A Q&A With Michael Apter of Paper Tiger Posted on 10 Sep 14:10


I moved to Edinburgh in 1994, and began working with John Johnson in Paper Tiger back in 1997. I also worked with Studio One with John, who founded both businesses - Studio One in 1966, and Paper Tiger in 1981. After working with him for twenty years, I took over the Paper Tiger business in 2016.

First memories of Edinburgh?

Climbing the steps from Waverley Station up on to Princes Street. It was a bitterly cold day in February, and a hard westerly wind was blasting sleet into my face. I had been despatched by HMV to see the city before accepting a job in their St James Centre shop. I squinted into the icy blast and couldn't quite believe that the sight of Edinburgh Castle was real. I was - and still am - awed by the sight. 

First memories of Paper Tiger?

I first shopped in the Stafford Street store, buying (at least) one Valentine card, back in 1995. It was a hand painted heart design and I paid seven whole pounds for it! I can't remember the designer but I would love to have something like that on the shelves again. I became a regular at Paper Tiger and Studio One, and when the opportunity arose jumped at the chance to join the business.   


Favourite places in the city?

This changes through the years and through the seasons. I lived in Stockbridge for many years and still love it. Calton Hill provides views of the city that are ever changing. The arrival of our dog Clementine into my family has meant exploring the city on foot and on paw. Currently, I really love walking along the shore of the Firth of Forth through the Dalmeny Estate between Cramond and South Queensferry. Most days, I get to walk the streets of Edinburgh's West End, and I am reminded of the great privilege I have to live and work in this city.

What drew you to your current career?

I have always worked in retail, through part time jobs at school and during vacations from university. Nothing beats the feeling of seeing customers connect with a store and the products that you sell. 


What inspires your work?

Helping people connect with each other. Principally, we sell cards, stationery and gifts that people use to communicate with their family and friends, to make plans, and to share and celebrate important times in their lives. It's my responsibility to make sure Paper Tiger exceeds the expectations our customers have when they walk into the shops or browse online.


How do you record your ideas?

Retail is a work in progress, every day is different - products, people and priorities change. Digital tools are both essential and unavoidable - I use google for calendars and emails, we use Trello for business planning and I use it for personal projects too. My analogue tool kit is a Moleskine mid year diary, and a Paper Tiger dot pattern notebook. I use Paper Poetry pens

What is your favourite part of your job?

New products! I love seeing what the designers makers, and illustrators that we work with can produce for us and for our customers. More recently, Paper Tiger has been developing our own products such as stationery and card ranges, and I have really enjoyed the product development process. 

If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?

Trust your own convictions. Make them wilder. Then act on them.

What are you working on next? 

Improving our stock management system, improving our marketing, planning, developing and empowering my Paper Tiger team, and I am also some designing some very new card designs using some very old letterpress with our friends at Robert Smails Print Works.