Australian born Ngaire Wex & German partner Micha Kumpf – a creative couple working & living the world, setting out to preserve the tradition of paper craft. Both of them studied graphic design, working in design/branding agencies in Shanghai, Melbourne and Munich. One day, after a trip to Japan they came up with the idea for Wrappu. Micha’s Dad, who is a second-generation master bookbinder in the city of Eisenach, Germany lived the tradition of stationary & paper crafts, passing on the torch to Ngaire and Micha by teaching them the art of book binding. Preserving this tradition, Ngaire and Micha transformed this knowledge into a cutting edge, self-folding designer packaging. The gift boxes are made of 100 per cent recycled card stock with vibrant Pantone color prints, letting everybody else to decide what precious gift to give. We talked to them about their journey and working process and current life in Munich, Germany.
Can you tell us a bit about each of your professional backgrounds? What was your career journey like?
We both studied graphic design. Ngaire in Brisbane, Micha in Berlin. Micha’s father is a second generation master bookbinder in Germany and Micha grew up around books, paper and his father and grand dad making new products and restoring old books, whilst Ngaire spent the first 8 years of her career designing books.
Do you have differences in working styles, priorities, and methods of communication?
Communication styles are perhaps very similar, mostly because we have been together for 12 years. Our priorities are different through, while Ngaire comes from a more ethical side, I, being the son of two business owners, am more commercially driven 🙂 It’s a good balance.
What inspired you to start Wrappu? What is your mission?
During our time living in Shanghai, in such a fast paced, high-velocity society we came to appreciate the value of handcraft and deep knowledge of a product, the dedication to making an object well and how this craft is often passed on and developed from generation to generation. Both being designers (Micha in branding and I have a background in book design) combined with Micha’s dad looking to retire soon prompted us to move back to Germany to learn about the craft from him, so we could do something with that in some way. Several prototypes and ideas came out of this period and Wrappu was one of them, the first we brought into production.
How do you divide and conquer work between the two of you? Who is responsible for what? (Or do responsibilities overlap?)
There is no hard and fast formula, we are lucky that our strengths complement each other. Micha is good at keeping the broader vision and strategy whilst Ngaire is good with raw creative and perfecting the details. But there is a lot of overlap. What was interesting with Wrappu, we were in different time zones during the early concept development phase and that worked really well because we’d each push the design further and hand it back to the other one at the end of our respective days.
Do you think printing will evolve in the future? What are some of the trends in the printing world that you’ve noticed in the past and present?
Print is still a very powerful medium. Now we have digital communication options, print is freed to be extra special. Its slow nature, cost of production and relative rarity makes it more valuable and meaningful in a society that is increasingly experience driven. Not to mention the additional tactile experience.
What are your plans with Wrappu for the future?
We want to further grow Wrappu. Expand the range, create a new collection and innovate further. We see Wrappu as part of a larger creative collective with ourselves and others shepherding and evolving craft for modern times.
What do you draw inspiration from?
We are definitely all about contrasting and mixing opposing forces. That’s where really exciting things happen. We really love paper craft and the nostalgia of it but we want to bring that into a modern context and create something new to enjoy out of paper. We also take inspiration from Asia, but we don’t want to just knock off Asian design, we love reinterpreting that inspiration and combining it with a western design sense.
What are you passionate about? How do you feed that passion?
We love challenging ourselves with contrast in our own lives and travels as well. This feeds our creativity and inspiration too.
What is the Munich Design scene comprised of?
Munich had a bad reputation as a designer when I grew up (Micha). Not vibrant, comfortable, etc. However after living in Shanghai for many years we craved a quiet place that is a bit slower, with lots of nature and time to think and create something of quality.
Is Munich a good place to live/work?
Munich has a great quality of life, however we missed an international mindset, openness and positive energy. We have actually recently relocated to Zürich. We feel it’s a very good base for Wrappu and for further creative endeavors.
How do you see the role of women in Design today, vs 10 years ago? What areas do you think need improvement?
It depends where you are talking about. Looking at design agencies in Germany, at least, the overwhelming majority are headed by middle-aged white men. It’s not terribly inspiring. Having more strong, non-stereotypical female figures in media & pop culture helps break-down stereotypes. Creatives have tremendous power to affect change through their work and pursuits.
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