Featured Designer: Robin Soltis of Scotch & Cream

Scotchandcream_stationery card Scotch & Cream is a mid-century modern inspired Los Angeles-based stationery and home brand created by a husband and wife duo. Robin Soltis is the designer behind the always stylish and sleek line. Evocative of an era gone by, Scotch & Cream’s stationery and prints are sophisticated and cool featuring Robin’s hand lettering and illustrations. In addition to gorgeous paper products, the line features wooden ornaments that are seriously classy.

Your name, Scotch & Cream, refers to you and your husband, as collaborators on the brand – tell me about how you decided upon this name. For me it conjures images of Mad Men-era gents in suits and dessert (the baker in me is always thinking about sweets). 

We ran through a handful of mediocre ideas until we landed on something that seemed so obvious to us in hindsight. We knew that we wanted our name to reflect our personalities and identify our tastes. One of our favorite leisurely indulgences is enjoying cocktails, and scotch is my partner and husband’s favorite spirit. We chose the word cream, representing my love for baking and enjoying dessert. As leisure is a very big part of what our brand is all about, we knew it made sense to put them together as Scotch & Cream.

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You studied art and graphic design and went on to work in the field before starting Scotch & Cream. What led you to create your own line of stationery and gift items?

Before I had even considered making my big career transition, there were two things I always loved doing since I was a young girl. I’ve always been an artistic person who would make all sorts of creative goodies. The second thing I always loved doing was giving away or sharing the things I made (ask my friends, family, and coworkers about all the homemade desserts they’ve consumed). After I enjoyed a fair amount of success and achieved my youthful dream of working in the entertainment industry, I wondered about the next big step in my career and my husband started to convince me to pursue a new path. He encouraged and supported me to dream big and I finally felt confident that I could make a career out of marrying the two things I’ve always loved. The most rewarding part about what I do now is that there is so much more of an emotional connection involved with how people use our products, whether it be a hand written card, or if a photography lover were gifted a set of our vintage camera ornaments.

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Many of your designs are very much mid-century modern influenced. What inspires you about this period in design?

There are two main traits that inspire me about this time period. The timeless and simplistic beauty of design that came about during the mid-century modern era was distinctly clean, classy, and still relevantly interesting today. My fascination with mid-century design spans as far back to art deco style, where details were a little more ornate and distinct.

Another aspect of this time period that I really admire is the mindset and demeanor that I feel has become less prioritized in modern communication and culture. There was a certain level of class, etiquette, and polite intention that was exercised. I still value the act of being polite and want to preserve that practice in juxtaposition to how casual things have become. They were also very meticulous in the fashion and style choices that were made during that era and both my husband and I draw inspiration from that period for our own style choices.

Who are some of your inspirations?

 We have so many, but these are the main ones:

Visually – Alexander Girard, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Orla Kiely

Style – Jackie O, Audrey Hepburn, Dita Von Teese, Elizabeth Taylor, Don Draper, Betty Draper

Music– Astrud Gilberto, Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66, Julie London

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I feel quite curious and have to ask – does your home/studio space reflect your love affair with the mid-century modern aesthetic?

We converted a substantial part of our home as dedicated work/studio area for our business. The interior has lots of subtly ornate details and was a beautifully designed backdrop to start with. We are always conscious of the new items we bring into our home and have slowly improved our space over several years. One thing we always have is a beautiful mirror and brass bar cart that we constantly keep well-stocked, and a growing collection of vintage barware that we’re quite proud of.

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Your stationery incorporates your hand-lettering (including a recently created font). How did you develop your own unique style of script?

Even though it’s been more than a year of obsessive practice, I feel I’m still developing my style. It has helped that I had a very strong desire to learn brush lettering. I would replace my idling in front of the television or other similar activities by repetitively sketching words I’d heard spoken on TV, randomly thought of, or just single letters until I began to understand how I preferred certain lines in my letters to be drawn, and redraw them the way I liked them. As I found those preferences, I would repeat the way I’d write those letters again and again until I almost gained a sort of muscle memory to the shape of that letter. In some cases I had to “unlearn” the way I had previously drawn certain letters to correct my style to the updated. Add to that, I experimented with different pens, mediums, and papers and developed a preference over what I enjoyed using, which further contributed to my style.

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Any tips for people who are trying to develop their own hand-lettering style?

My number #1 general piece of advice is that practice is essential, but even more helpful is to understand where you need improvement. A little story about my experience– I signed up for an online calligraphy class back before I had any understanding or skill of lettering and about two weeks into practicing, I felt I was still failing to achieve the quality of calligraphy I envisioned myself to have and just gave up. In hindsight, it wasn’t necessarily that I was bad at calligraphy (though, I was). I understood how to use the tools for the most part, but even worse, my penmanship itself wasn’t good at all and the pretty handwriting I may have had as a kid had deteriorated from years of exclusive keyboard use. I reverted back to using just an ordinary pencil to practice my basic penmanship and once I started feeling better about it, I began experimenting with some more unique tools.

As far as tactical suggestions, do practice often, learn the basic structures of each letter and how they’re anatomically constructed. Repeat drawing a single letter and/or words many times, and alter the forms of them in different experimental ways. Be present in your practice and go slow on the details. And always be patient– after almost two years and I feel as though I’m still trying to refine my style. Use the tools that you enjoy, it makes practicing a much more enjoyable experience. And most importantly, don’t give up!

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In addition to designing a sleek, gorgeous line of stationery, you also create stylish wooden ornaments featuring cocktails, sweets, cameras and vintage style ornaments – what led you to create these? Please tell me a bit about the process of designing these.

In college, I learned silk-screening and letterpress printing, and both printing processes have rigid limitations on how to create and prepare artwork. They’re limited to solid shapes, lines, and fewer colors, as they are somewhat comparable to the way a rubber stamp works. In laser cutting and engraving, which is how we create our ornaments, we also have to design our artwork with rigid limitations in a similar way. We have to think in solid shapes, lines, without the freedom to control color. It sounds tougher working within these guidelines, but I really love the challenge.

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Why a stationery line in our ever more fast-paced world? What appeals to you about the idea of the handwritten note?

I’ll admit that I didn’t start out with a specific interest in the idea of the handwritten note. I had pen-pals growing up, but the onset of internet technology  replaced a lot of that sort of “outdated” communication. However, my interest in the handwritten note (and snail-mail) became renewed thanks to a few of my beloved hand-writing stationery friends. For instance, I received a card in the mail from someone I only knew from working over the phone. During a small-talk moment, I had mentioned that my anniversary was approaching so briefly in passing that I had literally forgotten I told him, and I had never even actually met this person in real life. Ahead of the actual date of my anniversary, this person took the time to acquire our address, find a card, write a kind message, purchase a stamp, put it in an envelope, etc. His gesture of sending a card was so much more striking and sincere because I would have still been surprised to receive a message from this person online. I will never forget how awestruck I was as I found and opened the card from him.

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Any dream projects or collaborations?

Since we’re still working on growing ourselves as a company, we’d happily hear out any opportunities. However, we would be foolish to turn down collaborations with companies we admire like Anthropologie, Target, and so many other brands we would not be able to finish listing.

We would also be falling over ourselves to work with other types of artists who evoke a similar nostalgia like Lana Del Rey or Dita Von Teese.

Other ideas we have dreamed up on the fly include a coffee table book, home décor products, textile/fashion designs, kitchen and/or barware.

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Congrats on being named one of 10 designers to watch this year by Stationery Trends magazine – that’s fantastic and well-deserved! What does Scotch & Cream have in store for us this year?

Thank you! We’re so grateful to have been given that honor, and we certainly feel a bit of pressure to uphold that.

We have lots of exciting new products coming, including some beautiful metallic coasters that we’ve finally been able to get right. We have a lot of other really great and new types products we’ll be introducing by the time NSS comes around.

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