At Tolmee, we believe the greatest assets we have are the artists we work with. They are all unique and bring something different to the table.
As an American working for a company dealing exclusively with Greek artists, I was curious about what it meant to be greek. How does it influence the art that they make? Are they different than American artists? Or is there a common thread that binds us all together?
In the following months, I will be taking time get to know each and every designer that we work with here at Tolmee so that you, the customer, can get to know them as well. I am asking them about their families, their hobbies, where they grew up, and more; both to highlight their individuality, and to explore how alike we all really are.
I would like to introduce you to the BE TOLMEE: Artist Series.
For my first interview, I spoke with the most recent artist to join our Tolmee community - her name is Julie Karatzis. Julie, unlike our other vendors, is actually a native to California. She lives with her husband and two little boys in Long Beach. Julie and her husband Spiro are proud Greek Americans, much like our founder Christos, and his wife Mirsini. I was curious to hear about what her life was like in the United States while identifying as a Greek person.
Julie comes from strong Greek roots. Her father was born and raised in Kefalonia, and her maternal Grandparents were from Siderokastro.
For those of you who aren’t as familiar with Greek geography, here are some pictures. I couldn’t help but think that the latter, Sidekrokastro, looks a lot like the state of California where Julie lives. Perhaps that’s why so many Greek people now call California home.
Julie grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received her undergraduate degree from UC Davis, and her Masters in Communications from the University of South California. She then worked in radio advertising sales and in design public relations for about 10 years before she started Cartoules Press. I was curious about this career change.
“Being an artist is so challenging, why do it?”
To which she replied, “I did not choose this, it definitely chose me.”
It is that kind of passion and dedication to one’s craft that we admire here at Tolmee.
As an artist, Julie faced what many artists face - pursue her dream, or maintain a safety net. So at first, she ran Cartoules Press as a hobby as she worked full time.
“Once I had my children, I took Cartoules Press full time because it offered me the flexibility to set my own hours and make what I wanted.”
Julie and Spiro married 9 years ago in Athen’s Greece and they have two “spirited” (her words) blue-eyed boys, Mihali age 4, and Giorgo who is almost 3. Just look at this beautiful family!
According to Julie, she loves getting creative with her boys and they enjoy taking time and drawing together. Maybe art runs in the family. At home, they speak Greek to their boys and make sure they know their Greek family. Their extended family is scattered around the United States and Greece, but they come together for the holidays and spend the summers together in Greece. For Julie and Spiro it is essential that their sons feel the same connection to Greece as they did growing up.
Even as a young child growing up in the states, Julie felt a strong connection to Greece. Her family visited her grandparents in Kefalonia in the summers; she made lifelong friends and memories in Greece, which truly made it feel like home. In the states, she attended Greek school and participated in Greek dancing, while being an active member of the Greek Community. For those of you who are not familiar with Greek American Culture, Greek School is a program usually taught through the Greek Orthodox Church where Greek American children learn to read and write in Greek, as well as knowledge of the culture and country.
When looking at Julie’s stationery and cards, you will find drawings of Greek themes in beautiful bright colored ink. The simplicity and crispness of her designs are hard to match and it made me wonder what technique she uses; “I’ve designed most of my cards and prints by hand with ink and paper, and then I import them into Illustrator on my computer and edit them from there.”
When you think of being an artist printing is not the first medium that comes to mind. So I asked Julie how she found herself in the printing game. Julie believes it is mostly because of her parents, as they were always encouraging her art. She describes her mother as a creative educator who was always painting. Her father is a retired aerospace engineer and would always include Julie and her sister when he worked on the family cars, “I guess that’s where I fell in love with mechanics and how things work. So when I found letterpress it was the perfect marriage between creativity/design and getting my hands dirty.”
In my opinion, the most interesting part of Julie’s process is how she prints her cards - “once I’m happy with a design, I send it to a platemaker who creates polymer plates for my letterpress machine from the 1920s.” According to Julie, her press is from 1926; “the Letterpress is the oldest form of relief printing where the form (text or image) is inked up on the press and then printed onto the paper, transferring the ink to the paper and leaving an impression. I actually got it from the printing museum I originally took letterpress classes at here in LA.” She then hand mixes the inks and prints each piece by hand. Then feeds it through the press one by one for each color in the design.
The result is truly stunning. Here is one of Julie’s favorite all time designs. The invitations to her sister's wedding.
When asked about why she got into the greeting card and print business, Julie says it was out of necessity: “I felt that back in 2009, there was a lack of well-designed stationery in the Greek language. I was on the hunt for wedding invitations in Greek and English for our Athens wedding, and couldn’t find anyone to design them, let alone letterpress print them.”
So why choose the designs of Julie from Cartoules Press?
For that, she answered, “If you’re looking to express yourself in Greek, you’ve come to the right place. Not only are my designs well thought out and designed (I think!) but they’re also printed using a thoughtful method of printing.”
Not to mention you can feel good about using a sustainable product! “In a world of single-use items that we dispose of daily, I pride myself in that the items that I print are meant to be kept and cherished. They are printed on high quality, 100% tree-free, cotton paper.”
But this is not meant to be a sales pitch. For me, the thought, care, and craft Julie gives to each individual design and print is evident. Just take a look at them on our website!
So whether you are Greek or just an English speaker looking for something beautiful, consider supporting Julie this holiday season by purchasing her cards, prints, or gift tag digital downloads. They are sure to be something you and your loved ones will cherish.