TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Paper Bar Company may have started small, but it’s now a global brand that fuses together art, fashion and educating youth across central Florida.
The Paper Bar Company was created in November 2016 by Jaison Radcliff and Andrew Browne. The brand is a combination of Radcliff and Browne’s passions: art, fashion and education.
“I have been drawing since I was 5 years old,” Radcliff said.
Radcliff was a natural born talent. In fact, he comes from a family of artists.
“My mom fostered creativity growing up,” Radcliff said. “She’s an artist, my grandmother drew, my dad’s a musician so it just kind of came natural.”
Radcliff’s mom recognized his talent when he was 5 and sent an application in to an art and design school.
“They say okay, we want to interview your son and she sets up an interview,” he said. “They’re like this is a joke right? This is a 5-year-old kid? They didn’t believe it so they said he needs to come in and do it in person.”
Radcliff went to school and drew a pirate, ship and a log cabin.
“They said if he’s still interested in 17 years, we’ll take him,” Radcliff recalled. “Well for me that was a pivotal thing about that story of if. Think about it, in 1985, if I was any other race I would have been a prodigy, I would have been a genius it would have been let’s immediately get him into the program, but 1985 in New York? It’s like if he doesn’t become something else, if his interests don’t change, if the odds are in his favor, so that word ‘if’ is super important to me.”
That’s because he defied the odds.
Radcliff never stopped working at his craft. In fact, he has never viewed his artistry as work.
“I draw for me, I love to just scribble and doodle,” he said. “I draw on the mail, in newspaper, if I’m talking on the phone I’m drawing because for me it’s therapeutic.”
It wasn’t until he met his partner, Andrew Browne, when Radcliff started drawing for others.
“I had an idea to take illustrations and make greeting cards out of it,” Browne said. “He hated the idea, didn’t want to do it. My thought was I’ll just do it on my end and see what happens.”
They say what’s mine is yours in relationships, right? Well, Browne definitely believed in that.
“In the beginning Jaison would draw on newspaper and then he would throw it away,” Browne said. “I fished out some illustrations he threw away, ironed them flat, and I thought I will make a Christmas card out of them, so I scanned it and sent the cards out.”
Browne said the feedback was incredible, except the main question people had was unexpected.
“Everyone wanted to know where did we get it?” Browne said. “I thought I’d make some and we’d sell it and that’s where Etsy came in.”
Unbeknownst to Radcliff, Browne created an Etsy account with Radcliff’s work.
“I took his debit card, created an Etsy for him, made cards and sold them and that’s how we got started,” Browne said.
Meanwhile, Radcliff thought he was hacked.
“I didn’t even know what Etsy was, I said, who is this woman? She’s in my bank, get her out,” Radcliff said.
That’s when Browne had to come clean. At first, Radcliff was upset, but then he gave it a try, saw how lucrative the business was and hopped on board.
“It’s a funny story now, then, not so much,” Browne said.
“I’m super grateful that he saw far behind what I could see and that he believed in my artistry,” Radcliff said.
“I said Jaison do you think you can do these sketches in less than 10 minutes? He said yes and we’ve been doing it since. Our first opportunity was a showcase with Clinique,” Browne said.
Radcliff draws incredible pieces that depict what that person is wearing.
But that’s not all the company does. Radcliff has done artwork for several major companies like Estee Lauder, Dior, Neiman Marcus, Dillards and more.
In 2018, the couple expanded their brand to teach young children about the fashion and art industries.
“We were presented an opportunity to teach kids about fashion shows, what does it look to produce a fashion show, walking a fashion show and make things for it,” Browne said.
It immediately became a passion for the both of them. Browne has a background in education and is now the Education Director of the Paper Bar Co.
“I always wanted to be an artist, I didn’t know how that was going to come about, so teaching was another thing,” Browne said.
The two now teach at schools in the Davenport, Winter Haven and Orlando areas weekly.
“If you want to be a designer or in the fashion industry there’s no program for you at 10, so that’s where we’re touching them, meeting them where they are at,” Browne said.
Radcliff and Browne are now looking at opportunities to teach students in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk counties. They want to help the next generation of artists and designers recognize their potential and work toward their goals.
“My why is truly the next generation,” Radcliff said. “It’s the if factor for me, if I can touch one student to believe in themselves, to try and do it, then I’ve made my difference, I’ve done my life’s work.”
They hope to open an art and design school one day and they continue to the defy the odds of ‘if.’
“Being an African American man, in fashion, in illustration, in the arts and being able to be a face people can connect to, a personality that young boys can connect to and say I can see myself in him, it’s important.”
With education being an important key part of their brand, Radcliff and Browne have published books that highlight African-Americans who have made their mark on the art and fashion industries. They also continue to sell their merchandise online, as well as book for live sketch experiences. If interested in booking for a live sketch experience email: firstname.lastname@example.org