Our exclusive interview with the magical and artisan, Thunderwing Press, makers of beautiful, hand-crafted paper goods…
-I’m interested in the name ‘Thunderwing Press’. Tell me about the choosing of your name!
One of the bands we love most is T.Rex, so we named ourselves in homage to Marc Bolan’s magical song, Thunderwing. We are also obsessed with the beauty of Native American design, so we felt that in a fantasy world, if Nic were to become an Indian chief, his name would be, Thunderwing.
-How did you guys fall in love with paper and press? What are your backgrounds, if any, in this field?
It’s beyond geeky to say this, but, we both eat, sleep and breathe design, as well as covet vintage paper ephemera, so it was totally in the stars for us to join forces. Nic graduated from the School of Visual Arts, and is now a professor of typography and graphic design there, as well as having been a designer and creative director at some of the most prestigious creative agencies in NYC (Grey, Chermayeff & Geismar, Publicis . . .), and I’m an author who published hand-collaged pop-culture driven fanzines at the age of 16, leading to my current life as a writer (I do much of the copy for our Thunderwing projects), with my most recent book being Vintage LA (HarperCollins, 2008).
As for how we fell in love with letterpress printing . . . Nic’s neighbor in D.C. (where he grew-up), had a pristine letterpress studio set up in his basement, so every year he could create the family Christmas card. As a kid, Nic would frequently stop by to hang out with this elderly gent, and felt quite intrigued by the press and all its tiny metal letters. So years later, as a gift for Nic’s college graduation, his parents and neighbor got together and presented him with our beautiful turn-of-the-century letterpress, along with all the bells and whistles. Years went by with the contents of the letterpress studio collecting dust in his parent’s basement, until 2006, when I first went to meet his family, and he showed me the gorgeous press. We looked at each other and felt a cosmic energy . . . knowing that this is what we were going to do with our lives.
-Tell me about where you live and how that affects your work creation day to day.
We live in a cottage/refinished barn on an historic property in Garrison, NY, which is a gorgeous neighborhood along the Hudson River, an hour and a 1/2 North of Manhattan. We lived in the city for a few years, but once you fall in love with letterpress machinery, as well as all the thousands of pieces of accoutrement you need to accompany it, you can no longer fit your collection in a small studio in Murray Hill. So we explored upstate, and when we arrived in Garrison, we fell in love with its old barns, spooky trees, varied architecture, rocky streams and awe-inspiring views. It’s also quite a mysterious place, as most of the houses are hidden from the road, reminding us of Coastal California hippie towns, which we also love. Our community is comprised of lovely creative people . . . painters, art directors, filmmakers, architects . . . so, when we first arrived and told people about our design studio, we were warmly welcomed . . . everyone threw dinner parties in our honor, and we are now the designer for our local historical society (The Putnam County Historical Society).
In terms of working in the woods . . . don’t hate, but, everyday feels like a fantasy black-light poster with rainbows and unicorns drinking from crystalline streams. It is that beautiful, and we pinch ourselves every time we take a break from our computers and walk outside to watch the fawns, chipmunks and butterflies frolicking in our garden. So we’re incredibly inspired daily by the nature that surrounds us, not to mention all the awesome vintage and antiquing in our county, which is where we find much of our typographic design inspiration.
-I enjoyed watching the video by Tim Ashton of your workspace. It is beautiful. Is this at your home? I think it is so important to create a specific vibe in your workspace. Tell us about how you decided to put it together.
In the video is our studio, which is in an old converted barn building, connected to our house by a wooden covered porch. Our living and working environment is completely integrated, though our studio space is decorated in a more turn-of-the-century vibe, in homage to when our Chandler & Price letterpress was manufactured. All of our printing accessories are pre-1950s (even our paper collection is comprised of beautiful stationery we find at estate sales), so the studio has a decadent, antique feel, with 1920s French toile paper on the walls, cast iron findings on the shelves, and leather-bound books strewn about. Our home is decorated in a more mid-century style, filled with Danish and Swedish decor from the ’60s-’70s, and we were lucky to find a cottage where almost every wall is a built-in bookshelf, since every time we step out the door, we seem to come home with books or records. We’ve found most of our vintage collections during road trips, so we’re surrounded with things we love that hold happy memories, and then let them harmonize in an organic way.
-I think its so charming that people who give a damn are doing everything in their power to take it back to basics and revive forms such as paper and pressing and re introduce the qualities and charm of these items into the clogged, internet-based society of today. Tell me about how this drives you!
Because we can have things so instantly and accomplish things so quickly, there is a resurging romance for engaging in a design process that is deep and meaningful. It’s an exciting time for people who really appreciate design that isn’t disposable, and who respond to the value of hand-crafted artisan products. Whether it’s cheese, wine, chocolate, denim or paper, simple things that are chosen properly, and cared for have a resonance for us and for our customers. Obsessions ebb and flow in culture as reactions to the current state of the world, but the pursuit of something real in an increasingly artificial and virtual environment seems to be taking hold of people’s emotions in a profound way.
-Where can we find your beautiful products?
We design custom projects for clients, but we also sell limited edition cards on Etsy, and through Hickoree’s Hard Goods (see links below). We are in the process of setting up our official online shop.
-Best collaboration you have been involved in, and why?
We are currently working on a branding project we’re really inspired by . . . it’s for a NY-based company called The Memory House; who create exquisite biographical coffee table books for private clients that want to preserve a family member’s life story, or a year in their own lives. Along with these gorgeous personalized scrapbooks, clients also have the option of a high-end documentary film being made about the chosen subject. The first time we saw samples of what they were creating for people, we got teary . . . their work was really moving. We’ve designed their logotype, stationery, and elaborate hand-made packaging. We’re also designing their website, which is currently in development. http://www.thememoryhouse.com/
-Whats the best thing to do on the weekends?
Our favorite thing to do, is hop in our Chevy, with our Pug, Ali Baba, and head upstate for a weekend of antiquing and exploring. We collect rare books on design, architecture, art and photography, as well as decorative and useful things for our letterpress studio. One of our favorite obsessions is going into antique stores and finding printing equipment that had become a decorative household element at some point (like wall-hung curio cabinets that are actually intended to be used as letterpress type trays). Reclaiming things like this for the purpose of putting them back with their original friends, holds profound meaning for us.