What's one thing no festive season goes without? Something that reflects our sense of style and something we use to connect with family and friends near and far? A beautiful greeting card. Today we're chatting to the beautiful Ellen McGrath, creator of Anzu, greeting card and gift company, inspired by culture and travel. Read on to discover her story....it will make you pick up your brush and start expressing those beautiful ideas you've been hiding in the corners of your mind!
What was your inspiration for Anzu and how did it all begin?
I began Anzu after an amazingly inspiring trip to Japan. Seeing the hand-painted Geisha's kimonos, the illustrations everywhere, and the Japanese prints of peonies and camellias inspired me to start painting again. So when I started my business, I decided to give it a Japanese name, Anzu, which means apricot!
What do you do and where do you go to find fresh new ideas for your business?
Travelling is key. I would never have started Anzu if I hadn't visited Anthropologie in America, who ended up being our first customer. And visiting different countries also gives me new ideas for designs. I recently went to Peru and was inspired by the vivid colour palette and tropical flowers there.
Also when designing and getting ideas for new products, I look at lots and lots of images (both historical and current). Someone looked at my computer recently and said I looked at at least 1000 images per week and that's just on my computer! Instagram, art galleries, shopping (unfortunately as it leads to temptation!) all provide inspiration.
What do you enjoy most and least about running Anzu?
I love coming up with the ideas for the illustrations, and painting the designs and hearing great feedback from customer.
The worst bit is absolutely doing the accounts and paperwork!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received from someone?
Someone once said to me not to take failure personally and I think that is so true. If you are trying things there are bound to be some things that won't work and although you need to analyse what has gone wrong you shouldnt beat yourself up too much! I also particularly remember Violet Brandwein of Kate's Paperie giving me some great advice at the beginning but I didn't take it! I was too young and certain of what I wanted to do with Anzu, and it's great to have that strong use of your brand but it was foolish not to be more open to advice.
What motivates you to do what you do and to follow your dream?
Two things. Firstly I just love painting and being a visual person motivates me completely. It's my passion.
Secondly I really want to produce quality products that people love and a product I believe in. The amazing thing is that all these little cards go around the world with loving, wonderful messages in them and that's a beautiful thing. Indirectly, we at Anzu get to be a part of someone's special moment and that's lovely. One customer bought a card of ours to reconcile with their mother that they hadn't seen with in ten years, another to celebrate their friend representing Japan in the Olympics, another received an Anzu card when she was recovering from a heart problem at just 27, and some people even frame our cards including the past Australian editor of Vogue which I take as a huge compliment.
What's your favourite Nauteas blend?
Pina colada, so I can pretend I am on holiday!