I attended the New York International Gift Fair last summer while hanging out with my hubby in Manhattan for his birthday. I just happened to be in town while the show was just starting and of course as an entrepreneur, I mixed some business with fun!

While at the show, I met this lovely couple, Mathew and Ariana Broerman owners of Paper Cloud I soon learned that they are artists who care about the environment, use eco-friendly materials and print all of their fabrics by hand. The colors and designs I found so different than others in home accessory industry. Plus they are a really cool couple and thought you should meet them!

Let’s float with them:

Matt and Ariana Broerman
photo courtesy of Paper Cloud

1. We think it is great that you create unusual yet casually beautiful accessories. Tell us about how you got started in the business, your artistic background and how that influences your work today?

We graduated from the University of Cincinnati with design degrees in 2003 and took design jobs in Cincinnati. After we got married in 2005 we talked about starting our own business, but the inspiration for Paper Cloud came much earlier. I had been making Christmas cards for friends & family for years. It was something I loved doing—a fun personal project outside of school projects and later my design job. The cards were intricate little pieces of art with textured papers, foils and beading. People would mention that I should sell the cards. So when we talked about starting a business, we naturally thought of turning my hobby into something more.

2. What and/or who inspires your pillow and lighting designs?

Nature has always been the main inspiration for our designs, but how we interpret those initial doodles is inspired by many other sources. Traveling to other countries, going to art exhibits, reading design blogs and magazines all play a part in how we develop our designs and the overall look of Paper Cloud.

photo courtesy of Paper Cloud

3. Tell us about your lighting collection? How are they made? What materials do you use? What makes your lighting different from others?

Our pendant lights are made with 100% linen and backed with a heat-resistant lampshade paper. We start by hand printing our fabric with water-based inks and then trimming it to the appropriate size for the shade. After adhering it to the lampshade paper, we roll it into a cylinder and add the rings to the top and bottom, gluing them in place as we roll the fabric over the edge. What makes our lighting unique is that that all of our pendants are handmade in the US, ensuring high quality products that consumers can feel good about having in their homes. Also, all of our products are environmentally friendly, another thing to feel good about.

photo courtesy of Paper Cloud

4. Tell us about your pillow designs? What materials do you use? What makes these different from other pillow lines?

Our pillows are printed with water-based inks on 100% linen. Because we handprint all our designs, we can offer a variety of designs and colors, so you’re sure to find a great match for your home.

photo courtesy of Paper Cloud

5. Are your pillows easy to clean?

All our pillows have envelope backs for easy removal of the inserts. We recommend spot-treating with a mild detergent and ironing with steam while the fabric is still damp.

6. Where can one find your home accessories? Are there any retailers in the Washington, DC area?

While we don’t currently have our work in any DC stores, all of our products are available on our site.

photo courtesy of Paper Cloud

7. Is there a pillow or lighting design that is your favorite?

One of my old favorites is the Daisy design. And I love our Wood Planks pattern, which is one of our most popular.

8. How do you take a design from idea to finished product? Do you design using sketch book and/or computer? What software programs do you use? Is there specialty software involved in creating your lighting designs?

Everything starts with a sketch! We have folders full of doodles, and we’ll go through them and find good ideas for designs that we’ve forgotten about. Once we decide on and finalize a sketch, we scan it into the computer and refine it in Adobe Illustrator. That’s it for fancy software—the rest is all handiwork and craftsmanship.

9. Do you have favorite websites, blogs or magazines?

We usually check out http://www.designspongeonline.com, http://www.surfstation.com, http://www.grainedit.com. Periodically I’ll pick up Real Simple, which I always enjoy as much for its content as for its design.

10. How do you balance your personal life with your career?

We recently moved our studio from our home into a loft downtown, so that has given us more separation of work/personal time. But really, Paper Cloud has been such a huge part of our lives for the last 5 years that the line has always been blurred. Plus, what we do is fun and fulfilling, so it rarely feels like “work”.

photo courtesy of Paper Cloud

11. Anything new in the works… can we get a hint?

As a matter of fact, in the upcoming months we’ll be adding a line of 100% certified organic cotton fabrics to our lighting and pillows. We’re also thrilled to be adding a line of napkins and placemats in the organic cotton as well. We’ll be adding those to our site soon, and showing everything at this summer’s New York International Gift Fair.

Sounds like great stuff! I will be looking for their cool and eco-friendly designs for my clients. I enjoyed floating on this cloud. How about you?

Authors note- originally I wrote this article for DC Ladies Blog and I am sharing it here.

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