I posted this photo last year at this time on Instagram from Cate Blanchett. It’s from the January 2014 issue of the American Vogue, and I feel it needs repeating. It must be this time of the year that prompts these feelings in me, the self doubt comes creeping in, that comes with the territory of creating things for hire. Where am I going? What’s the next step? Is my point of view clear? How do I grow my business in a smart way? This sort of helps me remember how normal it is to feel this way. It’s also a gentle reminder to reach out. To embrace those around me who are also tackling solo entrepreneurship. What a wonderful reminder last week at the Forth holiday party. Being part of a larger group of creative people is SO good. So, maybe the holidays are that time, things slow down and speed up at the same time, we over-indulge, all sorts of things crop up from spending time with or apart from family, but just remembering we are not alone just helps. And if you are truly alone, I hope that you have the courage to reach out this time of year. Just getting out of the house, and attending a holiday service, or a book reading (I was shocked and excited for the women owners of women and children first- their store was packed last night!), or smiling at the person next to you, can be a great start to connecting with someone this holiday season.
I love it when my clients come to me for what we are known for – classic, timeless wedding invitations, which also fit the description of Sara and Nick perfectly. Sara and Nick wanted a custom crest created for their summer wedding in Wisconsin. They felt their crest should be a logo that branded their entire wedding, from save the date’s that we helped them with in 2013, to the thank you notes they are probably still getting out! However, as we went through the design process, we uncovered an even more significant representation of their wedding, the compass. It signified their journey as a couple and the destination of their guests. Of course, their initials, N and S, made the choice even more fateful.
Photos here by Emily Steffen, unless otherwise noted.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Drake Design
Photo courtesy of Sarah Drake Design
We created a stamp for their Field Notes save the dates. The rustic looking prints helped set the tone of the destination.
It’s save the date time, and this fall we’ve been creating a few for our custom wedding invitation clients to help set the tone for their 2015 weddings. I loved the process of creating these sweet watercolors for our clients who are getting married in Charleston this spring. Each panel of the accordion fold is dedicated to an event of the wedding weekend. The watercolors didn’t all start out like this though. Thought you’d enjoy seeing some of the paintings that weren’t so cute at first! Maybe I should call them watercolor warmups? Here’s the process!
The first few rose attempts. I ended up using the rose on the bottom left, paired with two leaves:
Teacups were a bit challenging to get the shape and proportion right:
I could paint leaves all day, but I couldn’t get the cross right at first. Then the color had to be adjusted on screen so they all worked together:
The printed result:
I thought about titling this post, “How a letter changed my life” but that sounded a little overstated. Maybe it changed the course of my business, though, and helped plant the seed of creating heirlooms that hold memories. One of those occasions involved a letter from my grandfather.
A huge part of creating our monogram collection came from a very important person in my life, and the fine china we’re offering wouldn’t have come to fruition if not for my grandfather, more affectionately known as Pop. Pop was a an amazing painter and sculptor, creating detailed, realistic carvings out of stone and wood, lovely landscape barn paintings (one of his specialties) and for many years, beautiful florals on fine china. Pop taught china painting for over 20 years, to dedicated students in northern California. As a child I received special pieces from Pop; more memorably a plate only brought out at christmas, and a delicate mug, covered with pink roses and rimmed with gold. I thought it was pretty special to receive such pieces. But it wasn’t until I was married in 2000 that he started sending me plates; you had to be married to receive such beauties. They are exquisite, and I have a variety of dessert plates mostly: a set of four autumn-themed in browns, golds and reds, a sweet set of purple toned flowers with more gold rims, a teapot.
Knowing how special his talents were, I wanted to learn, and as he got older, I realized I had better ask soon. So I wrote to him and asked and received this letter back, telling me where to buy china, and how he would be ready to teach me the following summer I was in California. This undoubtedly has played a huge part in our offering, in the inkling to create it and we actually have our china manufactured at the very place he recommended and used for his own china.
What about you? Has a letter ever brought you a new opportunity?
I’m still on my mini sabbatical; refueling before getting back to work on Tuesday. We returned from our road trip out west, and the change of scenery and even all the driving really did my soul good. Just seeing the different colors and scenery was vacation enough, but we spent so much time outside, and it just felt good.
Of course just spending time in Yellowstone National Park was great- to see the amazing landscape and the animals that I never see was so much fun. We’d be driving by a meadow or river, and then come across a herd of Bison pretty regularly while we were there. On the way, we even saw a mom and baby moose. And bears! We saw four off at a pretty safe distance- it was definitely a highlight of the trip. I was actually terrified that we would be eaten by bears. That may sound irrational, but all the places we camped had really strict food storage requirements that I took SUPER seriously. Everything had to be packed up when not in use, even stoves and water and toothpaste. If a blueberry fell on the ground I’d be searching around for it on the ground, and then scanning the horizon for the bear it would lead to our camp. I learned later how rare it was for a bear to even want to come near people, but while I was there I was sort of obsessed. And the water- I get in water whenever I can- it’s my thing, and we found a boiling river that fed into a cooler river, that created a natural hot springs. We had to force ourselves out of this place, after two hours in the water.
But, aside from all the driving, we spent every moment outside. We camped most nights, once even on the side of the road in a beautiful canyon by a river, and because of the strict food storage requirements mentioned above, wherever we drove, we had everything we needed to stop, cook or make lunch or dinner, if we were too far from our camp when we were hungry. So, we would see a beautiful spot, and pull out our food, and make sandwiches, or boil pasta, or prepare one of the super crazy freeze dried space food concoctions my husband purchased for the trip, including the ice cream sandwich pictured here.
There’s just something about having everything you need to survive with you, living outdoors for a while. Definitely not living off the land. I mean, we had ice, and grocery store food, and NEEDED our car to survive for sure. But that sense of respecting, and being so close to nature, sleeping under the stars, finding all of our entertainment from outdoors (no wifi or even cell service in yellowstone): staring at the sky, hiking, swimming, (and once instance of making a teeter totter from a tree trunk) and just feeling the senses on your skin. That’s what I love. Just being outside.
Last year, when we bought our first house in Rogers Park, I spent a lot of time looking online, scouring design blogs for the perfect white to paint our new living room and dining room, because yellow and red weren’t exactly my first color choice:
I chose Benjamin Moore’s Super White, as it offset the dark wood baseboards and loved how crisp and clean it made the two rooms. The foreground is the living room in this pic, sorry I don’t have a better shot. (You can see the other white in the foyer, which I can only guess is Navajo white, haven’t gotten around to brightening up that room yet)
So… when it came time to paint our downstairs bath after a year long renovation that my husband did himself completely independently, (more on this later) I thought, why reinvent the wheel? I’m trying to keep everything simple in my life, and since I’ve already found the perfect white paint, why not just pick it up for the bathroom? So, I did, painted it, and we noticed it just wasn’t right. The new shower’s subway tiles now looked cream, which is not the color we were looking for:
Now, we had to think about it. What color would look clean and crisp, and offset the tiles, making them look more white? We got out the swatch book, laid a tile right on top of the colors, and chose a creamy white for the trim: Cloud White, and a light grey for the walls: Harbor Grey. Both by Benjamin Moore. I think it really helped the tile! What do you think? Do you have a favorite paint color?
We’ve been creating A LOT of custom invitation designs for our clients. We start with their ideas and inspirations, and build on that. Any successful custom design starts with a spark of an idea, and I love getting to know our clients, their loves, and their style, to help them tell their love story.
One of my favorite projects of the year (and last year too) was working with Katie and Brandon on their save the date and wedding invitations. I’m sure I’ll devote more blog posts to this great couple, but for now, wanted to share a bit of the process getting to the invitation. Katie loves paper, and we happened to be the first stop on their wedding planning to do list, after they picked their venue, which is a great place to start figuring out the direction of your wedding design overall. I felt Katie and I had an immediate connection. She was clear in explaining her style, preferences, and knew what she wanted, and trusted me to help her create that. As an aside, trust + communication makes for a pretty great client!
We started in spring of 2013, creating a vintage style postcard from a photo Katie had found of Cafe Brauer, and photos that I had them shoot in profile. They both thought their silhouettes looked pretty accurate, especially Brandon! You’ll have to tell me if you agree- see what they look like over on our site-they both agreed to model and helped me shoot our custom design process with Julia Franzosa. See, great clients!
Cafe Brauer’s architecture was the main inspiration for the letterpress invitation suite. I wasn’t getting much inspiration from photos I was finding on the web, so one sort of spring-like day, I drove over to the site and peeked around, taking photos.
We provided a whole page of patterns based off of our inspirations from this outing, and in the end, Katie chose the ones that most reminded her of the iconic prairie style building.
These were printed 2 color letterpress with Rohner Letterpress on 179lb ultra thick cranes cotton paper, and Nick and I had a tough time getting the taupe color to not look chocolate. I learned a ton about transparent inks and the mix and how paper color affects the outcome that day, as we spend a good hour, just getting the taupe right.
The details really are the key to adding individuality to any paper suite. The inner envelopes were lined in light grey paper, and calligraphed by Stacey Shapiro. We letterpressed their silhouettes under the response envelope flap, and painted the edges green, by far one of my favorite details.
Now, we’re starting on the Day-Of Details, and are incorporating these designs and more into their welcome bags, menus, programs, and escort cards. Stay tuned for more!
One of my favorite ways to add interest to any invitation is to cut it into an interesting shape. Depending on the intricacy of the piece to be cut, it may be done by die or laser.
Die cuts are made from metal, then attached to presses. Our letterpress printer often adds a die to our forms for simple shapes or borders:
Or even more complex shapes, like this mountain die cut:
Or this shaped Lobster Rehearsal dinner invite (could be laser or die cut):
I’m also loving shaped state cards (who wants one for California?) Like this one we created for a Wisconsin wedding this summer:
Laser is suitable for complex artwork, where details must be cut from the center of the art. A computer file is translated into a digital rendering, then communicated to a laser to cut out the image specified. This can be used in metal, leather, and other materials, but we typically use paper for our invitations. (I would love to try this on leather!)
This tiny window cut outs and other architectural details worked out great laser cut into this Chicago skyline invitation:
The inticate beauty of ceramic tile translates beautifully for a destination wedding:
Inspired by my trip to Alt Summit last week, I was reminded of the importance of getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things to feel inspired and connected. But you don’t have to attend an expensive conference or travel across the country to do so. It’s even better to build that support in the city you live in, no matter what your industry. The following list comes from things I’ve learned from marketing consultants, business advisors, and the trial by fire business knowledge that 9 years of running a small business brings.
1. Create a Support Group. I started a monthly group with other small business owners a couple years ago, where we discuss the challenges and successes in our businesses. And eat a lot of cheese while doing so.
2. Host an Event. This can be anything from teaching a class relating to your expertise, or even asking another maker or designer to teach one in your studio. We’ve got a fabric dyeing class in the works right now, taught by Nora Renick-Rinehart this summer. Also, we taught a card making class at West Elm, pictured above.
3. Donate your Time. This of course, could be relating to your business again, or just doing something you love to find other like-minded people out there. Whether you volunteer in a community garden or tutor kids in your neighborhood, it’s just getting involved that helps you feel connected.
4. Collaborate. The wedding industry is known for creating beautiful inspiration shoots to showcase their work, which can be a really fun way to get to know others in your field. Or collaborate with another business owner who can bring something to the table you can’t, like a great calligrapher and stationery designer, an illustrator and fabric weaver, or a writer and photographer.
5. Say Thank You. This might be the most important. I think saying thank you does so much more than just lets the recipient know you appreciate their action, gift or time. It’s a reminder of our connectedness to each other, and, is often neglected. And what better way to feel connected, than by personally putting pen to paper on lovely stationery, finding that special stamp, and dropping in the mail- it’s just intimate to share our appreciation this way.
Inspired by our friend, fellow Californian, and official Sarah Drake photographer Julia Franzosa’s recent blog post about unplugged weddings, a recent conversation with my husband about the importance of making the effort to see family, and all of the time we all spend “connected” on social media, I felt it was really important to just share a small reminder of how important it is to truly connect with people, in real time, face to face.
What better reminder of this was last week’s Summer Altitude Summit in Salt Lake City. For those of you who don’t know, Alt is a conference held by bloggers and designers for bloggers and designers. There are break out sessions, design classes, amazing speakers, and roundtable discussions on everything from publishing a book to tackling wordpress. I just got back, and already, I’m blogging. (If you’re paying attention, you’ll know I haven’t posted in about a month, which is far too long- I’m sorry!)
So many bloggers/designers/entrepreneurs I know are overwhelmed. They are working crazy hours, trying to juggle family and clients, while striving to remain their best possible selves. There’s so much pressure (usually self inflicted) to be the best in our fields, produce amazing work, and look chic (or at least have a cute mani) doing it. But, it sort of turns out we are all pretty similar. Even the people with the shiny websites and perfectly styled living rooms, tens of thousands of followers, and big press pages have insecurities, dirty laundry and bad days. We are all part of a like-minded community together, but unless you get out from behind the laptop, you may not know it. (almost) EVERYONE I met at Alt was friendly, open, eager to share their knowledge and experience, along with their contact information, to follow up. EVERYONE wanted to learn, have fun, and be honest.
The most important thing I took away though, was something I already know: for me to feel sane running my business and being a mom, is to make the effort to stay connected with real people, in real time.
You don’t have to fly across the country to do it though. Later this week I’ll be sharing ideas for entrepreneurs to connect with like-minded people in their community.
Thanks, Alt Summit!