When you’re walking around Eastern Market on the weekend, you may happen upon a table laid out with letterpress cards that read ‘Have you tried it with bacon?’ and ‘Smile. Puppies Exist,’ among countless other funny quips and sincere sentiments. These hand printed cards are the brainchild of Melanie Karlins, owner of the Captiol Hill-based, Grey Moggie Press.
I’ve been buying Grey Moggie Press cards since I first happened upon them during my freshman year. Just this year though, I bought a card for my roommate after she had run her first marathon and noticed that the bag the card came in read ‘Write More On Paper.’ This bag hangs over my desk because it’s a beautiful sentiment and one that I aim to emulate all the time. ‘Write More On Paper,’ tells me to take the time, to express myself, to send a card to someone that says ‘Have You Tried It With Siracha?’ just because I’m thinking of them and they love Siracha more than their mothers.
So, while this blog is in fact not written on paper, I sat down with Melanie’s right hand woman, Lisa Rowan (Melanie was suffering from the flu to end all flus) at Grey Moggie’s quaint Captiol Hill Studio. Sandwiched in between a fledgling graphic design firm and a studio overflowing with material, I got to talk to Lisa about the concept behind handmade letterpress, the joys of expressing yourself on paper and an exciting giveaway of some new, romantic designs just in time for Valentine’s Day. The following interview was edited for clarity.
(left) Melanie, Owner Grey Moggie Press. (right) Lisa Rowan, Studio Moggie (credit: Alan Kayanan)
Kelly: Can you describe Melanie’s and your role in Grey Moggie?
Lisa: Melanie created Grey Moggie back in 2008. She started printing in 2008 and it developed from there. She does all the printing and the actual designs of the cards. She is the matriarch of the brand. I’ve only been here 6 months. I came in just to be her assistant, to help pack orders and keep everything organized. I came on as a part-timer because I have my own business, so I said, I totally have spare time to work on this. When I’m not there doing my thing, I’m here keeping everything in order.
K: Where did the name Grey Moggie come from?
L: It’s a type of cat. Melanie does own a grey moggie cat. Her name is Ann Taylor. I never knew until I worked here that Ann Taylor isn’t originally from the clothing store, it’s a the name of a dog from To Kill a Mocking Bird. Ann Taylor is the [Grey Moggie] sticker.
K: How did Grey Moggie come to be?
L: Melanie started learning how to screen print when she was in law school. In law school you’re studying and it’s books all the time so she needed something that was completely different. Before she even set foot in a letterpress studio she started looking at presses online to see if she could buy one and she what that would entail. So she started doing this as a hobby, and then she was doing it on the weekends and started selling at Eastern Market. When she was working, she decided she wanted to letterpress. She was like, this is my calling. So she had a smaller press first and then she got the one she uses now.
K: Does Melanie do all of the pressing herself or do you help?
L: I don’t do any pressing yet. Actually I’m here in the studio and there are four women that help at Eastern Market on the weekends and everyone wants to learn. Melanie keeps saying that it would be great to have someone else who can do it because then it lets her do all the other business stuff and design.
K: So, does Melanie come up with all the designs and catchphrases on the cards or is that a team effort?
L: I want to say its all Melanie but there’s one that we came out with this spring… Well, I always say ‘that sounds like a personal problem,’ and so she designed this whole card without telling me and showed it to me and I was like, I’m on the card! We had to add that ‘but I want to help you anyway’ because they’re meant to be a little encouraging. Melanie will say ‘I’m working on x,y,z card what do you think?’ Sometimes my ideas are really bad and sometimes her ideas aren’t on point. Its definitely a trial and error process. She has themes that she likes to riff on though.
K: For this Valentines day, did you expand on last year’s Valentine’s theme or did you try something new?
L: We have two Valentine’s themes and then we have a couple new ones. (Grabs giveaway). I picked these out by myself. Here’s “I love you more than yoga pants.” I figured that was appropriate. These are also really cute (grabs other card) this one says “I want to Kiss You All the Time,” and we have one that says “I want to Hug you all the time.” But some of them transcend the season! We have one that says “you are so loved,” and that can be for whenever. We have a total of 10 new cards for Valentine’s day this year.
K: Do you do custom orders or do you design to sell?
L: Most of our stuff is designed and then sold. Every once in awhile we get a custom order, like any of these cards we could do as print. We don’t do it a whole lot but we can. And she’s going to start doing a wedding line that’s going to launch in June. So, she’s going to be doing invitations. She’ll have a couple of designs but there will be some wiggle room for some custom stuff. So, doing save the dates and the whole thing.
K: Other than the wedding line, what else is next for Grey Moggie?
L: We’re doing a line that’s a collaboration with an artist named Marcella Kreibel. Its paintings of fruits and veggies that we’re taking and doing on the letterpress. Its really cool because they’re not going to say anything, its just going to be an image. Its going to be something that’s toally unisex. Guys can send them. They’re going to have, I don’t remember what color we decided on, I think mossy green or something. Its going to be something perfect for spring and totally seasonal.
K: When is that going to launch?
L: I’m thinking March or April. It’ll be on Etsy and at Eastern Market and we’ll send out an update to retailers, so that we know we have it. So probably 2 or three weeks after we have it’ll be in stores.
L (continuing to answer what’s next for Grey Moggie):
So we’re also planning to do more gifty things that aren’t necessarily cards but are still in the stationary realm. Over the holidays we did coasters and gift tags. We also do lunchbox notes that are based on our milestone cards. You can just slip them in an envelope or write on the back and they’re really sweet. We want to do more of that because sending more mail is kind of our schtick. But there’s also an element of just writing more, expressing more.
K: Can explain the ‘writing more’ idea?
L: Melanie’s whole inspiration has been really old etiquette books like Emily Post. She has all these books about wedding etiquette and stuff so it’s a combo of communicating on paper plus the old way which was you always wrote a note, you always sent something. We put those together and show that that can be just as modern as everything else we do too.
K: Can you talk more about ‘Write More on Paper?’
L: I don’t even know when she started using that. She just started printing them on the back of the cards when I got here in September. I think its resonates with people. I think that this idea of writing and communicating with people is really important. I think that transcends to a lot of the reatilers we work with and a lot of the artists that we work with have an old time flare. People really identify with that. We get a lot of people at Eastern Market that will come by. They’ll buy a pack of 5 cards for 20 and then they’ll come back the next week and Melanie will be like ‘how did you go through those already?’ and they’re like ‘I had people picked out for all of those cards and now I need to send more!’ There have been times that she’s doubted that this movement is real, but it is. Its totally real. We have 150 styles right now and that’s telling.
K: What does Write More on Paper mean to you?
L: Its sort of a reminder to me that if someone’s birthday is coming up, send them a card. It takes 5 minutes to pick out a really cute card and send it to them. Its better than sending an email or posting on their facebook wall. The people who think of you and send you stuff in the mail? Those are the people you love the most.
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