Fellow Artisan: Handmades By Rovena and The Chemist Tree

Rovena Tey of Handmades by Rovena and The Chemist Tree is a fellow Etsy vendor who will be joining me and many others on Sunday, October 25 from 10am-3pm and at the Etsy Marketplace in the Pavilions at Evergreen Brick Works Farmers’ Market at 550 Bayview Ave, Toronto. Her science cards caught my attention, but they actually came later to her business. Read all about it below!

(click on images to see larger versions on original websites)


Handmades by Rovena and The Chemist Tree

Products: handmade greeting cards & stationery, posters, pin-back buttons, magnets, bottle openers, tote bags

Price Range: $4-$50

How did this all begin?
I’m a scientist and creative paper artist who makes smart, punny, and nerdy greeting cards. Every piece is made by hand, one by one, with much love and care. I spent my childhood in Singapore, but am now living near Toronto in Canada. I get lost in my creative world mostly by night, as I’m also a mom to a boy and a baby girl.

Although I’ve always been creative since I was small, dabbling in all sorts of crafty endeavours from cross-stitching to silk-screening, my younger years in Singapore were mostly consumed with school, a very academically-intense 6-days-a-week of school. The paper crafting came much later, fast-forward to after finishing graduate school at McMaster University in Canada.

I studied science. I fell into paper crafting by accident, trying to recycle a lab manual cover by making a card, while job-hunting after graduating university. That is how it began. Eventually, I did find that science job, however, I continued creating art to utilize both sides of my brain.

It may surprise you that the first card I made wasn’t a science card. I think so much of my life had revolved around science that my brain just needed to do something different. With inspiration coming from all the bits and pieces of my life, I made cards by hand, calling myself “Handmades by Rovena.” My handmade cards took on a variety of styles to reflect all the memories from my past, adventures in my present, and my dreams of the future. Nowadays, my signature style has become a simple design paired with a punny or witty statement.

With encouragement from a neighbour who loved and bought my handmade cards, I started selling at local craft shows. Figuring things out as I went along, eventually making the business official in 2010. After I had my first baby, I started an Etsy shop so I could continue selling online when I couldn’t participate at shows.

So how did my science cards come to be? A few years into “Handmades by Rovena,” I made my first chemistry card, inspired by my coffee- & chemistry-loving husband – a brown card showing the molecular structure for caffeine, that famous chemical in coffee. Not only did he like the card, so did everyone else who saw it. This fusion of art and science was unique and there was nothing else like it in the stationery world.

You’ve probably heard the line that when two people get along, it means “there’s chemistry between them.” Right? So, this is true in the literal sense as well as scientifically. When we share a laugh with friends, it is because of the chemical serotonin, a happiness neurotransmitter. Our feelings of attachment with another person are because of vasopressin or oxytocin, chemicals with love and human bonding functions. Which then makes a chemistry card the most awesomely tangible way to connect with another person.

Chemistry is everywhere, more than we even realize – our emotions, what we eat, what we smell, and even the things we touch – and I’m simply showing people this through my art. Every chemical design has a true meaning because it is based on real scientific research, driven by my own curiosity for everyday things. I then simplify the science and use puns and witty lines to make it captivating and memorable (e.g., you’re so rad – shows a chemical from radish). At the same time, creating a fun way for everyone to learn about a seemingly complicated subject.

One chemistry card led to another and another and another. And before I knew it, the chemistry card collection exploded to over 100 different designs and more than 5 different product types, such that it only made sense to branch out into its own brand as The Chemist Tree, which happened in 2015.

By now, I’d also become a mom of two and my small business had grown a little bit more. It’s mostly a one-woman-show so as you can imagine, it’s a challenge to balance family, business, work, and life. So I’ve left my science job for now to focus on the everything else. Looking forward to the ride and where this new adventure takes me.

What do you do when you’re not creating?
My boy and baby girl keep me busy all the time. Most of my daytime hours are spent being a mother, taking care of and playing with my children. I usually only get to do my creating at night when the little ones are sleeping. Outside of day-to-day activities, our family loves nature so we explore conservation parks or hang out at the beach.

What advice do you have for artisans just getting started?
If you have a vision, just go for it and take that first step. Nobody knows everything at the beginning – you will figure it out along the way as long as you keep at it. Sometimes your path may change but just roll with it, as you will learn from every single experience. It is truly an adventure.

You can find Chemist Tree on the web, and Rovena’s Etsy shops: Handmades by RovenaThe Chemist Tree, Twitter @HandmadesRovena & @chemisttreeshop, Instagram @HandmadesRovena & @thechemisttree, Facebook handmades.rovena & chemisttreeshop and do come see her work in person at the Etsy Marketplace at the Brick Works Farmers’ Market on Sunday, October 25!

(All photos used with permission)