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Designing a Creative Family Business with Katherine Paige Design

Interview with Barbara Miller Katherine Paige Design

Recently, TinkerStories got a chance to sit down with Barbara Miller, the solo entrepreneur and mother who started “Katherine Paige Design” out of her home. You can see her designer mugs, water bottles, and ornaments carried by many in Bristol County. Miller is in the top 1% of Etsy sellers, with 5-star reviews from over 1,275 customers. She has sold over 7,000 paper and party supplies since 2008.

“I have been creative for as long as I can remember,”

says Miller.

In the 90s, her hobby was creating fabric photo album covers and giving them to friends. Miller made a profit at craft fairs, and her first business was born. The albums were so popular that “Made To Order” became a solid business. Since then, Miller pivoted to rubber-stamped scrapbooks, cards, and invitations. The shop then transitioned to selling custom paper goods. The reputation for Miller’s custom-made craftwork grew organically.

Custom Cupcake Party Wrappers by Barbara Miller at Katherine Paige Designs 
PhotoCredit: Barbara Miller of Katherine Paige Designs

When her daughter was born in 2008, she pivoted to Etsy and started selling online. She named the shop “Katherine Paige Design” and sold paper and party supplies. She is an official Etsy “star seller,” noted for her excellent customer service. Her detailed item listings provide customers with exact product dimensions, colors, and paper types. Boutique bakeries and event planners source high-quality party supplies from her. Customers rave about her detailed attention to producing a high-quality finished product. She says, “I love talking to people and get many custom requests.”

Iconic giraffe print cupcake wrappers by Katherine Paige Designs.  PhotoCredit: Barbara Miller of Katherine Paige Designs

A Self-Taught Maker

 “I listened to my audience when they requested a custom print. I couldn’t find any good prints,” said Miller. She learned digital layout and created a new design. That iconic giraffe print became a triumph. Her shop took off during the cupcake wrapper craze of 2013.  

Miller’s technical prowess grew as her shop blossomed.  “They know me well at Staples,” says Miller, where she goes to print out her orders a few days a week.  Then she bought a Cricut for vinyl stenciling. She lately added sublimation printing, which allows her designs to print directly onto fabrics, plastic, and ceramics products.

Custom Mugs by Barbara Miller at Katherine Paige Design 
Photo Credit Allison Faunce, Faunce Photography

Community Inspiration and Outreach

Running a home business enabled Miller to be active in the community. The flexibility allowed her to be an active volunteer during her daughter’s K-8 years.  In the past, she taught scrapbooking and Etsy seminars for the community. Miller recently helped organize Berkley Residents in Support of Education to provide awareness and accurate information to the community regarding an override vote to fund the Somerset Berkley Regional High School.  Her presence in craft fairs and school events has helped her acquire devoted fans. 

While classic party items are solid sale items, Miller also designs items with unique whimsical humor. Her designs cater to local friends and customers from her interactions with townspeople. There are mugs, tumblers, and ornaments reflecting the ironic realities of modern life.   Over the years, her customers express their anxieties about being a teacher, parent, or family member.  Although these self-less jobs are rewarding, there is an appreciation that a happy life does not have to be bland and branded. Her clients are witty and can appreciate the humor and irony of life. The business gives back to the community by helping express and acknowledges that frustrations are normal and healthy. “People come in to find an edgy sentiment that resonates. It makes them laugh.” 

Sublimation Printed Pillows by Barbara Miller at Katherine Paige Design 
Photo Credit Allison Faunce, Faunce Photography

“It’s important to laugh every day,”

says Miller. 

Growing Into a Family Business 

“Crossing things off my to-do list makes me feel good. I know I can’t work on my business every day. There’s not enough time, so I schedule my time and batch tasks together.” Thus, she can do laundry while fulfilling her orders.  Her daughter can observe Miller’s work ethic, customer support, and efficiency in action. “It’s great for my daughter to see that I’m growing my skills. I never in a million years would have thought that digital graphics would be something that I make a living at.”

 “Who is Katherine Paige?” I finally asked. Miller named the shop after her daughter, Katie, when she was born. Both are now 15. The shop allows Miller to teach her passion for creativity and entrepreneurship to her daughter. When her daughter took sewing classes, she started her own business of selling lanyards, bookmarks, and chapstick holders that she sewed herself. Katie often set up her table side by side with her mom at craft fairs.  As Katie develops her drawing and sketching skills. Miller is considering hiring her as a designer.  The plan is that Katie will one day take over the shop she is named after. Miller and her daughter are taking a digital design class together.

Skinny Tumblers and Mugs at SoAm Market by Barbara Miller at Katherine Paige Design 
Photo Credit Allison Faunce, Faunce Photography

Future Forward at KPD Designs

For the upcoming year, Katherine Paige Design is planning to expand to new areas around the Bristol County area. Miller and her daughter plan to collaborate on unique digital designs in the future. You can follow their journey on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.  In the Bristol area, Miller’s products are at TownCrafters in Walpole and Three Gen Love in Westport. Skinny tumblers are the craze this year, you can pick one up at SoAm Market. She also plans to be at local crafts fairs in the Bristol area. And if you prefer staying home, you can shop online at KatherinePaigeDesign

Family Bonding through Business

What TinkerStories finds inspirational is that Miller is creating a family business by sharing her creativity and teaching her daughter. We admire how she has managed to increase her family bonds and her business brand, and also thought about how her business can become multigenerational. This makes us think about the saying “Family is your legacy.” In order to prosper, our children need to learn how we learn, struggle, and grow in our career. What they remember may be the times working alongside us as we share the journey of our daily lives.

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3 ingredients for spreading the joy of reading with your child

Reading together can be done in a myriad of contexts.  In the very early years when infants are not even looking at words– they can still share your love for books. Merely by being physically present as you do things, they observe your interests and what you value. The way you make clear your value system is with your attention. When you’re giving your child physical closeness, face-to-face expressions, and your voice– you’re showing them that they are important and what you are doing together is important.

There are three ingredients of early reading that also help you bond with your children in a way no one else can:

  1. Face to face communication (not just your voice, which they’ve heard since before their birth), but your facial expressions convey much information about the story. Make sure you can see each other’s eyes, eyebrows, and mouth. Vary the vocal expression in your voice to mimic characters, environmental noises, and story tension.
  2. Physical closeness, so they can hear the vibrations of your voice if you’re talking or feel the tenseness or relaxation in your body. Your posture, gestures, and motion help to convey your emotions beyond what is written in the text. 
  3. Your actions, which they can observe as you perform and respond to the story. You can model story elements and actions. Some children enjoy acting out different character parts.

When these three ingredients are combined with reading, the bonds between parent and children grow stronger, even if the child is not consistently being read to. This is one reason to see storytellers perform, to give you ideas on how to dramatize a story.

At a young age, I fell in love with reading through observing my mother’s love for reading.  One of my earliest memories was when mom was sitting on a stool and reading a mystery novel.  She held me on her lap as she was reading and I wasn’t really paying attention to the book because it wasn’t a picture book. I was just happy to be together and quiet in the sunlit room.  It wasn’t a kids book but my mom was focused on the book. I didn’t even understand what reading was, I might have been a baby, but the seeds for my own reading was planted then.  The intimacy of being in close proximity to my favorite person and seeing her joy from her book signaled to me that books were rewarding.  Sharing her reading time with me imparted a sense of respect for the joy that books could bring. I was seeing her love reading and I knew, subconsciously, that I would be a reader too.


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Take a Story Walk, eh?

Storywalk Cards from Norfolk Public Library

Storywalk Cards have a velcro back and can be attached to stakes.

One great way to learn how to read is from picking text out of the environment.   Literacy rich environments encourage children to make meaning from printed words around them.  Recently, we attended the local Library Showcase and learned about StoryWalks.  StoryWalks are a fun way to bring books to life by exploring a storybook world in a real space.  These “StoryWalks” feature popular children’s storybooks separated into glossy pages to be found throughout a physical space. You  read a page, then walk and read some more. This encourages literacy exploration, and children learn how to seek out text in the environment. You might also end up reading road signs, public notices, or other print encountered by happenstance.

Storywalk Bag

Your StoryWalk will arrive in a neat bag, and you can either velcro them to walls or attach them to stakes.

As you walk around,  ask children to point out similar features matching the book to your physical location. “Do you see a pine tree that he could be hiding in?” “Could this be the hunny tree from the Hundred Acre Wood?” “Did you hear that bird, sounded like he was giving us a clue?”  Adults can also help children decode the words at each marker, or ask about the plot. “What do you think will happen next?”  Point to the words and let them fill in words you think they might know. “Corduroy waited for…– let’s sound it out– what letter is this and what does it sound like?”   Pretend to be looking for clues to the next part of the story. Remember to use your stage voice when reading aloud.

You can find more resources to download StoryWalks here:

  • http://www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org/storywalk
  • https://www.kellogghubbard.org/storywalk
  • https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/0f622b_fa5c4096972d49a9ae03dd3dd01cff00.pdf   – There’s also a guide on making your own story walks here.

Children 3 and up will enjoy this activity, but we think the whole family can join in. Once children learn to recognize words in their environment, you might find going out even more fun. On a recent trip to the supermarket, a five-year-old was pointing at all the signs that she could suddenly read.  It is empowering when young children realize that people can get information from print in the environment.

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The funny expressions are memorable

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What’s your line, anyway?  As parents, we might approach reading together as a solemn task. We may focus intently on the words on the page. Realize, however, that the words are merely a lubricant for conversational practice. What your children will remember is the unique expressions we share as we communicate. When we make a funny face, stick out a tongue, or express surprise “Whoa– what?” we are conveying our style and mannerisms in an intimate way. It’s these habits that make conversation interesting.  Saying “That’s a stinky mess, isn’t it?-eww!” while we hold our nose, will make the story memorable.  Kids relish learning your unique sayings, and you may find them not just laughing. but giggling to try it.  So next time you read, think about how you can glam it up some unique-to-you gestures and expressions.  It will be a special shared joke for that particular book.

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Make reading interesting

Although reading every night can seem daunting, there are parents who do read to their child every night. The important thing is to spend time talking with each other. As a parent, it is hard to talk at any great length about many of the stories we read to very young children. In my study, parents averaged 15 minutes to a reading session– and that’s in the best case scenario. How can we extend the “interesting discussion” time? One method is to be choosy about what you read. Not all reading material is created equal. Although experts encourage you to follow a kids interest, there’s got to be a balance with what the parent finds interesting. This brings up the rationale that whatever you read together should be interesting to you as a pair. The reading subject matter doesn’t have to cater to either interest all the time.

After a few days of the same story, it can help to introduce a new book, magazine article or even instruction manual. Pick material you are especially interested in (e.g. a short article from the New York Times or even Science Fiction). Although the kid may fuss if they don’t get their way, you can make a “deal” that you read some of it to see if its interesting so you can talk about it. You may not even have to start at the beginning, and you might even choose to skip the boring parts (as recommended by The Princess Bride) This gives children a window into what ideas adults find interesting, and helps prepare them for adult conversations. Anything is valid– like sports, news, novels, dramas that you are reading. If you mix it up, kids might end up learning new ideas, new vocabulary, and picking up on turns of phrase that usually don’t get represented in children’s books. Its interesting to realize that a lot writing in the English language is metaphorical and idiomatic! E.g. “his face fell when he heard the news” or “it fell on deaf ears”– and reading them with a young child often makes an interesting discussion. A child who learns to master these phrases can sound quite impressive.

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How we share tinkering

A recent commenter wrote that parenting requires time to reflect and share. Many parents do not have time to enjoy teaching their children, thinking that teaching is something pedantic and rigorous. I have a different notion of teaching as a much broader concept of sharing.

Anytime that a parent enjoys an experience is a powerful teaching experience for their children. If you’re a parent who likes sports and wants to read sports magazines or watch the Olympics with your child, go ahead and share that with your child. Sharing your passion for a topic is the most effective form of teaching.

In our case, we love building things and tinkering. One of our favorite activities is getting an old piece of hardware (usually an old printer) and opening it up to see the gears and rollers work. This actually doesn’t take much time, money, and can be so much fun! What kind of things do you like to share with your children?

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Suprising Perceptions on Parenting and Literacy

I recently attended a community engagement event hosted by the City Department of Human Service. It was a presentation to parents about storytelling. The purpose was to educate parents about the importance of storytelling to one’s children. There were only 6 people in attendance, two with children. I was surprised at how few people there were. At least there were six, I thought.
As we practiced telling stories, I heard some parents complain about not having time to tell stories to their children daily. We’re not talking about reading here, we’re talking about TALKING. The parents in general seemed well educated. I was then astounded that these parents didn’t seem to feel that talking to their children and telling stories was something that they should do often.
Then the jawdropper… One parent, with 3 academic degrees, said, “I don’t want to teach her how to read, she can learn it in school. I’m not qualified to do that. She should just be playing now.” Her child was maybe 3 years old. She was not convinced that teaching her child to read early, or working on early literacy skills was important. She thought it would take time away from play. Looking at the statistics on literacy from the Education statistics from the US Government, it seems that 97% of all children show up in Kindergarten without any idea what literacy is.
I do not have any peers who did not know how to read a single word when they started kindergarten. Maybe some perceptions that can be changed are:
Why not think of reading as play? Why do parents feel they cannot teach their children? Why should parents trust schools to teach the MOST IMPORTANT SKILL, which teaches your child to become an independent thinker? Anyone else think that family (parents) are the best able to teach their children reading AND storytelling?


The use of touch in storytelling

We might say that someone has given the story “the right touch” by including different details. To touch someone with a story is to move them emotionally, to make the details so salient and visceral that the listener responds by changing their mind or feeling a particular emotion. Touch is the way to reach people, but it is also the way we act on our world. A NYT article about the merger of touchscreens with books describes some of the ways that touch could be used in novel reading experiences for encouraging children to read more. Again, the critique of a story is usually a critique of the aesthetics, rather than the merit of the educational merit or the underlying narrative. (Perhaps due to the lack of narratology understood by the general populace.) A few apps can circumvent bad stories by making the aesthetics nice, such as co-branding with well established stories.
However, there is nothing to prevent a good story from being told badly on these new platforms (as cited by the author on the lack of good Android storybooks out there). Some quotes from the article ring true regarding meaningful interactivity: “I’ll let literacy specialists and parents debate the pedagogical merits of this approach, but my immediate impression was that it probably couldn’t hurt.” and “Cars 2 is more entertainment (and, arguably, media branding) than children’s literature” What do we want children to be touched by? Is there such a thing as meaningful interactivity? What ideas do we think they should respond to? Do we want advertising to cause them emotion? Will they end up being consumers, reactive to every new product or movie on the market? Do we want them to judge only the surface/aesthetic qualities of the book, or do we want them to be deep thinkers who can understand different facets of a story. Could animations be used to help them develop their thinking? I think so. One of my favorite “stories” is “That’s about the size of it,” an old Sesame Street Animation. I recommend you check it out here and reflect on the different levels of meaning and creativity represented in this touching story about the relative size of things.

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The element of surprise

One of my favorite books are the Griffin & Sabine Books, by Nick Bantock. The stories are told through interacting with the physical transformation of opening notes, pulling out letters, and flipping postcards. There’s an element of surprise when the story is literally “unfolded” by these simple ordinary actions. The story integrates the use and feel of paper as a medium, with the act of revealing the story. All the artwork is aesthetically poignant, signifying the different communication styles between two people who were fated to meet.  For those of you who have never experienced reading these physical interactive books with your child, the delight of pulling out and reading someone’s mail vicariously brings a special joy and surprise to both parent and child. Its an opportunity for the child to practice dexterity, and also get an understanding of the “back-and-forth” nature of communication. They will also come to appreciate the mystery of opening a letter and the formal aspect communication available in the olden days.

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Digital Age Learning

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop is devoted to accelerating children’s learning in a rapidly changing world.

I was recently reading their “iLearn II: An Analysis of the Education Category on Apple’s App Store” and came across some very interesting findings related to the fact that apps are an important and growing medium for providing educational content to children. More than 80% of the top Education apps on the iTunes store target children. However (speaking from experience) the educational value of the grand majority of apps are zilch, zero, nada! At best, the apps I have downloaded have entertained and distracted my child… but effective learning? One of the main recommendations from this report was:

Academia needs to address the rapidly growing app market by setting a research agenda regarding digital age learning. Developers and researchers should work together toward the design of effective, high-quality products.

Well, guess what: I know a group at MIT who are doing just that! Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts as we set forth on a journey to bring active-engagement learning to young digital natives across the world!


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