"I was destined to do this," says Eva Jorgensen of family-run paper company Sycamore Street Press, which she runs with her husband Kirk out of their home studio in the mountains of northern Utah. Eva inherited complementing skill-sets from both her parents; her dad was an entrepreneur and her mother was an artist. Now she and Kirk work together to create everything from beautiful Scandinavian-style letterpress wedding invitations to charming custom monogram stamps inspired by their mountain life. Their work is sold all over the world. I spoke with Eva for the inaugural 50 States of Style 50 series, and she generously shared how she got her start, what it's like working with her husband, balancing work and parenting, and her new "minimal bohemian" aesthetic.
How did you settle on letterpress as your craft?
I majored in fine art printmaking. I loved the way printmaking walked a line between the fine arts and graphic arts, and there was a whole community aspect of it that really appealed to me. Letterpress wasn't offered to me as an undergrad, so when I went to grad school, that's what I focused on. There was this local boutique in Salt Lake City called Frosty Darling that carried mainly handmade and local items, and when I saw some of their letterpress cards, I loved them and knew it was something I could do with my degree.
Did you launch on Etsy?
Yes, I opened my Etsy shop in the fall of 2007 and the following spring, I started doing craft shows. My husband Kirk and I were living in Ohio at the time, so we were pretty central. We drove to Renegade in Brooklyn, and to craft shows in Atlanta and Chicago. That's when we started getting noticed by more and more bloggers. Kirk joined me full time after he finished grad school in the spring of 2009, and right after the stationery show in NY—our first national trade show—we moved to Utah. We still do the stationery show every year, but now we have three part-time employees and we sell online and wholesale to shops all over the world.
"Living simply yet beautifully" is a big part of your company's philosophy. What inspired that?
The summer before grad school—right after we got married—we participated in WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) in Denmark. You get free room and board in exchange for working part time on farms. One of our host families lived on a big organic farm that supported them, and they earned a living by selling energy back to the grid with their windmill. They had also converted some of their barn into nice modernized apartments.
What appealed to you most about their lifestyle?
We loved how they lived in this idyllic place in the country and that they worked together and had a simple life. They didn't have a lot of stuff or a TV set, but they had some beautiful things that they spent money on. They appreciated good Danish design. Kirk and I wanted to create a similar life for ourselves.
Is working with your husband as wonderful as you envisioned it would be?
It is! I feel like I should say "Oh, it's so hard," but the truth is that we work really well together. Of course we have to work through some things, but most of the time, we see eye to eye. We have different strengths. I handle the creative side of things and Kirk manages production, shipping, and sales. He's super organized.
How do you balance your workload with raising little kids?
We moved back to Utah when we knew we wanted to start a family so that our kids (Ingrid is three-and-a-half and Lars turns one later this month) could be close to their grandparents. Both grandmas watch the kids one day a week, and we each watch them one day a week, so that leaves one day for daycare. Having kids forces us to live a more balanced life.
How has your schedule changed?
We used to regularly work six days a week from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m., and then if we had a big deadline coming up, we'd stay up until 1 a.m. But now, aside from each of us getting one weekday with the kids, we're both off from 5-7 p.m. each evening when we put them to bed. We typically go back to work for a couple of hours, but we try to take weekends off.
Where do you do your work?
When I'm painting, I'm in the studio in my house, which is really our garage, which is a little bit bigger than a two car garage. We're crammed in here! Kirk and I had a separate studio at one point, but when we had Ingrid, I though it would be easier to work at home. Once Lars is weaned, we'll start looking around again for a bigger space to rent out.
Do you produce the entire line out of your studio?
We did almost everything in our workshop until last year. Now we still do letterpress when we're working on the art prints, wedding invitations, or baby announcements, but the giftwrap and our greeting cards are mostly offset printed with another local print shop.
Too much volume?
Exactly. We got to a point where Kirk was printing all day, every day, and we just couldn't keep up. This frees him up to be able to work more on the business and I can do more experimenting.
How has your style evolved over the last six-and-a-half years?
Recently I felt like although my overall aesthetic was evolving, my illustrations were not. So I came up with a term to help me envision a new aesthetic, and I decided on "minimal bohemian." Mark and Louella Tuckey's house on the Australian blog Design Files inspired the term. Now I find myself saying "Okay, would the person living in that house like this product?"
Which products from the current collection are most emblematic of the "minimal bohemian" aesthetic?
All of my new introductions for spring, including my animal stamps (below) and the indigo collection (above) that I'll be debuting at the stationery show in May. I'll be using some of those indigo paintings in paper goods. The way that I'm treating it in the cards coming out is something I haven't seen before in stationery. It's new and different.
What are your greatest sources of inspiration?
Pinterest, blogs, books, movies, and the outdoors. I love traveling. I had Lars in April of last year and he was collicky, so I could hardly work for about four months. Since he started feeling better, I've been designing and drawing nonstop. I just had the paintbrushes out today. I'm always sketching and drawing.
Finally, can you share a few words of advice for up and coming designers?
Find something that you love to do in a style that is authentic to you, and get it out there, everywhere, without apology. Own it!
Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your extraordinary life, Eva!
A few of Eva's favorite things:
Favorite American brands:
My husband Kirk's friend Josh Bingaman has a company called Helm Boots that makes amazing, high-quality footwear for men. They recently moved their production from Istanbul to a factory in Maine. I find that so inspiring and think that we will see more and more companies start to do the same. A few more: Twig Creative for modern wooden toys, Fletcher and Fox for handmade decorative arrows, Mabo for simple, classic children's clothing, and Mociun for jewelry in the minimal bohemian style that I love.
Your most prized possession:
An ancient looking accordion that my great-grandfather was playing on stage when my great-grandmother saw him for the first time.
Favorite trip you've ever taken in the US:
When I was 9 years old, my family took an epic cross country road trip. My parents packed a Chevy van full of blankets, coloring books, snacks, and their four young kids, and we drove from Washington, D.C. all the way back to our home in California. We took our time and made a lot of stops including Mark Twain's hometown on the Mississippi river, the Grand Canyon, and a couple of places some of our ancestors lived in for a time -- the Mormon settlement of Nauvoo, Illinois and the Otoe reservation in Oklahoma. American history and my own family history became much more real to me on that trip.
Five things that make you happiest:
Baby kisses, getting into "the zone" where ideas and designs just seem to flow, dance parties with my kids in the kitchen, traveling with Kirk, and strawberries still warm from the sun.