On The Wire: Designer to Watch, Cara Underwood

Today, guest blogger, Sarah Schwartz, editor of Stationery Trends and The Paper Chronicles, chats with one of Stationery Trends’ 10 Designers to Watch in 2017 about her career, inspiration and thoughts about paper.

Starting in 2010, every Winter Issue of Stationery Trends has featured 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 — I tend to sense that each person in every year’s special 10 is on a most interesting trajectory. Today it’s a real treat to share one of these dynamic personalities with Felt & Wire readers.

Underwood Letterpress’ tagline is “snail mail in style,” but that just scratches the surface of Cara Underwood’s larger mission. “Sending mail is no longer just a means of communication, it’s an art form, so we go all out,” she told me.

With that lofty goal, this California house of letterpress distinguished itself from the pack with playful illustrations, rich color, high quality inks and paper — even adorable vintage stamp sets for dressing envelopes!

What is your Favorite Social Media Outlet & Handle?
We love Insta! I was never personally drawn to social media until Instagram launched. Storytelling through imagery is such a fit for my personality and our brand.

How did you get into stationery & paper design?
I learned to letterpress print while dabbling in bookbinding as an undergraduate student. The area of book arts is such a dynamic medium and I quickly fell in love with the combination of paper construction and printing. I got in to the medium for the paper and printing, but ended up loving design and the process of taking a design from pen and paper to the press … and then in to the hands of fellow snail mail advocates.

What role do you see paper playing in your work?
Paper is everything in our work. We believe that the quality of the paper sets the tone for the product, regardless of the design. The paper has to feel special for the product to be special.

What types of papers are you generally drawn? Which Mohawk paper is your favorite and why?
We love Mohawk’s Superfine smooth paper. It’s the foundation for all of our marketing materials. It’s sturdy and honest while feeling refined and irreplaceable. It shows color impeccably and we’ve always loved how images of our products look and feel on a sheet of Mohawk Superfine.

What recent release of yours best represents your personal style?
We recently released a collection of new greeting cards using copper foil and nude ink. Our line is full of rich color and we absolutely love playing with color, but we were craving something that had some understated interest, and have loved how stores have responded to the new line.

Can you give us a sneak peek of a project you are developing?
We’re so excited to release our first line of notepads and journals at National Stationery Show (NSS). We’re also releasing cute little paper cubes with sticky back sheets. What’s better than a jazzed up post-it? Design plus function is always a must. Plus, all four sides of the cubes are covered in shiny foil gilding, which makes them look like little gems. We aren’t showing sneak peeks yet, but we will have them for sale in our booth at NSS  — #1534 — so come say hello!

We’re also bringing our Snail Mail Kits to NSS, which we launched this year. They include mini letterpress greeting cards and real vintage postage that can be used to mail the cards!

What are your hobbies outside of work?
I feel so privileged to get to be creative in my job so I’d say my need for hobbies are pretty well covered while I work. My time outside of work involves playing and exploring with my husband and toddler. I learn so much from my son about being present and playful. We have baby #2 on the way, so playtime is about to get a little more interesting.

What blogs/books/publications do you find yourself getting lost in?
I ventured in to the world of public policy before returning to design, so I love to keep up on the state of affairs. The Daily Show provides me with a nightly news update and some fantastic — and much needed — comic relief.

Aside from personal interests, I am completely in love with The Parcel Subscription by Parse & Parcel. If you love print and paper, you have to check it out (I wasn’t paid to say that, so trust me here!) Options are boundless when it comes to the process of transferring design to paper. The Parcel exposes us to new ideas by sending quarterly samples of creative print techniques. It’s definitely a good day in the studio when The Parcel arrives.

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