Q&A Series: Meet April May, owner of Smudge Ink

April is the owner of Smudge Ink, a letterpress and stationery studio right here in Charlestown! We have been carrying Smudge Ink greeting cards in the shop for a while now and love being able to run over to their studio to pick up the latest batch of cards. But we had no idea what went into running a letterpress studio so April filled us in!

You bought Smudge Ink a few years ago, can you tell us a little bit about how that came about? In 2009 I was unemployed and bored so I started my own greeting card company. I knew I wanted to learn more about the stationery industry and wholesale and the next year I was truly lucky to be hired as the Office Manager at Smudge Ink! Three years later, I left Smudge to focus on my own business and my growing family. In late-2015, the co-owners of Smudge Ink approached me to see if I was interested in buying the company because they were ready for new challenges after 13 years. I was so surprised, but they thought I'd be a good fit since I knew a lot about Smudge Ink as well as the industry. A few months later, I bought Smudge Ink and brought my popular line of city and state map cards into the Smudge Ink catalog. It was a really challenging decision because I had to say goodbye to the company I'd been building for years in order to take on this bigger challenge; it has been a wild ride!

Many people don't know that Smudge Ink's studio is located here in Charlestown, what do you love most about being in this neighborhood? It's true! We are located in Charlestown! But, we're a working studio rather than a retail space, so most people don't really know we're here. We're in a big, industrial warehouse building; not glamorous in the least. The best thing about our location is easy access to The Bacon Truck Cafe! We're all regulars there. :)

Can you tell us about the letterpress process and how it makes your cards unique? Letterpress is a printing process that literally presses a design and/or text into the paper using a special printing press and plates. Each color of of the design requires its own plate, so if a piece has more than one color that means it has been run through the printing press multiple times. It's fairly labor intensive, which is why our letterpress-printed cards are only two colors. It's a really fun design challenge to think of creative ways to make designs pop with a limited palette.

What does your day to day look like? I spend a lot of my day driving to and from work because I actually live in Central MA. To keep my driving time to a minimum, I usually arrive around 10:30 and I leave at 3:15. Otherwise I might not be home in time to pick my kids up from school or daycare by 5:30! While I'm in the office, my time is spent responding to emails, meeting with staff, or dealing with those unexpected things that always seem to arise in small businesses. I also work from home in the mornings and evenings putting together our wholesale catalogs, social media schedule, newsletters and other stuff that can be done remotely. My favorite part of my job is working with our designer, Ally, to come up with fun new ideas for cards and working through designs until they're just right. We meet on Wednesday afternoons, but we check-in daily to make sure things stay on track.

Where do you get your inspiration from? Honestly, everywhere! I can't tell you how many times I've been walking down the road or listening to music or changing into pajamas and something silly just pops into my head. I always immediately grab my phone and send Ally a strange email like "is a monkey wearing a fanny pack funny? I don't know! Maybe?" Sometimes I just start playing a word associate game -usually inspired by something I've heard in a song or on TV - send her lists of random words. It gives us something to start with when we're in the brainstorming phase. Ally is also always coming up with excellent ideas! When we're together in the office we hash things out until they make sense.

Any projects in your pipeline that you can share with our readers? The bulk of our business is wholesale, so we're on a bit of a strange schedule. In June, we wrapped up design for Spring 2020 holidays like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, and Graduation. The new designs will finish being printed in early August. We're about to start calendar designs for 2021. Crazy, right?! The other big thing we've got going on is the National Stationery Show (NSS) which takes place in New York City August 10 - 13. NSS is an industry trade show and it's a pretty big deal for us. We're in the midst of planning our booth design. There are gnomes so you know it's gonna be super cute!