Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Chat With: Liz Libré of Linda & Harriett

If you've followed the stationery business in the last four years chances are you've heard of Linda & Harriett or at least have come across some of the company's colorful products and striking patterns. Letterpress cards and the wildly popular annual calendars are just a few of the treats Brooklyn-based designer Liz Libré offers up as her newly-reopened Outlet and Craft Bin sections on her shop also gives new to re-purposed supplies. Below, Libré answers a few questions about taking risks, following her gut and how she manages work and life with her beautiful 9-month-old son. She even shares a list of her favorite spots around NYC at the end!

First off, congratulations on reopening the Outlet and Craft Bin shops on your site! I love how the Craft Bin re-purposes your unused supplies. How did that idea come about?

We started collecting non-sellable paper - anything that was misprinted or folded or ripped - not really knowing what we were going to do with it, but couldn't bare recycling as is. When the bins started overflowing, I created the "ReDesigned" line that re-purposed all this paper into things that we could sell. Eventually, the bins get low so that wasn't sustainable, but opening the Craft Bin up when we want works really well.

We opened it up for the first time a couple months ago when we wanted to make room for new things. Recently, we had more stuff to offer, so we opened it up again. It works well for us because we want more shelf space and don't want to throw anything away, and our customers get a great price on nice paper goods.

When deciding on which projects to pursue, do you reach out to family and friends for feedback or do you mainly rely on what feels good to you?

My gut is my compass. Always. When I get an idea, I check in with my husband and partner, John. He doesn't always agree with me, and I don't always listen to him!

I know you give yourself the freedom to explore different medium in your products with letterpress cards and most recently, watercolor designs on your charming notepads and upcoming 2012 calendar. How do you make sure that your products still remain part of a cohesive collection? Or do you simply create what makes you happy regardless of how it relates to the other items in your shop?

I was very aware and did worry a bit that working in watercolor was such a departure from my normal medium of letterpress. But I've never been a printer, so while I felt a little apprehensive about mixing it up, I was also feeling like it was time to explore something new, and even craving it. Ultimately, I think the designs were still very L&H, which is important.

Why do you like to experiment with different materials? What medium and product items haven't you dived into yet that you'd like to explore in the near future?

I worked with lots of different media in college. Non-traditional stuff - like chocolate frosting, toilet paper, Easy Cheese, plungers. It was exciting and freeing to work with so many different materials. So while I love letterpress and always will, I was really excited about doing some looser hand-lettering and playing with color variations. I'd love to do more screen-printing on textiles. I'm also in the process of collaborating with a woodworker friend on a project that we're hoping to launch this fall so stay tuned!

I've seen the feedback on your birthday and postcard calendars and it's been incredible, but to be honest, the postcards were much too cute for me to part with! Will we continue to see new designs on these two popular items year after year?

Three things have to happen for me to keep doing the letterpress calendar: I have to like creating it and like the finished product and people have to keep liking it.

Last year you decided to back away from selling your products wholesale and instead do limited edition monthly projects sold exclusively on your website. What have you learned since changing gears?

I thought the monthly projects set up was going to work better than it did. Producing something every month was a little too strict. I'm glad I pared down my wholesale offering because I wasn't enjoying the process of creating it or the finished product as much as I should have. Or as proud of it as I wanted to be. I'm not opposed to doing it again, but it would have to work differently. And I'm just not sure what that means. So for now, we're just offering a few products that I absolutely love.

That's brave of you to recognize when something isn't working for you and dare to change it up until you find the right fit. Did you worry at all about the market's reception before making this decision?

Yes. I worried that I'd lose a lot of wholesale clients, but that hasn't been the case.

With a new baby on the scene, things must get incredibly hectic for you and your husband. How do you balance your time between developing your business ideas and raising a family?

A reliable and lovely babysitter! Honestly, that's a crucial part of it as well as a fantastic assistant who oversees a lot of day-to-day happenings. I work four days a week, 9 to 5. I know that is a solid chunk of time, but it flies. I've never had a concrete start and end time to my work day, even when I worked for other people, so it's been a big adjustment. That, and I just plain don't want to dive back into work late at night like I used to. I'll do it from time to time, but it's not something I want to do every night. I sound so old saying that, but it's true. John is very much involved in L&H, but he's a freelance copywriter as well, so he's busy with his own work, too.

How do you stay motivated to keep creating good work? Where do you pull inspiration from when you're feeling stuck?

The motivation is almost always there. I love creating and always will. I go through lulls and have to remind myself to have some perspective; this has happened before, so just be patient. When I get stuck, I like talking to other creative friends or getting out some blank paper and playing. Sometimes, I just need a good run. Inspiration creeps in even when I'm in complete Mommy mode, which has definitely surprised me. While I was giving Griffin a bath the other night, I stopped in my tracks at the color combo of his deep yellow rubber ducky and the pale mint color of the bath water. It was striking and so beautiful. And for months now, I've done my best and clearest thinking around 6:45pm, when I'm giving Griffin his bottle before bed. So I guess it's still coming in from all angles as usual, just in a new way, which is pretty cool.

Check out the Outlet and Craft Bin, which will be open for the next two weeks, for unexpected gifts like handmade flower pins made of letterpress stock and envelope liner sheets that serve wonderfully as wrapping paper. And stay tuned for the 2012 letterpress and watercolor calendars to be released this month. Finally, as a fellow New Yorker, Libré shares her favorite spots around the city that are simply must-dos for guests.

The High Line: "It's not so off-the-radar, but it's pretty special. And while you're in the area, grab beers and burgers aboard the docked Lightship Frying Pan as the sun goes down."

Blue Sky Bakery: "Best muffins you'll ever have. Get anything with chocolate chips or pumpkin. The owners couldn't be nicer."

A. Cheng: "I'm sort of a lazy shopper. I don't really like sifting through a ton of clothes and tend to stick to stores I like. This shop has a great selection of clothes and accessories. It makes it more fun and enjoyable for me when a shop is well-curated to my taste, and I definitely find that here."

Franny's: "This is the best pizza and pasta in NYC. Don't miss the fresh always-changing appetizers. I sat next to Conan O'Brien and his wife here on the last night of his show before he moved to LA. When they got up, the restaurant clapped and he was shaking hands with people. It was a great NY moment.

"The owners also have a cheese and provisions shop that sells amazing food. It's pricey but incredible. The salami sandwich is my favorite."

New York Central Art Supply: "It has the best selection of paper from all over the world."

Prospect Park: "Every time I run or bike in here, I tell myself how lucky I am to live near this park. The loop is less than 3.5 miles around and it feels a world away from the city much like Central Park does if you're in Manhattan."

Images: all from


  1. love this interview -- big fan of liz + l&h. thanks for sharing!

  2. Loved reading this; thanks for sharing!

  3. suann, she's great! I've been following her for a few years now so I'm excited to hear her thoughts and see where L&H is heading. I've also followed your work with Simplesong and the fun party ideas on Hip Hip Hooray! Sorry to hear that things have been too hectic to maintain the latter, but wishing you all the best with the opening of your shop!

    toriz, thanks for reading! I'm trying to showcase some really talented people and introduce you all to other voices and companies that are doing great things. Hopefully it'll motivate you all to go for the things you want to accomplish.


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