Meet Grace Paik artist and founder of the brand Jaq Jaq Bird. Jaq Jaq Bird’s most popular product is a handy coloring book with dust free chalk that can be used over and over again. This creative invention is the ideal gift for kids when travelling, going out to dinner and also while being at home. Read more about business woman and mother Grace…
Are you a Mom?
Yes, I have 3 children. Two sons ages 16 and 12. And one 14-year old daughter.
What are the ups and downs of being a Mom?
Wow, what a serious question. Let me be really frank here because I want readers to know I really struggle in this area. Working from home is wonderful in so many ways, but also presents a daily challenge. It means your attention is constantly divided. Maintaining my family/house life is a constant balancing act. I often think it’s worse working from home when the kids are present than actually going to a different location to work. Working at home while the kids are present can send an unintended message that, “Mom is busy right now and I don’t have time for you.” As much as I try, it’s so hard to walk away from work at set times each day. And being overseas with significant time differences has made it even harder. Even though my children have adapted to mom’s juggling act and have shown great patience over the years … it’s still hard when I cannot give them 100% attention.
Another one of my personal struggles as a parent is the constant guidance we (my husband and I ) give to our children hoping they are internalizing the principles we are teaching them. Yet they will say or do something so contrary to this that I sometimes wonder if they understand why we are teaching them these principles. I know they do not see the sacrifices we make for them. Many times they feel entitled. This has been my biggest struggle as I’m dealing with the teenage years of parenthood right now. Whether it’s the rolling of their eyes when I tell my daughter she needs to wear a warmer coat before she leaves the house to a serious offense such as taking money from dad’s wallet without permission. This makes me wonder if what we are teaching them through our words and example have any staying power.
UPS: I love seeing their eyes and expressions when they experience something for the first time. They still have an innocence about them that I know we as adults have lost. I cherish the time when I can still cuddle with my 16 year old son and talk about his friends and school, or when my daughter willingly shares with me her insecurities about her friendships at school, or when my 12 year old son thinks mom is stronger than him because I can still beat him in arm wrestling (though not for long!).
What motivates you? Where do you find your inspiration?
What motivates me to be a better person? My husband. It is rare to find, but I’m blessed with having a great marriage. He pushes me to be a better mom, wife, and friend! We can talk for hours and never get sick of one another. It’s a bit ironic because we have nothing in common (yes, seriously), and yet we can delve into each other’s world and find great appreciation in it. He’s a sports fanatic, I love to attend symphonies; he loves camping & the outdoors, I prefer 4-star hotels; he’s an early bird, I’m a night owl; he loves movie dramas, I need comedies; there’s nothing better than a Sunday nap, he never naps. The list goes on, but over the years, we’ve discovered that our differences provide great diversity for each other and our children. Oh, we’re both foodies and we love to talk over a good meal! 🙂
I often find my creative inspiration for Jaq Jaq Bird when I travel. I love experiencing unique cultures, languages, and people. Being in Europe has opened my eyes to another world of design for Jaq Jaq Bird products.
Why/How did you create Jaq Jaq Bird?
I met my husband at his parent’s cafe while finishing up graduate studies in Chicago. He was working at the coffee shop helping his parents when I walked in. We were truly two ships passing in the night. He was serving in the Air Force, preparing to depart for his next assignment in Korea and I was on my way to England to start a PhD program in Theology. We had 2 weeks together in that Chicago coffee shop before he left for Korea. We saw each other almost every day, conversation after conversation. He departed, but the conversations never stopped. 6 weeks after our first encounter, we found ourselves eloping in Korea! When we had our first child 18 months later, I was craving a creative outlet, something to do around the house while the baby was asleep and my husband was still at work. I dabbled with sewing bibs, placemats and other designs for my own children, and found that others loved my designs as well. Fast forward 5 years… While my husband was stationed at the Pentagon, we purchased a small bungalow in DC that needed a lot of repair. So we hired a contractor to renovate our kitchen among other rooms. This was during my third pregnancy and the house was supposed to be ready by the time the baby arrived. One cold October evening, we received a call from the FBI informing us that our contractor was a fraud and that he likely ran off with our money. We gave them our entire life savings to fix our house. They had gutted our kitchen and HVAC system, then never showed up again. Without any money to hire someone else, my husband slowly worked on finishing the house by himself, but we would end up being without a kitchen for nearly 4 months. We were constantly eating out with three little ones. This is when and how I came up with the “chalk mat.” My children would habitually tear up the the paper children’s menu provided at most restaurants. Their value would last about 5 seconds. So, I decided to design a more durable place mat where one side was for eating, and the other side was for drawing … on a chalk cloth. Pretty soon, other restaurant customers began to inquire where I purchased my chalk mats. I finally made a few to show nearby boutiques, and wouldn’t you know… they sold out immediately! Both the Washington Post and HGTV ran across my products at one of the local boutiques and ended up doing a feature story on our inventive products. Within a week of our story airing, we received over $12,000 in orders! This gave us the money we needed to finish repairing the kitchen and HVAC. Who would have ever thought that losing our kitchen & having to eat out would set the stage necessary to bring the chalk mat and Jaq Jaq Bird to life! This is the story of Jaq Jaq Bird’s beginnings. It didn’t happen with a plan, but out of sheer necessity to occupy my children at restaurants while we struggled through a lengthy house remodel after having lost all our funds.
What is your dream for the company? How do you see Jaq Jaq Bird in the next 5-10 years?
In today’s generation of social media, gaming, and electronics overload, Jaq Jaq Bird still believes in the timeless beauty, simplicity, and value of “creativity unplugged.” That a child’s imagination and manual dexterity is best nurtured and developed apart from the digital screen. This means we desire to see every household in the world owning at least one product from Jaq Jaq Bird, because that means your children are likely to spend more time imagining, drawing, thinking and doing, rather than sitting and staring for their entertainment. Ultimately, we see Jaq Jaq Bird as a global company working with bookstores, libraries, art suppliers, schools, authors, museums and toy stores where our products are in front of every customer that cares about education, imagination, dexterity and art. It will be a household name… aiming for 5 years instead of 10!
Do you have any tips or advice for young people and they parents who are interested in buying Jaq Jaq Bird ?
Think of our products as an extension of art work and/or story telling. The Doodle it™, Color it ™ books and mats are intended to be a canvas for the young, aspiring artist within each child! There are no limits. With its easy wipe feature, our products are meant to be used again and again … creativity has no limits. And practically speaking, the flexibility, portability and durability of our products are ideal for those times when you’re traveling, eating out, long road trips, at the doctor’s office, etc. Have it handy when the only other option seems to be the TV. Have it ready before the big screen becomes a temptation. For our Butterstix®, go ahead and experiment with blending of colors … just mix with a little bit of water. It can also work as a crayon on paper as well as pastels when blended. Sharpen Butterstix® when you need more precision. Butterstix® and our chalk runners are also great for children & adult social gatherings.
Do you have any favorite chalk artists or artists in general?
Chalk Artist: Dana Tanamachi. There are no shortcuts with her work. I love how she uses her hands only to letter and draw on walls, murals, and canvases for companies. She’s a purist. She works so much with her own hands. You can see her fingerprints all over her chalk art.
Artist: Van Gogh. But it seems like everybody loves him! He attracts millions of people to museums and exhibitions. He sells millions of posters, stationery, mugs, calendars, etc… this is also partly the same reason I love him too. He didn’t have money, but passion. He learned through hard knox, Van Gogh taught himself how to paint. He didn’t have enough money to hire models for portraits so he painted himself. I love this part about him. He was so determined to learn, he wasn’t afraid to draw himself. This speaks volumes to me about a person.. not hindered by insecurities, or money. He was riddled with early failures in life, health problems, and personal eccentricities. During his lifetime, he only sold a handful of paintings. The other 900 plus paintings that he did were not sold or were famous only after his death. I love Van Gogh’s brushstrokes: the textured sunflowers and landscapes, the intense portraits so emotive in color brushed on so thickly and energetically that when you see it, you immediately know it’s Vincent Van Gogh. There is something very complex in his artwork that moves my soul. It is the same type of feeling that envelopes me when I listen to a Beethoven piano Sonata or Dvorak’s quartets. It has an unspeakable way of moving me that words can’t describe.
What are your favorite books for kids?
There are so many books but two really stand out: My favorite one is Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. It’s a story about a 4 year old boy who takes his purple crayon and draws his world with it. Harold is walking in the night, but there is no moon, so he draws one. He wants to walk, but doesn’t have anywhere to go, so he draws a path. He needs a bed to sleep on, so he draws a bed with a window next to it. To me, this is the essence of every little child.. They love to pretend/imagine/ to live in another world they can make up and pretend. Only Harold has the power to create it with one simple crayon..or from one simple Butterstix? 🙂
Another one of my favorite books is the New York Review Children Collection series about a Cat Club, namely one black cat named Jenny Linsky by Esther Averill. Jenny Linsky is a black cat that wears a red scarf. Jenny Linsky is not a good cat, but not a bad cat. She is a black cat that captures your heart. She wants to be part of the sophisticated group called the Cat Club in her neighborhood in Greenwich village. Averill explains in detail every character of the cat, which includes her brother Checkers who has a little red ball, and Pickles, the Fire House Cat with his helmet. I have a video of my four year old son reading this the book to me by memory because I read it to him so much. It endears me so much to see how much the kids love the stories from this collection.
What are your must-haves for the entire family (for dad, mom and the kids), whether it be beauty, fashion, accessories, books, websites, magazines, etc.?
There are 3 things I cannot live without: Coffee, Bible and Phone.
Coffee: Keeps my energy, I have manual grinder, burr grinder, a scale for my coffee only, and 2-3 machines that I regularly use. If you ask my kids what mom wants for Christmas, they know it’s some sort of coffee gadget and beans!
Bible: My soul’s food. It nourishes my spirit when read the Bible, and keeps me in check with God.
Phone: Keeps me connected in every way, yes I’m guilty, I’m addicted to my phone. I often make excuses to say it’s only because it’s an evil necessity for work, but really I think that is just an excuse.. I really do believe I would not be on it 24/7 if it wasn’t for work though! Honest! 🙂
For family: Having a sit down dinner almost every night is essential because we are able to put everything away and just talk about our day. My husband asks the same set of questions at the dinner table: “What was the best and worst part of your day?” It really opens my kids up to share about their struggles and joys.
I admit having overseas has been a life saver for us. As much as I complain about how it takes away my core business with our independent retailers, we love the convenience of domestic shipping charges (A prime member gets free shipping!) from USA to Germany. The only luxury I miss out on is same day or 2 day shipping. It takes almost 2 weeks, but it teaches us patience… which is a virtue.
Beauty: A box of hair color kit for my graying hair. I’m getting so old! Individual paper masks when traveling, especially at the trade shows! I don’t sleep enough and I need all the help I can get when I’m on the go!
Favorite brand for clothes I always wear: Sandro. I love the cut, quality and store whenever I come to Paris!
You are based in Germany and are moving to California. What type of spots do you recommend in Germany and California for the family? for Moms and or Dads?
In Germany we love the Bavaria region, near Austria and also near Munich. The scenery is breath taking. Also hiking on Philosophy Weg in Heidelberg, at the top you see the beautiful view of the city and Neckar River. Then come down and eat a proper German dinner with Hefe-Weissbier. I also love the German/French border along the Black Forest and Alsace region especially during grape harvest season and drinking new wine. We love the small quaint villages along the vineyards in this area, great for family, and friends. I love to learn about small towns because it truly reflects the local culture, away from the pomp and circumstance of tourist destinations.
California: Golfing at Half Moon Bay for dad and son trips, hiking in Redwoods as a family, camping at Lake Tahoe, and Yosemite Park. I also love just hanging out with my friends in San Francisco with good food and wine! 🙂
Thank you Grace!
This post is also available in: French