Tools to start with: Maja Säfström

Maja Säfström is the architect who changed course and is now working full-time as an illustrator.

We’re visiting a real starter-uppers studio and store in Stockholm, to see what she has on her desk.

The last four years she has released the two books: ”The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts” and ”Animals of a Bygone era: an Illustrated Compendium”. She has also started her own webshop and the Instagram account ”Majasbok” – an account that today has 156 000 followers.

Envelope rack

”I have printed my own envelopes in the same size as my prints. If you buy a print you’ll receive it in one of these envelopes, but they’re also available in my store. They come in two different prints – one with cats and one with flowers. They’re even printed on the inside! Before, I used to draw every envelope by hand, but as orders increased it took too much time. This is a way to streamline it a bit without losing the personal touch.”


”Since I live off my company, there’s a lot of tasks to do in addition to drawing. I mainly use my computer to send emails and invoices, and to prepare all the print files.”


”In the package is one of my books. I always wrap them together with a greeting and a small print from the book. This particular print, a big swan, comes with my other book ’Animals of a Bygone era’.”

On the screen

”My Instagram account is a mix of my portfolio and my platform. Many of my customers find me through Instagram. I almost exclusively receive love from my followers, but on the other hand – I don’t do a lot of provocative stuff – who can get mad at a cat? On second thought, one time people got mad when a video of me drawing a cat spread and reached three million people. Then, there were a few who wrote that they thought the cat was the ugliest they had ever seen. But that doesn’t happen a lot, so it was mostly funny! Actually, it wasn’t a very ’pretty’ cat to be honest.”


”Here are some pins with my illustrations on that are available to buy in five different variants.”

Drawing pad

”This is the tool I use the most. This fall I’m on maternity leave so I mostly get around to do administrative stuff, but I’m trying to take the time to draw when my kid is asleep.”


”I prefer to draw with pen and paper, but then I scan the illustrations and edit them in my iPad.”

White strips with illustrations

”Illustrations for my very own washi tape. It’s a Japanese paper tape that actually isn’t very good as a tape per se, it’s mostly decorative. I use it as stickers on the packages I send. Basically everything that gets ordered is wrapped in tissue paper – it’s quite unsustainable to be this ambitious with wrappings that I am, but it’s very appreciated by my customers.”


”Since it can take a whole pen for a detailed drawing, the brand isn’t that important. I use fineliners and the most important part is that they are light resistant.”

Brown strips with illustrations

”I’m doing my own packaging tape that I use for bigger parcels. They’re made from the same idea as my envelopes – to give a personal wrapping that’s more time effective than drawing on each parcel.”


”My Lumix Gx7, with a fixed lens that has a short depth of field, is a very important tool for my Instagram where I post photos of my drawings. It has wifi so that I can transfer the photos directly to my phone!”


“Estrid, is with me in the studio all day, every day. Since I’m on maternity leave this fall, I adjust a lot after her. I have for example postponed my third book to clear my schedule a bit and reduce the requirements from myself.”

Text: Anna Thanner

Photo: Christian Gustavsson

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