“I truly believe in the importance of carving out time away from the transient, cold digital space in favour of something more natural, organic and memorable. The tactile, multi-sensory nature of something like paper can prompt a slowing down and encourage a calmer, more purposeful pace.” Jess Howard, Matere Studio
Art director Jess Howard’s artistic eye and love for graphic design led her to set up Matere Studio, a beautiful stationery brand that seeks inspiration from authentic materials and references architecture, nature, and travel. Whilst modern life has drawn us all further towards our digital devices and a fast-paced way of living, Jess seeks to balance this and inspire us to find solace in purposeful interactions and quiet moments where we can sit and reflect.
We had the pleasure of talking to Jess about the meaningfulness of print, the simple joy that can be found in a well-designed piece of stationery, and she tells us about the ritual that inspires her creative process…
What inspired you to start Matere and can you tell us where the name comes from?
Matere’s inspiration is rooted in my own experiences of living and working in London as a graphic designer. Spending long days at a screen or rushing around the city, I sought out places, experiences, and products that felt restorative. I valued things that felt highly considered, calming, and special. This came in the form of thoughtful, beautiful design, minimalism, and the slow living philosophy. When freelance work slowed down, I unexpectedly found myself with time to explore harnessing this effect in my own way.
The name, pronounced ‘Mat-Air’ is an old term derived from the Latin word Māteria, or ‘the matter of which something is composed’. At the heart of the brand is my belief that style and substance should be equally highly considered. The term also reflects the level of care throughout, from how special it can feel to write on a luxuriously thick sheet of paper and the sensory effect of textures, to placing sustainable values front and centre.
What do your studies and love of graphic design bring to your stationery?
My background in design has instilled an appreciation of fine details. When every single part of something is crafted and refined, the result feels harmonious, balanced and elevated. I’m grateful to have worked with inspiring premium brands, accomplished creative directors and boutique design agencies – learning that less often really is more, understanding how to achieve a sense of visual balance and nurturing a consistent visual voice. I have always been a print designer at heart; print feels more meaningful and long-lasting, and Matere has been an outpouring of some of my favourite papers, techniques, and processes.
Can you tell us about the process from coming up with the initial design idea through to production?
I like to collate a moodboard of influences before moving on to create prints. The printmaking part has become almost ritualistic – I light a candle, make a coffee, and put noise-cancelling headphones on before doing anything. Once I’ve covered the floor with prints, I choose a shortlist to scan and take further. This is done alongside exploring papers and materials – I like to surround myself with swatch books and work through each one cover to cover, making a shortlist to order as an A4 sample. I then create a basic mockup of each design – testing how something feels to hold and how different artwork and papers interact. I gradually refine the shortlist to what could work as a collection, until it’s ready to go into production.
What does craftsmanship mean to you and how do you put attention to detail into your designs?
Craftsmanship to me, is a sense of responsibility and guardianship over the entire process. It’s spending time poring over fine details – checking every single product for the smallest imperfections before it’s wrapped and sent out. It’s carefully selecting a handful of the right manufacturers, who I can trust to continue the same level of care through their part of the work. It’s asking myself ‘how would I like someone to feel when they unbox and use this?’ at every stage.
In what ways are you environmentally conscious in your work?
With such importance placed on the materials I use, it was fundamental to put sustainable choices first. I use papers that are sourced using traceable sustainable forestry and I focus on finding recycled materials. These include leather offcuts retrieved from tanneries, plastics removed from the ocean, spent grain from breweries or recycled coffee cups collected from cafes around the UK. All packaging is plastic-free with recycled labels made from grass paper and much of the wholesale packaging is also re-used. The collection is produced in small batches in the UK, creating only what we need with as little carbon impact as possible.
What do you love about print and why should we all embrace handwritten cards and notebooks more?
While I wouldn’t be without the various screens I use on a daily basis, I truly believe in the importance of carving out time away from the transient, cold digital space in favour of something more natural, organic and memorable. The tactile, multi-sensory nature of something like paper can prompt a slowing down and encourage a calmer, more purposeful pace. Every word becomes precious in the handwritten – the experience is overall more special. In a world where time just seems to disappear, I think the analogue experience can help restore a sense of balance.
What are your hopes and plans for 2022?
I hope the next year sees the Matere reach a wider audience as we’ll be just a year old in February. One of the most rewarding aspects has been connecting with people who share the same values and love the products. I’ll be taking part in my first trade show, speaking with more like-minded collaborators and retailers, as well as developing some exciting new products.
Photography by Lucy Cooper.
Take a look at the latest designs and buy beautiful stationery from Matere Studio online.
Discover more in the Meet the Maker series on enki.