This year we were inspired by Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming, our Book Club book for January, and we decided to focus on learning from women who we find inspiring and can tell us about their journey of “becoming”. You can read the rest of the interviews here. Stay tuned for more each month.
This month I’m pleased to introduce you to creative director, Eva Jorgensen of Sycamore Co. Eva is become of my dearest friends since moving to Utah and she’s one of the very first people I “met” when I started blogging. Wet met in person at the very first Alt Summit in 2010. As we’ve gotten to know each other we’ve learned that we not only share a lot of the same interests, but we’ve led rather parallel lives in a lot of ways (oldest of 4, played tennis in high school, studied art, run our own businesses, want to move to France, and many more). I thought I knew it all, but today she’s sharing even more insight into her world. Her career trajectory has taken quite a turn in the last few years and it’s been so interesting watching from the sidelines as she pivots from running a stationery company to a full fled-fled creative services company and all the fears and then confidence that have resulted from it. I’m thrilled to introduce you to Eva!
Interview with Eva Jorgensen of Sycamore Co
Did you want to be when you were young versus when it was time to decide what to actually do?
When I was in kindergarten my mom took me to a book signing with Helen Craig, the co-author and illustrator of Angelina Ballerina. Most of the other little girls at the signing told her they wanted to be a ballerina just like Angelina, so she was surprised and, I think, pleased when I told her that I wanted to write and illustrate children’s books just like her. In middle school and high school, I still loved and collected illustrated children’s books, even though it was definitely NOT cool. I remember having to do a report on my dream career in 10th grade and I chose “children’s book writer and illustrator”. But towards the end of high school, that ambition changed a bit and it says in my senior yearbook that I wanted to be the editor in chief of a travel magazine.
But when I got to college, I suddenly decided that I needed to be more practical. I thought about getting a teaching degree or becoming a psychologist, but in the end, all I really wanted to do was something art or design related. In my junior year, I applied to the art department and got in. I ended up graduating with a BFA and then an MFA in fine art with an emphasis in printmaking. The MFA was for practical reasons—I thought I would become a university professor. But I graduated right when the economy tanked and all the universities put on hiring freezes. Of course. I needed to figure something else out. But what could I do with an MFA in fine art printmaking, ha!?
I got a job in a high end stationery shop, found a 1940s era letterpress, and started turning my drawings into letterpress printed greeting cards and art prints. I thought it would just be a side hustle, but I found out that I loved it and was lucky to quickly get featured on Design*Sponge, Poppytalk, and other blogs like that. Within 6 months I quit my job at the stationery shop and within 18 months, Kirk joined me full time. It’s funny because when we were first married we backpacked across Europe together and for part of that time, volunteered on an organic farm in Denmark. We loved how the couple ran the farm together, raised their kids together… We wanted that kind of a life for ourselves but didn’t have a concrete plan for how it would happen. And then the whole economy tanking, me starting a letterpress business, Kirk deciding to join me… it all kind of fell into place!
We ran our stationery business, Sycamore Street Press, for 10 years. We loved it. But all along the way, we took freelance creative work for clients. At a certain point, we started to get more and more of it without even trying. I think clients like that we are easy to work with and that we deliver content that’s beautiful and natural (not slick or corporate). Anyways, in the end, we decided to phase out the stationery and transition into being a full service creative studio. It was a long slow somewhat painful transition because we didn’t even realize we needed to transition at first. But it was the right thing for us to do and 2 years into it, we know we made the right decision.
Now Kirk and I work on creative projects for clients. Creative/art direction, consulting, videos, photo production, design, etc. That’s our bread and butter. I’m mainly a creative director/producer and Kirk mainly does video, but we build a team from our network of fellow artists when needed so we can work on a wide variety of projects. And that’s something we really love about what we do — the variety and the collaborative aspect.
So I mainly call myself a creative director now, but I am also an author as of April 9! That’s when my book, Paris by Design: An Inspired Guide to the City’s Creative Side, launched. Long story short, Kirk and I have dreamed of living in Europe ever since we got married. We haven’t been able to do that yet, but a couple of years ago, we took a family sabbatical over there. I wanted to work on a big creative project while we were there, and I speak French, so we decided to do the project in Paris. I interviewed Parisian creatives and scouted out the best shops, museums, hotels, etc. I thought it would be a magazine at first and asked a bunch of great writers, illustrators, models, etc. to contribute pieces. My good friend Chaunté Vaughn, who’s a fantastic photographer, came along with us to Paris to take the photos. But when we gathered all the content afterwards, some colleagues (Brittany included!) helped me realize that there was way too much content for a magazine—it felt more like a book! From concept to launch, I have worked on Paris by Design for 3 years and hundreds and hundreds of hours. But I’ve loved (almost every) minute of it! And I’m SO happy with how it’s turned out, can I say that? The book is just beautiful and exactly the kind of book I was looking for about Paris but couldn’t find.
What’s a typical day like for you?
When I wake up in the morning, it’s a mad dash to get our two kids, Ingrid and Lars, ready for school. Kirk and I scramble to get them breakfast, make lunches, find their coats, slather on sunscreen, etc. Kirk drives them to school on his way to the gym, but I don’t really like the gym anymore so I work out from home. I’ll go on a long walk down our country road or put on some Yoga with Adriene or a HIIT workout from Youtube.
Most days are spent working from our home office. We converted the garage into a light and spacious workspace and it’s nothing fancy, but we like it. Each day varies so much as far as what I’m working on. I recently finished up a big project creating a website for one of our clients—Joowaa. We’d also worked on their videos, photos, identity design—even helped pick out colors for their products (which are strollers). And now that the foundation is all there, I’m overseeing their social media. So on a typical day, I might be working on one of those types of projects for Joowaa, answering emails, collaborating with my publisher, Abrams, on the marketing for Paris by Design, and preparing a proposal for a client. Of course days when we are on set for a shoot are quite different (and really fun!) We love the energy of being on set and working with a team. But I also love the quiet moments where I’m at my computer with a cup of tea, putting together a mood board for a client. What I DON’T love are the days spent doing admin work. I need to hire an admin assistant ASAP!
After work, Kirk usually makes dinner while I pick up the house. We sit at the table and eat dinner together as a family almost every day. It’s how I was raised and we’re lucky to be able to make it happen because I love having that time together. Then we go through the whole bedtime process with the kids which is SO LONG, lol. They do everything they can to drag the process out and sometimes it drives me crazy! But I love that time we spend with them, brushing their hair before bed, reading a story, saying family prayer, tucking them in and having a little time to chat. They each have their special bedtime song that I sing them and I can just see their eyes get heavy as I sing. We used to have issues with them getting out of bed a million times each night, but recently they’ve been falling asleep pretty quickly, which is lucky!
Once the kids are in bed, Kirk and I try not to go back to work so that we can spend time with each other. Plus, when we work late, we tend to feel wired and can’t fall asleep. So instead we’ll watch a show (Tremé is a recent favorite) and wind down for the night. My goal is to be asleep by 10:30 but honestly, it’s usually more like midnight lately.
What’s a piece of advice that you’ve carried with you and who is it from?
Once when I was worried that I wasn’t doing as much as a stay at home mom could do (making cookies, scheduling playdates, volunteering in the classroom, etc.) my grandmother told me “Your kids know you love them. That’s all that really matters.” And she’s right, isn’t she?
What piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in a creative field?
Do what you really love and what you’re really good at (or could be really good at with a little more practice) AND what there’s a need for in the market. If you find the spot where those three things overlap, you’re gold.
Also, make sure you take care of yourself. Make sure you nurture your relationships. Your business isn’t the most important thing in your life.
What’s coming up for you in 2019? And your company?
Well, the launch of Paris by Design feels pretty huge! We’re also heading to Europe for a couple of weeks this summer to work on a bunch of videos and photos for a client. And I have a big secret project that I can’t share yet but stay tuned!
What’s inspiring you lately?
Creative Quest by Questlove is my bedtime read these days and it’s fascinating to learn about the creative process of someone who’s completely at the top of their game. I read every night before bed and I watch a lot of movies for inspiration, too. One I saw not too long ago was 3 Women by Robert Altman. I don’t know if I’d say I liked it but at the same time I can’t get it out of my head! So weird and dreamy… or maybe hypnotic is the right word? And the stars—Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall—were brilliant.
Also, my ears perk up when I hear or see anything French. I’m a diehard francophile, but I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise! I recently went down a rabbit hole of 60’s French pop after typing “yéyé” into the search bar on Youtube: Francoise Hardy, France Gall, Serge Gainsbourg, Sylvie Vartan, etc. I go to Paris as often as I can. I was in just there in February with Kirk and Chaunté to shoot the book trailer video and photos. That city is an endless source of inspiration!