A few weeks ago, I headed up to New York for the Stationery Show. It’s heaven for anyone who loves stationery! One of the things I was most looking forward to was to finally meet some of the interesting people I’ve been in contact with through the blog. One being, the women behind the Boston-based letterpress studio, Smudge Ink. They not only produce beautifully designed stationery, but are cognizant of the environment, using mostly recycled paper and soy inks and also work closely with their local community. They were so nice to take time away from their busy schedules to answer the questions below.
Read on for an inspiring interview with owners, Kate Saliba and Deb Bastien. Enjoy!
1. Tell us a little about Smudge Ink and what your studio does.
Smudge Ink is a design and letterpress-printing studio run by two women: me (Kate) and Deb Bastien. We spend our days creating fun and brightly colored greeting cards and other paper goods like wedding invitations, calendars, gift tags, wrap and all sorts of holiday products. All of our letterpress-printed cards are printed here in our Boston studio, and our offset printed items are made in Maine (wrap, calendars, some boxed notes).
2. What drew you to opening up your own letterpress studio? What were you doing beforehand?
Throughout college and into my 20′s I had been designing and dabbling in all sorts of art related projects like painting canvas rugs, building adirondack chairs, and designing greeting cards. When I learned the process of letterpress printing in Portland, not only did I fall in love with the process and the result, but I saw it as a scalable way to produce my work. I was hooked. Ten years ago, I moved back east to pursue this business after quitting my job as a User Interface designer at Nike.com. When I arrived home, I apprenticed for almost a year at EM Press (New Bedford), waited tables at night, and began laying the ground work for what is now Smudge Ink.
3. Why did you choose letterpress as your print technique of choice?
Over the course of two years I spent a lot of time experimenting and learning about the process of letterpress printing. I remember being taken by things like the smell of the rubber based ink, the peaceful rhythm of a long run on the C+P (Chandler & Price is a type of press) and the beautiful, tactile result. As I started to become serious about starting my own business, I ultimately chose letterpress for two reasons: how the impression enhanced the design and for the ability to keep inventory somewhat under control.
4. We love your use of bright colors, florals, and fun greeting card sayings. What are some sources of inspiration when you’re conceptualizing a new design or collection?
We draw much of our inspiration from everyday life (as boring as that may sound!): being mothers (Deb has two, I have one), conversations with friends and family about card + gift categories we don’t cover (our pet sympathy card line is a recent example), family walks around town — I took a picture of this flowering dark pink tree recently which I want to work into our next boxed note release, and doing what we love: gardening, skiing, hiking and being near the water. Often we find our most creative moments are when we’re not in the studio but rather out in the world.
5. I was able to view your beautiful new wedding line at the Stationery Show. What was your goal for producing this extensive range of invitations?
Designing and printing wedding invitations has always been one of our favorite parts of the business, and we’ve been fortunate that we’ve managed to continue to do this mainly through word of mouth. This year we seized the opportunity to expand our reach and release an entire wedding collection which brides could view online. We offer a mix of designs to complement the wide range of wedding styles we cannot keep our eyes off (and there are many!). We always strive to come out with fresh and modern takes on the classics, while still honoring the traditions of handmade correspondence.
6. What inspired you to proactively work with the community in your WE CAN and Circle of Women projects?
We had been talking for several years about how we could get involved with our community and give back to them in a meaningful, helpful way. We both feel fortunate for what we’ve created here at Smudge Ink and the support and encouragement we’ve received from others in the Cape/Boston area. Just as we were figuring this out, we were introduced to Circle of Women and worked with them to produce our first “community” line of cards. After this positive experience, we decided to build out the project and add WE CAN to the mix. This organization has particular meaning to me because I started Smudge Ink on the Cape and wanted to give back to this community. We plan on working with more non-profits in the coming years.
7. It seems like you’ve created a fun and inviting place to work based on you “About Us” section on your website. So what do you like most about your job/work?
Working as a team on the project of the moment is probably my favorite part of my job. This could be the launch of our wedding line, getting to a trade show or figuring out a social media strategy. I like pooling ideas, figuring out what will be most effective, and then making it happen.
8. What is the most difficult part of your job/work?
The most challenge piece for me is making the time to do strategic work.
9. What’s next for Smudge Ink?
Lots of new beautiful wedding invitations and some more desk products.
10. Do you have any suggestions for our readers on ways to tap into their creative and artistic selves?
Be curious and pursue all worthwhile curiosities. You never know where it may lead you.
(All images courtesy of Smudge Ink)