Love it: Columbus & Tutu.

*Contest open until Friday at Midnight PST*tutulogoYesterday, I shared something difficult and personal. It’s no coincidence that I’m sharing this brand–Columbus and Tutu–and this artist–Kirsten Young–today. In fact, Kirsten and I are connected in a way that proves how powerful art can be. When I found out about my aunt, the first person I told was Chelsea. Throughout our friendship, I’ve always left Chelsea random notes, cards, verses, because I love cards and I love to color. So it meant a lot to me that a few days later, I received some snail mail. She sent me a card that touched me so deeply. It still stands out as one of the most important moments in this whole journey for me. And that’s how I met Kirsten…she made the card that brought me to my knees (the full story is below).Screen shot 2013-12-09 at 2.08.34 PM

I want to share Kirsten with you because I love what her brand is about and I think she is amazing. I also love hearing how the creative process works for others and thought you might too. Kirsten graciously answered a few questions for me. Finally, I’ll pick someone randomly from the comments and buy them the card of their choice, including a card from the Christmas collection.

First, where are you from? When did you start creating (in any form)?

That’s a difficult question, I was born in Zimbabwe and spent most of life in South Africa. I have also lived in England and now America. So I will say I am from many wonderful places, and love how each place has molded me a little differently. I started creating with my grandmother when I was little. My first loves were sewing, knitting, crotchet, woodworking and cooking. I discovered painting and printmaking when I moved to America a year ago and wasn’t able to work for a while.

What’s your happiest and/or clearest memory of art in your life?

Drawing with my best friend miserable, rainy weather. We drew really bad portraits of each other, listened to sad music and drank lots of wine. It was so much fun and I still have the portrait. She better still have hers.

tutu3How was Columbus and Tutu born?

I had a friend who told me about her dream to start a stationery business when we were on a hike. So by the time we reached the bottom of the mountain we already had a name and a spontaneous fire to start something new. By the end of the month we had drawn up our first line. Our name was sparked by the greats of our countries. Columbus represents the adventurer and discoverer and is symbolized by the telescope. Whereas Tutu represents the South African side (Desmond Tutu) and is symbolized by the national flower, the Protea, which stands for beauty and strength.  For me, being far from “home,” I value the lost art of writing letters and wanted to start that up, even though I am pretty bad with it!

I received a card from our mutual friend, Chelsea, after finding out a family member was seriously ill. It said: I have no idea how you feel but I care. It meant more to me than any I’m sorry anyone wrote or spoke because it was honest. Tell me a little bit about your tagline: Let’s be honest cards.

Cliché’s make me cringe. We wanted to start something that was real and helped people be honest, even if a bit blunt. Most of our cards are quirky and light hearted, but we loved creating a few that had a bit more depth. I feel so honored to hear that it touched you, thats really humbling. I am so glad that, that card was made, even if it was just for you.

tutu4Can you tell me a little bit about how each card is made?

We value community and bringing our friends into the brainstorming of words in the cards. Each card has a personal meaning or funny story behind it. We have had brainstorms of tag lines on road trips, over a girls night, over mass texting. My husband often comes up with the most ridiculous ideas. He originally wanted out congrats pregnancy card “heard you put on a few” to be a dieting card you gave to a friend, “because girls like dieting together.” Yikes!

I will usually design an image and card around the ideas we bounce around. It’s really something special to have your friends a part of the end product… It makes me feel supported, and I think its nice for them to see their ideas turn into something.

Close up of the amazing artwork by Kirsten of Columbus and Tutu (a christmas present from Chelsea)

Close up of the amazing artwork by Kirsten of Columbus and Tutu (a christmas present from Chelsea)

Speaking of Chelsea, she gifted me a gorgeous piece of yours for Christmas, of an elephant. I love elephants. Can you tell me a little about the process of this piece and how much you love elephants :)?

Oh I love elephants, I love that they seem clumsy and vulnerable, but so strong and powerful. Quiet giants, for sure.

That piece was formed over a print making class I have fallen in love with. Over 6 weeks we etch into plates, dip them in acid, burnish and print and repeat all of the above. It’s a really long process, but I have learnt so much about patience and delaying gratification through print making. It really value pieces that have a lot of detail and effort in them because it goes against every grain in me. It’s something really painful and frustrating for me to do, so I find a lot of beauty in it afterwards.

Do you foresee your artwork being apart of your Columbus and Tutu brand in the future?

Great idea, why not!

Screen shot 2013-12-09 at 2.09.11 PMWhere do you find inspiration?

There are some incredible South African illustrators I love… Ruschka du Toit, Katrin Coetzer, Lauren Fowler. But mostly I get inspired by little things in life, music, flowers, people, God, a nice feeling in the air, I don’t know ;).

What are three words that describe the brand Columbus and Tutu?

Quirky, honest, spontaneous.

tutu2Ideally (and I know that is a loaded word), where would you like to see Columbus and Tutu (and your other art) go in 2014?

Three goals –

1. We have started supporting two charities that we love with cards that they can use. E.g. the Aleph card for Aleph Surfing Organization. I would love this to develop into something that can help support things that excite us, even if it’s the smallest, tiniest way.

2. Start up a passion in people for letter writing and snail mail (and hopefully in me too)

3. Sell a LOT more cards somehow 😉

Screen shot 2013-12-09 at 2.08.14 PM

Love her! Remember to leave a comment and I’ll buy a random person the card of their choice! I think it so important to support not only small businesses but businesses like Columbus and Tutu. Anything of Kirsten’s is always amazing and now, knowing the story behind it all, I am an even bigger advocate.

Let’s be honest (just like the cards!),



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11 thoughts on “Love it: Columbus & Tutu.

  1. Nancy

    What a wonderful posting. I too have a personal story but not for this post. I think elephants are wonderful too – not only quiet and strong, but faithful, family supporters and they are TRAIL BLAZERS and steady on!

  2. Lis

    Great post Nina. Thanks for sharing this company.

    I agree – sending handwritten notes are the best. They require more than your thumbs to text and it feels really good in your hands when you get something in the mail. My mom always said, “the card is the most important part of the gift!”.

  3. Jackie

    Love it. We love writing letters to family and friends. It is the only way I actually hear back from my grandparents! I also love the Xmas gift tags pictured here and the elephant art work (Eles are my fave.)!

  4. Karen

    ELF, enough said. No really great work, all around! Talk about creative outlets on a mission working hand in hand!

  5. alduina

    It was interesting to read about the print making class. She surely does beautiful prints. These cards seem so personal, I like that.

  6. San

    Thank you for sharing Kirsten’s story and gift. I wish we could hear more stories like this so we can support the efforts and talents. I’m afraid we miss out on so many of these little gems.

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  8. Liz

    These are amazing! I’m loving all of the cards! They make me want to send ALL THE SNAIL MAIL!!!

    Ps I’ve been reading your blog and loving it!

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