Uncanny creations: Maryville woman combines old photos with fun sayings

News-DemocratApril 21, 2013 

— Every day is Earth Day to Paula Picard, who creates humorous magnets made from recycled can lids.

The back of each magnet holds her motto: "If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun."

The fun part is on the front, where, for example, you'll find a 1930s black and white photo of a stern looking teacher sitting at her desk in a classroom. The caption: "You can't scare me. I teach." Another of a harried 1950s woman reads: "Choosy moms choose Chardonnay."

For the 49-year-old owner of Picard Creative, the magnets, as well as greeting cards and other items she designs, have been a way to satisfy her quirky artistic side and make a living.

Paula moved to the metro-east nine years ago from Florida with her son, Hector Fuentes, now 20, a college student. She has been in business four years.

"You know, I didn't really find my niche until this," she said. "I worked in corporate America: office manager, office assistant for many years. I did extensive retail. Working in corporate, though, that taught me why I wanted to work for myself!"

Never able to draw, she learned on computers everything she could about graphic art.

"This isn't an original idea. I got it from somebody else, but I've made it my own and I figured out the secret for making them look perfect," she said of making the magnets. She's not sharing.

Paula does four or five craft shows a year, such as the annual Strange Folk Festival in September in O'Fallon and the Gypsy Caravan on May 29 in St. Louis. You'll find her at the weekly outdoor Land of Goshen Community Market in downtown Edwardsville on Saturdays starting May 11.

She sells her goods to 15 small retailers across the United States (the closest is Pixie Stix in Grafton), one in Canada and through a distributor she has in Australia. She has customers in 26 countries through her online presence at Etsy,com and through her website, picardcreative.com.

Paula works out of her Maryville apartment. A portion of her dining area is given over to storing, sorting and assembling her creations. Magnets were the first and are the largest part of her business.

She tries to keep an ample assortment of sizes of can lids. The smallest are made into Christmas ornaments. But she has a backup plan if the supply runs low.

"I have friends in Florida, Michigan, four to five people here -- artist friends who know I collect the lids and save them for me," she said. "I have church ladies who save canning lids for me, too."

She uses a safety can opener to cut a smooth edge.

The process of making magnets isn't complicated, but it is time consuming.

It starts with a bit of meandering through flea markets, antique shops and second-hand stores.

"I look for old photos and images and scan them," she said, holding up a recently purchased formal studio shot of a woman in 1920s clothing. "I don't know what I'm going to do with her yet."

Paula's witty sayings on what look like strips of typewritten paper come from the mind of "a sarcastic woman." Sometimes, she will see a phrase she likes and copy it, but as with the images and photos she uses, everything is in the public domain, so no copyright laws are violated.

She uses the computer for rendering images and lettering, cuts perfect circles by hand, then glues the images onto can lids.

"It's really amazing how hard that is," she said of the cutting. "But I can do it, and it makes the magnets look great. These may be recycled products, but they don't look like trash."

Once they are dry, she paints on a glaze that seals them. Her label and a magnet are glued on the back. She sells them online for $5.75, plus shipping. Buy one directly from her at a show and it's $5.

"I'm lucky to have a successful business. I love what I do," she said. "Of just the magnets, I probably sell a couple thousand a year."

A little extra benefit comes along when customers see her work.

"When I do a show, people stand there and laugh," she said. "Then, there's someone who will say something like, 'I was having a bad day. Thank you for doing what you do.'"

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