Sarah Wymer tries her best to practice what she preaches. For her, that means sending handwritten letters and cards and even still paying bills through snail mail.
“I know that I’m not going to be able to keep the post office single-handedly in business,” Wymer said laughing. “But I feel like out of principle, I’m not going to pay my bills online.”
Wymer is the owner, printer and designer behind Studio SloMo, where she creates greeting cards, wedding suites, business cards and custom work using her Vandercook letterpress printer.
She did not take the most straightforward route to her current career. Wymer started in architecture school at Virginia Tech but wanted more freedom. She tried art school in Boston, which proved to be too much freedom. That’s how she ended up finishing her degree in the design program in UT’s art department.
Wymer worked in landscaping as well as graphic design and continues to do wedding flowers occasionally. While she is passionate about her work with the letterpress, she said she doesn’t like to think too far into the future for what seems like a fear of becoming bored.
“It kind of freaks me out to think that I’ll be doing this forever,” Wymer said. “My husband is a graphic designer also. We have separate companies, although we both sometimes work for each other. We have different aesthetics, and we tune into different aspects of design. So yeah, that kind of helps things move forward and not get stagnant. But I don’t really like thinking too far into the future. It’s sort of a scary thought.”
Wymer and her husband Derrit DeRouen’s studio space is centered around the press. There are vivid yellow filing cabinets against one wall, prints framed throughout the room and the letterpress printer — clearly the oldest thing in the room — smack in the middle. Wymer is so familiar with the process, she could likely do it with her eyes closed. It takes around six hours to get a good amount of printing done in a day, just enough time before her arms start to hurt or the room gets too dark to see colors correctly.
Wymer and DeRouen enjoy sharing studio space and collaborating; they both seem to enjoy the freshness it brings to the other’s work.
“I love our working relationship,” DeRouen said. “I didn’t know if being a couple at the same time, we would survive working together, but we do. And we both like a lot of the same things, but we have very different opinions about design sometimes. So it’s good to have somebody who can kind of push back.”
Chelsea Fullerton, a friend, fellow designer and occasional colleague, said Wymer is very detailed in her work.
“Let’s say you’re a boutique owner looking for a brand and business cards,” Fullerton said. “You can expect questions about your store and your personal style and, based on your answers, she’ll design a variety of concepts to choose from. She’s thinking about every point. Every curve. Every letter. She’s precise and thoughtful with every project she works on, large or small.”
For a craft so old, the biggest change has been the type of product being produced. Wymer said old print masters are retiring and young people are interested in creating much more modern products. Wymer doesn’t describe her own aesthetic as vintage or modern but as “playful” and “colorful.” There are examples of her work on both her website and Etsy shop.
While Wymer isn’t sure what she plans to do with the rest of her life, it does not seem like letterpress is going anywhere anytime soon. Creating and being constantly challenged are important to her, and for now letterpress and graphic design give her just that.
“I like working with the machine and that you have to have a technical knowledge and [you are] always problem solving and figuring things out,” Wymer said. “But then I also get to sit down and design something. I can design something and then also create it with my own two hands, which is kind of a unique thing these days. It’s pretty satisfying. It’s more satisfying than plugging and chugging away on the computer, which I still end up doing plenty of. It’s not like I’m immune to the rest of the vices of the world.”