I have written in the past about a lot of the excitement going on at Mohawk — but I only got a larger sense of their vision & philosophy this past National Stationery Show, when I got to sit down with Mohawk’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Bart Robinson and its VP Business Development and Creative Director Chris Harrold.
The company’s perspective encompasses an amazing blend of old (e.g. the fascinating Strathmore Archives) that in many ways has influenced the new (e.g. their newly released Strathmore Pure Cotton Letterpress Papers in four lovely shades, proudly made in the U.S.A.).
Meanwhile, the company keeps its finger firmly fixed on the pulse of how paper interacts with technology: the company’s Pinhole Press was among the first to understand that customers want quality integrated into their papers and gifts featuring digital photos, while Mohawk Live, Mohawk’s augmented reality app, allows Mohawk Maker Quarterly readers to experience enhanced content and educational resources such as augmented reality, video, and other web-based content.
With that kind of grasp of the role paper can play in modern lifestyles, I knew Chris would be a perfect Five Questions subject.
1. SS: How did you get into this crazy business?
CH: Well … I needed a job! I had finished an MFA in photography in 1983 and couldn’t find a teaching job. I found work at a photo finishing lab, which was starting a desktop publishing service bureau. This was my introduction to printing and paper! In that job I touched software (circa 1985!), ink and quoted printing jobs. We have no idea what we were doing, but I fell in love with paper. After I left there I looked for a job in the paper business. I came to Mohawk in 1990 and have never looked back!
2. SS: Are there any design or lifestyle trends you are finding yourself particularly intrigued with these days?
CH: With a background in fine art photography, I find the democratization of photography thru digital technology to be amazing. The simplicity and immediacy of mobile image capture has created a world of visual communicators using images to build community.
3. SS: What letter, card or invitation first comes to mind as the best you’ve ever received?
CH: Recently I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days with Paul Shaw going through Mohawk’s extensive Strathmore archives. Not only is Paul a noted design historian, but also a designer and calligrapher. A few days after our visit, I received the most amazing hand-lettered thank-you note from Paul which featured my name nearly filling the entire face of the envelope.
4. SS: What are your three favorite paper lines?
CH: Oh now that’s unfair! It’s like asking if you have a favorite child! But now that you have asked … I would have to say Mohawk Superfine is at the top of the list. It is the Mohawk flagship and just the most beautiful paper to use for all kinds of printing. [Mohawk Maker Quarterly #1, shown below, was printed on it.]
Then I would need to talk about colored papers like Via. In a world increasingly dominated by smooth glass displays, colors and textures seem all the more special. [Shown below and at the top of this post; Mohawk Quarterly #4 was printed on it.]
And last but not least, Strathmore Pure Cotton Letterpress paper is a new obsession of mine. This was a project I had the pleasure of working on from concept to delivery. Our papermakers at Mohawk did a brilliant job using our paper machines to create a luxurious, amazing paper surface that is like nothing else made domestically.
5. SS: Is there anything you do personally to keep letter-writing, card-sending and invitation using alive?
CH: Whenever I send a package of samples to someone I dive in to my drawer of cards and envelopes and include a hand written note. And not just any paper will do … I am a little spoiled having some pretty amazing engraved note cards and tissue lined envelopes from companies like Thornwillow Press, who make some of the most beautiful stationery sets today.