The Papersmith Series — Athena Cauley-Yu, Meticulous Ink | Bath

The Papersmith Series — Athena Cauley-Yu, Meticulous Ink | Bath

Athena is a hand lettering artist, typesetter, and the owner of Meticulous Ink, a printers and stationery store magnificently upholding the art of correspondence.

Athena and her discerning team of four are lauded for their dedication to traditional printing methods such as letterpress, embossing and foiling. With their trusty Heidelberg, they create beautiful stationery and bespoke paper goods including invitations, greetings cards and writing paper.

Meticulous Ink’s aesthetic is clean, crisp and elegant. The attention to detail is exceptional; paper stock is hand picked and time-honoured techniques are executed with precision and care. There is an air of nostalgia - a nod to the heyday of printing presses and book production. Combined with sinewy calligraphy and the use of vivid colour, a Meticulous Ink design is gracefully contemporary.

In just over a month’s time, Meticulous Ink will celebrate their seventh birthday. We were therefore delighted to ask Athena about her journey from London to Bath, her love of dancing, and the thrill of sending a love letter.

Hello Athena, tell us about Meticulous Ink and what inspired you to start your own business.

I’ve wanted to run my own business since I was a child. My father had his own very successful restaurant and my mother has always been wonderfully encouraging. I knew I wanted to work in something creative, and when the time came to leave London it seemed the perfect opportunity to go all in and start. I used my life savings, along with a business loan and a few credit cards.

Why is it important to you to offer a wholly bespoke service?

Offering an utterly bespoke service keeps us creative and evolving as a business. Each new client that walks through the door is an opportunity to create something new and unique. For me it keeps things interesting and keeps my mind working and moving. It's exciting to have a completely blank canvas to work with.

Using traditional methods is inherent to your work, resulting in designs that are classic, yet so elegantly contemporary. Can you tell us about the materials you use? Is there a certain quality or feel that you achieve by using these time-honoured processes?

We use a wide variety of different card stock, from cotton to wood based, and recycled, and we’ve experimented with lots of different cards too. Each card responds differently to the letterpress process. Some are more forgiving and softer, thus are much more pleasurable to work with. Others are smoother and harder, more suited to foiling or die-stamping. As we specialise in letterpress we tend to use the softer boards, which certainly has an affect on the final look of the printed project, The physical feel of our printing is important too - we love to have that beautifully textured finish, which is only achievable with these traditional print methods.

You offer a personal consultation service for your bespoke stationery. Where do you begin when you sit down with a client for the first time? Designing wedding invitations for example, what do you like to know?

With wedding invitation design I first like to understand the overall feel of the day - is it formal, black tie, traditional, or more relaxed, party, festival sort of feel? I get the main details like when the big day is and where they are getting married. We have lots of examples of previous projects to give people inspiration, and while they are looking through I notice which pages they are commenting on and pausing on. Then it’s all about getting what they have in their heads out in words. This can be challenging, particularly if they each have different ideas on what the final outcome should look like. This is one of my favourite processes, as it’s always so exciting once you’ve created the first set of proofs, to see how close to their ideal you’ve got.

What’s been the most rewarding project you’ve worked on?

The project that stands out in my head is one quite recently for a lovely couple for their wedding. They are librarians and were very open to doing something a bit different. We used bright colours based on an abstract painting that the groom’s parents own, and a book theme was used throughout the wedding stationery, with personalised bookmarks for each guest. The invite was in the form of a hand bound book. I found it really rewarding as we were given so much freedom to design something spectacular and really unusual.

Do you have any favourite pieces of stationery, or tools you have a particular attachment to?

My essential tools:

  • Brass Midori ballpoint pen - it has a really fine tip that I find very satisfying.
  • Bone folder - essential for folding paper with a crisp edge, and perfect for origami.
  • Blackwing pencil - they have lovely soft lead that’s very dark, plus you can replace the rubber on the end.

My favourite stationery would be our own letterpress rainbow correspondence cards - they are so bright and happy!

The city of Bath is a hub of artisanal achievement, and has a rich history of celebrating local makers and producers in all creative fields - from food to crafts. Is this what drew you to the city to open your shop?

The reason I chose to open Meticulous Ink in Bath was to give it the largest chance of success. After lots of research I found that there were no other stationers offering a fully bespoke letterpress print service, plus it has the right customer base. It’s a happy coincidence that there are lots of artisans, particularly here on Walcot Street.

We imagine the walls of your printworks are lined with shelf upon shelf of gorgeous, vintage tomes. Where do you look for inspiration

I’m a big fan of Dover books - they have beautiful books full of engravings and heraldic crests. Generally from discussing each project with the customer we can get really inspired to come up with something unique by talking with them. Our tiny team of four are all really creative, so often we’ll discuss different ideas and get inspired from each other. I try and look at things far removed from stationery too, like embroidery, art, fashion and textiles. We do find lots from Pinterest too - there is so much to see on there! The walls of our studio are mostly lined with our favourite previous work.

What was the last letter you wrote?

It was actually a slightly soppy love letter. I’m a sucker for a card that makes someone feel great. (On Meticulous Ink stationery of course)

Alongside the studio and store, you run hand lettering workshops too. What does the rest of 2017 have in store for you?

We’re celebrating our 7th birthday this year so are having an all day party and open day. It’s on Saturday, 21st October and we’ll be having coffee by Round Hill Roastery, delicious treats, and print demonstrations throughout the day. Everybody is welcome, plus there will be goodie bags and prizes.

Over Christmas I’ll also be teaching some Paper Wreath Making workshops and we’re making some wreath making kits for the store. It’s our first year taking part in the Bath Christmas Market, so we’ll be getting maximum festive.

Where would we find you when you’re not manning the printing presses?

If I’m not at the print works I will likely be lindy hop swing dancing. There are lessons in Bath on a Tuesday night that I go to, plus lots of live music to be found in Bristol. South Bank and No.1 Harbourside run regular swing dance events. Dancing really recharges my happiness. Aside from that I’d probably be found doing some knitting.

Thank you Athena!

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