November 30 • 2011
Meghan Carey recently stopped by the studio to say hello and when we weren’t laughing we found ourselves slack jaw listening to her stories as a designer for stationer William Arthur and Vera Wang Fine Papers. After learning how she incorporated inspiration from our country’s first president’s birthday invitation, we knew we had to share her with you, too.
L&L: Tell us a little about you and the history of William Arthur.
MEGHAN: William Arthur was originally called Ten Bamboo Studio. It was started in 1949 by a couple named Philip and Rita Renning. They were both artists, and they named the company after a Chinese Wood-cut Manual. I keep this photo of Rita on my desk – she sounds like such a smart and vibrant woman – and just look at her (below, left)! In 1984, The Rennings sold Ten Bamboo to a Mr. Bill De Jonge. He changed the company name to William Arthur. The actual company moved from Wellesley, Mass. to West Kennebunk in 1987, and was acquired by Hallmark ten years later. We operate a manufacturing facility that is tucked in the woods right off the Kennebunk exit.
I lived oversees for a spell, but actually grew up in this town – my folks moved to Kennebunk when I was still quite small. I studied Illustration in New York at Parsons School of Design, and printmaking in Halifax at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. I lived in both Boston and Austin for a bit, before landing a job here, in my hometown, seven and a half years ago. I’m now settled in Portland, in a kooky old house that I accidentally painted purple (no. really!) I live with my amazing partner, Sean.
L&L: How long has Vera Wang Fine Papers been a part of William Arthur? How did that come to be, and how do you have the lucky fortune of designing such beauties? Pretty please share what your job entails.
MEGHAN: When I was interviewing for a position as the Marketing Designer at William Arthur in 2004, I remember that the walls were bedecked with Vera Wang inspiration – runway shots and fabric swatches. The first collections of boxed stationery and wedding invitations were released in 2005. At that time, I was responsible for designing the ad campaigns for both brands, as well as laying out the catalogs, POP displays and what-not. I LOVED that job. It was really fun, and it was there I learned that a lot of parameters can sometimes pose rewarding challenges to a designer. I think I grew a lot in that period.
I didn’t actually start designing product until 2006, when I had the good fortune of slipping into this role. That was huge for me. I was suddenly flying to New York every couple of weeks, attending fashion shows and meeting role-model professionals. I went to Parsons because I originally thought I wanted to study fashion — being back in that whirlwind was as challenging as it was exhilarating. We were photographing bridal trunk shows, and then interpreting snippets of lace into gorgeous embossed invitations; we were splashing paper with ink to capture the Rothko wash we had seen on the runway. It took us a while to really feel comfortable interpreting the Vera Wang aesthetic onto paper, but I think we’ve got it down now. We have a great relationship with the members of her licensing team, and everyone is really excited to be working together.
L&L: How closely do you work with Vera Wang? What is she like?
MEGHAN: We used to meet with Vera a couple of times a year. She is incredibly intelligent, creative and motivated. She appears to have visceral reactions to everything she sees, and her motors are running a mile a minute! She’s pretty amazing. I can’t even describe how intimated I felt when I met her for the first time. I was 27 and felt so inexperienced! I could not stop obsessing about what to wear (I mean — what does one WEAR when presenting to an über-talented, world renowned fashion designer?!) The Vera Wang brand has continued to grow so much. To keep up with an empire of licensees, a Creative Director was hired this past spring. It appears that she may be presenting collections for us going forward.
L&L: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
MEGHAN: Everywhere! When designing for Vera Wang, we have an unusual challenge. We’re trying to stay on top of trends, generate unique and inventive formats and layouts, and experiment with new material and processes, all the while channeling Vera’s unique sense of style. I’m attaching boards that we prepared for a bridal luncheon this year. They track some of our inspirations — from the runway to tabletop. My favorite example is the board of ephemera (above). My boss and I arrived in New York early one day, a few years ago. The Vera Wang offices used to be on 39th Street, so we popped into the Public Library for a couple of hours. We spent that time poring over digitized microfiche – we saw George Washington’s birthday party invite, and an invitation to a high tea that Thomas Jefferson was hosting. It was amazing. Each of these pieces was host to costless fonts, gorgeous calligraphy and unexpected alignment. It really shook us up! I designed the Black Border invite after that meeting, and it turned out to be a best seller (below, left). We hadn’t seen anything like it in the invitation market at the time.
In general, all of our designers are invested in inspiring one another. We’re sharing links to blog posts and articles. My personal inspirations tend to be more old-fashioned in core derivation: I love visiting flea markets, reading the Sunday Times, and going to museums. A visit to the ICA Boston a couple of years ago garnered a bizarre Russian Constructivist graphic obsession, for example.
L&L: William Arthur is a staple in the wedding stationery world. What are your most popular styles of invitation suites? Has it evolved over the years?
MEGHAN: In general, it is our more traditional invitations that become the best-sellers. I think that the William Arthur designers have done a fantastic job at defining what it means to be “traditional with a twist”. When I started in 2004, I think our industry was on the brink of change. The range of typestyles available to desktop publishers was snowballing. Suddenly conventions were exploding: Colored papers were everywhere. Ink combinations and formats were countless. We’ve found that while a classic, understated aesthetic will always drive this industry, there is an increased interest in innovative typesetting, unexpected presentation, and trend-driven palettes.
L&L: You do holiday cards, thank you notes and social stationery as well. What are your favorite pieces in your current albums?
MEGHAN: Oh, gosh! That is so HARD!! Let’s see. I love this photo card (above) from the Vera Wang Holiday collection: It has a full bleed on the front, and customers can place up to 4 photos inside (above). The colors and greeting are completely flexible. The Longfellow Note is a favorite too – it was obviously derived from the same inspiration as the Black Bordered Invite. And I also love a classic holiday party invite foil-stamped in gold, which is something new for us, from the William Arthur collection. We’re really excited about that.
For Thank you notes, I’m torn. We have new children’s Thank You Notes from William Arthur that I think are absolutely adorable. This incredible cigar-label inspired Thank You Note continues to be a best-seller for Vera Wang (below, left), and our Raspberry Grosgrain flat card is perfect. It looks pretty buttoned-up until you see that engraved oversized peony on the envelope flap. It’s a surprisingly petite card too – about 3.5 x 5”. I totally have a stack at my desk for personal use.
And for stationery? Would you believe that after seven years, I STILL don’t have personalized stationery?! I can never make my mind up, and then there’s always a new album coming out… A few of the items I’ve considered are: This quirky Etched Anchor Note (below, right). There’s something classically Edward Gorey about it. This Kraft Paper card from Vera Wang is handsome and classically vintage-inspired, while the letterpressed business card from William Arthur gives a nod to modernity with it’s surprising heft, tiny scale and back pattern (both below next question).
L&L: What keeps you busy and happy outside of work?
MEGHAN: Busy? That would be my 1870’s New Englander and my extremely creative and overzealous boyfriend. Happy? Well. I guess that would be the same. We’re constantly taking trips, building things, and fixing others. Right now, among other tasks at hand, we’re organizing a few parties, planning to host a booth at PICNIC with another couple (PICNIC is a local alternative craft fair that Sean helped found) and very good friend of ours is starting a brewery so we’re helping him develop branding materials for that. We have nieces and nephews and we’re preparing a slew of hand-made gifts for the holiday season.
L&L: What “must-see” places and eateries do you suggest to folks from out of town check out while visiting Maine?
MEGHAN: Hands-down, Local 188 is our all-around stomping ground. Another favorite spot to bring out-of-towners is Le Petite Jacqueline. The steak frites, Dodge Cove oysters and gin martinis are absolutely perfect – though, the Blue Spoon is a hidden GEM for custom vintage cocktails on Friday and Saturday nights. I love Ferdinand, on the East End, and The Merchant Company on Congress Street for edgy local crafts, Space Gallery for music, art and performances, and heck, I could ride that Peaks Island ferry back and forth forever.
L&L: Thank you for giving us an inside peek into William Arthur. If readers want to get in touch with you, what is the best way for them to reach you?
MEGHAN: Our website is williamarthur.com and our blog is williamarthurblog.com. Our Facebook page and Twitter feed were a long-time-a-coming. Following us there or would be much appreciated. Our website:
Hey, lucky Love & Lobster readers, receive 15% off your order through January 1, 2012 with promo code: LOVELOB. Thank you, Meghan!!