I’ve always loved paper products and frequently send letters and cards to friends and family, but the Holidays are really the raison d’être of stationery. So for the month of December, I’ll be focusing on all the things Ponoko loves: mass customization, consumer creation and laser-cutting as they relate to paper.
One stationery company that I’ve personally had the good fortune to freelance for on occasion is Fontaine Maury. Since the spring of 2003, Haile McCollum has been designing modern, personalized graphics for everything from notepads and rubber stamps to melamine plates and canvas wall decor under the brand Fontaine Maury.
The company is soon moving into wallpaper and fabric. Patterns can be customized with silhouettes of the client’s choice. One such silhouette damask featuring Haile’s own profile along with her family is featured in the January issue of Country Living.
With her growing business and a new baby, Haile has been pretty busy. So I thought, what better time for an interview! Below, Haile talks about her love of customization, digital fabric printing, and demonstrates how to correct someone’s spelling with tact.
Me: First of all, congratulations on the baby! Give us the details: name, weight, size, hair color!
HM: William Banks McCollum, little brother of Parker. 8 pounds 3 ounces, September 10, 2007! 15 months old and a QT pie. Hair… maybe red!
Me: When and why did you decide to start a stationary company?
HM: First of all, its Stationery- ery. -ary is when you are standing still and trust me, Fontaine Maury is not standing still. So my big picture is not stationery, but personalized. I moved back to the South after a just turned 30/snowboarding stint in Jackson, Wyoming. Got to our little town, Thomasville, and needed something to DO, not being married or having kids yet, I had lots of free time and not so many opportunities that I could really dig into. I almost bought a sewing machine to do digital embroidery. I love the idea that technology would allow me to sew what I can draw. But the machine was $16,000.Â I already had a printer and a computer. So I started a personalized stationery company. I also had some stationery experience and only one 4-H sewing class under my belt, and that was in 1979.
Me: How has living in the South influenced your work and company?
HM: I think that living here I am somewhat out of the inner, super fickle design loop. Which is good in a way. I might be over stimulated if I lived in Brooklyn. Dunno.
above: live oaks line the streets of Thomasville
Me: You attended school in the south as well?
HM: Yes, Vanderbilt University, BS in Human Development (one part organizational psychology, one part mojo, one part managing people in small groups). Savannah College of Art and Design, MFA Graphic Design- I actually wrote my thesis on the correlation between the industrial revolution and the technological revolution and how once artists and craftsmen eventually master the machine born from the revolution, amazing things happen. Think the arts and crafts movement as a reaction to the industrial revolution. But until the artists get a hold of the machines, and the “hand done” (does not have to be literally hand done) element into the work produced, the work is less than stellar. Example- digital fabric printing. Until artists grasp what the printers do we’ll see some pretty shabby designs produced by the developers of the technology. Not artists, engineers and the like. Once the technology is more widely available and artists (creative types) grasp what can be done, it will be amazing! It’s the missing link.
Me: Tell us your thoughts on customization. Why did you decide to offer this service? In what ways does offering custom products build your relationship with clients/buyers?