A Sidewalk Chat
(the short story)
Welcome to Bright Spark Paper, a small-batch greeting card and invitation studio in Northampton, Massachusetts. I am inspired over and over by people, connection, laughter, tastes, and music. In fact, those are just a few of the things in my life that have helped me appreciate my own inner spark. Those “sparks” often evolve into cards, which marry my love of words, high-quality paper, white space and color. Perhaps a design or two will resonate with you, and make its way in the mail to one of your very favorite people.
When I'm not in my studio, I can be found dashing around New England with family and friends, gazing at paint chips, singing backup for a few favorite songwriters, reading to some of my favorite first-graders, chatting with a sister, rationalizing just one more pair of dangly silver earrings, deeply discussing ice cream flavors, swimming in the coldest ocean, lake or river I can find, adding ridiculous amounts of fresh lemon to my food, and telling Juniper that she is the sweetest, softest and silliest pup in all the land.
~ Louisa Wimberger, Owner & Designer
Pull Up a Chair
(the long story)
My mom, Eileen, had birthdays and anniversaries written on the calendar in our small, cozy kitchen. As a child, I loved going with her to the local stationery store to choose just the right card for each person. She’d write them, sign and address them at the start of each month, putting the date where the stamp would eventually be licked and stuck. Before bedtime, I’d see her check her pile of cards to see which would go in the next day’s mail, leaving enough time for them to arrive on the appropriate day to greet her friends, aunt, in-laws, nieces, nephews, cousins, daughters and their partners, possibly someone’s dog, or all-manner-of-other-people-she-met-and-connected-and stayed-in-touch with. Those people often picked up the phone to thank her for thinking of them, and they’d gab on the phone while Mom buzzed around the kitchen.
Meanwhile, I’d be nearby in the kitchen or my bedroom, using the coveted box of 64 Crayola crayons (oh, that smell!) to blend colors and find new ways to write letters (the elementary version of font design?). I made cards for my sisters and friends and elaborate end-of-year letters to my teachers. As early as first grade, it was nearly impossible for me to submit a school assignment without adding my own, well, let’s call it “flair.” Some teachers appreciated that. Others did not. I couldn’t really help myself.
Throughout my twenties, I was especially drawn to stores that carried high-quality papers, interesting pens, hand-carved stamps, vibrant and chalky inks. I found my favorites in Pioneer Square (Seattle) and Porter Square (Cambridge), the latter of which was just blocks away from my apartment during graduate school (exciting and distracting). It was just a hobby at the time, but I'm glad the people at the Cambridge store encouraged me to experiment with unexpected color combinations and textures.
In 1997 I moved to the beautiful small city of Charlottesville, VA, where I got my first teaching job (high school English and journalism). Among all the lesson planning, paper grading, report writing and club sponsoring, I kept squeezing in time to design cards and invitations for friends. In July 2000, I named my little card line Weehah, which became a family nickname when my then-two-year-old niece said my name. I set up a booth at the downtown farmers’ market (recently named one of the best in the country - go if you’re in the neighborhood!). Word of mouth spread, orders came in, and a local friend designed my first website. I quickly learned about wholesale when a favorite store approached me about carrying my line. Weehah “became a thing” there because of a wonderful, creative community where people like me found support as we started and grew our small businesses. You’ll find it mentioned on the back of my cards. Charlottesville will always be one of the places I call home.
And here we are! So much has happened. I moved back to New England to be closer to family, snow, and so much salty and fresh water. Instead of shows and markets, I now primarily sell my work on my website and in these stores. I still get to be part of a wonderful school community, but in a position that allows much more time for time in my studio. My beloved mom (that's her pearl engagement ring in the above photo) died after a long, full and beautiful life; I am so grateful that she lives on in me (and our family) every day in many ways that make us smile. I have a hilarious rescue dog named Juniper, who would prefer I stop packaging orders and instead take her to the park or snuggle with her on the couch. If you follow me on Insta or read my teensy blog, Sparks, you'll see a lot of her.
It thrills me to share with you that, after 20 years as Weehah, my business is now named Bright Spark Paper. Over the years, I have become more aware (and appreciative of) the bright spark that lives in me. Most days, I don’t have to work *too* hard to to access it, but even when I do, I know it’s there. That spark manifests in the colors and authentic voice in my designs. My hope is that you, as one of my cards reads, will “love your own loveliness and cherish your own spark.”