Ted Harrington is the man behind Terrapin Stationary, a NYC-based stationary company that has a bite as big as its bark. He’s here to cater to “dudes” – those guys who want a firm business card and a statement-making note card, and who aren’t afraid to show a little bit of attitude during the process. He’s recently collaborated with Marc Jacobs’ Bookmarc on line exclusive to its stores, and here, this number one badass who loves the Grateful Dead takes us through their Manhattan factory and gives us a peek inside his world.
Life+Times: Whoever said the art of engraving is dead hasn’t met you. Tell me a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Ted Harrington: Rumors of the death of engraved stationery have been “greatly exaggerated”…mostly. We design and produce engraved stationery, invitations and calling cards (raised printing) – all the good stuff – stamped with a die on a Century Old Press. I grew up in and around the business, first by making dies with my father and then later on I came back and started on the shop floor and eventually began working with clients. I became a partner in 1991.
L+T: What’s behind the name Terrapin?
TH: The name of our family business is Stationers Engraving Co. It’s been that for almost a century. In 1995, I had the opportunity to pitch a line of stationery based on the artwork of [Grateful Dead frontman] Jerry Garcia. I suggested we call it Terrapin Stationers after the album Terrapin Station. Jerry died shortly after and it never happened. I kept the name and started using it. So yes, it’s a nod to my love for the Grateful Dead. I had the pleasure of producing some cards for Bob Weir and he loves the name. ‘Nuff said. Most people don’t get it and that’s great. I think it’s a good name and potentially a good brand.
L+T: Also, I know it’s a family business. What do you bring to the business to make sure it’s fresh and innovative?
TH: Certainly our brand is more masculine and irreverent than anything out there. I enjoy working for “dudes. ” I think that it’s a market that has been largely ignored. I think that men are starting to realize that a business card from Vista Print is just not acceptable. Our clients care about quality and are aware that first impressions count. Good shoes, the classic timepiece, the tailoring. There is a place for what we do in all of that. The guys I’m working with aren’t [American Psycho‘s] Patrick Bateman. They know why they are buying an engraved calling card. It’s not to impress the guy at lunch. It’s because it matters to them. It’s about quality. The Internet and social media has been invaluable. Michael Williams of A Continuous Lean has been a champion for our little mom and pop shop. The other cast of characters like Randy Goldberg of Urban Daddy, Aaron Levine at Club Monaco and the good people of Capsule NY. Mister Mort, Ryan Babenzien, the CEO of Boast. I’m learning so much from all of them. I feel like I’m writing liner notes.
L+T: You’ve recently collaborated on a line of stationary with Marc Jacobs’ Bookmarc. How did this idea come about?
TH: I have been working with Marc Jacobs for 13 years. It’s the best client-vendor relationship ever. It’s hard for me to articulate how much I love working for them. They loved our Valentine’s Day card and it went from there. The entire line was a true collaboration with Jennifer Baker at Bookmarc and I can’t thank Robert Duffy enough for the green light. That’s not ass-kissing. I’m fucking blessed!
L+T: What are some of your favorite taglines when it comes to cards? I recently gave a friend of mine one of your Bookmarc cards that said ‘Happy Birthday Badass’. I thought it was perfect.
TH: My favorite right now is a note card I made with Bookmarc that reads “Thank you so F*cking Much” in a beautiful script on a white card. You have to look twice to see that it’s not just a Thank You card. It’s my little way of sticking it to The Man.
L+T: What makes the Terrapin process unique?
TH: Unlike offset printing, we hand feed our work at a time, one color at a time. There is no new technology for this kind of printing. It’s special and takes years to learn to do it right. Our production team is amazing.
L+T: What are you currently working on now?
TH: Oh man, well there are a few collabs in the works. I can’t really talk about yet but I’m excited. I have a new line of note cards going into Haberdash in Chicago. Love them. I’m excited to be working with Tory Burch again. We did a line of boxed stationery for them in December. Love Tory too. She’s a loyal client. Also it looks like we may actually have a website and proper e-commerce site soon
PHOTO CREDIT: Nneka Salmon