The Chemist Tree was featured in my post about the 2015 One of a Kind Show. Each card is so clever and makes me laugh every time. Read on to find out more about Rovena Tey and her creative science business.
Do you practice drawing the chemical structures several times prior to drawing them on the card?
I do practice drawing. With large orders or for complicated structures, I trace to improve my speed. Recently, some designs were digitized for printing as the demand for my chemistry cards is increasing every year.
Do you have a favourite chemical structure? What is it and why?
It’s difficult to pick one favourite structure. However, I am drawn to many of my food-themed chemistry cards, especially the ones that also incorporate puns (e.g., you’re phonomenal & you make my heart beet) because both food and laughter are good for the soul.
How do you manage juggling a full-time job, an online business, an Etsy store and a family?
Doing it all is difficult because each role could be a full-time job in its own right. You only have so much time and energy. When I was expecting my second baby, I left my full-time science research job, so now I juggle motherhood, family and my creative science business. It’s still not easy but allowing myself to go at my own pace helps. I wear the mommy hat nearly all the time and when my children are sleeping at night, that’s when I get most of the creative work done. The weekends are mostly family time.
What challenges did you encounter when you first set up The Chemist Tree?
The Chemist Tree started last year, branching off from my first handmade card business, Handmades by Rovena that included both chemistry and non-chemistry cards. What started out as six chemistry cards eventually exploded to a collection of over 100 designs, so it only made sense that the chemistry collection could now have its own identity as The Chemist Tree. This was the solution to a challenge, the disconnect I initially felt with Handmades by Rovena showcasing both chemistry and non-chemistry cards—it seemed too dichotomous and lacked focus.
How do you come up with your sayings and decide which chemical structure would be suitable for it?
Ideas come from anywhere at anytime and I don’t quite know the mechanism of how it all happens but when a brilliant one comes, I’m usually running to find a piece of paper to write it down so I don’t forget. Sometimes I come up with a caption first (e.g., thanks so matcha), then I research the related topic or subject (e.g., green tea) by reading scientific papers to learn about the chemistry behind it. Often, there’s more than one chemical structure associated with a particular subject, and then I will need to see what they look like before choosing the most interesting or representative one as the design to go with the caption.
On average, how long would you say it takes to create a handmade card?
It depends on the size of the chemical structure in the design, a single card could take anywhere from 5 to 15 mins to make, with larger structures taking more time.
What kind of greeting card was the one made out of recycled lab manual covers? Who did you give it to?
It was a Christmas greeting card since it was around the end of year when I made it. It actually wasn’t a chemistry card but a handmade paper-cut card with the design of a poinsettia. I showed it to a whole lot of people but never actually gave it to any particular person. It is still somewhere in my house today.
What would you say is your biggest selling product?
Because they have been my first product and have had the time to grow to a large variety of designs (over 150), my chemistry cards are my biggest selling product. A card is a tangible way of connecting with another person, whether it is for a special occasion or not. The chemistry cards are unique and I’ve been told that there is nothing like it out there, so everyone seems drawn to them. Besides fitting a niche as the perfect thing to get for all the students, teachers, professors, scientists, chemists, doctors, and engineers in your life including the nerd next door, they are presented in a fun and creative way such that anyone can learn a little tidbit of everyday science.
Do you have any plans to include more designs and more products in the future?
Many new ideas come to me over time so I definitely try to release new designs and product types every year. Some of the new designs for this year will focus on more food and drink chemistry because I’ve met so many foodies and friends of foodies at craft shows. As for new product types this year, I will be introducing notebooks.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to create a product and an online store?
I always say, just go for it! It’s ok to start small, even if you don’t feel that you are ready. Go at your own pace – you can build and get better over time. What’s most important is to start the journey now because you will learn so much as you go along. The sooner you start, the more time you have to learn.