Necessity and luxury. That's the caption Hanna Nation Seabrook assigned to the Instagram photo of the latte she sipped while we talked, but she might as well be referring to Gadabout, her stationery-cum-graphic design business based here in Charleston.
"A gadabout is an aimless pleasure-seeker," Seabrook says. "If I could be that word, I would."
That's a little bit hard to believe, given her devotion to building (and blogging and tweeting and tumbling) her brand. Seabrook's company officially launched as a paper line in 2008, when she was studying business economics at Wofford College in Spartanburg.
"I loved illustrating so much. I would do it 24/7," she says, noting that she hasn't had formal art training since boarding school. "It made sense to slap illustrations onto something that made people happy and is considerate and respectful. That lent itself to stationery."
Her signature drawing is a faceless figure with a side part posed in a snappy outfit and, more times than not, with a hand upon her hip. For the holidays, she's decked in a gray blazer, blouse, tartan skirt, and green Hunter wellies ("Boots are awful to draw on my girl!"), complete with knee socks poking out and three strands of pearls around her neck.
"That's the one thing I'm really proud of," she admits, referring to her Gadabout girl, who is front and center in the stationery line (well, technically, she's standing off and to the left on the customized cards). She also appears on the work Seabrook does for other companies, where the sketched-then-scanned girl embodies the look and feel of the client.
While illustrations were the foundation of her business, Seabrook has expanded into branding, where she gathers the "hopes, dreams, wishes, and inspirations" of her clients and produces designs to match. For writer Shannon Darrough, for example, she created a clever logo of a capital "D" pierced by two arrows. In turn, the arrows are also featured on Darrough's website, business cards, and Twitter avatar.
Seabrook works out of her home studio, where the all-white furnishings are offset by colorful knickknacks, pictures, and business cards. Three years into production, she's still a one-woman operation, printing everything from business to flat-print cards in-house. Seabrook hopes to bring someone else on someday, but she isn't looking at the moment. Working on her own, she can work at whatever pace pleases her — one season she might release six cards, another only two — and she comes off as judicious in her approach. "I'm such a deliberate person," she says.
Of her figure sketches, she says, "Nobody gets thrown in the trash, people just get re-evaluated. If I start on something and I don't like her, she'll be tweaked."
Gadabout is a distinctly old-meets-new brand, where hand-drawn ciphers rub elbows with Facebook updates. It's rooted in Seabrook's affinity for tradition and good manners, yet keeps up in the hyper-digital age (she even has an app, appropriately named "Post") and feels relevant in the capricious world of fashion. To wit, she recently collaborated with Stacy Smallwood, the owner of the downtown boutique Hampden Clothing.
"It's a territory Gadabout hasn't been in before. It's more high-fashion," Seabrook says of the three cards they worked on together. In this collection, the aforementioned figure is now dressed in designer labels like Rag & Bone and Opening Ceremony, as opposed to her more standard J. Crew togs.
"This is the first year I'm doing anything related to Christmas," Seabrook says. "I love the idea of my cards being under other people's trees."
Check out Seabrook's work at agadabout.com.