Words by Aubrie Ribolla
mong Montgomery’s many hidden gems lies a remarkable multi-faceted creative space called Cotton and Pine Creative. I had the pleasure of meeting with Steven Lambert, Creative Director, and Nell Weisenfeld, Account Manager, as they gave us a full tour of the studio. They talked about some of the oldest and largest printing presses still around that are, surprisingly, stored and used daily in Montgomery, at Cotton and Pine. Most may not know what a long process it can be to print such quality products. It became clear very quickly that Cotton and Pine goes the extra mile when it comes to any creative process they put their hands on. They explained the hard work that goes into making their most beautiful paper goods— cards, posters, and invitations, just to name a few. The staff was so welcoming, and beyond the history of the craft that Neil and Steven spoke of, we were thankful to meet and see that Cotton and Pine was run by such kind hearted people.
Why the name Cotton and Pine?
We refer to it as the southerner’s yin and yang. It is a raw material, and they are very different, but we take a bit of creativity and apply it to each of those materials and you’ve got lots of cool stuff. Cotton, on the very high-end side, is what money is printed on and super luxe stationary that we like to work with. There is nothing like it. Then you have pine; we can make furniture or paper, on the cheaper side of things. So, cotton and pine kind of run the gamut on paper from the super expensive to the every day. That is what we do. We do all kinds of stuff here.
Goals for Montgomery?
This is an investment in the creative community here. We have been able to make some great friends, like people at Indie Film Lab-what they do is just awesome, and some creative firms around town that have used us for different things. We do some fun community projects like Burger Bash, and we have really gotten involved with Southern Makers, which is an incredible event and a great community of people from all around the state and the region. We did a pop up shop with Southern Makers, which is starting to breathe life back into the downtown retail area. We are here to support the community at large, and beyond.
How Long has Cotton and Pine been around?
So, it will be two years in may! It has been a lot of fun. We’re a new business, so we are still learning things on a daily basis. We make mistakes, but we work hard to get things done! You make it happen and we try to have a lot of fun in the process. Not everyone gets to do what we do for a job, and we try to enjoy that the best we can. It’s work, but it is two years coming up, so we are excited for that.
What are some challenges you guys face?
We are a startup. We have to figure it out at day one, and day ten, and day fifty three, and eventually you get better at what you do. Every day the team starts to work better together, and they learn the nuances of one another, and that is a day to day challenge that I think everyone deals with. Because of the technology we use, it is a slower paced system. People have gotten used to immediacy, so that is always a challenge and I think it has been good for everyone involved. We’ve been able to inform people of that, and tell them that it takes a little bit of time, but we have amazing guys that work here that turn things around at an incredible pace. Due to the nature of it, it’s interesting. We have to educate people on it. It’s hip to get things letter pressed now; it does not mean everyone understands what is involved, so there are those challenges. But, by in large, those challenges have their reward on the other side.
What has been encouraging about operating in Alabama?
Again, with our relationship with Southern Makers, you can understand the community element; there are a lot of really cool people doing great things all over the state. We are very regional with what we do, but at the same time, we do stuff all over the place. We have a job being shipped to New York today, we have things being shipped out to London. Due to the kind of work we do, there are not many doing what we do the way we do it, but Alabama— even the state tourism department we have —we’ve done some things for that. So that has been cool. At a local level in Montgomery, we have been a part of some really cool projects that have benefitted the city culturally. We were part of The Gumption Fund Grant, we painted a mural downtown that says “Montgomery: Your Opportunity”. That was a fun piece, as we had a local guy come to us and commission us for that. It was fun and very much a collaborative concept. There is a lot of opportunity in the South, and there are a lot of opportunities, like the sign says, to “pave a new way”. There are people hungry for cool things. The people side is the fun part of business.
What do you think makes Montgomery different from other cities?
The people. The people are unique. Montgomery has had a lot to overcome, and there has been some major victories here, and I think that there is a group of people in Montgomery that really celebrate those victories. There have been people to look at the issues of the past and almost get plagued by the past, because this is where that happened, but this is also where civil rights happened. This is where major victories were won, and there is a lot to be proud about in that. The facts that you had leaders make a stand, and the bus boycott was started in Montgomery, which started bus boycotts all around the world is something to take pride in. There were people being treated with injustice and inequality, and Montgomery was the kind of place where that happened, and I think that there is a new wave of people calling Montgomery home that are looking at from an enlightened perspective; not just a perspective of really bad things happening. History is history- and it is important, but how do we move forward from it? Downtown is being renovated and being brought back to life. People are breathing life back into this place and into the people. We want to see Montgomery succeed. There is some young blood that is getting involved in the community and that is really good. People are coming back to use these things in unique ways.
Cotton and Pine Creative is filled with people who are richly talented in what they do, and it is a business that we should be proud to have in our home state. Above creating beautiful products, these people are actively enriching the lives of those in their community, and to say the least, are absolutely worth checking out.
Cotton and Pine Creative is located at 3300 Eastern Boulevard in Montgomery, AL 36116.