Clare Wood – Carriage House Design Co.

Dear friends,

We hope this next story finds you well. You should know that we really wanted to write this one in the form of a handwritten note on classic, well-crafted stationery. That seemed like the only way we could introduce this new friend properly. The fact that we’re a blog, however, made that a little tough. So we decided we’d tell you about Clare Wood, the lovely lady behind Carriage House Design Co., in letter form. We know it won’t feel quite as authentic and personal as a handwritten note, but the sentiment is similar.

Our conversation with Clare reminded us that there’s a great deal of thought and regard behind taking things back to basics. “All the things that I really value have to do with a pen and paper. My favorite pen and paper,” Clare said. “It’s when I’m most contemplative, thoughtful and feel most at peace.”

This attraction to a simple message, that of which every part is carefully considered and hand-touched, is what ultimately brought Clare to letterpress printing, but we’ll get there in a minute.

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Claire moved to Austin in 2007 from a small town in Ohio where she went to college and studied graphic design and printmaking. It was an arts ministry that brought her here, and she met her now husband, James, shortly after. The two were married in 2008 and spent one of their earlier years of marriage living in a Carriage House off of Niles Road.

Clare knew she wanted to start a design business. The specifics weren’t immediately clear, but the idea was backed by a very certain point in Clare and James’ life, and she wanted the name to reflect that. “I wanted to name to remind me of a time when everything was right in front of us, a lifestyle in which you remember what you’re excited about and what you value,” she explained.

She named her company Carriage House Design Co. because it was a solid mark of where they were when it all began. “I love it being associated with that memory and that simplicity of life.”

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As a  printmaking minor in college, Clare gained a deep respect for the process behind letterpress. She says she loved the idea of designing something on a computer and then taking it through a grungy process that made it imperfect. With letterpress printing, Clare could physically touch every step that went into her work. She describes that feeling of holding the finished product in her hands as “euphoric.” “I could bring something through a full completion of design and really have my hand on the whole process.”

When Clare decided she wanted to kick things off by making greeting cards and stationery on letterpress, she and James traveled to Oklahoma where they met Don Tucker, a seasoned printer who had been in the business for the better part of his life. Don sold Clare her very own Chandler & Price press. She spent 3 days learning from him before she packed up her new, 2,000 pound baby and drove back to Austin in a snowstorm.

Clare told us that there was no shortage of tears and frustrations during her first couple of jobs. She painted the scene of her tiny, Hyde Park studio where she sat alone with a broken AC unit and her new machine. “I spent 8 hours a day sweating and crying trying to figure it out,” she laughed. “Doing something like this isn’t for the faint of heart because it’s so confusing.” With that said, Clare sees the benefit in growing the letterpress community.

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Since those days, Clare has starting doing letterpress classes, branding and other printing services in addition to making greeting cards and stationery. But she feels particularly attached to personalized stationery because of the thought behind it. She reminded us that people don’t buy stationary because their lives call for it right that second but rather because they want to get better about something in their lives.
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“It’s interesting to think that stationary is associated with a life improvement because it’s associated with thinking of other people,” she said.  It’s associated with caring for other people and letting them know that you’re thinking of them enough to write them something.”
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Simply writing a handwritten letter emphasizes the relationship and puts a higher value on the receiver.  You can’t argue that technology offers the benefits of convenience, practicality and all that. But there, the goal is efficiency instead of time well spent for the sake of those we appreciate. Our time with Clare was a wonderful refresher that there are things that should be written. There are moments that should be documented differently. There’s a genuine love that goes into something handwritten or hand-crafted, and it’s not unlike the love that’s portrayed in Clare’s endless hours spent figuring out her machine and perfecting her trade.

Thanks for staying tuned. Let’s get better about writing to one another. It’s been too long since we slowed down and wrote a good note.

With love,

Katie and Jessie
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