Hello! I’m Emily Poe-Crawford, the one-woman force behind Em Dash Paper Co. I live with my husband, bunny, and cat in a little old house in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I spend my days designing, drawing, and hand-lettering paper goods in my sunny home office.
It’s hard to say when or how I started hand-lettering, because I’ve always had very neat penmanship (surprise twist: I’m a robot). Starting a lettering business just felt like a natural next step, an extension of who I’ve been and what I’ve loved doing all along. My shop, originally called Sparrow Nest Script, opened in 2011 while I was finishing a Master’s degree and worrying about finding a job. It took off right away, which was incredibly unexpected and fortunate. Three years and a name change later, I’m still so lucky to work at home in my own comfortable space and to be my own boss. There are definitely difficult aspects of running a small business, but I also get to throw some pretty crazy office dance parties with my cat, and that makes up for a lot.
Starting out, I wrote everything by hand with pointed pen and India ink, using a stylized cursive script. I’ve widened my focus since then to include new lettering styles and different pens, inks, and techniques. I now have a scanner and Wacom drawing tablet, which allows me to get my designs on the computer, add color and texture, and print them in batches (“whew,” says my aching wrist). I’m self-taught — and still learning — so it’s been a long, gradual journey full of books, online tutorials, and tons of trial-and-error experimentation. Throughout the process, I try to reduce my environmental impact by sourcing recycled papers, working with green printing companies, and using recycled or biodegradable shipping materials. Soon I’ll be adding a TerraCycle “zero waste” collection box to my office as well, which means nothing will go to the landfill.
A lot of my inspiration comes from my musical and literary backgrounds; I keep a running list of lyrics and quotes that strike me as beautiful, funny, or true. Something I’m really working on right now, though, is letting my own brain show up more in what I draw. At heart I’m a big weirdo with an out-of-control imagination, but historically I’ve held back in favor of making designs I think will sell. That’s so backward! “If you build it, they will come,” right? I’m learning that if I just let myself create what I want to create, the right people (my people!) will find it, love it, and hopefully want to take it home.
Starting my own business wouldn’t have been possible without Etsy. It has given my work a home, provided much-needed traffic and exposure, and connected me to some of my favorite people (looking at you, Teamprojectt). I wouldn’t be where I am now if I’d had to do it alone. I’m also blessed with a husband and best friend who give great feedback and remind me to stop and eat when I forget (thanks, Jordan and Anna). Moving forward, my biggest goals are to get a website up and running, which is something I’ve put off for way too long, and to begin wholesaling as soon as possible. I’d love to see Em Dash products on the shelves of my favorite stores someday! In the meantime, find me on Instagram and Twitter — I’d love to have you along for the ride.
All photographs by Ashley Stephenson of Story Photographers.