My Battle with Kathy Griffin

I feel sorry for my trainer, Bobby Solorio. He’s a fantastic trainer, always on time, and always changing things around to keep me interested. He also trains Kathy Griffin, hence the issue. I’m sure Kathy keeps him entertained with hilarious stories and tales of her exciting travels. I tell Bobby about speaking engagements at conferences and try to explain something wonderful I’ve seen, like a new typeface. And I endlessly tell him stories about my family and American history. These are wildly interesting to me, but I’m sure Bobby feels like he is trapped in a terrible American History class in high school.

Here’s an example: Kathy tells a great story about working with Anderson Cooper. I tell Bobby about visiting Colonial Williamsburg and actually meeting historians who knew about distant grandparents and other relatives at each of the buildings. Then, I excitedly tell him about the paint colors of the buildings. “Bobby,” I say, “I can actually get the same paint color that was used on the Peyton Randolph House, or the wallpaper color of the George Wythe House. George Wythe was married to two of my distant great-aunts, not at the same time, and then was murdered by a trashy nephew.” Then I recount the entire George Wythe story starting with Thomas Jefferson’s law studies. How does that compare to meeting Liza Minnelli?

However, someone out there might care about our country’s glorious history and the amazing colors at Williamsburg. And I, frankly, would much rather paint a wall with Wythe House Gold, than hang out with fabulous celebrities at glamorous galas.

The Paper Trail

Paper promotions are the first items to be discarded every time I’ve judged a competition. The other judges typically say, “Well, they don’t count. You can do anything you want.” Oddly, that’s not true. There is a client with specific needs, audience goals, budgets, and logistical issues. So when the other judges say that I want to knock them up the side of the head. I will admit, however, that working on projects for Mohawk Via is my favorite activity. There are so may moving parts between the concept and technical issues. I need demonstrate multiple printing situations on multiple papers. The most recent project that will hit the streets in a few weeks, Mohawk Via Paper and Printing, used 20 forms, each with different inks. I love piecing it all together to take best advantage of the presses.

One of the reasons I love working on Via is Mohawk’s commitment to sustainable practices and education. The most important aspect in making something sustainable is to make something useful that will be kept. The Mohawk Via materials have always been educational. There are no fancy photos of a flower for no reason. They are textbooks on printing and paper.

Mohawk Via Paper and Printing started with the idea of making a satirical sex education manual, but about printing. It was a cute idea, but quickly became apparent that it was a one-liner joke. It was getting in the way of the purpose of the piece—to provide printing solutions and examples. Around the same time, I visited Virginia. I found a unique American point of view in the art, architecture, and design at Williamsburg, Monticello, and the Virginia Historical Society.

This American point of view: expansiveness, honesty, plain speaking, compassion, diversity, and courage tied in perfectly with the attributes of Mohawk Via. So the final piece moved in that direction. The sex ed manual might have been funny, but the Albert Bierstadt painting on the Via Smooth page is sublime. The final version will be in inventory on October 18th at

The Ghosts of Virginia

Last week, I traveled through North Carolina and Virginia. Part of this visit was for speaking engagements. I also wanted to do some family history scouting in Virginia. In the same way that people return to the county of their ancestors in Ireland, or the village in Italy, I wanted to visit my roots. The only experience I have of Virginia is either stories told by my grandmother, or history books. I expected that I would be a cousin to everyone I met on the street. Oddly, this wasn’t the case. As I was reminded, it’s not 1850. I was surprised to find many streets named after family members, and Colonial Williamsburg was like a family reunion. I had some of the best fried-chicken of my life. I met some remarkable people working incredibly hard for their community. And, I now know what Henrico and Albemarle counties look like.

My grandmother talked about Virginia in a poetic and tragic way. I assumed that it was because she was dramatic. But, I found myself feeling the same way. I felt a constant undercurrent of family history everywhere I went. I thought about the great achievements and terrible deeds committed. The entire time, I was aware that all of these people were gone, all of their accomplishments completed by the 18th century, and that the families had long ago dispersed. I definitely felt the ghosts of many of them at each stop. Whether it was Peter Meriwether Fry at the Jefferson Hotel, or Dr. Thomas Walker at Castle Hill, or Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, I could see their world through my eyes.

Robert Carter house

paint color detail, Colonial Williamsburg