The gorgeous floral tea towels from our April box have turned into one of our favorite custom project ever….like, ever. They were created by Erin McManness, the designer behind Paper Raven Co., who has collaborated with the likes of West Elm, Minted, HGTV and Domino Mag. This “honorary Southerner” shares her approach to design and snippets from her life in the South today.
Tell us a little about yourself, personally and professionally.
I grew up in Baltimore then moved to Atlanta in 2012 to study Illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design and have since earned my Masters degree. I have also fully assimilated myself into The South - mostly by using the word "y'all" a lot and eating all of the fried green tomatoes and grits I can get my hands on. During my grad school experience, I met a fine Southern man from Alabama who is also a fellow illustrator, and now we live together with our sweet little Basset Hound mix named Patty. We have a shared studio space, drink a lot of coffee, and both work in the field full-time. Professionally, I work for a company that creates home goods and apparel products for national brands such as Coca-Cola, Paula Deen, and Universal Studios. In the evenings, I moonlight as the Principal for Paper Raven Co. - a stationery and illustration brand that I started in 2014.
Tell us a little about Paper Raven Co. How did the brand start and get to where it is today?
Paper Raven Co. started as a class I took in graduate school called Retail Markets. This class formally introduced me to pathways of illustration like surface design, packaging, and home goods that I had never gotten to explore before. I became extremely interested in commercial work, and have been designing stationery, paper goods, and home goods outside of my day jobs since 2013. I discovered that I loved pattern-making and was pretty good at it and I soaked up as much as I could about business and technique. I started seeking out retailers and partnerships that were interesting to me. Today, Paper Raven Co. has been featured on Minted, West Elm, HGTV and Domino, to name a few.
We are in love with your beautiful florals. Tell us what inspires you when you create patterns.
Complexity inspires me. It's a challenge, and one that I find incredibly rewarding once the pattern is complete. I'm definitely not a minimalist, though I totally respect that movement and wish in some cases that I was. Organic shapes and color inspire me; I don't want to be predictable or too simple. Complexity requires skill and devotion: two things I value greatly, both personally and in my career.
How would you sum up your approach to art?
At the risk of sounding cliche, art is a lifelong pathway. I think of it as a separate being sometimes, that accompanies us throughout life. Something we need to cultivate, grow... something we lean on during times of insecurity or betrayal, a constant and a guide. A way of life in the arts is - contrary to popular belief - incredibly consistent because your skills can only grow and develop. No one can ever rob you of them, you can always reach for the joy and comfort of creating. My approach to art is a professional one, in that I show up and do the work everyday, whether I am inspired or not. But my emotional relationship with my art is also something I fiercely protect.
What is one of your favorite projects you've worked on and why?
One of my favorite projects is coming up for Minted - I was so excited to be selected to be a part of their 2016 Wedding Assortment, which is launching this spring. It was a thrilling and rewarding challenge to create so many assets specifically for the wedding market, and it's an offering that I will be expanding upon this spring for Paper Raven Co.
What are some of your favorite things to do/places to go in the Atlanta area?
A lot of my Atlanta experiences revolve around food, as an honorary Southerner. On the weekends, I love having brunch at The General Muir or the Highland Bakery. For coffee, HodgePodge Coffeehouse has the best latte in Atlanta (get the Oh Honey) and a crazy awesome art vibe. I also love being a part of Paper Ghost Studio in Candler Park - they do monthly art shows with really fun themes. My boyfriend Daniel and I also love to walk our dog, and we'd make frequent weekend trips to the Decatur Cemetery and Stone Mountain. Now we love the trails along the Chattahoochee River in northwest Atlanta too!
What's next for Paper Raven Co?
An expanded stationery line coming in April, some really cool homegoods, and a project that I am crazzzzyyy excited about because it's been something my customers have been asking about for a long time - but I can't release details yet. But basically it's within the realm of putting floral print all over everything in your house!