By Isadora Pennington
Tucked away in a storefront in Candler Park sits a charming little shop where doodles adorn the front windows, prints lean against the glass inside and the white walls beyond lined with artwork.
Paper Ghost Studio is somewhat of an enigma – part gallery, part retail, and part office, and almost never open to the public. Founded by illustrators Mike Lowery, Katrin Wiehle, Sarah Watts and Taylor Morris in 2014, the shop was initially conceptualized simply to provide a communal setting for their work which otherwise was mostly tackled at home, alone.
“That’s the thing about illustration; we sit at the computer and work on our stuff,” said Lowery.
“It’s a collaborative company, so rather than the three of us individually marketing our stuff, its three artists under one company,” said Sarah Neuburger.
Their paths to co-working at the studio today are as varied as they are. Lowery went to school in the 90s for design, a practical degree, which also enabled him to take fine art classes and develop his skills.
“I didn’t know much about what illustration was, I thought it was just children’s books. Over the years my graphic design and fine art illustration started looking like each other,” Lowery said.
It was nearly 12 years ago that he illustrated his first book, and now is a published author himself. He has since married Katrin Wiehle, and together they make a living out of their artwork.
Wiehle grew up in a small village in Germany where she was exposed to lots of farm animals that inspired her art. She later also went to school for design, but soon after shifted gears towards illustrating for magazines and children’s books. “I realized I was more interested in bringing my own ideas to life rather than bring to life something that someone else had visualized.”
One of her concepts, a series of children’s books printed on all natural cardboard with soy inks, even won the “world’s most beautiful book” award in Germany. “Since we are all individuals working on projects, it’s nice to have a space where you can be around other people and come up with ideas and then realize them together,” Wiehle explained about working at Paper Ghost.
Meanwhile Neuburger, originally hailing from South Carolina, got her masters degree in studio art at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. Her wife’s work brought her to Atlanta, and now they live in Augusta. Though reluctant to label herself an illustrator until recently, Neuburger has 10 years of experience running an online shop through Tiny Object as a retail wholesale producer of cake toppers and rubber stamps.
“I got tired of making the same item over and over again, so I then switched over to wanting to draw more and dropped the wholesale line,” she explained. These days many of her clients seek her out for branding or marketing purposes, and she lends her quirky style to collateral for entrepreneurs and businesses.
Working at Paper Ghost Studio has served another rather unexpected purpose for the artists, as it bridges the gap between illustrator and clientele. Most of the time, you never meet the person who drew the characters in your favorite children’s books, designed your stationary, or made the art that hangs on your walls. Through art shows and special pop up events, the crew at Paper Ghost came to know and love their community, and the shop’s impact expanded.
“We started doing pop up events called the Paper Ghost Fortune Machine, and it’s one of my favorite projects right now,” said Lowery. “People come up and fill out a questionnaire, and a psychic will draw their fortune.”
Around the holidays, the team also offers live drawing events where you can commission cards on the spot for your loved ones.
Throughout the years, and as the group saw successful shows, events, and collaborations, some things have changed while their core motives remain the same: to make art, work hard, and connect with their communities.
“When they first started the space, it was supposed to be a working studio space,” said Neuburger, but once it became more about being a public open space with events and the chance to meet and interact with more people from the area, that’s really exciting.”
The shop, located at 1393 McLendon Ave., is only open to the public on openings and during special events, as otherwise it functions mostly as an office. For those who are interested in meeting these local artists and buying prints or small works, come out to their next Tiny Art Show opening on April 15 at 6 p.m. For more information, visit paperghoststudio.com.