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Bond & Grace: A Landing Place for Stamps Grads

When Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design alum Maggie Lemak (BFA 18) needed artwork, photography, design, and helpful advice for her company, she reached out to the community she knew best: Stamps. 

Maggie Lemak poses by a fabric canvas with abstract paint strokes.
Maggie Lemak (BFA 18)

Stamps graduates and students seemed to fit in well at Bond & Grace: a women-owned publishing and art house based in Washington, DC. Lemak, remotely from Chicago, works as the Art Experience Director, where she curates the Bond & Grace art collective, provides art direction and prop styling for product photoshoots, and leads narrative storyboarding for Art Novels and merchandise. 

When I started at Bond & Grace, I just immediately had this feeling of warmth,” Lemak said. Some of the work we were doing felt very Stamps.’ I mean that in the sense that it is intellectual, we’re searching for a deeper meaning and using design to move things forward. When I thought about who we could work with, I thought about Stamps and wanted to gather as many people as I could.”

The group recently published The Secret Garden Art Novel™,” a contemporary take on the classic story by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The intricately-crafted coffee-table book, intended to be an heirloom, combines academic insights with artist contributions. 

Maggie Lemak and Niki Williams take photos of a book on a coffee table, and the final product.
Maggie Lemak and Niki Williams collaborated with product styling and photoshoots.

The book features the art and design of Stamps alums, including Abby Olsen (BFA 20), Brenna K. Murphy (MFA 18), Maggie Lemak (BFA 18), and Open Counter, the design studio of Jack Kornet (BFA 20) and Ali Mahoney (BFA 20). Even current Stamps student Elizabeth Bair (BFA 24) worked as a graphic design intern for the project. Most recently, Niki Williams (BFA 16) contributed product and brand photography. Stamps faculty members Franc Nunoo-Quarcoo and Hannah Smotrich gave some expertise to the group.

Lemak says that unique courses at Stamps, like Exhibit Design, paved the way for her career.

I had no idea that exhibit design was even a career path before I came to Stamps. I’ve always been a mixture of a 3D and 2D artist, so the idea of putting those things together was fascinating, to begin with,” Lemak said. I’ve also always loved telling stories. At Bond & Grace, I now get to help develop these stories. [My work] combines graphic design, exhibit design, and many other things I care about.”

Lemak also points to the unique curriculum at Stamps. She was shocked to notice how random skills from Stamps that she hadn’t used in years arose in her work, like bookmaking and packaging design.

What’s unique about Stamps is the variety of the curriculum we’re exposed to,” Lemak said. Everyone we’ve worked with from Stamps at Bond & Grace has been more than one-dimensional [with their skillset].”

Pile of branded Bond & Grace set packets sit at a table with gardening supplies.
Photo: Bond & Grace

Bond & Grace design intern and current Stamps student Elizabeth Bair has experienced the wisdom of Stamps alum firsthand. She was able to contribute towards Bond & Grace’s direct mailer campaign, which includes mini gifts, such as a branded seed packet. 

By working with a tight-knit group of Stamps alums for a summer, Bair grew an appreciation for where she could end up after graduation.

At Stamps, they teach a big emphasis on the creative process and how you’re getting from point A to point B, which I learned from Maggie Lemak in a bigger sense. The questions of, Why are we making these decisions?’ and Why are we doing this?’ help the audience understand our mission,” Bair said. Working with Stamps alumni helped me think on a different level.”

It all started with The Secret Garden Art Novel.” Still, this group featuring members of the Stamps community is looking forward to putting their artistic flair on more classic literature.

Let it be no secret that this Stamps community is growing and flourishing at Bond & Grace. 

Story by Katelyn Stuck.