March 08, 2021

Interview: Tess Darrow

TESS DARROW: Weaver, Bee Keeper, Founder of Egg Press

Interviewed by Shiela Laufer


S: What came first? Printmaking or letter writing?

T: Printmaking. I don't think I was ever a really great letter writer. I didn't set out to make greeting cards. I thought I would be printing business collateral and doing freelance design. 

I’ve kept a lot of the letters, but I think it’s just about creating little tactile wonders. 

I’m naturally a more tactile person. I remember being a kid and feeling self-conscious about wanting to touch people's clothes all the time. The same goes for printmaking, especially letterpress, it begs to be touched because of the indentation it leaves.

S: You grew up, live, and work in the Pacific Northwest. What do you love about it? 

T: When I was a kid, I was outside all the time. All weekend I would disappear. We had seven acres and I would go build forts and look for rocks. I can’t imagine how much time I spent looking for agates growing up. Spending most of my childhood outside made me appreciate nature so much more than I would have otherwise. It sticks with you. 

S: What are the things that shape and bring joy to your life that are outside of work? 

T: I just love making anything. I love keeping bees and canning and cooking and baking. I go on little benders too: I got a wheat grinder and it’s great. I don’t know if I really need to keep the wheat grinder, but it’s just that process and learning through experience. That’s true for weaving or the process of canning. It’s the seasonality of it too; you get to make that one batch of raspberry jam a year and then that’s it.

S: “Thoughtful as hell” is a sort of tagline that’s shaped the overall tone of your company. Where does that come from and what does it mean for you? 

T: I remember around the time we thought of it, I think I said it as a joke. What I like about it is that it’s not overly precious. It’s about being real and not being perfect in the way we give. You can get behind the love without perfection getting in the way. I would never want us to be the kind of company that is saccharine, sweet, or phony. “Thoughtful as hell” just seems real. It’s grit. That’s very much a part of who we are as a company. 

S: You have used the phrase “the art of the handwritten note” when talking about the brand ethos. What did “the art of the handwritten note” mean to you in 1999 and has that meaning shifted nearly 22 years later?

T: I think it has shifted. We took it for granted at that time. In 1999, a handwritten note was less special. Now a handwritten note leaves so much more of a mark. There is so much personality of the writer that comes through that can’t come through with a text. 

S: And a text isn’t a keepsake. 

T: No! It’s so fleeting! My mother-in-law was so prolific at writing notes, she would write on post-its and on the front of photos and the back of photos and just cover stuff with her handwriting. When you see her handwriting now, it’s so specific to her personality. That’s a mark that you can't recreate. We need to write as a society. There is so much personality that comes through the pen. That’s what I love about it. 

S: Did you ever draw any pictures or anything on letters that you wrote? 

T: I was always self-conscious of my drawing. I drew, but it was always this self-critical battle. So if I did, it was more just fun. 

S: Do you think that there was a time when you became more confident in your drawing? It just surprises me so much. 

T: I was always finding the right kind of crudeness because I knew that I would never be the perfect realistic kind of drawer. There is so much in the crude if it’s done the right way; there is so much humor. I made up for my insecurities or weakness by finding what I could do in that realm. 

S: What is it about drawing that completes a message when sending a card? 

T: It just underscores the human touch. It’s always been hard to define what sets Egg Press apart from other brands. You can’t really define it, but I think that it has a lot to do with the cards being hand-drawn. I think we are all drawn to things where we feel the human touch. 

S: Egg Press has collaborated with brands like Kokka Fabric and Schoolhouse Electric: What is your next dream collaboration? What would you love to make? 

T: It’s about finding like-minded people. It would be really fun to design textiles for children’s wear. I don’t know which brand, but I think that would be such a good space for Egg Press. I think it’s time to start thinking outside of what we’re doing.

S: Everyone wants to make 2021 feel better than the past year. What would a successful 2021 look like for you, not in a just business sense, but in a holistic sense? 

T: Oh my god. That’s a good question. My gut tells me to keep the bar low. I’m glad it’s not an election year. I hope there aren’t any fires. Maybe it’s to look at 2021 as a year of mending and forgiving and healing. Some big messy crazy shit happened in 2020. I think success would be to get through 2021 without feeling completely traumatized. Even better: to feel optimistic again would be a success. 

S: Starting and maintaining a business is challenging. Starting and maintaining a business with the compounding societal expectations from being a woman and a mother is even more so. What have you learned about yourself through that journey?

T: There have been times when it’s just knowing that everything I do is just going to be kind of shitty: I’m not going to be the parent I want to be, or the business owner I want to be, or the wife I want to be. I think the more you have on your plate, the harder it is to do any one of those things really well. Something has to give because there is only so much. And then it’s hard not to be resentful. It’s usually the woman who gets the shorter end of the stick. As much as you want to think that you’re with someone who believes otherwise when the rubber meets the road... it’s a little bit messed up. There’s that saying “ there’s no practice for life”. We learn when we learn. You can’t expect that someone’s going to give you all the answers.

S: But in an attempt to give yourself better answers...If you could give your 30-year-old self, not necessarily what to do differently but just a few pieces of advice, what would they be? 

T: I would say, it’s all going to be okay. That’s the big one. Just do your best. And when you can’t do your best, that’s okay. Don’t be too hard on yourself. ‘Cus you know, I’ve spent a lifetime doing that and it’s not the most productive thing. Know that you’re not going to make everyone happy and that’s okay. 

S: If you could give your one-year-ago self a few pieces of advice, insight, or comfort about where you are now, what would that be? 

T: We’re all stronger than we think and we’re all pretty resilient. You can face a lot of tough stuff in a short amount of time but you get by. You can write it all down and look at it on paper and think “oh my god” how did we get through this year, but we did. And like my grandpa always used to say “It’ll sure feel good when it quits hurting” that grandpa wisdom sums it up. 

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