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Success on Paper: Tamara Garvey, Artist & Illustrator

Can upgrading from big-box store printing services to high-quality paper improve your revenue?

Discover how we helped Tamara turn her quirky burglars into money-makers.

“Cute Absurdism”

What happens when you graduate from art school and daydream about burglars climbing birch trees filled with Russian nesting dolls? If you’re Tamara Garvey, you paint your daydream. Tamara Garvey did just that, and the result has been a series of “burglar” art prints and note cards that capture her customers’ imagination to this day.

Of course, this artist and illustrator paints other themes, like colorful florals, abstracts, animals, and scenes from Savannah, Georgia, where she lives. Sometimes, she hides handwritten messages within the images, beckoning us to look more closely.

Enter Red River Paper

When Tamara first opened her Etsy shop, she used whichever glossy card stock Staples carried. Realizing she had no control over the colors (or turnaround time) of her printed work, she changed her approach.

“One of my illustration professors had told us about Red River Paper,” Tamara says. After ordering a sample pack and appreciating the difference in quality, she bought an Epson printer. “From there I quickly branched out into buying Red River’s card paper too, and began printing my art on greeting cards and prints,” explains Tamara. “That was what really opened up my business and my income!”

For Tamara’s art prints, she uses our 68 lb. UltraPro Satin. Our top-seller, UltraPro Satin, has the look and feel of photo lab satin with a lightly textured surface to break up reflections and minimize fingerprints. Tamara creates greeting cards and note cards using our 60 lb. Polar Matte sheets, which are pre-scored and fold easily to 5x5” x 8.5”. The bright white tone offers amazing contrast, with bold colors and smooth saturation.

See More of Tamara’s Work

If you’d like to peruse more of Tamara’s unique shenanigans, visit or her Etsy shop. Follow her artful adventures on Instagram. When you’re lucky enough to be traveling to Savannah, see her website’s “Buy in Person” page to find local galleries and shops that sell her creations. To learn how Tamara’s artwork reflects her personality, read her charming responses to our Q&A below.

Enjoy our Q&A with Tamara Garvey

What year was your business founded and how did you get started?

In 2008, I graduated from art school with a degree in illustration and launched an Etsy shop with prints of my artwork. I chipped away at my business for years, fitting it around a full-time job.

It grew gradually, and in 2013, I quit my last full-time job. For the next seven years, I supported myself with my art at least partially — I generally had a part-time job, too.

Since 2020, I've been a full-time artist!

Tell us a little about what product or service your business offers.

I draw quirky, cheerful, pen-and-ink artwork of forests, abstraction, animals, and absurdism. I sell the original paintings and make them into prints and cards from home (using Red River paper exclusively!). I have also made some of my most popular pieces into other items, such as enamel pins, stickers, mugs, and trinket trays.

What makes your business unique?

I've always loved to read, so my paintings frequently incorporate tiny handwriting hidden within the images — like a fun little reward for those who look closely!

Where do you source your raw materials from?

Early on in my business, I discovered the materials that worked for me and have stuck with them for years. All my prints and cards are made from Red River Paper. I use ClearBags for my cardboard print backing and cello sleeves for prints and cards. I pair my greeting cards with recycled "brown bag" paper envelopes, and I've been buying them from one particular seller I discovered on eBay years ago.

In what ways does the business reflect your own personality?

I like absurdism, and I like whimsy. Some of my art includes kooky, colorful abstracts, with cute characters and text built into the dreamy, washy ink shapes — like a fantastical, abstract universe. I describe it as: "Guaranteed to provide hours of entertainment for anyone who gets lost gazing into all its wild details." :)

Who are your typical customers?

Most of my customers are women and girls — of all ages! I am always super touched when a young, college-aged person buys one of my prints, because I know how big of an investment that is for them.

What is the most interesting project you've encountered in the course of your work?

Shortly after graduating art school, an idea for a painting came to me in a daydream. I wanted to draw old-timey burglars (inspired by the ones running around the backyard in the movie "A Christmas Story") climbing up birch trees, with Russian nesting dolls interspersed among the tree branches. It was just a random, absurd idea I had.

The painting came out exactly like I had imagined. Even better, honestly. From there, I did eight or so more burglar paintings. Each one had a different random, absurd object in the trees. I described them as "a whole series of cute absurdism!”

These pieces have always been super popular as prints and cards. After a while I moved to other subject matter, and years went by. Then in 2023 I got the urge to revisit my burglars and did a series of three new pieces. By then, I was using different materials for my original art, so the look was a bit different. But I was happy with how they turned out, and the prints and cards have been selling just as well as the earlier ones always have.

What has Red River Paper done for your business? Is there a particular challenge Red River Paper has helped you overcome or a goal they helped you meet?

When I first opened my Etsy shop, I was getting my prints made at Staples, using whatever glossy card stock they carried. (I hadn't yet delved into greeting cards at all.) I quickly realized the limitations of running my business this way — I had no control over the final product's color or the turnaround time.

One of my illustration professors had told us about Red River Paper. I literally just had a tiny random line written somewhere in a school notebook. But I wanted to grow my business, so I ordered a sample pack of paper and tried it out on a friend's nice Epson printer. The difference in quality was amazing, so I saved up and bought my own Epson printer.

From there I quickly branched out into buying Red River's card paper too, and began printing my art on greeting cards and prints. That was what really opened up my business and my income!

What do you appreciate most about Red River Paper's products/services?

Here are just a few of the many reviews I've gotten on Etsy that specifically mention the Red River Paper products I use:

"These are great cards — good quality and beautiful. Second time ordering, so you can be sure that I loved them.”

"These cards are high quality, great paper stock, a joy to send. Graphic is clear and details are crisp.”

"These cards are printed on high quality paper and are absolutely beautiful. Shipped very quickly!"

Would you like to share a customer testimonial?

People of all ages buy and send greeting cards. Occasionally someone picks out cards while saying, "It's too bad that nobody sends cards anymore," and I can say with honesty: "You know, sending cards is definitely not a dead practice. I am literally paying my bills in large part through card sales." They are always really pleased to hear that.

Original Publication Date: May 22, 2024

Article Last updated: May 22, 2024

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