Mohawk Blog

On the Wire: Designer to Watch, Kristen Ley

Sarah Schwartz

This week, guest blogger, Sarah Schwartz, editor of Stationery Trends and The Paper Chronicles, chats with three of Stationery Trends’ Top Ten 2015 Designers to Watch about their careers, inspiration and thoughts about paper. Today, Sarah introduces us to Kristen Ley of Thimblepress.

Starting in 2010, in every Winter Issue of Stationery Trends, I have showcased a cavalcade of 10 Designers to Watch. There are no strict criteria to my selection process, rather I just know a perfect fit when I see it — and I sense that each person in every year’s special 10 is on a most interesting and American-made upward trajectory. It’s a real treat to share their personalities and stories with Felt & Wire readers. 

Kristen Ley

Kristen Ley is the creative force behind Thimblepress in Jackson, Mississippi. She distinguishes herself with a lively, life-affirming range of merchandise created in her studio devoted to letterpress, art, sewing, design and woodworking — and she’s got the social media following to prove it.


What is your favorite social media outlet & handle?

Instagram: @thimblepress

How did you get into stationery & paper design?

I received my BFA with an emphasis in graphic design and minor in marketing from Mississippi State University in 2007. I love graphic design, always have and always will. By the time I had graduated I was lucky enough to have a National Gold Addy award under my belt, so a friend and I ventured off to Charleston, South Carolina, and started a design business focused on branding, marketing, and advertising efforts for clients large and small.

Party Hat & Happy Day Confetti Card
Let your Light Shine Bright Card

What role do you see paper playing in your work?

Paper has been a part of my life since I can remember. It became an even larger part of my life when I was working with clients on personal and business branding, and now it totally consumes my life in the best way at Thimblepress.

Paper can totally set the tone for something. It can make it seem more expensive or feel very cheap. Most people don’t even take the conscious time to think about the paper they are holding, but it is the subconscious thinking that really tells the story. Without even knowing it, a whole brand, event, or paper product is judged within the first few seconds of holding that business card, invitation, greeting card or art print. We have subconsciously in the past 10 years, especially with the evolution of online printing, trained people to know good paper, and expect the paper they hold to be synonymous to the brand or event. Or what we want them to perceive about the brand or event!

Which Mohawk paper is your favorite and why?

I would say my favorite Mohawk paper is the Superfine Eggshell Ultrawhite paper. I like how it holds color, but also has a bit of toothiness to it that feels good in your hand. It feels expensive and luxurious but not in an overly luxurious/pretentious way.  It feels like a timeless paper that can be used for so many different applications.

Inside the Studio

Are there any specific offerings that you use Mohawk papers for?

Even in college I was familiar with the Mohawk brand and used it on several projects, so once I started the design firm we began using it on a lot of client jobs we had. There is such a wide variety of paper with the Mohawk family and the color always turned out so vibrant that it was a go-to for us! When I opened Thimblepress in 2012, I knew I wanted all of my offset (flat) printed cards to be printed on Mohawk paper.

Which recent Thimblepress release best represents your personal style?
I would have to say my USA State Flower Collection in the gold foil-stamped greeting cards. (They are printed on Mohawk paper, by the way!) I love white and gold together. My home is very eclectic with major influence of mid-century modern design. I love brass sculptures and elements throughout my home and most of the jewelry I wear is gold. I would also say this also reflects my personal style in that even though it is gold and white, the drawings of flowers have a very organic shape. I love nature, being outside and plants. I have indoor plants all throughout my home and potted herbs and plants on my rooftop. I love nature and exploring it, so being able to marry the gold with nature seemed to be my favorite combination yet!

 Can you give us a sneak peek of a project you are developing?

We are doing some major shifts at Thimblepress, but one of the things we are wanting to do is gift wrap!

Kristen Ley and her dog

What are your hobbies outside of work?

I do work a lot, and I am trying to change that about myself, but I love to travel, explore, be outside, hang out with my dogs, try new restaurants, paint, hang out with my friends on a front porch, drink wine, kayak, and spend time with my family!

What blogs/books/publications do you find yourself getting lost in?
Before I mention any of those, I just want to tell you that I have really been into podcasts lately. It makes printing on my press way more fun. For books, I just read UnContainable by Kip Tindell and absolutely loved reading about how he built the Container Store from nothing basically and made it into this wonderfully functioning machine! I also read a lot of design blogs and travel blogs!

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