Voyage LA Interview: Hidden Gems in South Bay
Meet Stephanie Ip of Sutai Bu in Palos Verdes
Thanks for sharing your story with us Stephanie. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
The work behind Sutai Bu started from a pair of crafty hands and a curious mind. I remember the first piece of art I fell in love creating was from my third-grade art class, where we were taught how to make our own tulip stencils and then splash paint them with a toothbrush. The experience still sticks in my mind as it exercised my creativity using different tools to create art. Since then, I have been drawn to florals, and always find illustrating organic shapes such as flowers much easier and gratifying than drawing structural objects like architecture.
My interest in art grew deeper, especially on the handcrafting side, where I got into creating paper crafts and sewing. Being brought up by traditional Chinese parents, I was constantly told to become a doctor or lawyer when I grow up. As I explored options in those fields throughout my school years, I struggled and never quite developed a strong interest in any of the related subjects, like biology, government, or economics. Instead, I was passionate about getting my hands dirty and using them to build things.
Creating things with a paintbrush, or paper, or fabric all require tremendous amounts of patience, along with buildable skills and innate gifts and talents. While others are more drawn to studying chemical bonds, I find myself feeling more at ease with artistic activities such as drawing, music, and dancing. So, I believe the key to finding my path was really studying myself, paying attention to the things I am good at and whatnot. Through personal discovery, I continue to explore and build the path that speaks to me and my interests. This is how Sutai Bu was born.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Starting a business means lots of rollercoaster rides. Thankfully, I enjoy the thrill from rollercoaster rides and crave for the same in my life and career. Knowing there will always be challenges, I love to welcome them in and bite into them little by little.
The biggest challenge we have so far with Sutai Bu is getting the word out about what we do. With a design background, I know what is pleasing to the eyes, but not necessarily from a marketing perspective. And, because we stand behind our brand’s mission to create sustainable products that last, overly pushing our products out in a way that could result in mass production would contradict our beliefs. Our products are created with mindfulness, so we want our customers to understand and appreciate art through a perspective that will bring joy via personal touches and interaction by gifting and using our products. Encouraging people to get into the hands-on movement by interacting with our products can be challenging in a world that’s filled with quick and easy solutions. These are just a couple of the many examples of struggles in decisions we face with Sutai Bu. So far, the decisions and path we have taken point us toward a direction we feel comfortable, and we are continuing to explore every day as we grow.
Sutai Bu – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
After many years of exploring, Sutai Bu was born in 2019. We launched with a collection of floral giclee watercolor art prints. They are limited editions and are available in various sizes that suit different spaces, from office desks to high ceiling loft wall décor. We also translate our potential art into a wearable piece of art called Furoshiki. Furoshiki is a Japanese cultural art dating back to the Nara period, AD 710, during which it became common to use a piece of reusable square cloth to transport gifts and goods.
In modern times, we’ve developed the habit of using disposable products that are designed to be used just a few times, or even worse, only once, and then discarded. While the convenience benefits our lifestyles, in some ways, I feel we’ve really lost our innate abilities to be creative with our materials and possessions; the creativity that thrives if we felt that we can’t just discard everything and replace it with new stuff all the time.
Sutai Bu wants to bring back the tradition of Furoshiki with a modern twist in the use of fabric and printed art. We design for the generation that embraces originality and authenticity. We strive to encourage others to reactivate the creative side of their brains and to observe and interact with things from different perspectives.
Our goal is to create seasonless and evergreen designs that don’t go out of style, allowing the art to live long and products to last long. We promote the idea of slow living, doing good, and “less is more”. We see that our customers are connecting with their friends and loved ones in new and different ways through our products, which is what we feel most grateful for, and will continue to express through our brand.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
To me, success means to have a balanced life style. There are so many things we want in life – health, money, status, beautiful home, etc. While they are all nice to have, I will feel successful when I managed to find the equilibrium in life and the things I love to do.