On today’s episode of the Craft Industry Alliance podcast we’re talking about building a business as a paper artist with my guest Abigail McMurray of Yeiou Paper Objects. I visited Abigail in her studio in Arlington, Massachusetts to record this interview which was a lot of fun.
With paper as a medium, artist Abigail McMurray combines her background in graphic design and sculpture to create paper craft kits, unique greeting cards, architecturally-inspired artwork, and custom house portraits under the name yeiou paper objects. Abigail’s custom house portraits were awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2019 Etsy Design Awards. These heirlooms capture a home or other building, rendering the details and dimensions in a one-of-a-kind paper sculpture. Abigail lives and works in Arlington, MA with her husband, sister, and cat, who are all very gracious about the tiny bits of paper that end up all over the house.
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We begin the conversation by talking about Abigail’s creative childhood. She loved origami as a kid. Her family would check out lots of craft books from the library and create at the kitchen table. In middle school, Abigail began building websites and she chose a college program that combined both programming and design, although ended up deciding to get a BFA in graphic design and sculpture.
Selfie with Abigail in her studio.
Findng herself at a job that was all computer-based work, she began folding the Post-It Notes at her desk into origami as a way to reconnect with tangible making. Eventually, she quit her job to become a full-time maker.
At work in the studio. Photo by Helen Makadia.
We spend a good chunk of the interview talking about product development and product-market fit. For several years Abigail tried selling paper box kits. She marketed the product in several creative ways, and redesigned it as well, but in the end there just wasn’t a large enough market for it to grow a profitable handmade business. So she pivoted and designed new products at various price points.
Assembled paper box kits. Although she still sells these, Abigail talks about how she pivoted to a different set of products that appeal to a larger market.
She now sells custom house portaits and cut-out maps of various towns, along with some other products. She explains how she learned that there was a market for each of these new products and how that understanding transformed her business.
Custom house portraits are one of Abigail’s signature offerings.
Shadow box maps are another offering at a mid-range price point.
We also talk about why she’s stayed on Etsy for ecommerce, her email newsletter strategy, and whether craft fairs are worth the time and effort.
Creating a dormer window. Photo by Helen Makadia.
Of course, I ask Abigal to recommend three things she’s enjoying right now. Abigail recommends:
- Getting audiobooks from the library to listen to while you work in your studio
- the Get to Work Book planner (which she uses and loves)
- Stasher silicone bags for taking snacks to craft shows