Eglomise Designs Brings Places to Life with Commemorative Gifts

Minimalist design: William Mitchell College of Law and State Capitol

Don’t judge a business by its door. An unmarked entrance on West 36th Street in St. Louis Park leads to Eglomise Designs, a store filled with artistic, one-of-a-kind gifts ready to be ordered online. St. Louis Park is a surprising location for a company that started with an East Coast customer base and a product line dominated by Ivy League universities and prep schools, but the customized keepsakes made by Eglomise Designs reach farther than geography. Most products commemorate professional achievements or personal milestones—moments universal across state lines.

Scenes with the delicate grace of watercolors decorate wooden boxes, mirrors, clocks, paperweights, picture frames and other distinctive gifts. Subjects range from Georgian-style brick clad buildings to lighthouse seascapes to the scales of justice, and these treasures hold a special meaning to their recipients. What alumnus doesn’t swell with joy recounting the good old days of college? Wouldn’t a beautiful picture of an alma mater be more eye-catching than a diploma? “People relate to [Eglomise Designs products] emotionally,” president of Eglomise Designs Copper Harding says.

Realistically rendered illustrations bring cherished places to life as mementoes for the wall, desk or table. “It becomes a family heirloom on some level,” Harding says. “No one else does what we do.”

The process is the brainchild of founder Martha Demerjian and art is built in to the product. She perfected a way of painting—known as églomisé  in French—and applying the design onto a product. A mirror topped by a rectangular panel of full-color artwork was her prototype.

The business began in Demerjian’s mother’s basement in Boston, and Harvard University made a prestigious first client. Eglomise Designs is now designated as one of only four official gifts for the university. Sharp attention to detail and diligent customer service helped the business thrive.

Soon she was painting buildings for all Ivy League schools, and the business expanded to hospitals, state capitols, public landmarks and other revered themes.

After more than 50 years of operation, unprecedented accounting challenges tested Eglomise Designs, but when Demerjian needed help, her sister-in-law, Copper Harding, came to call. Harding stepped in and revived the family-run business, and staff changes were made on all levels. In a surprise announcement, Harding was appointed  company president. The comeback of Eglomise Designs is a testimony to Harding’s business acumen acquired on the job. She commuted from Boston (living with her in-laws) to Minneapolis for three years before moving the company. Three semi-trucks battled March’s stormy furry as they made their way west. The transition was feasible in part because Eglomise Designs is not open to the public. Orders are done online or over the phone.

Harding is pleased with her new 3,000-square-foot space. “We love being in Minn. and the work force is awesome,” she says.

Today, Eglomise Designs continues as a women-owned business producing a product line in keeping with Demerjian’s painterly tradition. The bestselling product is the paperweight with 10,000 shipping annually. Mirrors rank second in popularity. Product prices range from $50 to $300. “We try not to be over the top,” Harding says.

Of the more than 4,000 pieces of art Eglomise Designs has copyrighted, around half are of school scenes. World leaders, including the prime minister of Japan have received Eglomise Designs’ products as gifts. The Midwest is represented with the University of Minnesota, Minot State, St. Cloud and Mankato as customers.

Unusual requests? There have been some—an auto wiping cloth for a car wash fundraiser was a standout, but Harding respectfully declined. A paperweight, wall mirror or other keepsake will do nicely, thank you.