Painter, designer, and maker Erin of BerinMade explains how breaking away from the city and working abroad can invigorate your art and move your business forward.
Erin describes the contents of her pencil case as a child as one filled with washi tapes and jelly pens.”I grew up with a deep love of stationery as a school girl in Hong Kong,” says Erin, “…and BerinMade was born out of that fondness for paper goods.” After working on bespoke wedding stationery briefs Erin got hooked and started her own business. We find out more about Erin’s latest book and how she juggles business, travel and motherhood.
Please tell us a bit about BerinMade.
I started the company in 2012 as an Etsy shop not long after my husband and I got married. I named it BerinMade, Berin being a combination of my name and my husband’s, Ben. Our brand is about celebrating the important milestones of life with paper and creativity.
Both Ben and I have spent most of our lives in the UK, despite being from Hong Kong. Ben used to work as a lawyer in the city and when he joined the company as a director, he took on a business role to balance out my creative role – he’s really good at it!
Our work is quite integrated with our lives, and after we had our daughter Phoebe in 2013, we took equal responsibility in both business and taking care of her, which is great as Ben gets to be a more hands-on dad and I get to work after becoming a mum.
How did you go from designing paper goods to publishing a papercraft book?
In 2014 we launched our stationery and greetings line at Top Drawer, where we met lovely stores like Liberty, Oliver Bonas and Selfridges who still stock our products now. Then in 2015, I was speaking to a friend of mine about her book, and I thought how lovely it would be to have a book that complimented our line, strengthened our brand message, and diversified our offering. Not long after I met Pavilion who is the publisher of my book, Paper Parties.
Talk us through your average working day.
I have a ritual of spending a couple of hours in the morning answering emails and then leaving it for the rest of the day. During that time, I also diarise all my deadlines, client work and appointments so that they are all dealt with and I don’t miss anything – hopefully!
People always say tackle the biggest task first but I always like doing the small, easy ones. By the time I do a handful of smaller tasks I have worked up momentum to tackle a biggie. Lunch will fit in there somewhere and most of the afternoon I am either working on publicity, ‘concepting’ a client project, or mocking up our exhibition stand.
In the afternoons I meet with Ben for any outstanding things we need to decide on, such as pricing or marketing. Every other day I also speak with my designer Lana, and we’ll catch up on on-going projects as well as new briefs.
We’ve noticed that you spend a lot of time abroad. How do you manage running a business while you’re abroad with your daughter?
We love London and have lived here for over a decade, but as the business got busier, we became really tired and felt that our lives were routine-led. We have family out in Asia so we visited lots to get refreshed, travelled and saw new things. After a while, we thought, “Why don’t we set up a solid operations system so that we can work remotely for months at a time?”
Ben formed a fulfilment team up in Leeds with a charity called Paperworks who now warehouse as well as pack all our out-going orders by training and equipping individuals who are disadvantaged. While our designer, Lana forms a satellite office here in London, which essentially means that Ben and I only need an internet connection to get connected to our team and move things along.
We now work between Hong Kong (where we also have a new office!) and London to get the most out of city life all while getting inspired on our travels in between.
What are you currently obsessed with?
Wild botanicals, exotic interiors, finishes, and as always bold colours!
How do you stay inspired and keep moving forward creatively?
Travelling! For a long time I ignored the need to refuel myself and as a result, I started to feel burnt out of fresh ideas. As artists we need to see new things and experience things outside of my craft and practise in order to feed back into it. I think that’s the key.
What’s your top tip for new business owners?
Be thankful! You may not think it’s a super practical tip but I believe that having a heart of thankfulness really shines through your interaction with customers and clients you deal with. Even if your orders are small in the beginning and you feel you deserve more, be thankful for what you have and more will come.
What’s your favourite BerinMade design of all time.
That’s such a difficult question to answer! I love my floral wrapping papers. My dream is to do wallpaper someday, so they remind me of a big dream ahead. I also love the craft possibilities from wrapping paper, from packaging a beautiful gift to origami. Plus, it makes me happy just looking at them.
What are you currently working on.
We are working on a product line of craft-ready kits with the first being our gem gift wrap sets. I love the idea of making trend-led craft kits so that people can dip their toes into the trend – if they have the materials already it’ll make it less daunting to try.
What’s the best bit of creative advice you we’re ever given?
Believe in your own vision. Only you have your voice, which is what makes you unique, so don’t deprive the world of that by following the crowd.
Follow Erin’s creative journey on Instagram and visit berinmade.com to collect some of your own paper goods. We’re giving away 5 copies of Erin’s book. Enter our competition here.