We’re starting a brand new series here on masha.com – Paper Muse, to spotlight people and shops we love to work with in the stationery industry! Today we’re so excited to chat with Eliza Brown, Retail Manager of The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. This beautiful museum makes us feel like kids in a candy store for two big reasons. First, picture books is a major enduring love (something we very much share with Eliza) and influence on Masha’s art and this place exhibits original works from the very best. Second, the founder – the great Eric Carle wrote a beautiful endorsement on Masha’s first pop-up picture book Razzle-Dazzle Ruby – a dream come true! Read on for a glimpse of what it takes to run a well-curated shop and what’s coming up next in this magical place.
Tell us a bit about your journey to the current position–did you always see yourself working with books and stationery?
My number one love has always been children’s books so I always knew I would find a career in the children’s book field. I enjoyed working in the children’s department of a library and in a children’s book publishing house before ultimately finding the perfect fit running the bookstore at The Eric Carle Museum.
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
Working in an environment where I’m surrounded by the things I love – beautiful art and amazing children’s books. Getting to meet the creators of all my favorite childhood books is also a huge perk of the job.
Eric Carle is such a distinct and monumental visual voice, what do you look for when considering a new product for the museum shop?
First, I always consider whether the product fits the mission of the Museum. Will this product advance the importance or appreciation of art and books with my customer? In addition to carrying only the highest quality children’s books, the store offers a careful selection of toys, art prints, clothing, and more that celebrates the art of the picture book. I see the store as a reflection of the entire Museum so I choose to hold the same high standards to every product in the store that we hold to the artwork featured on the walls of the galleries. Lastly, I need to consider the market for the product. It may be beautiful and fit our mission perfectly, but will it sell?
How do you extend the Eric Carle aesthetic to the shop displays?
Eric Carle’s books have a very recognizable aesthetic. His artwork is often quite simple, with bright colorful illustrations set upon a very minimal or blank background. I try to incorporate that ideal of the power of simplicity and the pop of color in shop displays, from the arrangement of his colorful prints on simple white wall, to the use of clear, see-through fixtures in minimal displays. Eric Carle was also integral to designing the entire Museum right down to the fixtures in the store, so each day visitors can appreciate the beautiful mix of natural materials from the stone floor and countertops, wood and metal display fixtures and the gorgeous natural light from the giant windows.
Do you attend trade shows? Why or why not?
When I have the time, I enjoy attending one or two trade shows a year. I have found new vendors and products for the store at shows, but moreover, I appreciate the opportunity to meet the faces behind the companies that make the products I already carry in the store.
What’s most popular in the shop right now?
Autographed books! We’re so lucky to be a center for so many talented authors and illustrators and are very grateful when they have a chance to sign stock for our store. It sets our store apart from others and makes it a memorable destination. And greeting cards, whether they are Masha D’yans or the number of other talented artists we carry in the shop, are always a year-round bestseller. Who doesn’t love beautiful notecards?
Any advice for vendors who would like to work with you and/or for those who already do? Anything they could do to make your life easier?
We all work in the customer service business. As a retailer, I need to meet all of my customer’s needs and exceed their expectations, just as I want vendors to meet my needs. Excellent customer service (anything from a carefully packaged shipment with no damages, to including a free review sample, or sending a personal email to see how a special event went) makes such a difference in this industry.
Do you have anything new and exciting coming up that you’d like to tell us about?
We’re over the moon excited about our current exhibit of Madeline, featuring the original classic artwork by the world-renowned Ludwig Bemelmans. Not only is it a stunning exhibit, it also gives me a great excuse to carry tons of adorable Madeline-themed toys and clothes.
Do you have a favorite item on exhibit or in-shop in The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art?
It’s so hard because I love everything I carry in the Shop. I’m currently obsessed with the art of Jon Klassen (I Want My Hat Back) and am thrilled to be carrying these prints from his books. I’m also recommending these neon gel crayons to everyone (because I secretly want to buy them for myself) and I flaunt my museum tote bag wherever I go.
Thank you so much for sharing your passion and advice, Eliza! We hear you about neon crayons and the amazing Jon Klassen and we can’t wait to see the Madeline exhibit! Click over to The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art for more goodies.
Images courtesy of The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art ©