten letter experience. You see, Sandesa missives have two lives — as origami as well — so each missive literally evolves into three dimensions as a sculptural object!

I sensed there was a much larger mission to this clever, playful range — recently for example the two hosted a Women’s History Month-themed letter-writing workshop at the Asian-American Yu and Me Books, so I am so grateful Grace took a few of my questions to share more.

Sarah: There are autobiographical elements running through many ranges, and seeing how this one was started by two friends, I suspect the same thing. Since one of you is in Seattle and the other in NY, did this range arise out of your own communications?

Grace: Sandesa arose during COVID-19 at one of our virtual catch-up sessions, when we both discovered that we were huge hoarders of old letters that we’ve received from family and friends. As we would open up and reread these letters, there was an immense feeling of nostalgia and closeness, and we knew that this was one of the reasons why handwritten letters are so special. From there on we brainstormed ways that brought about a more playful experience when it comes to sending and receiving letters, and that’s how the origami stationery set was born. 

    Sarah: Tell me more about your recent Women’s History Month-themed writing get-together!

    Grace: We were so excited to host our very first letter writing workshop to celebrate Women’s History Month. We partnered with Yu and Me Books, a local bookstore, to host the letter writing workshop and the response from the community was great. While this was a one-off event, we hope to host more of these workshops in the future. 

      Sarah: Your paper feels different from a lot of writing papers. I see it is linen, of a heavy weight, sustainable — and definitely feels smooth + substantial in the hand. Are all these modifications for assembling origami? Was it difficult to find a writing paper that also functioned for origami?

      Grace: There was a lot of trial and error when developing our origami stationery set. We wanted to make sure the paper felt luxurious to write on, yet nimble enough to be able to fold into an origami. Traditional origami paper is very thin and we didn’t want to sacrifice the stationery writing experience, so we worked on finding the perfect middle ground where both purposes could be achieved.

        Sarah: Do you have any tips for novice origami artists (like me)?

        Grace: We suggest slowing down to ensure that you’re folding as precisely as you can. Accuracy is important as errors can accumulate and may impact the final outcome. If it’s your first time receiving a Sandesa origami letter and you want to err on the side of caution, you can also practice the steps on another piece of paper — as long as it’s a square it’ll do! 

          Sarah: Your product has two lives — as a letter and an object. What kind of considerations, then, went into designing the patterns? I would love to learn more about that process.

          Grace: There are a few parameters that we take into consideration when designing our patterns: scale, color, movement. When it comes to scale, we want to make sure that the design comes through on flat paper, as well as when the stationery is folded up into smaller facets. Everytime we work on a design we test to see if the pattern comes through even at a smaller scale.

          Color is also very important for our designs as it creates cohesion throughout each collection, but also as you transform the paper into an object. You should be able to see which collection the origami sculpture is from from a glance, just by seeing the colors. As objects that have personal meaning, we also want to make sure that each of the origami sculptures feel custom to you. Once folded, the patterns were designed to look different and good from all the angles so you can choose whichever side you decide to display.

          Last but not least, the movement of the patterns flow between all the folds so the overall design intention is not lost. We really wanted to capture a unique personality for each collection that would speak to different people.

            Sarah: Can you provide a sneak peek into anything you are developing to expand your offerings?

            Grace: We have a few exciting projects being developed currently! As we focus on bringing playfulness and art to the letter writing experience, we are working on expanding on the idea of origami letters that can be used to turn into a larger art piece — this is all I can share at the moment so hang tight!

              What an interesting departure from typical paper offerings — I can’t wait to see this range unfolds. Thank you Grace for taking this nerd’s questions!

              Shop Sandesa’s dreamy Origami Stationery Sets here, and for my nerdy friends in the trade, make a wholesale inquiry here.