The Card Designer Spotlight is a series featuring independent makers whose greeting cards you can find in Paper Source stores. Meet and be inspired by a new designer every month on our blog!
Wendy Mason and Earnest Merritt, wife and husband duo, formed Dear Hancock in 2010 as a way to combine their love of painting, drawing, and paper goods. Dear Hancock’s painterly aesthetics and narrative details represent a mix of nostalgia, humor, and everyday life. Mason’s and Merritt’s art backgrounds are evident in this unique brand, notably in Hancock the Punny Rabbit, a beloved character who is depicted hopping around humorous situations with a steadfast expression.
How did you begin your card-making career?
We had recently graduated from the CalArts MFA program; Earnest was teaching woodworking and I was working as an illustrator. We were on a walk one day and I said, “Let’s start a business where we can be creative and paint all day!” It was 2010, and due to the economic downturn, I had been laid off from my design job—the perfect catalyst to start something new. I started Dear Hancock that year and Earnest joined me full-time two years later. We participated in the National Stationery Show in 2010 with just 30 card designs and were picked up by Paper Source and Anthropologie, which gave Dear Hancock a good running start.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
It’s hard to say where our personal lives begin and our business lives end. Our inspiration comes from everyday life, pop culture, our past and present, and basically everything around us. We take daily walks early in the morning and those walks have become extremely generative to our creative process. But there is no set time when an idea will strike—it’s all fair game. Earnest and I are each good observers of culture and our surroundings. We like to think about what makes people laugh or what someone might want to hear when things aren’t going their way. I am often pointing out, “Wouldn’t that be a great card idea?” If Earnest laughs, then I know it’s a good idea and we start to develop a design around it. This process includes a quirky “Wendy sketch” that Earnest refines later for production.
What does your day look like as a card maker and designer?
Every day is varied and so are our task lists, but no matter what we always begin our day with that walk and coffee. Then we head out to the Dear Hancock studio, which is just 10 minutes from where we live. We moved to Richmond, Virginia, last year and found a beautiful space in a vintage schoolhouse. It has 20-foot ceilings and huge windows that fill the space with the most beautiful light. This past week our days were filled with finishing up our new Holiday release and sending out samples of our new cards and calendars to our sales reps and showrooms. We have over 55 sales reps now, so making sure everyone’s decks are up to date is no small feat. We have the best team—they help immensely with order fulfillment, invoicing, and shipping wholesale and direct orders. Earnest and I also painted the studio’s statement wall this week, illustrating strawberries, leaves, triangles, and smiley faces. We wanted to make the Dear Hancock space even more light-hearted and cheerful. We work a lot but feel so fortunate to own our own company, which allows us ownership over our schedule.
What is your preferred medium?
We love working in gouache and pencil. The combination of these two mediums is at the foundation of our illustration work. We often draw our characters in pencil and hand-paint the details in gouache. One of our original illustrations features Hancock the Punny Rabbit, a bunny that has since become one of our signature characters, that I drew in pencil and then Earnest added hand-painted maracas. We also like gouache because it allows us to depict detailed work since the medium dries quickly and does not bleed. We also like the vibrant colors and the opacity of gouache as opposed to other water-based paints.
What does your creative process look like?
We started Dear Hancock by creating illustrations at our dining room table when we lived in Los Angeles, yet somehow even with a big studio, we always seem to gravitate toward creating artwork in our dining room. We start from sketches that I create on sticky notes, on the back of bills, in sketchbooks, or from lists of card ideas. I am a doodler and we try to keep my ideas in one place, but I like the freedom to draw anywhere to get my ideas out. We then create a series of working drawings that we make on tissue paper. Earnest works out the composition, then we transfer it to hot press watercolor paper, and then we’re ready to paint! We are lucky that our illustration styles work well together; we have similar sensibilities and aesthetics, which helps both in business and in our personal life.
What are you most proud of as a creator and card maker?
It makes us so happy when we receive emails from customers telling us how they have been collecting our cards for years or buying the Dear Hancock Bunny calendar annually as a tradition. We have the most dedicated customers, and we have literally cried reading emails from people telling us how much our illustrations mean to them. We’re proud when we stop and think about how far we’ve come. It’s most apparent when reflecting on the progression of the many studio spaces we’ve worked in since we’ve been in business. With each new Dear Hancock studio, we can see the visual representation of the progression, expansion, and growth of the company.
Find Dear Hancock’s You’re So Hot Bunny Card, Leaf Bunny Thank You Card, and Bunny with Maracas Birthday Card at your local store or online at papersource.com. For more inspiration and behind-the-scenes action, follow @dearhancock on IG.