The Card Designer Spotlight is a series featuring independent makers whose greeting cards you can find in Paper Source stores. Meet and be inspired by a new designer every month on our blog!
Meet Marie Castiglione, the designer and owner of Spaghetti & Meatballs LLC, known for cooking up witty and wonderfully humorous cards, even in heartbreak. Find out about how her hard work, quick thinking, and card-making hobby turned into a career, here.
How did you begin your card-making career?
I actually started my card-making career when I was an art director at Bloomingdale’s in New York City! I worked in the advertising and fashion department for 10 years designing magazine ads such as Vogue, Harper’s Bizarre and Elle as well as all the outdoor media in NYC. Have you ever seen an ad on top of a taxi or bus stop? That was me! I did this job for 10 years and loved it. But while I was there, I became the go to person in the office to make a boss or co-worker a birthday card! Somehow the word got out that I was crafty and quick! So if it was someone’s birthday, they would task me with a “urgent matter” and ask me to whip up a card for them, have the whole marketing department sign it and throw a last minute surprise birthday party in the conference room for them at 1pm! I started to fall in love with it. I loved quickly coming up with a theme, witty copy line and surprising them with a card that pulled directly from their personality! I loved seeing people’s faces light up knowing that card was completely inspired by them. They weren’t just cards you would throw away either. People used to show me years later how they would keep these cards tucked away in their office drawers because it was a snapshot of an era: old coworkers signing it, wishing them well, it was like an old yearbook!
In 2017, I started my first Etsy Shop with 6 designs. I quickly uploaded 6 cards in the shop so I could apply to a cool craft fair coming to Brooklyn called Renegade and shockingly I got in. This was my first real deadline. For years, I had been making cards and giving them away to coworkers or family members! This was the first time I had to sit down and design a line of cards that were not catered to a particular person but would be generic enough to sell, yet showed my personality and humor. I had 6 weeks to make a line of cards and prepare for this craft show. Meanwhile it was my busiest season at Bloomingdale’s, and I was at a 2 week photoshoot everyday shooting film for our biggest Fall campaign. But when I was on set, I would think of copy lines and images to pair it with, jot it down on a napkin or notebook and after the shoot day was over, take a taxi back to my work office on 53rd and 3rd Ave and design cards til midnight or 1am. Then be back at the photoshoot the next morning by 9am and do it all over again. I did this for weeks and was a zombie. But I was so inspired to put out my first line of cards and exhibit at my very first flea market in Brooklyn. In the end, I designed a line of 75 cards J
After that first show in Brooklyn, I constantly kept adding and subtracting to my line. I was constantly putting myself out there and doing craft shows all over New York City on the weekends. Artist and Fleas in Brooklyn, Phoenicia Flea in Williamsburg, Queens Craft Brigade in Astoria, so many!! Some shows were successful and some were flops. Some shows I made money, and some I spent more in taxis and ubers to get there then I did at the show lol. But it was all part of the process. You can’t look at one show and hyper focus on your performance at the show. You have to keep putting yourself out there, and trying different recipes to see what works for you. It’s a long game. For me, I met a really cool chic named Kate from Quick Brown Fox at a flea market in Brooklyn. She was kind enough to tell me about the paper industry and helped me start thinking about my hobby as a career and she was the first one to tell me about the National Stationery Show at the Javit’s Center. And that was the show that was the game changer for me and my business. It took my business from a hobby to a career!
Where do you draw inspiration from? Food? Pop Culture? Timeless Motifs? Playful Puns?
I draw inspiration from all sorts of different things. I’m a big feeler! I feel things deeply, as many artists doJ It’s our specialty. So I pull from real life events all the time. My specialty is heartbreak! I love being able to find humor in everything. Sometimes I think of myself as the Taylor Swift of stationery- no one is
off limits! Every year, I get my sister and girlfriends in one room with unlimited wine and booze to brainstorm ideas. We talk about bad dates, good dates, and everything in between! The icks of dating! Things only girlfriends talk about at late-night sleepovers. I’m also inspired by hip-hop music, early 00s nostalgia, minimal design, and Drake lol.
What does your day look like as a card maker and designer?
All my days are different, but normally I start my days off with catching up on emails. Sipping on my Starbies! Once I put in a little computer work and make sure all my jobs are running smoothly, I’m always out and about doing different things. Sometimes I’m pulling orders in my studio, sometimes I’m running to my local printer to pick up some cards, sometimes I’m meeting with a potential client to do a collab, sometimes I’m in Home Depot picking out paint colors to design my next tradeshow booth, sometimes I’m at my accountant’s office going over numbers. It always depends! But that’s truly what I love about working for myself, every day is different. I’m not glued to my computer screen for 10 hours a day like I was at my corporate job. I pick and choose my own hours. If I feel like taking a random Wednesday off because I need a mental break I can. If I choose to sleep in and press snooze I can. If I decide to go to happy hour at 4pm, I can. But with all that freedom does come a lot of discipline. I usually work 7 days a week, even if it’s just a few hours each day. I do a lot of catch up on Saturdays and Sundays when my email is quiet. I work a lot of late nights when I’m getting ready for a launch. And so often it’s hard to carve out “real” vacation time. But either way, I’d learning to balance work and life alittle more day by day and I always knew I was cut out for working for myself one day.
What is your preferred medium?
I’m a graphic designer by trade, so my short answer would be that! I also am a freehand artist so I can draw and paint, so a lot of my ideas will start with a very quick sketch in my notebook but I then immediately go into InDesign an Illustrator. I worked in these programs everyday at Bloomingdale’s so it’s second nature for me. I can draw or sketch anything on the computer in a few minutes. In my off time, I do love oil painting. When I was younger, my sister and I would take private art classes after school learning how to oil paint. I still have some of those canvases in my apartment. But now as an adult who is always making and creating, it is definitely hard for me to find the time to draw and paint anymore!
What does your creative process look like?
Never linear, always organic! Usually starts off with a fun mood board. Cutting out images, patterns and magazines to create a vibe. Narrowing a color palette down for the season. Brainstorming with my sister and girlfriends for ideas/themes. Once our ideas are somewhat defined, I’ll do some quick freehand sketches of how I see the cards looking. I am lucky enough to have some amazing female illustrators who work for me now. I hand off a lot of my ideas over to them and they are able to bring to life my vision with their immense natural talent. I’ll text my sister for some copy ideas. She’s a word genius and she can spit fire back to me 1, 2, 3 ideas in seconds. I take the image and the words and play around for days until I feel like something is really complete. I sit on things and let it simmer. I’ll text options over to my bestie group chat and ask them constantly at midnight, “Which one do you like better?” lol they put up with me. It’s really a nonlinear way to work, but that’s how I’ve always been. I like to draw outside the lines J
What are you most proud of as a creator and card maker?
It’s hard to nail just one singular accomplishment. But when I think about this question, one thing that comes right to mind is that I was brave enough to step away from a 10 year at director position in the fashion industry and create the life and career path that I did for myself with no manual. It was trial and error. Networking to see how other people we able to make it work. I walked away from everything I worked for: my art director title, my single girl apartment, all the things in NY that made me who I was at the time. I lived there for just under 15 years. That’s where I spent the majority of my adult life at the time: college plus 10 years of corporate life. I quit my job in 2019 and moved back to my small hometown outside of Buffalo NY and moved in with my parents for 2 years while I got my feet up on the ground! It was very scary and hard for me to go let go of those things at that time. Plus bunking in with the ‘rents!!! But I knew I needed to be home to take this to the next level, concentrate on my health and be surrounded by family.
Outside of that, I am very proud of my relationship with some of my big national chains! I have been working with HomeGoods, TJ Maxx and Marshalls consistently for about 4 years now. As well as the Canadian stores HomeSense, Winners and Marshalls and across the pond in London, they have a branch called TK Maxx. They have been so good to me and consistently buying my products for every holiday: Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day etc. So that really is a dream come true.
And a new project I am very proud of that has been 2 years in the works and I can finally let the cat out of the bag is a collaboration with American Greetings and TARGET launching in January 2024! Stay tuned…
Any personal tidbits? Special talents/fun facts?
I actually can’t cook Spaghetti & Meatballs lol
“A lady in the streets, a freak in Adobe lol”
Find Spaghetti & Meatballs cards such as Resting Grinch Face Holiday Card, New Year Who Dis Card, and HoHoHo Holiday Card Set at your local store or online at papersource.com. For more inspiration and behind-the-scenes action, follow @_spaghettimeatballs_ on IG.