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It’s time to tell you the story of Paper Garden, unique and different from others, as all stories are. During the four years of Paper Garden Tero has been The Boss, and me, Emilia, has been there hanging around and causing as much trouble and inspiration as possible. However, even if I have tried always to stress the fact that Varalusikka and its Paper Garden are Tero’s, customers have found it difficult to understand. It is an easy mistake to make, as it’s me who spend her time in the social media and upload pretty photos on Instagram. But there’s much more than that behind the pretty photos. So, here is our story. And be aware, it is not a short one.
The beginning of Paper Garden is something that simply happened, there is so other way how to explain it. We noticed we had a paper garden only when it opened its first blossoms.
You know how life has the fascinating and irritating habit of arranging surprises? Some of the surprises are sweet, beautiful, delightful, some not so. However, I think we all agree that the most precious pearls in the chain of life’s surprises are the surprises that have been born from tears, disappointments, from broken dreams. From shards that you could have never ever believed that could give birth to something beautiful, something good. Something you couldn’t have never plan, expect, or dream of yourself. Something that could grow into a garden.
Our Paper Garden is definitely one of these sudden pearls of life. It was born so secretly and unnoticed that it is impossible to pinpoint the exact moment of its birth. It might be somewhere during the spring 2017 that from the delicate sprouts first one, another bud was growing.
To be able to share with you the story of Paper Garden, we need to begin from the beginning, from the spoons. From Varalusikka. (An extra spoon in English.) To be able to understand the whole story, we need to begin from the January 2015, when I was in hospital needing spoons more than ever in my life. (You know the Spoon Theory? How chronically ill persons count their energy and things in spoons?)
You can imagine it’s quite a handful for a thirtysomething, alone in her hospital bed, coughing blood, to first hear doctors saying that (because of a brain injury caused by an accident and couple of genetic illnesses) you could not ever again continue your rocketing career as an academic researcher of theology in Helsinki University, and while trying to comprehend this, that oh, your bleeding aorta might have been teared. Literally.
When I got home, I swore I would take each day as a gift. To remind about this all, I made a spoon charm to symbolize the extra spoonful of courage and hope that is needed at a time. Then, one friend, another one wanted her extra spoon as well, and suddenly there were lots of people wanting their spoons. However, I hadn’t then and haven’t got now that kind of physical strength. So, Tero, the Master of Science of Technology, rolled up his sleeves and learnt how to make jewellery. Tero, the Master of Telecommunication and Business, created web shop and business. And Varalusikka was born. Without Varalusikka, Paper Garden wouldn’t exist.
One bright spring day, after a couple of strokes and kinds, a neuropsychologist recommended I should try improving my injured brain and memory with using calendar. I tried to find a suitable one and while looking for it, found a whole new world of journaling on Instagram. A world of journaling, where journals were decorated with vintage papers and lace… I fell in love with the world of blooming creativity and the world where there was room and place for vintage papers.
I stepped into the world and I can say today that this has been one of those tiny steps you take without knowing how important that step would be. I feel like that step had been waiting for me there, somewhere, all my life, all roads leading to it, to my destiny. From the accident and brain injury and losing my memory to losing my dreams. From loving Little Women and their warm, lavender scented world as a child to collecting as many powerful, encouraging quotes and poems I could find at a teenager. From studying theology and psychology, archaeology and ancient cultures to playing the violin and immersing myself into the magical world of music and its powerful messages… Everything we do leads us to something and I had always thought my destiny is sinking my hands into the soil of Ancient Near East, interpreting the Iron Age cultures. (Well, I did that too, but in a blink of an eye, in one swift accident it was all taken from me.) Now I know there was a reason for all of this. Without all the steps of my life I could not relate to as many situations I can today. I know what it is when you cannot walk. Talk. See. Eat. Turn in bed without help. I know how it feels to see all your dreams shattered. I know how it feels to understand your life will never be like it was, that you have to readjust all your dreams, goals, your whole life. I know how it feels to understand that there is only you who can decide how to go on; stay among the shatters or to take a glue gun and those shards and start building your life again. Of course, I am the most blessed person in the whole world in that I had help: Tero was there all the time, keeping my hand and saying everything will be all right in the end.
I haven’t ever hidden the fact that I am a disabled, chronically ill person. I find it not something I should be ashamed of. Instead, I think this is something I should speak about as much as possible, as there are so many of you there, around the world, who have struggles of some kind. Behind so many glittery, rose tinted, clean, and pretty Instagram photos are tears and sorrow. I would be grateful if I could reach to one of you and say, hey, it will be all right. Maybe it is that or not, but slowly I got followers on my personal Instagram (harvinaisenkauniselama, which means basically unique and rare beautiful life) and the question of where to get the lovely Finnish vintage papers I used in my journaling start flooding in. I asked Tero what if… And that’s how vintage papers took their place next to the spoon jewellery. Tero has always been more than ready to take a challenge and turn it into a possibility.
Suddenly, the vintage papers filled our bedroom, then our bookshelves, our glass veranda, an entire room, our whole house, our heart. Once again Tero rolled his sleeves and started speaking language of vintage papers, journaling, journal making, rubber stamps… After a while it seemed necessary to separate the Varalusikka jewellery from the vintage papers and stationery into different web shops. In our glass veranda, among the vintage papers, hundreds of peonies blooming outside the windows, it was obvious that the paper shop should be named as Paper Garden.
Our garden of papers has its own, unique, gentle time zone that separates us from the rest of the world. This has been something we have tried to teach and explain to our customers and followers. Varalusikka, with its Paper Garden, is a sideline business with a pace of its own. Tero has a full daytime job, I need a personal assistant to help me through the day – so everything happens slowly and gently, listening and respecting our boundaries. We simply have no resources for the demands of this instant culture where messages are expected to be answered to immediately, be it day or night, or orders sent within a day. No, this instant culture of today doesn’t fit into our home, where we live, with our family and with our garden of papers. Luckily the customers have understood that sometimes good things are worth waiting for. Paper Garden is a world of its own, with room for dreams, feelings, creativity to bloom. These things all require both love and time to grow.
With time to love and grow, our crazy ideas never seem to cease. Especially dangerous is, when I have too much time, on the days I cannot get up from my bed. That’s when I have time to get Ideas… Our imperative motto is that we must test every single idea, because life is short, and you never know what happens come tomorrow. We play with these crazy ideas, and usually Tero catches them and makes them work. Thus far, there hasn’t been an idea too impossible to make it work. Tero is just making room in our cellar for his own rubber stamp factory, and waits for his machinery for wax seal stamps to arrive… Only the sky is the limit for us mad ones, who think that life is a gift, open it and enjoy it.
There’s also this one thing we want to emphasize in our Paper Garden. Based on our own experience, we know that every single one of us have some kind of a sorrow or concern we carry in our heart, often hidden from others. We know how important the words of encouragement are, or kind gestures, when you need them most. How important it is to be able to feel precious and special. That’s why Varalusikka’s and Paper Garden’s idea is to remind that You are precious and enough just the way you are. We try to remind you too, that life is a fragile gift to be treated with utmost love, care, and respect. That everyday life is full of magical beauty, of tiny miracles, when you take time to notice them.