Occupation: May Chi, Juky and Beatrix
"I secretly use my freaky psychology skills to hypnotize people and program them to spend money at my stall. Muahahaha. My evil plan is foolproof!"
So says May Chi, 23, child psychologist in training and owner of handmade stationery label Juky and Beatrix. I'm living proof her theory works. Since meeting the affable May, I've been smitten with the little, floral fabric covered notebook and illustrated bookmarks I procured at her market stall and took home in a small brown bag featuring a quirky illustration by May herself.
In 2009, May and her friend Rowan thought book binding might be a nice hobby to take up, and so Juky and Beatrix was born. Now Rowan has moved to Melbourne to pursue his career in photography, May is holding up the mantle, shifting her enchanting pop-up shop, which houses vintage-style journals and repurposed children's storybooks in little wooden shelves, between popular markets around Brisbane.
Juky and Beatrix journals feature a mix of paper types – recycled, wheat, textured – and on some pages you'll be delighted to find hidden treasures, such as illustrations and stamp impressions. The storybook journals, which retain their original covers, are ideal for girls who might want to camouflage their jottings between other books, while the mini library books, the tiniest in the collection, are perfect for keeping quotes and odd thoughts in your pocket.
"When I first started making books, I wasn't thinking how I was going to sell them or how much money I could make," says May. "I was making something that I would genuinely want to use, or that my friends would be totally in love with. The selling aspects of it came later. I'm always happy when someone decides to buy something. It's a connection being made. It's like saying, 'Hey, I like this and you like it too! Cool!'."
Though she loves the craft of turning her findings into something special for others to buy, May doesn't see Juky and Beatrix as a day job, or even a viable a business, just yet. Her interest in child psychology appears to be a nice complement for someone who takes old children's book pages and fashions them into bookmarks and still has the giant plushy turtle puppet she loved growing up.
"I've learned the tough way that putting on a bat-themed suit and running around in the dark trying to catch bad guys is not going to pay the bills," she says. "And so, if I have to work – and if I'm going to live with my mum's constant nagging that I "have to get a specialised skill so that you can get a nice job with a steady income" – I might as well get one where I'm helping people (to align my day job with my superheroing). Why specialize in children? I like to think that by helping kids be more adjusted and resilient, the world will be a healthier, nicer place when I retire. I look forward to the day when I'm old and wrinkly and someone asks if they can help me across the street."
While May is having to literally sell furniture to make way for her thriving book collection ("some people throw their money at cosmetics or clothes or exotic holidays; I like to put mine in books"), she has been drawn, in particular, to books published in the late 1880s and early 1900s.
"It wasn't necessarily the 'art noveau' movement that I was into, more of the spirit of the times," she says. "It's amazing that these books were printed more than a hundred years ago, and yet to me, they are completely novel. I have much curiosity for how people lived a hundred years ago and I often wonder about the things that change with time and the things that stay the same. The more I read, the more I realise that though technology has made leaps and bounds, humankind and human nature hasn't moved much at all."
May appears at the Young Designer Markets at Southbank, the Broadbeach Art and Craft Market and on my native Tamborine Mountain. You can track the goings-on and where-abouts of Juky and Beatrix on Facebook.
Girl With a Satchel