Looks Good on Paper

Kelly Vidrine’s Creations Turn Any Correspondence Into A Work Of Art

Everyone loves a good success story: inspiring tales of those who follow their passions, and through dedication and hard work achieve beyond their wildest dreams. One local artisan has transformed her love of art and craftsmanship into a booming business still in the process of expansion. Kelly Vidrine, a former clerk at a stationery shop, found inspiration for her own professional success in the wares she once sold.

“I looked up at the walls everyday and thought, ‘I could do that,’” says Kelly. “I always loved to draw and create, so I started to work on my own designs.”

Several years later, Kelly Kay Paper is a thriving artisanal stationery and invitation producer, with quality products sold in 300 stores. Identifiable thanks to their whimsical designs and delicate artistry, Kelly Kay designs celebrate life’s special moments — and give paper enthusiasts a reason to spill some ink. Like all homegrown enterprises, Kelly Kay Paper started off small, however; Kelly’s first customers were family and friends.

“I had started to work on my own designs, and was kind of peddling my wares to friends,” says Kelly. “Someone in the industry, a paper sales rep, saw my designs and encouraged me to go to market.”

Kelly, whose preference was to spend less time with the manufacture of small orders and more time on her art, took this suggestion to heart. With the help of her husband, Kelly went to market for the first time in summer 2008. She hasn’t looked back since.

“My husband and I have been scrapping this out since the beginning,” she says. “We created a great booth and won best in show at our first market. From there we picked up a paper rep group, and that’s where it all got started.”

While Kelly got her start with custom commissions and individual sales, these days she exclusively works wholesale. Kelly Kay Paper has no fewer than 12 sales reps, with product availability in 29 states. In North Texas, shoppers can find Kelly’s stationery and other paper goods at Fort Worth’s P.S. the Letter and Paper Affair on Lovers Lane in Dallas.

“We’re hoping it continues to grow, and that I can put my illustrations and designs on other items, like decor pillows and tote bags,” she says.

Kelly has already expanded her work to include kitchen towels and greeting cards. How does she come up with enough ideas to fuel such an expansive product line? Simple: she finds inspiration everywhere she looks.

“I love to look at fashion, home decor and blogs,” says Kelly. “You can find inspiration anywhere, wherever people are creative. I’ll have an idea in the car and have to stop and write it down, or send myself a brain-dump email.”

For example, Kelly recently noticed a wedding trend where brides adorned their hair with fresh flowers. She took this idea and sketched out some floral designs, which she then had produced into a die-cut flower crown to wrap around invitations. Kelly’s creative endeavors also benefit from her education and artistic talent. This TCU graduate has a degree in graphic design and works out her illustrations in oil pastels.

“I use a brand of paints called Sennelier,” says Kelly. “They were developed for Picasso and are really low maintenance. I’m a full-time mommy, and if the kids are eating a snack, I can run in and quickly work on some art.”

Despite her success, it remains important to Kelly to maintain local ties. She has everything printed at Brumley Printing, a family-owned company in downtown Fort Worth. For finishing work, Kelly uses Letterpress Graphics on College Avenue. While Kelly Kay Paper steadily expands its scope and reach, Kelly herself stays humble:

“Basically, I’m just an artist,” she says. “I draw pretty things and print them on lovely paper.”