A Reflection: 10 Years of Handmade Letterpress Calendars

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A REFLECTION: 10 YEARS OF HANDMADE LETTERPRESS CALENDARS

We began printing our epic 13 print, 30+ color, letterpress calendars 10 years ago. It was the first year we lived on the farm. It was the year we became chicken and pig farmers, and the year my husband and I got engaged. I was 24. There was no way to know all of the changes that would shape this past decade. I didn’t even know if anyone would be willing to buy that first calendar, but one sold and then so did another, and it wasn’t even to a family member. We printed the 2011 calendar in an edition of 150, and we sold out. I couldn’t believe it. The next year I got pregnant and my mom started helping me print— we were able to increase our edition size and we sold out again. The year after that West Elm called us to see if they could sell our calendar in their stores— here it was, our big break (or so I thought), and even though they purchased 500 (which seemed like 10,000 at the time) they lost them all in their warehouse before they ever made their way to stores. All of that work… gone. But, we kept going, and we kept growing, both in our business and in our family. In 2015 we had our second daughter and we kept working and kept printing. We designed in the early hours of the morning, printed at nap times, and worked into the evenings. We kept stretching our imaginations and building on connections with all of you, and you have come back year after year to support this dream of ours.

I will never be able to communicate just how much it means to us when you send kind words along or images of where your calendar sits, or how you wait each year to send this calendar to your sisters, your moms, you friends. Somehow this thing that started as a “what if?” has become the thing we look forward to each year. Working weeks and months in our studio, imagining prints and colors and themes for this calendar and then little by little piecing them together, one color, one run at a time.

Right now, we’re in the middle of getting the 2021 calendar all finished, but this little sneak peek back at the calendars from the past decade reminds us just how far we’ve come, how none of it has been easy, a lot of it has been tiring, but how all of it has been such an uplifting gift and our hearts just feel so full because you’ve allowed us to keep imagining with you.

We hope you’ll enjoy the photos below as we look back at some of the calendar prints from years past. Some of you who’ve been with us from the very beginning, may recognize them all. If so, leave us a comment at the end of this post — we love hearing from you and are forever grateful to be a part of your day to day, and year to year as we journey round the sun and tend to our gardens.

Enjoy!

 

2011 LETTERPRESS CALENDAR - FAUNA & FLORA

Our very first calendar— a year of LOTS of learning. I had never printed such an involved project, and I felt so proud of it when it was all done. We were a bit more playful with the numbers and layouts in this first one. This was a lot of fun, but some of the prints weren’t quite as functional (notice how the numbers in the March print on the left are meant to look like “chicken scratch” for the hens on either side).

2012 LETTERPRESS CALENDAR - GROWTH SPURT

This one is still one of my all time favorites. The colors were brighter and a bit more playful. I definitely felt more confident designing this time around, and the calendar was named after our garden at the farm which we called “Growth Spurt”.

2013 LETTERPRESS CALENDAR - FROM SCRATCH

At the time I designed this calendar our flock of hens was around 100 hens, and I felt like most of my time was spent washing vegetables, washing eggs, or washing bottles for our first born daughter. This was when I began to name the calendars after what was going on in our lives directly. This year I felt like I was having to learn everything from scratch: how to be a mom, how to manage a vegetable farm, how to be a new wife. Everything was new. It was an exhausting year but one of our happiest.

2014 LETTERPRESS CALENDAR - TAKE ROOT

We called this calendar “Take Root” because it felt like we were getting our sea legs under us. We had lived at the farm for over 3 years now and were filling less like “newbs” in our own adult lives. I love the blue of this cover that has an illustration of all the ingredients you need to make salsa. This calendar taught us a valuable lesson— try to have bold colors on the cover… it sold much faster than the more subdued colors of the hen from the previous year.

2015 LETTERPRESS CALENDAR - OUTSIDE IN

"Outside In": this phrase is still one of my favorites and we played with a variation on it for our Inside Outside series. I (Megan) am an introvert, and I can be in my head a lot. Living at the farm with so much of the natural world at my finger tips at all times helps pull my outside of that space and puts me right in the present moment. I need this so much and it really helps me when I retreat back into my head again. I feel like I’m always in this balance of being pulled outside and going back inside— the inside needs the outside world and the outside world is where I can tend to animals and plants that need care from me. It feels like such a sacred union if I can find the time to really be aware of it.

2016 LETTERPRESS CALENDAR - BASKET FULL

Hahaha, I have to laugh when I think about this calendar title because I was designing this when I had my second daughter, Gillian. I don’t think we slept for the first nine months of her life. My husband had also just wrapped up his masters program and our lives just felt upside down. I look back at how beautifully that calendar turned out, and I know that without my mom helping me to print there is no way this calendar would have been made. This year was also the first year we switched our orientation from a square calendar to a vertical calendar.

2017 LETTERPRESS CALENDAR - WILD GROWTH

This may be my favorite cover. I designed this calendar the year I turned 30, and it just felt like I was becoming a much more confident mom, designer, and human being. A very happy year. We also had one of my favorite food bloggers Betty S. Liu take the images for the calendar, and she did such a beautiful job.

2018 LETTERPRESS CALENDAR - BACKYARD GARDEN

This was the year we printed two different covers, and when I look back at it I think we probably should have chosen the other one, but you know what they say about hindsight. There are so many decisions we have to make from start to finish for this calendar to go from idea to actual, tangible object, and it can be challenging to choose which illustration might set the best tone for the prints inside. The cover of the calendar does feel like a book cover— while we hope no one will judge what’s inside by the cover, we acknowledge it’s almost impossible not to. We also created a custom wrap to go around the calendar which was a fun experiment. This garden tool pattern has become a signature pattern that we have turned into a print, a card, and wrapping paper.

2019 LETTERPRESS CALENDAR - SUNNY SIDE

This calendar really was a game changer for us…. it was honored by Garden & Gun for their Made in the South Awards. We had applied for that award 3 years in a row before that (and were even selected into the last round of judging the year before) so we were ECSTATIC when we got the news. I remember my hands shaking as I read that email. Also that year both of my kids transitioned into a daily school or preschool routine. I remember it was the first time where I would have 3.5 hours of uninterrupted work time before I had to rush off to pick up my youngest in town 30 minutes away. It felt like a whole new world.

2020 LETTERPRESS CALENDAR - SPRING AFTER WINTER

The theme from last year’s was pulled from a Rachel Carson quote, “There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” These words felt so right last year when the world was beginning to seem upside down… little did any of us know what 2020 had in store for us, but it is such a healthy reminder that this is all a part of the ebb and flow.

Sneak Peak 2021 Calendar

 

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