Latest trends in fine stationery, custom invitations and announcements from the Stationers Guild

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

Deborah Needleman in a recent The New York Times Style Magazine editorial comments that “Living in an age when most things are both digital and disposable creates an even more intense longing for physical objects that speak to you and will remain in your life.”

I quite agree with Deborah, the transitory nature of our digital universe seems to place an added value on “real” objects that trigger an emotional response each time they manifest themself in one’s life.

Thinking about the “value of things”, I was talking to a gentleman earlier today who had had some unsatisfying experiences buying personalized stationery online. He wisely decided to buy his personal stationery at a store so he could actually see and touch the finished product. He preferred this solution rather than “run out and buy a sympathy card or thank you note every time I need one.”

While I have always admired the spontaneity of buying greeting cards – and we have a lovely selection – this gentleman got me to thinking about the “value of things.” Sure, a greeting card is special, but how about a hand-written note on your own personalized stationery. Now that is truly unique!

More importantly, the cost of engraved or letterpress stationery runs about $2.50 to $3.50 per card and envelope – far less expensive than a mid-grade greeting card priced at around $4.95 a card!

Personalized stationery is versatile, it works well for wishing a couple well on their anniversary or for that sad task of sending a condolence note.

Better yet, you are cutting down on carbon emissions by buying your stationery in bulk rather than running down to CVS or the car wash to pick up a greeting card each time you need one.

As for those that buy into the hype of “saving a tree,” most fine stationery is printed on 100% cotton paper – a renewable crop. How’s that for going green?

In short, there are many good reasons to buy personalized stationery rather than greeting cards. Maybe, it’s just seeing the “value of things” in a somewhat different context.

Richard W. May
Therese Saint Clair

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

In one of the many (actual several) stationery-related forums I frequent, I came across this very interesting infographic on the Greeting Card industry by Kate Harper.

While I am sure that most of us wish that greeting card sales would be spread over the year rather than concentrated during the holiday period, we have noticed an uptick in the number of people buying greeting cards. In fact, people of all ages (yes, mostly women) seem to be gravitating back to the simple elegance of a paper greeting card. Perhaps, social “sharing” has proved to be an unfulfilled relationship.

Whatever the reason, we are happy for struggling designers and retail outlets that still purchase greeting cards the old-fashioned way: one card at a time.

Richard May
Therese Saint Clair

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

As a public service announcement, I would like to inform everyone that today – August 23 – we received our William Arthur Holiday Photo Album.

I hope you receive yours soon so we can promote the holiday photo card sale which started on August 1.

Richard May
Therese Saint Clair

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Harriet Malmon of Francis Orr always manages to discover a gem at what is often a tedious trek through the National Gift Show at the Javits Center in New York City.    This year was no exception, as she insisted that we take a look at Black Eyed Guy.

Black Eyed Guy is the brain child of Seth Anderson, a professional artist, who has simply doodled himself into national prominence.   Seth lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico (that’s smart!) and has morphed his youthful habit of doodling into an expressive art form that is wonderful to behold.    Talking to Seth and his charming wife, Kristin (sp?), is like peeling an onion:  there is a lot more to discover than meets the eye.

Borrowing from some of the Black Eyed Guy promotional material:

Black Eyed Guy is a lifestyle brand based on childhood memories.  Our hope is for adults to remember and kids to embrace the simple pleasures of just being a kid.  Black Eyed Guy encourages you to be self-expressive, to be fearless and to live life as an adventure.  I’ve (sic Seth) always lived by this philosophy.

Today, Black Eyed Guy is based loosely on our family experiences reflecting the idea – ‘Be Creative.  Be Daring.  Be Original.  Be a Black Eyed Guy.’

Seth lives up to his motto and his work certainly reflects those values.   Other than his distinctive and interesting greeting cards, I adored his picture books (particularly, The Owl Who Knew Too Much), brilliant activity books for kids to experiment with doodling and drawing and my personal favorite, the “Number Flash Cards.”

The “Number Flash Cards”  provides different learning elements (art forms and graphic and numerical representation) for kids to grasp and embrace the magic of numbers.    To borrow one of my pet phrases:  ”Make numbers your friend.”   Seth has managed to do this in such a creative way that public schools could easily reverse deteriorating math skills by using these flash cards to visually excite young minds. (Editor’s Note: This is not New Math, this is Fun Math.

Thérèse Saint Clair is thrilled to be carrying Black Eyed Guy and are hopeful that kids in Greenwich will dare to “be creative, be daring, be original and be a Black Eyed Guy (or Girl).”

Thanks Harriet for the lead and give a biscuit to Dolly and Ruby.

Richard W. May
Therese Saint Clair

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

One dear reader of the Guild News asked how I could possibly write so much about the “good and the bad” in the stationery industry.  The answer is quite simple:  I have a lot of free time to write while holding for a Crane customer service (that’s an oxymoron) representative to pick up the phone.

Getting in touch with a Crane customer service representative is fast becoming more difficult than talking to Adobe customer support.   After 20 minutes or so you generally will be able to speak to Adobe’s customer service representative in India or the Philippines, but it usually takes longer to reach a customer service rep at Crane who are located in the same time zone.

Now I don’t know how others feel, but I refuse  to remain on hold for more than 2 minutes to buy anything before I hang-up.   I am terribly sad to report that “waits” of between 20 to 30 minutes are now the norm at Crane rather than the exception.    Effectively, dealers are now subsidizing Crane’s gross inefficiency by allocating phone expense and staff time to simply hold for overworked and/or poorly trained customer service representatives to deal with Crane orders.

While this may be great for Crane’s expense controls, DeFalco & Co. have effectively  pushed the expense burden onto Crane’s dealers.   I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Crane customer service reps give priority to online Paperless Post orders rather than Crane’s dealers.   If you are not upset, you should be.

Editor’s Note:   Confidentially, I have been informed that DeFalco’s management style within Crane is referred to “DeFalco’s Folly,”  but sadly these megalomaniac bullies are rarely outed until it is too late!

Guild readers may be surprised to know that the “Good News” is that I have been invited to the Crane Thanksgiving Dinner which they celebrate annually in Plymouth (MA).  I requested dark meat on the enclosed reply card set:

The “Bad News” is that I will be served a drumstick:  A Crane drumstick!

P.S. Still on hold (listening to Lizzie and the Spin Doctors) and patiently waiting  for William Arthur’s Holiday Albums to support their sale’s promotion that began August 1.  Go figure.

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

I rarely let people talk for themselves, since I have succumbed to that dreadful habit of talking before listening.  I planned to do so once again when reintroducing Jamie Ostrow to stationers and consumers who hunger for contemporary design, but I was left speechless at the beauty of her new albums (Bar & Bat Mitzvah, Social Stationery and two Wedding albums).   Wow!! – is the only word that describes these stunning designs.   I leave it Jamie to explain herself:

Most of you have landed on this webpage because you are familiar with Jamie Ostrow from having stationery or invitations or holiday cards designed and printed by us Perhaps you visited our store on Madison Avenue in New York City which we had for 15 years or today you shop in a store that carries our products, but for those of you who are unfamiliar with our work please indulge me and allow me to tell you who we are, what we do and what we think.

I decided to go into this business when I realized that what the personalized stationery and invitation world was missing was good contemporary design. Everything was dated or boring (or both!) I knew that I could create colorful exciting designs that would be simple, sophisticated and elegant but fit in, in today’s modern world.

For the past 30 years I have remained true to this goal. Our designs continue to be fresh without being contrived or ever over done. Our designs are as timely as they are classic, incorporating the “in” colors and styles of the seasons with designs that are ageless.

This is not the site for flowers and flourishes – All our products are crisp and clean – relying on the use of typography as the focus of the design. This, along with our use of color and texture in both paper and ink are what make Jamie Ostrow stationery and invitations stand out from the rest.

No one has ever received a Jamie Ostrow invitation that popped – up, dropped – out or otherwise made you think “how gauche”. Nothing over-the-top – just understated, pleasing to the eye and always in good taste.

I would have included a few images to accompany this article, but I hardly know where to start.  I suggest you take a look at Jamie’s website and see for yourself why that edgy New York contemporary design is so refreshing and unique.   From my perspective, it’s the difference between “grown-up” stationery and wallpaper.

In a world where most designers are chasing the Walmart model of creative obsolesce, it is reassuring to see a few true designers and craftspeople that refuse to compromise on the integrity of their vision and art.  Welcome back Jamie!

Richard W. May
Therese Saint Clair

Friday, August 16th, 2013

William Arthur has always been that “go-to” resource for personalized holiday greeting cards and photo cards as Crane would habitually drop the ball late during the holiday season.   Apparently, we are all now in for a serious role-reversal as we await delivery of the William Arthur holiday albums.  The Crane holiday albums have already arrived.

Given the dreary holiday outlook for most employees at William Arthur, it is hardly surprising that timeliness and efficiency have suffered, but we are already receiving phone calls from our clients asking “when do you expect the William Arthur holiday albums to arrive?”   Perhaps, they too have heard the rumors that they better get their orders in early this year.

Frankly, we don’t know for certain when the Holiday Albums will arrive.  One William Arthur employee (retained by Crane) informed us that William Arthur “always ships its holiday albums after September 15th” (clearly, he doesn’t have a clue) and other people – who should know – have suggested sometime between the end of the month and “shortly after Labor Day.”

To suggest that the Italians are running the show at Crane unjustifiably discredits  warm, creative and sensitive Italians.  Let’s just say that the Borgias are in charge and leave it at that.

Richard May
Founding Member Stationers Guild

Friday, August 16th, 2013

I realize that the premise of “reality TV” is to humiliate and demean your colleague or fellow competitor to insure maximum audience interest, but I much prefer the softer edges of humanity where lending a hand is more important than one-upmanship.

Selling fine stationery and custom invitations is not a me business – it is a we business – where a dealer works with the vendor to deliver the end user a highly customized product. The relationship between a dealer and his or her vendor requires a level of confidence and trust that is gradually disappearing as vendors now prefer to deal with the end user directly.   Sadly, online dealers seem incapable of handling their own staff let alone build a “relationship” with a buyer.

As such, it was a breath of fresh air to receive an email from Greg Geller of Boatman Geller.   Clearly, these are people that understand what relationships are all about.

We are a brand that does not sell direct to the end user, nor place our brand in private sales events – like One Kings Lane, Joss & Main, Zulily, Groupon, Gilt Groupe and many more. These kinds of activities undermine you, the retailer and like I have said for years, we view you as a partner in business.

Integrity is a tough sell in today’s stationery market.    Building and sustaining relationships to promote your brand is more than looking into the crystal ball of an Excel spreadsheet.    Stationery dealers across the United States should rise and clap their hands at the integrity and decency with which Boatman Geller conducts their business.

I know the choice has not been easy, but we appreciate your friendship and hope you have a wildly successful holiday season.

Richard May
Founding Member of the Stationers Guild.

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

As I reported last May, Kramer Drive had the good fortune to hook up with Shawn Rabideau to develop a beautiful suite of approximately 16 invitation designs complete with table and menu cards, thank you notes and a reply card set.

For those not familiar with Shawn Rabideau, he is probably one of the foremost event planners in the United States orchestrating one-of-a-kind intimate dinners, weddings and large corporate events.  While you may not be able to afford Shawn to plan your “intimate” party for 500, you can certainly get the benefit of Shawn’s impeccable taste and vision with the Shawn Rabideau invitation suite from Kramer Drive.

Internet images fail to do justice to the explosion of Rabideau colors that are carefully orchestrated to embrace all elements of the invitation suite.    Some may find these designs great for weddings, while others may opt for a Bar Mitzvah or special occasion, but all of his lovely designs are beautifully and efficiently captured by the good folks at Kramer Drive in their latest Album release.

Rabideau and Kramer are a marriage made in heaven and we are thrilled to be carrying this delightful paper outcome of his stunning creativity.

When you see stationery and invitations of this quality and design, it makes you proud to be in the stationery industry and to be able to share these great designs with our clients.

It’s a pleasure to work with young, fun and creative people who actually care about service quality.   We love to do business with Kramer Drive.

Well done!

Sheila P. May
Thérèse Saint Clair

Friday, August 9th, 2013

I am sure that most everybody has heard the European version of ethnic profiling:

In Heaven… The mechanics are German The chefs are French The police are British The lovers are Italian

And everything is organised by the Swiss.

In Hell… The mechanics are French The police are German The chefs are British The lovers are Swiss

And everything is organised by the Italians.

Most people can still spare a chuckle unless of course you are a Crane dealer.   As some of you may remember, the re-branded Crane & Co. has been making fine cotton paper for well over 200 years.  Service quality has never been great because they were the Hertz of the industry and didn’t need to try harder to please anyone.

Last year, someone had the bright idea to “build the Crane brand” and hired an “outside consultant” to create efficiency in the Crane operation.   While Crane was never anyone’s conception of paradise unless it happened to be a wayward hiker on the Appalachian Trail who had inadvertently stumbled into Dalton (MA), the advisory firm has now turned Crane into a virtual hell-hole for dealers and employees alike.

(Editor’s Note:  I have always been suspicious of the benefit  of outside consultants, but never more so than the deviousness of the person that hired them in the first place.  It was a common joke within the banking industry, that one “always hired an outside consultant to rid the organization of competent managers” who might question the motives of an unscrupulous organization climber.   The advisory firm’s recommendations were inevitably the views of the executive who hired the “outside” consultants and he (or she) would then use the consultant’s “findings” to get rid of real or imagined advisories whose views differed from his or her own.  Essentially, it is like hiring a mercenary to do your dirty work so you can keep your hands clean and have a clear conscious by blaming the consultant.)

I suspect that someone – could it be ex-McKinsey alum Stephen DeFalco? – orchestrated the palace coup for reasons that are still not readily apparent.   In any event, the deterioration in customer service is  alarming as Crane begins to integrate the operations of William Arthur, which it acquired last year.

Many dealers now feel that Crane will be unable to process personalized holiday orders this Fall, which for many dealers would be a financial disaster.

Grinch – Universal Studios

From my vantage point – as a Crane dealer – Crane service quality is sinking faster than the Titanic.  Should we all break out into chorus and sing “Nearer my God to Thee” or simply wait until the Grinch comes down from Mt. Crumpit to tell us what we can all  do with the Crane Engraved Christmas Tree?  I wish I had an answer, but sadly all of Crane’s Muppets are currently re-branding.

Crane, you are lost but not forgotten.  There still is time to right the sinking ship, but PLEASE don’t hire another consultant.  Your loyal dealers deserve better and it is a terrible tragedy to see a company with the traditions of Crane to be so terribly mismanaged.   Even Paul Revere might send you a Paperless Post note of concern, but sadly communication between Heaven and Hell is not good.

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