In this interview, Director of Popagami, Philip Craik, talks on how the art of crafting is booming in popularity and becoming a lasting trend for new generations.
In an age when our consumer habits are becoming increasingly a virtual exercise, the craft industry remains soaring. In-store sales continue to rise in spite of the digital economic boom with over 75,000 outlets stock craft supplies. Forbes recently reported that crafting is bucking the online purchase trend with craft items peaking at 90% sales made in store, not a computer in sight. Boosted by a strong 41% market of millennials, a generation known for their application alternative art-based therapies and desire to use their hands and create aesthetic products.
I spoke with Philip recently to learn more about what Popagami offers to a thriving industry and why his ‘paper engineering’ has become a non-linguistic tool to connect families and pupils around the globe.
Kerri L Watt: Philip, lovely to meet you. Let’s discuss first the statistic from the CEO of the Association for Creative Industries, that across the globe it is millennials who are the highest percentage of crafters holding 41% of the market. It’s believed that this is through their desire to bond with their children and induce creativity away from a screen. How do you feel about this?
Philip Craik: Millennials are highly aware of trends and this shows with crafting. It reflects the increased awareness on sustainability, which is applicable to crafting. Not only is it a fantastic bonding exercise with your child but it is usually ethically sourced products and non harmful to the environment as opposed to plastic toys.
Kerri L Watt: There lay a social stigma against crafts such as knitting, but now they’re becoming trendy enough to warrant their own clubs and groups nationwide. Taking your knitting needles to Starbucks now seems ‘cool’. Would you agree?
Philip Craik: One hundred percent. There are always fads to do with design and hobbies. They come in and out of fashion repeatedly. The benefits of crafting are now being celebrated. We are more aware of the therapeutic benefits in addition to the element of skill building. It’s incredible to see it becoming the social normal and I envision Popagami holding its own as a fad within the near future.
Kerri L Watt: Speaking of Popagami, the products you create truly are unique and something special. Can you tell me how the idea came about and why you launched the company?
Philip Craik: During time in South Korea I was employed as a preschool teacher and was tasked with looking for origami based activities to do with the children. Origami is a huge phenomenon in Asia so I tried to find a niche in order to get the children more engaged. I started making three dimensional rabbit heads then turn them into the Pikachu character from Pokemon. The children kept asking for more and it organically grew from there. We were drawing faces on bigger and bigger pieces of paper and I couldn’t help but wonder where it could go. The children continued to become excited by the animals we were making. I thought, if these faces were printed, maybe we could get more children experiencing this.
It grew from there to a variety of characters with customisable features and colours, you can even have your own photographs made into Origami animals. It was clear that there was a gap in the market and a consumer need.
It became clear that Popagami had more depth than just being an entertaining activity. There’s a therapeutic undertone to it and now I’m in discussions with special needs teachers to see how we can work together more effectively. There’s huge potential in terms of who could benefit from these. It’s not only for seasoned crafters or for children. Workplaces and University students enjoy them in addition to school children and preschoolers.
I’m even developing an app whereby you can use a photograph of your own dog or cat and have it printed onto a Popagami template. I dream of Popagami becoming a fad in schools. It really is the perfect activity for a rainy day or spring time playground fun. I’m always super charged and motivated after seeing how much happiness children experience from building and bringing their characters to life.
Kerri L Watt: You must be quite creative to have created the Popagami range. Can you tell me how you first got into art and origami?
Philip Craik: As a child I always loved drawing. My dad taught me perspective at eight years old. I’m used to family based arts and crafts as we’d all sit around the table and create together. I was also always interested in science and liked to think that the combination of this and art, my two passions, as paper engineering.
Origami is a prominent art form in Japan. I believe it originates from Japanese monks in the sixth century, when they bought paper back from China and were testing what they could do with it. Paper is approximately 2,100 years old from the first century BC. Paper was rare in its early days and reserved mainly for religious ceremonies.
At college I studied art and chemistry, moving onto Geology and Chemistry at University. As a graduate I worked at Brighton University making 3-d design pieces. Back then 3-d was a massively new format at the time. I moved into engineering for a number of years and was fortunate to travel the world doing so. In 2000 I changed vocation to work in education, starting out educating engineers. My first job had been the preschool in Seoul hosting arts and crafts sessions. The two may seem unrelated but the marriage between science and art was beautiful to me and paved the way for the start of Popagami.
Kerri L Watt: You’re quite the entertainer demonstrating Popagami to members of the public. What inspires you to bring strangers joy?
Philip Craik: I often make my Popagami characters in restaurants and on commuter trains. It causes a lot of excited whispers around me. The more people gathering around you, the more buzz it creates. Intrigued passers always stop by join the hullabaloo. I invite others to enjoy the designs themselves, often I give them complementary samples to have for home as I see their faces light up.
It often feels like I’m demonstrating a magic show when I’m making Popagami in public. Now I’ve got the knack, I can make them in the air without a surface so more people can see and take pleasure in the experience. When I finish building, I blow into the folded head to pop up the character and make it 3-d. I can hear the delighted crowd as they see me literally breathing life into a paper character. It’s new, novel and I love the laughter and glee.
There’s a collection of Popagami characters who are finger puppet size so you can have conversations with them just like a theatre show. It’s wonderful to be able to share my designs and passion with the masses in such an fun way.
Kerri L Watt: Sustainability is a hot topic currently for all businesses. Being a paper based company, how important is it that you are creating eco-friendly products and sustainable business?
Philip Craik: I love the joy of Popagami but also ensure that what we’re doing is positive for the environment. Always. Paper is a finite resource in a way and I insist that all our designs are made with recycled paper or sustainable stock. Our dyes are vegetable based for extra sustainability. This is one step we will never skip and feel really strongly about embracing.
I want to see my vision thrive in our developing world and a huge part of that is making it as environmentally friendly as possible. I apply this to my personal life too and encourage my family to follow suit.
I’m up against the issues of sustainability constantly, and am even talking to magazine companies about the plastic cover mounts which contain all the free gifts. We’re getting interest in Popagami cover mounts which can be created bespoke for magazines. I want to make sure my business supports others in their sustainability journey.
The conversation surrounding ethical businesses is extremely topical. Everywhere I look there’s events, meetings and information about how business owners can tackle the sustainability element of their companies. I truly believe that every small action has a positive reaction and together we can truly make a difference.
Kerri l Watt: Incredible. Thank you Philip. How can people find out more about Popagami?