Crane & Co.’s longstanding history gets a beautiful revival with its 1801 Collection. Specially curated by one of the Crane team’s leading creatives, art director John Segal, this collection embraces a choice selection of archived artwork that warranted being brought back to life. An avid collector of fountain pens, Segal will tell you that his favorite design within the collection is, of course, the celery and gold fountain pen. An extraordinary piece of engraving work and featuring a color scheme that is both unique and subtle, who can really blame him? But in a compilation so full of enticing and enthrallingly beautiful motifs, there’s really no wrong answer. Join us as we get to know this beautiful collection, and the man behind it.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Though I’ll never quite feel like a native, I’ve called New York home for 25 years. I ride my bike to work every day, I’m an avid collector of fountain pens, and I can name the starting lineup of the 1969 American League Champion Baltimore Orioles. I like my coffee black, I have a small 12lb dog named Daisy, and my favorite color is orange.
How long have you been with the Crane team?
I have been a full-time employee of Crane for three years, though my relationship with the company is longstanding. When the opportunity to come on board full-time presented itself, I jumped at the chance. This is my dream job. I feel very fortunate to have, what I believe, is one of the greatest jobs in America. I design things that I love and get to use, and for a company that has a unique story and special role in America.
Can you attribute anything from your past to working at Crane today?
From a very early age, I knew I wanted to become a designer, but I didn’t really understand what designers did. I liked the idea of having a drawing table full of instruments (I have a very pronounced tool fixation). I figured the way to indulge in this fetish was to find a profession that used these tools.
But, I always remembered my parents having a keepsake box on their coffee table growing up. Their wedding invitations had been engraved, and the engraving was then turned into this box – it fascinated me. It now sits on my own coffee table and I consider it one of my most treasured possessions. Whether it influenced my choice in career or not, I don’t know. But whatever the case, it seems appropriate.
What’s your favorite part about coming to work every day?
I wear a lot of different hats at work, and there’s always something new on my desk to deal with. My absolute favorite thing about work is driving up to the factory in North Adams, Massachusetts. I love nothing more than to walk onto the factory floor, hear the hum of the machines and take in the smells of the printing ink. Anyone that works in the printing industry knows that rush, and it’s amazing.
Tell us a little bit about what your desk looks like.
At any given time, my desk is covered with coffee cups, paintbrushes, inkbottles, rulers, takeout containers – you name it. But underneath it all is a gleaming 8-foot slab of perfect white Formica – and the organized Swiss designer I always wished to be. Pristine underneath, frenzied on top – it’s forever in chaos.
How does life outside of work inspire you, and in what ways do you seek it out?
Bike riding, of course – something I do daily. But I also maintain the theory of “you are the company you keep.” I’m surrounded by talented and creative people. My wife is an amazingly gifted art director, and my daughter is an artist and writer. And, living in New York, you’re never far from inspiration – it’s everywhere.
Tell me about your design process. Does that change or stay consistent?
I like to see what else is resonating in the marketplace, and you’ll find me visiting all the trade shows, gift shows and stationery shows. I love visiting old-time office supplies stores to fine N.O. stock (new/old stock). Plus, I draw huge inspiration from the Japanese aesthetic and often find myself on the site Sumally (it’s like the Japanese Pinterest, and it’s absolutely delightful and entrancing).
Tell me a little bit about what you were tasked with when asked to create this collection, and how it started to take shape.
The objective behind 1801 was to bring the most talented artisans, the most beautiful art and the most incredible paper and technique into one place. This collection represents the highest level of craftsmanship and execution.
What brought you to the designs chosen?
There was extraordinary art in the archives that really warranted being brought back to life. It’s a true revival of the best of the best. With multi-pass engraving, the colors chosen, the details in each design – they’re all so special and magical.
What makes this collection unique?
1801 is the year that Stephen Crane founded the mill in Dalton, Massachusetts, and all artwork and images come from the Crane archives. This collection is the marriage between subject matter, printing, paper, edge painting and packaging. Every piece in that box – from the wrapping, to the hot foil stamp, to the tissue-lined envelopes – represents the finest craftsmanship on the market. Everything was hand-made by people that are exceedingly good at their jobs and their craft.
Describe the person who would love this collection.
My mother! Though she would say that it is too nice to write on. But the person that loves this collection is a true connoisseur of stationery, someone that appreciates fine art and the highest level of craftsmanship. Though this collection was created to be written on, I can see someone having it on his or her desk just to look at – it’s that beautiful.
How do you make a note truly memorable?
As they say, the hardest part is showing up. The hardest part about writing a note is actually writing it and getting it in the mail. People are thrilled to get notes. Speak from the heart, be brief and concise, and get it in the mail.
Kara Neff lives in New York City by way of Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. She can be found writing freelance for beauty, fashion and interior design outside of her full-time job as a fashion writer.