Michele Lee is a designer, creative consultant and illustrator who creates unique greetings cards, as well as enamel pins and patches, through her studio Lucky Horse Press.
The Garden State may be her home, but Michele’s designs radiate with a sun-drenched, 60’s Californian psychedelia. Awash with a bold, mid-century modern colour palette, a Lucky Horse Press card is the perfect pick-me-up for any occasion.
From Oregon to Iowa, the US has undergone a major letterpress publishing revival. It was extremely enlightening to kick back with Michele and hear about her affection for precision tools, and a good bookshop saunter.
When did your love of stationery begin? Do you have fond childhood memories of pencils and paper?
My fondness for stationery started when I was about seven years old. The first, most memorable pen I received from my dad was clear lavender and movable, metallic gem-shaped beads surrounded the ink tube inside. I think after that all I wanted was anything tiny and unique from every stationery and gift store. I still have a desk full of vintage pencils, pens and erasers in my parents’ house.
How does stationery and paper play a part in your work and creative process? What are your go-to instruments for creating?
I couldn’t be a useful human being without a notebook for tiny rough sketches and drawing pads made specifically for pens and markers. They help maintain the crispness of my line work, which I digitally convert for plate or screen making. In middle school, we used the term ‘camera ready art’ in reference to these digital files. I usually use a sheet of graph paper underneath the drawing paper before I begin sketching. Otherwise my rectangles would end up looking like trapezoids. I use a mechanical pencil and mostly Sakura pens.
Do you have any favourite pieces of stationery? Any new purchases you’re getting a lot of use out of lately, or classics you keep going back to?
I have a Midori multi ruler that has been very useful to me. It opens up kind of like a compass and helps me draw things like the sun’s rays. Speaking of the compass, I found an old compass from a childhood pencil box and that’s how I draw any circle. It still uses the original piece of graphite and I’m not sure what to do with the compass when the graphite runs out. And speaking of compass graphite running out, I’ve recently bought a circle stencil.
Can you share your top stationery shopping spots with us?
Oh, man, I can spend hours just staring at all the different kinds of writing instruments and novelty desk items. When I used to live in New York I liked visiting Muji, Blick, Kinokuniya, Greenwich Letterpress, Bowne & Co. Stationers and pretty much any Chinatown stationery and bookstore. I don’t collect as much stationery as I used to because now the ultimate goal of most purchases is to make camera ready art but it still feels good to go back to these shops and buy things that are interesting and also useful.
Paper is most satisfying in the form of…
I love good packaging and, of course, analog printing!
If you could have a rummage in anybody’s pencil case whose would it be?
I think it would be Robert Crumb’s pencil case. I imagine there’s lots of cool stuff living in there.
What’s been your biggest stationery indulgence?
My Heidelberg letterpress has been my most expensive indulgence to this day. It has its own quirks and as I learn more about letterpress printing it becomes even more useful. It is a remarkably engineered thing that can do much more than printing.
Any parting thoughts or anecdotes on your love of stationery?
William Morris said it best — “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” And with these things, keep making more crazy, amazing things.