If Carrie Crane’s last name sounds familiar, it probably is (especially if you’re reading this blog). Crane & Co. has been a family-owned business for more than 200 years, and, well, Carrie is part of that family. So, one might say she was born with a love of classic correspondence.
That love, combined with her designer chops, aligned last year when Carrie — who grew up in Dalton and was in and out of the mills with her father from a very early age — won the Crane family’s design challenge. The winner would see his/her creations turned into exquisite notes, which are made available online and in retail stores. Which means letter lovers all over the world will be penning their thoughts on her signature stationery.
“Winning the Crane Family Design Challenge was really a big deal to me,” she said, “and seeing the cards beautifully engraved, with the their luscious, lined envelopes, in Crane & Co. boxes is so exciting and truly makes me proud.” Here, Carrie — an artist for more than 20 years — chats with us about pen/paper harmony, the joys of junk mail and why she’d love to have a cup of coffee in Egypt.
Describe your work and its connection with stationery.
I first started designing cards when I was pretty young, making handmade Christmas cards and birthday cards for my friends and family. Every year they were different, sometimes block cuts, sometimes line drawings that were then hand colored. I always loved using gold markers and adding glitter. I always looked forward to holidays and birthdays because the cards not only gave me an excuse to design something but, like all letters, they were a gift to those who received them.
What is your favorite part of the creative process?
I would say it is the moment I visualize the final product in my head and then when I hold the finished piece in my hand. The time between those moments, while often joyful, can be fraught with the challenges of problem solving, insecurity and doubt. So it’s pretty exciting when you succeed.
When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
As a really small child, I used to play a game with my sister where we were allowed to pretend all my parents “junk mail” was real mail, important correspondences from imaginary people. We would open the letters carefully with a letter opener and “read” them, sometimes answer them, organize them and file them with other important letters in a special drawer of the desk. I just remember how responsible and grown up it made me feel.
What is your favorite step in the process of written correspondence?
Getting a letter back!
If you could be pen pals with anyone in history, to whom would you write and what would you say?
I think I would choose a Roman or an Egyptian woman of middle class living during the height of their empires. I would want to know everything about the day-to-day life, from getting the kids up in the morning to obtaining food and cooking for their families. I would want to know what concerns they had for their adolescent children, what their equivalent to too much screen time might be. I would want to know if they found their lives fulfilling and why. I would want to write back and forth long enough to feel like we were chatting over coffee (or whatever their social drink might have been).
To whom do you most often write?
Sadly, nobody often enough. I write my relatives, particularly the older ones who don’t do everything by email. And I write notes, thank you notes and condolence letters to all kinds of people.
Describe the most memorable letter or postcard you have ever received.
I once received a letter from Paul Simon. I had written him for information and support for a music project that I was working on. He wrote back to say he couldn’t help me financially but wished me good luck.
To you, what makes a particular letter stand out from a stack of cards?
Well, color first, then the thickness of the paper and then the handwritten address.
Do you have a favorite stamp or stamp series?
I tend to like the wildlife ones. I think the coolest, so cool I could never use them, was the Kelp Forest stamps, one of the Nature of America sheet stamp collections. They came on a large sheet that was a complete painting of an underwater world full of plants and fish. Each stamp is part of the painting, so I really couldn’t use them!
What tools do you use when you write a letter?
Many times I write the letter out first on a regular piece of paper so I can compose and edit it. When I go to write the final copy, I choose a pen that writes smoothly on my chosen paper. I love all kinds of paper (I guess it is in my blood), but different papers have different absorbency and drag. I want a pen that releases just the right amount of ink and has just the right amount of friction to match the paper. If the pen moves too fast, my handwriting gets out of control. If the ink runs to freely, well it’s a mess but if it runs too slowly, then the letters look dry and the pen tends to drag. Maybe I’m a little crazy but it really is a joy to write when the pen and the paper are in harmony.
What is your favorite product created by Crane & Co.?
The engraved Holiday cards. They are stunning. Each one is a work of art. I usually cannot decide which one to get, so I get two different ones and then have to decide who on my list is going to get which one.
What do you see in the future of handwritten correspondence?
I think our electronic devices will fail to be a substitute for the experience of a real piece of paper in our hands. Letter writing will not die. It is possible, however, the tool we use to write the letter will never be the same. I fear that 2 decades from now people’s handwriting skills will be quite underdeveloped which will make writing with a pen more frustrating, but I trust technology will take care of that. I also think, over the next twenty years, we will rediscover the value of the box filled with a lifetime of letters and we’ll start rushing to fill ours up.