Next month, graphic designer and engraving expert extraordinaire Nancy Sharon Collins will publish The Complete Engraver, an informative and elegant homage to the classic art. Seeing as how said classic art and our paper go together like Fred and Ginger, we thought Collins a perfect addition to our Post Script Q&A series. Here, the former New Yorker (and current Louisianan) shares stories of her parents’ notes, a New Orleans estate filled with paper and a small stack of treasured love letters.
When did your interest in social stationery engraving begin? 1976 during graduate school at the Hartford Art School. I was introduced to Lehman Brothers in New Haven and I fell in love with commercial engraving: going on press knocks my socks off; I love the smell of ink and paper and the sound of small presses (metal against metal, fly wheels, iron and steel.)
When it comes to projects of the epistolary variety, calligrapher Ashantai Yungai, founder of Distinctive Inscriptions, isn’t one to back down from a challenge. So, when a bride asked him to pen 1,000 envelopes for her Hawaiian wedding, he not only agreed, he blogged about the two-week-long endeavor. With a good nib, a little Joni Mitchell and a bag of flour, he proved victorious. Perhaps it’s Yungai’s science background (he’s a chemist by trade), but it seems as though he has found the formula for the perfect flourish.
Ashantai Yungai, born to flourish.
Of course, we would never ask him to share his ‘secret sauce,’ be he does share with us missives pertaining to pens, sisters and the future of the handwritten word.
When did your interest in calligraphy begin? June 2008. I am a chemist by trade. A friend saw my handwriting in my lab notebook and asked, “Did you write that? Wow man, that’s pretty cool! You should do calligraphy. People do wedding invitations and envelopes using calligraphy.” I thought little of it at the time. I bought a calligraphy pen on a whim one day while shopping for art supplies for my son. I began writing with it. From there I was off to the races.
More than 200 years ago, Stephen Crane decided to make a statement. And it wasn’t with his fashion forward breeches or well-groomed mutton chops. It was, rather, with the name of a paper mill he opened in 1770. He called it the Liberty Paper Mill and, for purveyors of our American heritage, was named so just two years after the British occupied Boston. – and just five miles away. A tres bold move, if we do say so ourselves.
Like chocolate and peanut butter or Fred and Ginger, stationery and monograms just work perfectly together. Making sure that they do is our resident monogram artist, Jackie Brown.
Whether you’re into swirly or straight, diminutive or daring, she can turn initials into works of art. A monogram, after all, is the ultimate expression of individuality. So it made sense, then, that we get personal about, well, getting personal.
When did your interest in the monogram begin? My interest in monograms began shortly after being hired by Crane. I was hoping to develop an art-based career. I found such an opportunity in making monograms. Monograms allowed me to become creative, thereby making them my art.
Antony and Cleopatra. Romeo and Juliet. Scarlett and Rhett.
We love a good love story.
But our favorite is that of Pen and Paper.
Thus, we were delighted to pick the brain of Rick Propas — a specialist for Swann Auction Galleries, where he directs the newly created Department of Fine and Vintage Writing Instruments — whose first pen was given to him more than 50 years ago.
Rick Propas, lefty.
“In the Jewish tradition, it’s customary to give a boy a fountain pen at his bar mitzvah,” Propas explained. “I didn’t get one, and when I complained to my dad, he pulled out his own pen and gave it to me.”
Propas has been collecting vintage pens ever since.
In this edition of The Making Of, we take a look at yet another one of our new collections (my, our design team has been busy).
Patriot meets pen in a premier collection celebrating all things red, white and blue. We’re calling it — drum roll, please — Americana. And what better time to launch it than while we’re all dreaming of fireworks and BBQs?
First, there was Inspiration.
“This collection came together as I was going over the archives,” recalls VP of Creative & Product Development Rachel V. Ivey. “I noticed that Crane was present for every Presidency. With an election approaching, developing a collection that celebrates our country was a pleasure.”
Next, the team thought about Americana’s target customer, and came up with three types:
The Classic American, who loves rich history.
The Proud American, who isn’t afraid to wear her U.S.A. love on her sleeve.
The Young American, who is learning how to become more involved in his country.
Quite often we get asked about one particular wedding invitation design we offer. More specifically, we get asked about the ‘font’ on that invitation.
The font in question, we tell them, is actually calligraphy done by one Angela Welch.
The bubbly Alabamian (is there any other kind?) has been providing her fanciful flourishes for us for years, and so we thought it was about time we highlighted the woman behind the nib.
When did your interest in calligraphy begin? Before the age of six for sure. In first grade I never knew my place in the reader when my teacher called on me to begin reading — I was too busy trying to write a “fancy” alphabet of my own.
My first calligraphy job was in the sixth grade and a teacher asked me to letter, in Old English, the heading of a flyer to be printed. I loved the challenge of making a beautiful mark with lots of different mediums. My fascination with flourishing as a whole arm movement began in the third grade.
Like the pocket square or the cherry on top, an envelope liner is the exquisite detail that ties one’s stationery set together. It is the first hint of the specialness that is to come. We thought it was about time, though, that the envelope liner was the chocolate ice cream.
But enough metaphors. Introducing a carefully curated collection of some of our favorite envelope liners in all of their full-sheet glory. Inspired by the idea that they would be used for everything from scrapbooking to gift wrapping to interior decorating, we selected five liners from the Crane & Co. archives that we thought offered something for every taste and style:
Fiorenza in the Spring Time Liner
How does your Italian garden grow? With elegant blooms of blue and blush flecked with gold. Our vintage Rossi envelope liner paper may be made in Italy, but we’re sure you’ll find beautiful ways to make it all your own.
And so, we went on a mission to piece together the history of engraving. There is, we found, quite a bit of information available on the engraving of images, which goes back a long, long time: cavemen did it; so did the Egyptians.
But we were more curious about that point in history when someone thought, My, wouldn’t this piece of paper that I’m sending look so much lovelier engraved?
How can you pick out the guy who loves what he does? He’s the one who smiles when you ask him about it. And then keeps smiling throughout the entire interview.
That’s Bob Gregory, a native of North Adams, Massachusetts (where our paper magic happens) who works an engraving press like no one’s business. He’s also a Red Sox fan and could never work at a job in which he was “just sitting there.”
That’s good news for us, and whoever has the pleasure of receiving a box of stationery created by Gregory’s skilled hands.
Here, he chats with us about being a “wedding man,” naming his engraving press and his one degree of separation from a certain blue-eyed crooner.