[ON THE RECORD] Knotty Origami / D.C

[ON THE RECORD] Knotty Origami / D.C

As an Army veteran, Tricia Driscoll always knew she wanted to give back to her community. Whether it was through her military service, or in this case, as the founder of Knotty Origami- a handcrafted jewelry company that has merged Driscoll’s love of travel and community service into one. We talked with Tricia and find out more about her company that values giving back, culture, and service.

On your website, you discussed traveling as a child and your time in the military as what brought you into this world of handcrafting. When did you realize you wanted to start a company?   

I always knew that I wanted to start a company.  Even as an 8 year old child in Korea, I spent one Summer "writing" my own books which I stapled together and colored in myself, with the idea that I would, one day, decorate a huge box with windows, and set up "shop" on the corner of our apartment complex in Seoul. 

When we were stationed in Germany, we traveled all over Europe. Everywhere we went, I saw such amazing cultural differences and beauty.  I was fascinated by them. But, there was also a commonality.  

I noted that there were similar artistic traditions, often with very different meanings and significances, but that people folded flowers from paper in Japan and Korea in a similar way that corn husks were fashioned into bouquets in Mexico, or how banana leaves were used in the Kenyan art we saw at Bazaars.

I saw that the knots in Irish art bore some resemblance to many I grew up with in Korea.  When I joined the military, I learned several practical knots in courses where we were taught to rig military equipment for transport and to aid survival.  I believe it was there that my fascination with knots really emerged.  

These simple structures, from simple materials, could be the difference between life and death, catastrophe or mission accomplishment. And, yet, knots were also beautiful.
— Driscoll, Founder

It was not until I began making knotted elements to practice the craft, and people would stop me to ask where I got them, that I considered starting my business.

It was actually an epiphany that I could, or should, start a company.  But, once I had that realization, it all made sense.  Every part of my childhood, my career, my family, my love for travel, culture, art, and even math and science came together with the concept of Knotty Origami.  

The knots represent all of these things, and so does the origami we do.

How long does it take for you to hand craft a necklace? What's a pro and con that you have about handcrafting?

The time that goes into every piece truly differs on each piece.  Some pieces can be done within half an hour to an hour. But, some pieces, like our Beaded & Braided Brass & Copper Necklace can take up to 5 hours to complete from start to finish.  The reason for that is that we are using traditional techniques that resemble the very same techniques used in ancient Japan when garments and adornments were made for the Samurai.

The cords are constructed meticulously braid by braid, bead by bead. Extra time goes into many of the knotted pieces to help them keep their shape by stitching each corner by hand.  And, the origami pieces are reinforced in either wax, plaster, or resin.  Creating a knotted, braided, or folded piece of jewelry goes beyond the initial ties and creases to ensure a quality, durable, wearable item.  

The pros of handcrafting are that each piece will be different from the last.  The cons of handcrafting are that each piece will be different from the last. Haha!

At first, I struggled with this concept.  Coming from a military and technical background, I had an image in my mind that uniformity equaled professionalism.  I struggled deeply with how to offer items and scale offerings that were handmade.  The challenge was that handmade items were not stamped out by a machine in mass.  I had to make each piece identical. How could I do that?  It was a real Eureka moment when I realized that the beauty, value, and allure of handcrafted items was that they were NOT uniform and identical to each other.  That is why handcrafted good are so special. The piece you have, may be the only piece like it that anyone will ever have.

Did you always know you wanted your company to give back? 

I did. I feel deeply that socially responsible businesses can make a tremendous impact in the world.  I recall sending a check to the first non-profit we sponsored called Voz De Ninos, a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program for foster children in Webb County, where Knotty Origami got its start.

Knotty Origami had not yet broken even after its first year, and the check was small.  I sent a note of apology to the non-profit with our check and told them how I wish it could have been bigger.  I received a message that the donation would go to purchase a care package for a child who had aged out of the program, and who was getting ready to start their life independently, and they thanked our business.  That message was fuel to keep working to so that future checks could be bigger to the non-profits we sponsor.

We're still preparing for tax filings and haven't finished sales for the year, but we expect to be able to give a much bigger check to the non-profits we are sponsoring this year:  The Transitional Housing BARN, a Virginia non-profit whose mission is to end homelessness and is located the next town over, and Boston Children's Hospital, a place where leading research into rare genetic diseases affecting children is being conducted.  5% of profits are earmarked with every Knotty Origami sale to go to The BARN, and 5% of proceeds from sales of any of Knotty Origami's Awareness products are earmarked for donation to Boston Children's Hospital.  

You can learn more about the organizations we sponsor here.


How do you pick what organizations you support? Is it a feeling, a personal tie, a recommendation?

I choose the organizations we support by looking in our backyard first.  

When we lived in Texas, I was a community blogger who focused on children's events.  That experience brought me to Voz De Ninos.  A group of local bloggers came together to raise awareness of the organization and its need for more Guardians Ad Litem to represent foster children in court.  I knew I didn't have the resources to be a Guardian Ad Lightem, because I knew we were moving, but pulling together the blogging campaign made me feel like we were doing something to help.  When I started Knotty Origami, I knew that Voz De Ninos would be the first non-profit we would sponsor.

When we moved to Virginia, I was the speaker at an event in Haymarket, Virginia, that was designed to raise funds for The Transitional Housing Barn.  I learned about the wonderful benefits of this non-profit and we donated a portion of our sales from that event immediately along with many the donations from the Shepherd Of The Hills Lutheran Church, who sponsored the amazing Christmas event. When I learned that the charity was located in the next town, we knew we'd found the local charity we would sponsor for 2015.  The decision to create Awareness products stemmed from direct requests from customers and friends who asked me to design something to honor particular people affected by certain diseases. In the past year, we received requests to design products to raise awareness of Duane Syndrome, a genetic disorder affecting the alignment of the eye, Epilepsy, and Breast Cancer.  

What's in store for 2016? Hopes you have? Any inkling on what cause you will support in 2016?

Wow.  Thinking about 2016 has me very excited.  2015 was a year of such growth and opportunity.  In the last year, we went from being a strictly e-commerce presence to having our items offered in 6 retail locations across Northern Virginia as well as Northern Ireland!  We were one of the featured artisans for an artist's jewelry showcase in a gorgeous art gallery in Middleburg.  We've even had some amazing opportunities to write for published works on Knotting.   2015 was an amazing year of growth for Knotty Origami, LLC, and we are not just thankful for it, we are invigorated by it, to continue forward.

2016 is sure to be a year of new knotted and folded offerings. We'll be incorporating new materials, especially beads, into many of our designs. We are also starting to offer Basic and Advanced Beading Parties & Trunk Shows

Unique. Busy. Inspiring. Three words that only just begin to describe Knotty Origami. These amazing, handcrafted pieces are the perfect gift for the upcoming holidays. Whether it’s for a loved one, a friend, or yourself, take some time and check them out on their social media accounts. Whether it’s to see what this brand is doing next, or to learn more about what programs they sponsor, you will not be disappointed.

Read more about the causes Knotty Origami supports:

Duane Symptom | Breast Cancer | Epilepsy

Article By Emily O'Rourke @emilyorourke22

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