Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

Dusting the Studio (Part 2)

Or perhaps I should call this one… “The Recycled Paperboard Nazi”, given the huge stash of empty paperboard and cardboard boxes I have amassed, and the way I protest every time Joey fails to notify me when he throws away any box I could potentially use.

One of the things I most enjoy about selling handmade stuff is packaging. I like designing attractive packages, but I also try to reuse all packaging materials that come to our door. So since I opened mafemaria and started selling, I’ve been playing a lot with my products’ packages. The fact that my product lines are so diverse makes it even more interesting, and the addition of jewelry to my repertoire gave a spin to my whole packaging strategy.

I began shipping my jewelry pieces in small pillow boxes I made by hand out of repurposed paperboard. The packages were sturdy, clever, and eco–friendly; I truly loved them. But as things went on, it became clear that I needed to standardize my box making process because every time I sold something, I needed to draft the box to fit the specific piece I was shipping. Cutting, assembling and stamping my logo on the box were not a problem, but having to draft the outline and fold lines every time was getting old.

mafemaria's initial jewelry packaging

I studied my product sizes and packaging needs, created a digital template for the box I needed, added my logo to the template, and couldn’t help to beautify it with a pattern I quickly put together based on the floral element I designed for my stegosaurus appliqué t–shirt. The result was LOVELY.

Eco-packaging templates by mqstudio

For a while I had been pondering on a very vague idea to create design products and/or services for Etsy sellers. My competition is so huge and talented, I thought that instead of looking at them as competitors, it would be more positive if I looked at them as a market in need for affordable graphic design services. And my new packaging solution sounded like a great experiment to try. I could offer my box template as a printable DIY packaging product that I could customize for other artisans. So I opened a new Etsy shop with one product and the promise to add more and more design resources for artisans, crafters, and DIY sorts. And for tax and branding purposes, I call this my MQStudio spin–off.

And I tell you! There’s nothing more conducive to creativity for me than knowing I have a shop out there in need for products. So I’ve been slowly adding more printable templates, inspired partly by my own needs as a seller, but also by the requests I get from my customers. I’ve had a couple of headaches trying to limit and explain clearly my service so my customized products don’t become full–blown custom design work for $5 flat. But the response I’m getting makes me think that I’m on the right track, and I have found a great niche. The challenge now, is to keep adding more design options and products, so my three existing listings don’t become stale.

DIY Jewelry Box

My other loved venture, mafemaria, is still going strong in business. In fact, this weekend I was finally able to add international shipping to my shop, and I have an opportunity to put my kids line on consignment at the soon–to–open boutique of a very good friend in California. So I don’t see an end to that any time soon. The MQStudio presence in Etsy is just a complementary outlet for my skills. I’m loving the mix; it’s truly refreshing. It lets me balance my different creative efforts, and it keeps my need for artistic recognition (via sales) satisfied.

. . . . .

And that was big accomplishment #2. Take that, little demanding voice in my head!

What?!… You’re not satisfied?… How about a little sneak peek of the new printable template coming soon to my shop…

Large pillow box template, by mqstudio

Right. That’s what I thought.


  1. On , Joe wrote:

    You tell her!

  2. On , Petie wrote:

    Very cool – I do love your shipping boxes. In fact, when I mailed the pirate – I noted how inadequate my packaging was in comparison to how your things to us always come wrapped. I was going to try to make it prettier and then I realized, “who am I kidding, I can’t make it as cute as Tia Maria’s!” :)

  3. On , Maria wrote:

    Funny, because I thought that you were doing a much better job at recycling materials than me. The pirate arrived perfectly safe, and the red tissue paper was perfect for Joaquin to enjoy some tearing action. I also liked your handwritten note introducing the gift. Your handwriting is so much prettier than mine… and your beautiful birthday parties really intimidate me. I have to remind myself: I craft; Petie celebrates. Different skills; both cool to have around :)

  4. On , KSR wrote:

    BRAVO! I love your packaging and I think you are so clever to weave that into a business….You absolutely have a perfect – nearly untapped- market for it……and how neat that you will put some stuff in the CA boutique….what a great outlet!

  5. On , Maria wrote:

    Thank you Kim!
    The consignment thing is itching as a great experiment to try. Truth is that with my current “work situation” is not sustainable long term, because you know: it’s just ME making all these products. But I really want to see how they do in a real brick and mortar shop. If I see potential, then I’ll start seriously studying how to increase my production capacity and cut my labor costs (i.e. time I personally put on each item).

  6. On , Dee wrote:

    I really like your pillow boxes! I have a question about them as I’m creating some pillow boxes of my own – how do you go about scoring the arc for the flaps? Everything else is fine for me except for that part and I’m wondering if there’s an easier way to doing it (maybe not). I’d really like your insight! Thank you very much in advance! ?

  7. On , Maria wrote:

    HI Dee!… Using the same template from the box, I create a template with the shape of the flap in thick cardboard (I use repurposed cereal boxes). Then, I simply use that small template to guide my bone folder when I’m scoring the arc of the flaps. Hope that helps :)

  8. On , Lynette wrote:

    These pillow boxes are simple elegance! I love them!