Thursday, January 21, 2010

Q&A (and Gorgeous Studio Peak): Eleanor of e.m. paper goods

Name: Eleanor Reagh Mayrhofer
Location: Munich, Germany (by way of California)
Website/Blog/store :,
Facebook page,

Tell us a little bit about what you make.
I make printable cards and paper goods such as greeting cards, calendars, gift-tags, gift “coupons” (for home-cooked meals, babysitting, etc.) and bookmarks. I also have a line of printable wedding invitation templates, which I’m updating at the moment. The basic idea with a printable is that you purchase a PDF file which you download and print at home on your own printer and then fold and/or cut it to create the card or paper good.

How did you become interested in creating paper goods?
My Dad is a letterpress printer, so I practically grew up in his print shop around paper, type and book arts. As a little girl I never wanted anything to do his ‘yucky, dirty print shop’, but life is funny and I ended up going to art school and studying graphic design—and now really like being in his yucky, dirty print shop. My first job was doing book design (I now work in the internet industry) and I liked the immediacy of doing covers and enjoyed working with typography, layout and imagery. I don’t have a lot of patience and can get bored with a design pretty quickly, so book design was perfect because of the quick turnaround. I found cards to be the same way. About 15 years ago a good friend of mine and I decided to come up with a line of wedding invitations under the name e.m.papers. We were pretty young and not entirely serious, so we never really got the business off the ground. In the time since, I got into the habit of designing last-minute birthday or holiday cards and printing them out right before leaving for a party. A couple of years ago I realized how that the tools to instantly set up a home business have become completely accessible to the average person – all of which supported the idea of re-animating e.m.papers as a downloadable card business.

How would you describe your style?
Evolving. One of the other reasons for starting this was to have some sort of creative outlet. I work at a big Internet consulting agency and my job has morphed from being a screen designer working on large corporate websites to doing internal methodology development. I rarely design at work anymore, and when I did, I often had to work within the constraints of an existing brand. In may ways I feel that I am still finding my own style and voice. That is part of what makes e.m.papers fun for me. It is my show. I can design things that appeal to me, without any external constraints, and watch my style evolve. If I actually sell stuff, even better!

What's involved in your design process?
Some designs start and end on the computer, I really like to futz around with type treatments and see what happens. Other times I’ll do some layout sketching on paper to flesh out a concept and/or do some drawing and scan it in and modify it in Photoshop or Illustrator. I tend to print things out, and let them hang out on my whiteboard awhile, as it can sometimes take me a few days to figure out if I like something or not. I’ll design something with a particular type of paper stock in mind, like craft paper.

Where do you do your work?
My husband and I live in a one-bedroom with a huge amount of hall space. So we converted part of the hallway into a work area that we share (but that I mostly dominate).

Have you had any mentors along the way?
My Dad’s love and respect for traditional typography has no doubt influenced me. I’ve worked with a lot of art directors but the only real mentor I had was the principal and art director (John Miller) at the book design agency (which was then called Big Fish) who taught me a lot not only about design, but how to successfully run a small design agency.

What's a range of time that some of the things currently in your shop take you to make?
Sometimes I’ll sit down with no real idea in mind and create something great in an hour. Other times I’ll have what I think is a great concept, work it out on paper, take it to the computer fool with it for weeks, abandon it, come back to it a year later and mess with it some more until it feels finished (or abandon it for good!)

Where do you find your inspiration?
It’s hard not to be inspired by all the great stuff I see on the blogs these days. In fact, sometimes I try and stay away because I feel I can get over influenced by what I see and like, and it can unconsciously slip into my own work. I love spending time in art-book stores, I always leave with what feels like millions of ideas. I really get a lot from walking around Munich – everything from old signage to cool window displays often get my imagination going.

How is the handmade/indie craft scene different in Munich than in the states?
From what I can tell, handmade and craft aren’t so much of a scene or novelty here, mostly because it never got lost. The trades and the trade system is alive and well here. While in school you have the option to either go to University or pursue a trade through established, respected schools. One can professionally pursue anything from baking to sewing to jewelry making. I regularly visit small individual or family owned bakeries or jewelers, seamstresses or hat makers that have small storefront shops. They all have their “Meisterbrief” (which is like a diploma) hanging on the wall. So I get the feeling that less has been lost here than has been in the states. Most of the women my age also know how to knit and sew (well) as a matter of course and have always ‘bastled’ (done crafts) - even if they work at internet agencies. Many of them found my enthusiasm as I rediscovered these ‘lost handmade arts’ sort of amusing.

Is this your fulltime work?
‘Jein’ as we say in Germany. Yes and No. I am on a 9 month leave of absence from my corporate day job right now. I recently married and my husband and I are going to travel, and I also wanted some time where I could solely focus on this work (rather than do it on the side on evenings and weekends.) I hope to get some structural things set up before I go back (like moving my store to a new platform, creating a baseline of products for a European audience and updating my wedding invitation line.) I am able to do a lot of maintenance and some product development and marketing on the side, but I find it very had to get things done that take a concentrated effort over a long period of time while also working my day job.

P.S. For those of you who make up my close friends and family, you might be seeing one of these Valentine's in the mail soon :)

1 comment:

  1. Great interview! Thanks for sharing! I really enjoyed seeing photos of the work studio, too!