Drawing words: Hamburg illustrator Anna Eisenhauer on hand-lettering and hip-hop - Friends of Friends / Freunde von Freunden (FvF)

Drawing words: Hamburg illustrator Anna Eisenhauer on hand-lettering and hip-hop


Anna Eisenhauer, alias “Anna T-Iron”, has built her way of life with her young love and hand-painted, colorful letters on the walls of buildings.

“Animals are great if you work alone a lot,” says Anna while petting Barnie, her grey rabbit who sits twitching on her lap. “Sure, you get stressed sometimes but that’s where our four-legged friends can help. You look at them, pet them, and it just puts you in a great mood,” she adds from her one-room studio apartment in Hamburg-Altona. “Usually, I let him run around here but Barnie’s way too horny at the moment!”

Our visit to Anna’s home marks the beginning of Wake Up The Silent Home, a special collaboration between FvF and Sonos.

Her apartment is in a building that dates from the sixties: fit with brown walls and green balconies. “I may be a real ‘king of procrastination’ but I was also like that in our shared studio, the WeRunThis workspace. If I couldn’t concentrate, I always found something to do like cleaning the windows.” Despite the mindless cleaning, she has a steady stream of work. Sometimes, she designs logos for a small record companies, or graphics for T-shirts. She develops corporate identities, paints murals in public spaces and works on major projects for a variety of clients. Hand-lettering, illustrations, typography design, logos—Anna can basically do anything with letters. “It was always about lettering. Whether it was graffiti or the innumerable scribbles I did at my school desk instead of paying attention.”

Her flatmate Betty has her own will, just like her owner Anna
Tattoo by @iamtheraptor from Mexico
Sketches for Fake Tat Studio, 2015

“Wilhelmshaven is to the right, empty space to the left and in between—about 25 to 30 kilometers from the North Sea coast—you’ll find Aurich.” Even if you could barely tell from her accent, Anna is East Frisian—born in the 40,000-resident city, the main attraction of which is an indoor skate park that was once the largest in Germany. “Back then, there was a really nice hip-hop scene in East Friesland. Probably because there wasn’t much else to experience, everyone in my generation identified with music culture. There wasn’t a lot to choose from: you were either into hip-hop or techno, and I was more into hip-hop than everything else.” When Anna was hanging out with her friends one evening, they drank beer and passed the time by sketching graffiti. “I thought to myself that I’d end up showing them what a complete toy I was. A total beginner. But then they liked it. The next day, the boys got their cans together and made room on a wall in the indoor skate park. That’s where I made my first piece. I’ve got a picture somewhere of myself posing in front of the image.”

Not all eBay finds prove to be an asset

A playlist of Anna’s favorite tracks

Courtyard romance with apple trees

The walls of Anna’s apartment are covered with graphic works, most are hers but a couple are from friends who are also artists. “This one here, for example, is by Bobby Analog, a good friend and resident graphic designer with 187 Straßenbande [currently Germany’s most successful rap musicians]. And this is by Felipe Pantone!” Anna sounds a bit awe-struck as she says the name of this well-traveled artist. Pantone gives buildings, subway stations and cars around the world new beauty with his characteristic style. “I’m a real fan. Which made meeting him recently even cooler. Last year, I jokingly wrote to him: ‘In case you’re looking for an assistant someday, you know where to find one.’ His reaction was ‘Are you kidding?’ I’m super exciting to see if it works out. That would be a great chance to learn new techniques and gain knowledge and experience at a whole new level.”

But let’s be clear, Anna is long past the assistant stage. It was definitely a long road getting there. Since leaving home at seventeen to go to the technical school in Oldenburg, she’s wanted to work in the creative field. But looking back, her path in life was always headed towards independence. After vocational school, she went to college in Hildesheim and later moved to Hamburg where she initially worked as a graphic designer for a tea company. She took on small projects on the side and started doing the party posters for the Hamburger trap event series “Damn Son”. From there, one job led to the next. Slowly but surely, job to job, she continued to develop her work. Today, she can choose her clients and even turn down a major brand to accept a smaller but more exciting project.

Taking a stroll past Anna T-Iron’s works in Hamburg

Anna in front of the Mural she created during the 2015 STAMP festival in Hamburg-Altona

Generally speaking, Anna isn’t someone who likes to toe the line. She’d much rather search for new ideas. But unfortunately, she spends less and less time on her first passion these days: “Graffiti was of course my main source of inspiration back then,” says Anna. “Nowadays, I see myself as more of a graffiti retiree.” But when someone offers her a free surface, she never minds picking up the cans again—but never with a commercial interest. “That would be strange and incompatible. Graffiti has a lot to do with rebellion.”

The music that guided her to those first projects remains with her to this day and continues to play a crucial role in her work methods: “There’s always music playing at my place. Good sound quality is of course essential for that. I take in a lot of things through music. I draw words. So, it makes sense that when I’m listening to the music of my favorite artists that a hook line, a quote from a sample or a special vibe may make an impression on me. When the day is crappy and rainy like this one then I like to listen to motivating, tropical music—then it’s ok.”

Browsing through Anna’s works

Hand-lettering, illustrations, typography design, logos

  • Arial Spay, 2017: “This is one of my largest pieces so far. After working on a lot of small scale projects, I felt I needed something big, this is literally a result of my procrastination.”
  • Beizini Paradice, 2016: Commissioned work on the shutters of an ice cream shop in Hamburg’s Sternschanze
  • Burger Lab, 2015: Commissioned work for a burger place in Hamburg. Wall and acrylic paint, with markers and brushes
  • Excuse me while I kiss the sky, 2015: Triptych for a group exhibition
  • Canvas Assoto Sounds, 2016: Live painting during one of the legendary Hip Hop parties at Hamburg’s Mojo Club
  • CH-R Innovation & Creativity Festival 2016 in Berlin: Detail of a 7x4m wall. Marker, brushes and acrylic ink
  • Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead, 2015: Mural on the occasion of the Mexican holiday, initiated by Sierra Tquila. Spray paint and marker
  • Facepaint Bandana, 2015: Personal project
  • Mural Mexico Chetumal, 2016: “While traveling Mexico last year, I obviously couldn’t miss the chance of doing a mural there. When I met Toño in my last week, I knew I hit the jackpot: He is an art lover, home-owner and paint shop keeper all at once!”
  • Sketches for WRUNG, a streetwear label from Paris: “These are some progress sketches for shirt designs that will be out SS17.”

If she doesn’t have a specific job to do, she tends to start scribbling at her desk. But that doesn’t happen too often these days. At the moment, Anna is working for a new hip-hop club developing their visual identity. Currently on her wall: Logo sketches for the musician Ace Tee whose 2017 single Bist du down? excited music critics from Hamburg to Los Angeles. “I met Ace Tee two years ago. After we spent a whole night at her family-run afro shop with her braiding my hair, there was a real connection. We spent a ton of time talking about all kinds of things—including our visions for the future. She told me about her dream of working as a musician. At that time, she was already producing beats and recording tracks. That’s when we first talked about collaborating. After she got a million clicks on YouTube with her first track release, things started to get a little more concrete and I was incredibly grateful to be part of it all,” Anna says with a grin. When asked how she gets started on a project like this one, she explains: “First I try to meet up with the clients in person to find out what they have in mind, what kind of style they’re after and which requirements the logo needs to fulfill. I always say: the better we know what the beach of our dreams looks like and where we can find it, the quicker we’ll get there. Then I go back to the desk and start drawing.”

“I’m really very satisfied with my current situation,” says Anna. And she has every reason to be. After all, she’s able to structure her (work) life just the way she wants: an apartment full of plants, a balcony, two rabbits and countless scribbles on the walls.