The Five Questions: Inside Hallmark’s Studio INK!

I’ve always been a bit in awe of Hallmark. After all, how many greeting card companies have thrived for over a century … and can unveil cards responding to cultural shifts in what feels like the blink of an eye? Hallmark has served a paper backdrop to our private communications for generations, and continues to reflect who we are with introductions like Studio INK.

The recently introduced and continually evolving line of artist-based greeting cards speaks to those looking for authentic, unexpected ways to connect with those they love most. Many are blank inside, and I find them as fun and funny as any quirky indie line I’ve seen. Its existence certainly underscores what is resonating these days with card-buyers and -senders. Check it out!

Hallmark_2Hallmark_3hallmark_4hallmark_6hallmark_7hallmark_8How fun are these? Studio INK can be found at select Hallmark Gold Crown stores and Hallmark retailers nationwide. Meanwhile, I was lucky enough to land an interview with Rachel Sleeter, an Art Director there who was a guiding vision behind Studio INK. She kindly answered TPC’s Five Questions, giving us a glimpse into the inner workings of the magnificent greeting card behemoth!


SS: How did you get into this crazy business?

RS: It’s impossible to be in Kansas City as a designer and not be touched by Hallmark, it’s just this magnet for amazing creative people doing amazing things. When an opportunity to work on my favorite lines, Fresh Ink and Shoebox opened up, I had to take it! As a life long card sender and collector (I sometimes get too attached to certain cards and “forget” to send them), I still have to pinch myself that I get to do this for a living. I get to make art that helps people connect in the best and worst times of their lives, not a bad way to spend the day.

My latest role art directing our new line, Studio Ink, is pretty much a dream come true because the team is so great. It has artist- and writer-driven collections that are out for a limited time and the most leading edge of Hallmark. Finding new artists to partner with and highlighting some of the unbelievable talent we have in the building is so gratifying. It’s the start of a completely new way for us to get cards into the market and I can’t wait to see where it evolves to in the next couple of years.

SS: Are there any design or lifestyle trends you are finding yourself particularly intrigued with these days?

RS: I love the return of all the old printing techniques, wood working, return to hand-drawn illustration, and the rise of the craftsmen and craftswomen, it’s super refreshing. Also, I absolutely love the flood of artists creating these great instagram and tumblr feeds full of their processes, success and failures. It’s like a never-ending art gallery at your finger tips, and such a great evolution of old school craft, finding a digital footprint. It’s endlessly inspiring.

SS: What letter, card or invitation first comes to mind as the best you’ve ever received?

RS: My husband, who is a non-artsy Chemist guy, proposed to me with a tiny passport sized book he created that had photos of all our past adventures and promises for our future adventures. It was badly designed and all the pages were different sizes, and I wouldn’t change one thing about it (as an Art Director, that’s high praise). It was perfectly him and it’s one of my most prized possessions.

SS: What are your three favorite paper lines?

RS: It’s really hard to narrow this down to 3 people/studios, but here is what I am loving right now:

Ashkahn’s voice is refreshing and his art is deceptively simple, but never boring. It always is unexpected and leaves me feeling like, damn, why didn’t I think of that. I also love his paper stocks and printing processes.

Hammerpress, a local Kansas City letterpress, is an all time favorite. The owner Brady Vest has been cranking out fantastic art for 20 years now. His stuff ranges from vintage to irreverent clip art to beautifully crafted modern design, and it’s always just perfect.

Hello!Lucky cards always stop me in my tracks in stores. Such fun colors and concepts, they make me feel like a grown up kid. It’s fun to see companies not taking themselves too seriously and that say what you are thinking.

Can I say 4?! The archives at Hallmark are one of the most amazing places on earth for ephemera fans. It’s a giant room filled with vintage cards going back a hundred years, and boxes and boxes and file drawer after file drawer (are) filled with old etchings, paintings and drawings. I could, and have, spent days in that room digging for treasures. Everyone should come work at Hallmark so they can see it.

SS: Is there anything you do personally to keep letter-writing, card-sending and invitation using alive?

RS: Of course I love sending cards! I make a point to keep in touch with friends and family at all the holidays and birthdays. I usually try to find the most annoying princess song cards for my nieces to drive my brother crazy, it’s one of the perks of being such an awesome aunt. It’s especially fun to get each person the card I planned with them in mind, like the Fresh Ink card I basically planned for my husband, that says, “Magic is everywhere, if you don’t understand science.” Our friends and family are always being used as guinea pigs. It’s so much fun to get mail that is not a bill or those annoying coupon packs.