Everyone has such unique stories about how they came into the stationery world and Meghan from And Here We Are is no exception. Meghan eased into the stationery industry after designing and printing her own wedding invitations, and after 9 years in New York, moved her Brooklyn studio to Columbus, Ohio where she recently moved (again!) to an industrial space. Walking us through her design process from brainstorming and sketching to printing techniques, here’s Meghan! —Megan Soh
From Meghan: Hi there! I’m Meghan, owner and founder of And Here We Are, a design & letterpress printing studio based in Columbus, Ohio. I went to school for graphic design – and back again for typeface design – and in past lives have worked as a textile designer, a designer in a traditional firm, an in-house designer for a PR firm, and finally, a print designer at a television network. I live in the Short North neighborhood here in Columbus with my husband, John, our son Wiley, and our dog Martha.
And Here We Are launched in 2012 out of our apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It started after I went a little nuts on our personal wedding invitations and paper goods, and the press led to several more custom wedding commissions. I always loved letterpress printing, which I’d discovered in college, and was really excited about the idea of getting my hands dirty again!
I worked nights and weekends for about a year before I officially left my day job to purse paper goods full time. At first I was working out of the corner of our living room, meeting clients in coffee shops and renting letterpresses at a local studio in Brooklyn. We bought our first letterpress in 2015, and moved out here to Columbus (after 9 years in New York) in search of affordable space. We were lucky to find an adorable little Victorian house just north of Downtown with a 400 square foot sun room that made a perfect home studio.
We worked out of this studio until it was just about bursting at the seams; we recently moved all of our equipment and product stock out into a 1,000 square foot space across town. Being in this industrial space will allow for more (and heavier) equipment, and I plan to host events and workshops, too.
In addition to custom design and printing, we have a full line of letterpress printed greeting cards and accessories that we sell both retail and wholesale (we exhibited in our first National Stationery Show this Spring). We do all of our letterpress printing in house, but offer all sorts of printing methods through our network of trusted vendors here and back in New York. We often combine letterpress printed pieces with foil stamping, digital printing or die cutting.
We currently have a Vandercook SP-15 letterpress, which carries about 90% of the load, and a C&P pilot press which we use mostly for coasters and some smaller items. We trim on a Challenge Triumph hydraulic trimmer. A Windmill or Kluge letterpress is probably not too far off in the future, and I’d like to bring foil-stamping in house too.
From 2014-16, my husband John was also working with me, but went back to a day job last year when we found out we had a baby on the way. So for now, I’m working by myself again, with the occasional part time or temp helpers. Now that we’ve moved into our new space I’m hoping to bring on 1-2 members to join the team.
There really isn’t such a thing as a typical day when you run a business and have an 8-month-old; most days we’re up at 6:30, having breakfast and taking a long walk before heading into the studio. Around 8:30, I drop the baby off at day care or bring him with me, depending on the day of the week. I could be drawing, printing, trimming, filling orders, or writing estimates and invoices (the most glamorous part of the job). There’s always a lot more emailing and administration than I’d like, but I’m often able to tackle those tasks at home after the little one’s gone to bed.
Even when I’m not in the studio, I’m almost always carrying a notebook or sketchbook to jot down new ideas, doodles or notes. I usually start with just a list of words that I keep on my phone, which I then distill into a few categories and then every month or two I’ll block out a few solid days to sketch out some lettering and illustrations, and then spend another week or two refining those.
I usually move from pencil sketches to brush and ink or brush pens, often drawing and redrawing an idea through layers of tracing paper to distill it down to the simplest form possible. Sometimes I work backwards from an ink color I really want to use, or a print method I want to try. Then the drawings get scanned into the computer, cleaned up and digitized. I assign ink colors on the computer (although I often change my mind when I’m on the press!), prep the files for letterpress printing, and send the art out to have plates made.
Often, I start with art prints, then extend the artwork through other items like totes, coasters or cards. I usually release new collections about once a quarter.
Custom work is a whole other monster. These start with a client meeting and idea board; then I’ll ruminate on it a bit and pull some visual examples into a Pinterest board. I keep my sketchbook handy and usually in a week or two I’ll hit on an idea that I can get excited about (and when I’m lucky, the client is excited about it too!). Totally custom jobs usually go through about 3-4 rounds of design before we hit the press. Since we had the baby, I’ve been shifting the focus of And Here We Are toward the retail and wholesale side of the business, but do still take a limited amount of custom projects each season.
Interested in being featured on the Behind the Stationery column? Reach out to Megan for more information at megan[at]ohsobeautifulpaper.com.