Recently we designed a wedding that our good friends Ann and Nicky of David Reinhard Events planned, and I fell head over heels in love with the client’s most charming, hand-painted save-the-date. It was the first time I had seen the work of Happy Menocal, and the crest she made for that occasion is such a nice departure from the “vintage inspired” type and invites we have been seeing for social events that it made me want to reach out to her.
Since, I have been lucky enough to work with Happy a tiny bit on another project and to learn that not only is she amazingly talented, but she is also such a pleasure to collaborate with. I am dying to find many more projects to work on together. In the meantime, though, Happy was kind enough to chat with me . . .
David Stark: What is your background? How did you get into doing what you do?
Happy Menocal: My first job was at a boutique advertising agency with a bunch of smart, funny people. I would draw storyboards for the commercials, among other things. I really learned to draw doing that, because I had to work quickly and depict all kinds of scenarios, often from crazy perspectives. The pace is exhilarating, you feel like you're in an emergency room, up at all hours working together to produce a :30 second paean to Bud Light Lime™. I love advertising; I never mute the commercials. I like being seduced into buying even the most improbable stuff. I know it's not a popular attitude, but advertising is an art and there are a lot of real artists doing it. Anyway, I made enough money drawing storyboards to quit my job and start taking other commissions as well.
DS: What do you call your artistic career?
HM: Saying I'm an artist feels a little funny to me, so I say I'm an illustrator which isn't quite accurate either, as I think it leads most people to imagine I do editorial illustration or children's books. Mostly I do custom watercolor commissions and some branding work. It's a great job.
DS: I am particularly in love with your custom heraldry. How did you get into making crests?
HM: Thanks! A friend asked me to design her wedding invitations and all the associated stationery. I wanted to come up with an emblem and a palette that could be used across all the various pieces, and I landed on the idea of creating a crest for the couple. There are so many kinds of partnerships now -- some people take their spouse's name, some don't -- and I thought making a family crest for a couple would be a smart, graphic way to signify a new family and communicate their deal. The crest became the foundation for a whole suite of graphic elements for my friends' wedding. I did menus, envelope liners, custom postage stamps -- the whole kit 'n kaboodle. A few of the guests liked it, and commissions started rolling in. I love it. I think a personal crest ennobles people in a fun way, and makes them feel fancy and unique. I make them for families, individuals, even babies.
DS: What is the dream project for you?
HM: To design currency! Though, I think my work might lack the precision required for that. I would also love to design all the branding, menus, wallpaper, linen, server uniforms, etc for a restaurant. I love the theater of restaurants. I would love to make people want to eat and drink and get caught up in the right spirit. David Hockney's stage design drawings are very inspiring to me in that way. He has such an exuberant approach -- it's like a life-size form of animation.
DS: If you could make a custom crest for anyone in the world, who would it be for?
HM: Oprah. And not just for the obvious reason of wanting to foist my product on her for endorsement, but because she is such a mystery. I would love to sit down with her and knock back a couple of margaritas and learn her innermost Favorite Things. Oprah really has already the most perfect personal monogram: the simple 'O' is all power, enigma, at once open and closed. But I would like to do something more playful and elaborate for her.
DS: What's next?
HM: Early 2012 I'm launching a custom invitation & stationery service on my website. I especially love weddings. A sacred ceremony and a raging party, all about love. What's better than that? And weddings electrify the family, bringing out all of these interesting attitudes and expectations and desires. Because the 'Save the Date' card and beginning of the stationery package is one of the first conversations in wedding planning, I feel privileged that my work helps set the tone for such a special occasion. I feel like a vicarious guest as I learn about all the other details, how the couple met, what everybody's wearing, and what music will play. So I'm really excited to work on more weddings.
DS: And I am really excited to work on them with YOU.