As the content producer at Studio Cotton, I really enjoy being exceptionally nosy about all the projects we have going on, including those that I don’t actually do any work on.
One of those is Kyleigh’s Papercuts – a lovely crafty business who came to us for help during the dreaded C-word.
Kyleigh Orlebar is one of Studio Cotton founder Aime’s Instagram-pals-turned-customers, and she invested in a Mini Website Shop (a temporary Studio Cotton product created at the beginning of the pandemic) for her papercutting business.
Aime told me she enjoys exchanging mildly vulgar messages with Kyleigh on Instagram, and has a real fondness for her Instagram Stories of Archie the dog swimming in the river. She also thinks Kyleigh’s hair is amazing – those bouncy curls tho.
She makes printable templates, personalised templates and custom finished papercuts like family trees or to commemorate important events, like weddings. Unsurprisingly, they make really great gifts.
1. Why did you start Kyleigh’s Papercuts?
I was working as a full time graphic designer and mum of 2, and was put down to a 3-day working week back in 2009 (the ole ‘credit crunch’ – remember that?). I spent the other two days freelancing, until I rediscovered my love for cutting intricate things from paper.
I designed and hand cut a papercut for my husband, and immediately knew this was what I wanted to do on my 2 freelancing days, instead of graphic design.
I designed a collection, photographed and listed them on Etsy. As soon as my storefront was looking tip-top, I approached Not On The High Street and was accepted pretty much immediately.
2. How did you come up with the name of your small business?
I found the original list the other day in a notebook. I remember it well – I had just given my very first hand-cut papercut to my husband for Valentine’s Day. That’s weird in itself, as we never even usually celebrate it – I must have needed an excuse to create my first papercut.
I was so excited that this was what I was going to do, I couldn’t wait to discuss all the ideas I’d been keeping in my head. We went to the pub and I scribbled down all the ideas for the name.
The very first one was Kyleigh’s Papercuts, followed by loads of really naff ones, so it was quite a quick process.
3. What is your personal favourite product, collection or service, and why?
I love love love hosting my full day papercutting workshops – there’s something so laid back and indulgent about them (it might be all the cake).
I love meeting people and to be able to lead them on their papercutting journey from complete beginner to watching them cut the most wonderfully intricate pieces – it’s so rewarding, and I have to pinch myself that this is my job.
Aside from that, hen workshops are a lot of fun. And my evening workshops. All the people. All the fun.
4. What’s your bestselling product, collection or service, and why do you think it’s so popular?
Far and wide it has to be my papercut family tree. Without doubt, I wouldn’t still be going if it wasn’t for its popularity in the first half of the 2010s.
In their heyday, I was designing, cutting, framing and packaging between 20 and 30 a day, which might not seem a lot, but it is when each one is a blank-page design and completely bespoke.
That’s their appeal – to be able to immortalise a family unit in a tree design, with their pets at the bottom too. They are timeless.
Over the years, I have had people buy one to celebrate births, deaths, marriages, the melding of a blended family, the arrival of twins or triplets and milestone anniversaries. A veritable forest of family tree papercuts.
5. What’s the loveliest thing a customer or fan has said about Kyleigh’s Papercuts, that still makes you smile now?
I think any review that says they had an enjoyable time on a workshop warms my heart completely. Any reviews that mention me being hilarious or entertaining just appeals to the frustrated stand-up comic in me. I mean, we do have a laugh.
“Had a the most fabulous hilarious time in our private group workshop this week with Kyleigh. She really knows her stuff, teaches you her tricks and tips, makes you tea and keeps you entertained the entire time. Haven’t laughed like that for ages and I absolutely adore my papercut, can’t wait to frame and hang it up!”
6. What’s the loveliest part of running your small business?
Being my own boss, setting my own rules, being able to walk the dog in the mornings and get to work when I want. Meeting all my lovely small business friends over the years – they know who they are and they’re bloody amazing.
My work-life balance is so much more healthy since jumping off the rat-race of daily overtime and crazy deadlines.
7. Tell us about a significant turning point that positively impacted Kyleigh’s Papercuts
Deciding to jump in full time to papercutting by handing in my notice to my ‘real’ job. At exactly the same time as my papercutting business began, I also fell pregnant with a baby, due on Christmas Eve.
In the months that followed, Kyleigh’s Papercuts grew (along with my belly) and by the time Christmas came along, I was in the Not On The High Street gift guide with orders flying in.
I had to take early maternity leave from my real job in order to work even harder to get my orders out, finishing 2 days before the baby was due. I had the whole of maternity leave to decide whether I had a viable business or not.
Handing in my notice was a big leap and a significant turning point.
8. Sing the praises about of organisation or professional that helped you on your small business journey (and let us know how)
My business mentor Jenny Pace has been wonderful. I’ve been lucky enough to go on a number of her 3-day small creative business retreats, which resulted in new focus, new directions and ideas, not to mention the most incredible and lasting friendships with fellow business owners.
9. Tell us about a step you’ve taken to make Kyleigh’s Papercuts more lovely
Firstly, I completely copied Aime and got a glitter ball for the studio.
I also joined ReFill, and my shop is one of a growing number of establishments that offer free water refills to anyone passing by, and have chosen a green energy supplier, because its close to my heart to tread as light as we can on this beautiful planet of ours.
Plus, I spend an inordinate amount of time and energy making my studio and workshop space as colourful as I can with rainbows galore.
10. What’s a lovely thing you have planned for the next 12 months of running your small business?
It’s going to be a great 12 months, I can feel it! My first ever book has literally just been published so I’m really looking forward to that going out into the wild and people being encouraged to take up papercutting with the help of my Papercutting Tips and Techniques book (published by Crowood Press).
After that I have my first solo exhibition at Walford Mill – ‘The Peace of Paper’ which runs from 21st June to 2nd July. I’ll be showcasing over 24 new designs, which will in turn become a template book later in the year, hopefully in time for Christmas.
11. As recommended by you
We asked Kyleigh to recommend 3 podcasts, blogs, or Instagram accounts that she’d recommend to other small business owners…
My favourite small business blog, because there is always such a wealth of amazing information, tips and tricks.
For free and paid for business zoom workshops for small businesses. She doesn’t run the in-person retreats at present but you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be first in line when she does again.
My favourite podcast at the moment – we all need a bit of downtime and laughter eh? It’s not just for parents, too. Enjoy!