NWA Girl Gang Q+A Editorial, Photography by Laura Kilpatrick
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
Hi there! I’m Emily, and I’m a visual designer, stationery shop owner and Northwest Arkansas local. By day, I’m a full-time brand designer, and in my free time I create mental health-focused stationery and goods for my stationery shop, Pistachico Paper Goods . The project was born out of an incredibly difficult few years battling severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and it has become my passion since going through treatment to make meaningful products to better normalize mental health. I also am starting to work for better mental health services within the state of Arkansas with the IOCDF OCD Arkansas affiliate, which is launching in 2021. I’ve been a Northwest Arkansas local since 2008, and love this area for the outdoors, relaxed pace of life, and incredible community.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
Pretty close to what I do now! I wanted to be a fashion designer when I was younger. I settled on graphic design in college after finishing my degree in journalism and developing a love for how visual design can tell impactful stories.
How did you get started?
Pistachico started out of a need for a mental health journal for myself. In 2018, I was battling really severe OCD, which is an incredibly misunderstood disorder that desperately needs more education and understanding. OCD causes sufferers to experience obsessions (unwanted intrusive thoughts that can be incredibly disturbing and frightening) and compulsions (repetitive actions carried out to negate the fears, such as checking, ruminating, washing, among many others), and at the time I had no idea what was going on. I had always been a pretty anxious child, but my world turned upside down that year and I was suddenly overwhelmed with very life-altering anxiety.
Unfortunately, Arkansas has a serious lack of mental-health providers trained in understanding and treating the OCD, so I had to see an out-of-state therapist who was incredibly expensive. I could only afford to see her once every three weeks, so I created and printed a journal for myself to keep track of my recovery and healing. When I started on a road to living again through the help of my therapist, who I can’t ever thank enough — she will always be a life changer to me, and I highly recommend working with someone if you’re struggling even 1% — I realized there was a defined lack of styled but useful products that could help manage healing as well as with daily life with an anxious mind. Products that weren’t embarrassing or childish or kitschy. Products that made sense.
So I made one myself — an anxiety journal for better mental health. A secret, safe place to vent, grow, and find better ways to manage my anxiety, depression, and daily struggles — and then a few friends asked for one, and then strangers asked for them. I made a little Instagram to share my work and the number of messages I got from people gave me so much insight as to the fact that we live in a truly difficult world and that we all have ways to serve one another. I did a Kickstarter campaign in 2019 to crowdfund printing the book, which funded almost 200% and allowed me to send journals to over 100 people across the world, and the shop officially launched in early 2019.
What were some of the difficulties you faced in starting?
Oh man, what weren’t the difficulties in starting. I was still going through really intense Exposure-Response Prevention (ERP), which is the gold standard treatment for OCD that I was extremely fortunate to find. Going through OCD treatment is intensely mentally and emotionally exhausting, so personally I was still struggling. Business wise, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing - I had the idea for the journal and the skills to design, but that was where my expertise ended. I didn’t even have a supplier before I started the crowdfunding campaign! I spent a lot of time that year learning everything I could about book publication, starting a business, manufacturing, shipping, and everything in between while staying on track to finalize my crowdfunding campaign by my deadline. It was a sprint to not only fulfill the campaign but also learn everything I needed to know, but I’m better for it through having to learn so much so quickly.
In moments of self-doubt, hardships or failure, how do you build back up?
I honestly go back to what I’ve learned in therapy each and every day - acceptance of hardship or failure, embracing the uncertainties of whatever happens, and knowing that I can do really hard things no matter the circumstances. I’ve worked so much on rebuilding my self-worth and value over the past couple of years, and it’s been really helpful to have these skills and renewed confidence to help both in the journey of recovery and in being a new business owner.
What is your best advice to someone just starting out?
The best advice I can give is to start scared but start anyway. Beginning a passion project, especially when you’re working a full time job, can be a really layered experience of fear, anxiety, imposter syndrome, difficult time management, awkwardness and exhaustion. It’s also the most meaningful, exciting, spontaneous, and heart-filled experience, and taking the step forward is so brave and incredible. Once you’ve decided to go for it, find your community - those people who will uplift you, celebrate your wins, be there for the losses, help you network, teach you what they know.
What advice do you wish someone had said to you?
I wish someone had really outlined how okay it is to fail and have setbacks, burnout, and creative lows. It’s such a normal human experience, but failure and burnout can be such an isolating and humiliating experience, especially in creative fields, that we hide it away. Especially running a business on instagram, where our feeds are a highlight reel, I wish that someone had really imparted the wisdom that not everything is going to work out, and that being authentic and real about failure is powerful.
What is your favorite part of what you do?
Hearing people’s stories. When I put out the I’m Doing Okay Anxiety Journal, I got so many deep, heartfelt messages of personal stories, healing and bravery. It was a humbling moment in my life to think that one journal I designed in the lowest moment of my life could reach even one other person, and that’s been my mission ever since: to create meaningful products that encourage people wherever they are at in their lives to feel valued, worthy and joyful.
What inspires you?
People who find joy in their lives and share hope with others regardless of circumstance. I’ve been surrounded by so many incredible mental health warriors over the past few years who live life amid really debilitating situations and continue to find meaning and joy, even in the thick of hardship and pain. I’ve been truly inspired by the selflessness of so many people, and it inspires me to love others well and advocate for what I believe in.
Who inspires you?
So many things inspire me, but my husband has to be the biggest inspiration in my life. He’s such an incredible human, who has stood by me truly through sickness and health. He’s giving, patient, and so kind, and has been the absolute powerhouse in getting my business off the ground - encouraging me relentlessly, helping me reach my goals, and being there for me for every moment big or small.
Name some local creatives that you really admire.
Where do I even start - there’s such an incredible creative community in Northwest Arkansas, full of even more incredible women that I’m so inspired by. Maggie Owens of Presley Paige continues to inspire me with her amazing balance of a full-time job while running the coolest brick-and-mortar store. Paige Meredith, too! She has been a chief encourager throughout the last year, and was the most lovely mentor through my first pop-up market last fall. So many more powerhouse women that there are too many to name, and so many more that I can’t wait to meet.
What message would you like to share with your fellow women in the community?
My message, always and forever, is that I’m thankful for every single woman who is part of the NWA Girl Gang. I’m so fortunate to be a part of this group, and inspired by every single female creating a life that aligned with her purpose and values. I’ve been so uplifted and supported by this community, and I’ll never stop being thankful for that. Lastly, however I can support my fellow women in this community, I look forward to doing that. Whether it’s sharing what I know or encouraging a fellow gal to do something incredible, I’m here for this community as a resource and a supporter.
FOLLOW Emily on Instagram HERE!
INTERNATIONAL OCD FOUNDATION HERE
LIVING WITH OCD ( IOCDF) HERE
WHAT IS OBESESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER? - American Psychiatric Association HERE
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER | Laura Kilpatrick is a Wedding + Elopement photographer in Arkansas.