[Chandra Greer] Today we talk to fellow Chicagoan Lulu Jacobs, designer and owner of Ravensgoods (a tight line of cheeky, typewriter-scripted cards) about her transition from retailer to designer to retailer/designer. Lulu started Ravensgoods in partnership with Wendell—more about him later—but with his recent retirement is managing her business on her own from a tiny storefront in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood.
You’ve been in the stationery industry for a while but mostly as a buyer and retailer. Tell us a little about your background and how you made the transition to designer.
I worked at Heartworks, an independent card and gift store in Chicago. I was hired as a sales assistant but also joined the owner on buying trips. I was inspired by the artists at these gift shows as I too liked creating things. I’ve been making things since I was a kid, jewelry, cards, journals, you name it.
When Heartworks closed, I reached out to a woman who was representing some of these artists. I wanted to take a sales position with her, but by the end of our dinner she wanted to sell a product idea I had casually tossed out. That product was a pint glass screenprinted with the iconic “Hello, my name is” label. That’s how it started. She gave me a deadline and told me she would exhibit the product at the upcoming Chicago Gift Show.
How did you meet Wendell the typewriter [shown in the top photo]? Was he the inspiration behind your line or your willing accomplice?
Wendell is my partner in crime! I found him at an antique store for $20. Money well spent! He was originally purchased to look cute on my coffee table, but the Fates had other ideas for him.
I had wanted to make another product with a recognizable design. I had designed some note cards with the familiar ruled/lined notebook pattern, but they were set aside as I didn’t know how I would package them.
I took a bartending job at night so I could do my wholesale work during the day. One night a patron told me he was in the dog house with his girlfriend. He said he wished there was a card to express how sorry he was. I went home and made him a “hey, sorry I was such an idiot” card, typing it up with Wendell on blank card stock. And that’s how the typewriter cards started.
Your personality is sweet and gentle, but some of your cards have a little bite. Is that a secret part of your personality?
I’m a Scorpio. We have that stinger! Enough said.
Tell us why you made the transition from designer back to retailer.
My kitchen table was covered in projects and I had a garage full of inventory labeled “not so great ideas.” I decided I not only needed storage space, but also a studio that would give me more structure. I found a great storefront in the friendly Ravenswood neighborhood. People started inquiring as to what I did and wanted to take a peek inside. I decided to invite other artist friends I knew to showcase their goods, since I had the space and people were walking through the door. I changed the name of my company to Ravensgoods.
You and Wendell were kind enough to make the above card for us with Graham Nash’s classic quote from his visit to the Iowa State Fair. Do you still take custom orders?
Sadly, Wendell can’t keep up with big custom orders. I use him to make mock-ups of the typewriter cards, which now go to press at a local print shop. However, I do offer the cards as blank to my wholesale accounts. To all the custom card enthusiasts, Greer stocks the blanks!
Where would you like to be in five years?
Carrying on with the wholesale part of my business. I love what I do. My mother recently gave me a story I wrote in the second grade. It contains a lot of dry humor, much like the typewriter cards. I’m wondering how to get it to press….
Opening photo: Lulu and Wendell at work.
If you’re in Chicago, stop by Lulu’s shop at 4703 North Damen to see more of her line, the wonderful artists she showcases and Wendell. On the Wire is a series of monthly conversations with up-and-coming stationery designers who, while tiny in size, are titanic in talent. Our interviews are hosted by Chandra Greer, the owner of Greer (@GREERChicago), an independent stationery shop and website with a longstanding commitment to seeking out and supporting independent designers.