Paper Art Shines in Respectful Parenting Board Book

It was great to catch up with paper artist Ioana Stoian [website no longer active] recently and to hear about her latest project, an adorable board book with a thoughtful message for both children and adults, Always Be You. This sturdy book with captivating images cut from Ioana's own handmade paper by illustrator Dawn Cardona contains a rhyming message that expresses acceptance of each and every child.

cover of board book for young children titled Always Be You with sun, insect, and flower paper cuttings

Ioana was previously featured here during the launch of her first book, Origami for All. Since that time, she became fascinated with handmade paper and began making it to use in all of her work. She also married Eric Gjerde, a familiar name in the paper world, as he is an origami artist and author too. They now have a two year old son.

toddler holding board book

Ioana, tell us about the origins of this book.

One evening I sat down to write a letter to my son... I wrote it as a poem and the next day decided to turn it into a book for young children. Creating the book has very much been the same as I create artwork - listen to my intuition and go for it! As an artist, my hope is to bring awareness to the art form of paper making; so many take paper for granted.

back cover of Always Be You, a board book for young children that celebrates and accepts every child

What was your vision for it?

I'm a huge fan of respectful parenting, an approach to parenting that is focused on being present, both physically and emotionally, for a child. Through my book I am trying to share the messages that children need to hear as early in their lives as possible. I believe that with positive messaging we can shape a better society, one with empathy and compassion.

For the last few years I've been making paper artwork always aimed at galleries, curators, collectors... I wanted to bring art to children and felt that the book format was a perfect way to do that. I did have a vision and knew Dawn would be perfect to bring it to life. I made all the paper, dyed it, and then sent her a huge packet so that she could play with the sheets.
laser cut white text on board book page

Did you give Dawn guidelines as to what you wanted included in each illustration?

We collaborated on them... she would sketch, we would talk about it, tweak...a back and forth. I also made specific colours she needed or textures. It was a lot of fun and a lot of work! Once all the illustrations were completed, she sent them to me.

all your thoughts belong - example page from board book, Always Be You

Did Dawn also cut the text?

Eric helped me laser cut the text from my handmade paper, and then I hand glued each letter down. So essentially the entire book is handmade paper artwork.

Ioana Stoian reading her new board book, Always Be You,  to her toddler son at home

And you self-published?

Always be You is published by our own (Eric and my) tiny publishing company, Busy Hands Books, that we set up six years ago to publish Origami for All: Elegant Designs from Simple Folds. I'm very excited that I have now secured North American distribution so it will be easy to purchase in the US. I also have a good distributor for Europe and the UK. The release date is November 5, 2019; it can be pre-ordered now in the U.S. and U.K.

front and back covers of children's board book, Always Be You, showing hand cut, handmade paper illustrations

Thanks Ioana! 
And now let's turn to the illustrator, Dawn M. Cardona (previously featured here). Fun fact: Dawn and I already knew one another as she created a project for my first book, All Things Paper (a nifty two-way gift card). It was good to chat with her again and this is what she told me about working on Always Be You

Ioana introduced herself and her potential project with me via email, and after a phone conversation I was on board. I truly fell in love with her words and the idea of a book that encourages every child to be themselves. I had just finished up work for my first picture book so it was such an honor to be asked to work on her first picture book. I still can't believe she chose me!

I love that this book was a true collaboration in every sense of the word, thanks to Ioana's brilliant mind. From talking through her vision for the book, to using her handmade papers to hand cut the illustrations, to sending her the final art in order for her apply each letter of every word in the book entirely by hand! I am so grateful that we were able to create something special together.

Always Be You is available for pre-order on Amazon.

brightly colored handmade paper strips with deckle edge

Want to win a copy of Always Be You? Ioana will be sending the book and a selection of her handmade paper strips to one U.S. resident. The strips have a deckle edge that she suggests will bring a unique look to quilling. To enter, simply leave a comment below.

The same giveaway is underway on Instagram. Yes, you may enter both places to double your chances. One winner will be chosen via a random number generator on Sunday, October 27 and announced at the end of this post and on Instagram. Be sure to check back to see if you're the winner and claim your prize!

 Quick links: Ioana's website and book / Dawn's website


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Ann Martin
Ann Martin

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  1. Can't wait to give it to my daughter!

  2. would love to have this book
    debbie tyriii at hotmail dot com

  3. So clever and colorful.
    ksukeena at yahoo dot com

  4. Pick me! Pick me! My grand babies would be delighted!

  5. Aww, how sweet!

  6. I'd be thrilled to share this with my granddaughters!

  7. What a gorgeous book! It would be my first book in English for my future grandchildren...
    anneke dot schep 65 at gmail dot com

  8. I would love to win the book and the quilling strips, please.


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