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

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Elum, one of the leading designers and printers of letterpress wedding invitations is currently offering a promotion which allows you to receive 25 FREE invitations for a minimum order of 75 invitations.  This special promotion is available through May 31st, so take action now.

If you are interested in the elegant and subtle texture of letterpress printing, drop into visit a stationery store in your neighborhood to see Elum’s beautiful new designs.

Don’t procrastinate any longer. Visit your local stationer and see Elum’s great letterpress wedding invitation designs.

Richard W. May

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

A prominent executive from a very well known Public Relations (“PR”) firm walked into our store a couple of weeks ago looking for new corporate stationery. This had the potential of being an attractive and mutually beneficial relationship. Since he was launching a new company, we spent about an hour designing an invitation and announcement for the new firm.

Several days later we received a very nice letter indicating that his firm wanted to give us all of their stationery business “as long as our prices were competitive.” I am sure that many of you have heard similar nonsense and, perhaps, some of you have scrambled to come up with something that is both tasteful and price competitive – at least in your mind.

While it is possible to have an intelligent conversation with your client to evaluate the various price/value tradeoffs, I have personally found that most business executives don’t have the time or interest to consider the tradeoffs. With the exception of a few legal firms, some designers and a handful of financial services firms, most executives are more concerned about functionality  than taste. It’s funny, but firms will spend tens of thousands of dollars on their corporate website or a logo and buy their business cards from Kinkos.

There is no easy way to deal with these clients (sorry about stereotyping), so I generally ask them whether they want their corporate stationery to be “White Castle” hamburger “price-competitive” or something closer to Daniel Boulud’s Burger Royale which clocks in at $99. This generally gets their attention.

I then quickly follow it up with something in their own business sphere: “If I were interested in developing a 5 year advertising program for our business, would your firm be the most price competitive?”Clearly, there is no simple answer to that question.  Likewise, there is no simple answer to what makes personalized stationery or custom invitations “price competitive.”  It depends on what you are comparing them against.

Without a frame of reference (i.e. other paper samples and/or identical printing processes) there is no way to determine whether your recommendations are price competitive.  If you proceed down this slippery path of trying to find “competitively priced” business stationery for your client without a clear guidelines from your client, you are only negotiating against yourself.  My advice:  Don’t waste your time. A sure sign that you are being played is if they don’t have a budget.    Don’t share your expertise with someone a fact-finding mission.

For instance, there is a world of difference between a letterpress wedding invitation from Elum and the dreary wedding invitations offered by Crane on the Paperless Post website.    Is it simply a matter of cost or does style and good taste play a role in an individual’s purchasing decision?

I think the consumer is wise enough to sort through the cost benefit analysis if they are given the proper information.   Sadly, the internet is not the vehicle to display the craftsmanship that goes into making fine stationery:  It’s simply a two-dimensional world of low-resolution images.   While the brand name is important, if it is stacked on the same internet shelf with “Brand X” invitations that look similar, why expect the consumer to pay premium pricing?  Why a 200 year-old firm wants to compromise its acclaimed craftsmanship and elegant design to bottom fish for a “new audience” is simply incomprehensible to those who treasure fine stationery.

Richard May
Founding Member of the Stationers Guild

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

Now through June 30th, please select one the great Spring Promotional options when your order your wedding invitations or Bar Mitzvah invitations from Dauphine Press.

1. ONE FREE MATCHING NOTE CARD for every invitation ordered. Thank your guests with style. Complimentary 1-color note cards with any wedding invitation order. Matching blank envelopes included. 2. 30 FREE INVITATIONS with your order of 100 invitations. A perfect insurance policy for a growing guest list. Order 100 or more letterpress wedding elements and receive 30 free! Receive 100, pay for 70. 3. FREE PERSONALIZED TAGS to add elegance and style to the packaging of your guest wedding favor. Tags will coordinate with your wedding invitation design, using the same paper and ink.

4. 15% OFF ANY INVITATION ORDER. Now your dream wedding invitation can fit into your budget. Discount applies to printed pieces only. Embellishments not included.

Dauphine Press is one of our favorites letterpress companies from the West Coast. These contemporary designs are certain to add a fresh new look to make your wedding or Bar Mitzvah event even more spectacular.

Sheila P. May
Therese Saint Clair

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

First of all, a disclaimer:  I love Saturn Press.  It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but I love the retro designs, the haiku’s and the simplicity of fine letterpress printing  on “lush card stock of recycled wood pulp that has a texture similar to the papers of 100 years ago.”

While these are certainly characteristics worth promoting, most of all I respect the passion and  integrity of designer Jane Goodrich and  printer James van Pernis who make these beautiful cards on Swan’s Island in Maine near Bar Harbor.

Before you ask – and I get asked frequently – Saturn Press does not have a website and no email.  The best way to contact them is to mail them a letter to the following address:

Saturn Press Post Office Box 368

Swan’s Island, Maine 04685

Jane explained that they support “snail mail” and the best way to get their undivided attention is to take the time to write them a personal note.   If you have a catalog and order form, you may fax it to 207-526-4001.  I don’t recommend a phone call, but if you insist the phone number is 207-526-4000.

Saturn Press will be closed from mid-February to early April.   The weather in Maine is not particularly hospitable at that time of year and many water pipes freeze so the water is cut off.  In any event, their new 2013 catalog will begin shipping in April so request your copy now.  A personal handwritten note is the most effective form of communication.

Here are several reasons (in no particular order) why Saturn Press should be on everyone’s wish list this year:

  • Saturn Press walks-the-walk in terms of environmental integrity.  All of their papers are sourced from the George A. Whiting Paper Company in Menasha, Wisconsin.  Saturn Press writes, “We know that Whiting paper may cost us a bit more than that made by larger corporations, but we also know the mill is sustainable.  We know the water that exits the mill is cleaner than the water that came in.  The family sails on Lake Winnebago, just around the corner!  We know the faces of the people who make our paper, and that a company of 53 employees results in a real team effort for quality.    Note:  George Whiting has been making papers since 1882 and the printing mill is now run by his great-great grandson.
  • Their designs and print quality are comforting and reassuring without the trite expressions that characterize most greeting cards and holiday card lines.  Less is more and this is certainly the case with Saturn Press.
  • The papers, designs and printing are 100% “Made in the USA”.  Gosh, that’s novel.
  • Jane and James have been making their cards the same way since 1986.  No compromise on artistic or printing integrity that characterizes much of what has taken place in the industry.  How refreshing.

To quote Rainer Maria Rilke from one of Saturn Press’ best designs (“Juncos #0565):  ”And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.”

Richard May
Founding Member of the Stationers Guild

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Julie Holcomb, one of the pioneers of fine letterpress printing, is offering a 15% sales promotion on wedding invitations and all wedding papers through February 29th. Julie Holcomb does not sell online and her stunning letterpress invitations on thick cotton paper can only be purchased through a limited number of leading retailers across the United States.
For close to three decades, Julie has been a trend-setter in fine letterpress printing. Her classic designs, edged borders and unrivalled attention to detail place her designs at the apex of letterpress printing. When bridal couples ask about letterpress, stationery dealers fortunate enough to carry her line will generally lead with Julie Holcomb.

Clients can now supply their own art which will be digitally enhanced and applied to the back of invitation to further increase the level of personalization. If you are considering letterpress, visit Julie Holcomb’s website to learn more about her environmentally-friendly letterpress printing and locate a store in your neighborhood that sells her beautiful line.

Monday, September 19th, 2011

The growth of letterpress invitations, letterpress save the date cards, baby announcements and letterpress stationery within the last decade isn’t surprising. Reasonably priced second-hand letterpress printers have permitted a lot of skilled artisans and designers to apply their creativeness to make gorgeous announcements and stationery using this very old printing technique.

Similar to the process utilized in engraving, letterpress makes use of polymer or metal dies to “press” ink into soft card-stock, mainly cotton. Each and every ink color is applied using a individual printing press run, which calls for persistence and much skill to have the close registration needed to accurately align colors and motif designs.

Every May during the National Stationery Show in New York City, new letterpress vendors take center stage to market their latest styles. Even though letterpress was considered to be a bit of a novel idea some 5 to 10 years in the past, most of the new letterpress printers and designers simply do not have the good taste, originality and, many times, the talent and expertise to produce eye-catching letterpress wedding invitations. In fact, most “new” designs offer little that is unique. Truth be told, the stationery market is over loaded with letterpress.

Letterpress printers with deep traditions within profession, including Julie Holcomb, Elum, Oblation (letterpress images shown here), Press New York, Page and Real Card Studio still build on their craft and their firm hand and passion for the craft continues to set the standard for letterpress printing.

While some letterpress printers now sell on the internet, the majority of letterpress artisans market their stationery by using skilled retailers across the United States. Quoting pioneer Julie Holcomb, “If you are like most people, you have never ordered any kind of custom printing prior to ordering your wedding invitations. You can benefit a great deal from the experience of your local stationer, who orders all kinds of custom printing, from many vendors, all the time. They’ll help you make sure you’re covering all the bases and making decisions you’ll be happy with for a long time.”

Julie’s advice is truly worth following. If you have your heart set on letterpress for the wedding invitations, it is advisable to see a professional stationer in your neighborhood.

Sheila P. May is the owner of Therese Saint Clair, a stationery store located in Greenwich, CT. A founding member of the Stationers Guild, she writes frequently about national and regional custom wedding invitation trends.

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

The increased popularity of letterpress invitations, letterpress save-the-date cards, birth announcements and letterpress stationery over the past several years is not surprising. Affordable second-hand letterpress printers have permitted a lot of skilled artisans and designers to apply their creative thinking to create beautiful announcements and stationery using this centuries-old printing technique.

Similar to the printing process used for engraving, letterpress makes use of polymer or metal dies to “press” ink into pliable papers, mainly cotton. Every ink color is applied using a separate press run, which calls for persistence and great skill to obtain the close registration needed to correctly align colors and motif designs.

Every May for the National Stationery Show in New York City, new letterpress firms take center stage to market their latest styles. Even though letterpress was looked upon as a bit of a novelty some 5 to 10 years back, most of the new letterpress printers and designers simply lack the flair, creativity and, more often than not, the talent and experience to make attractive letterpress stationery. In reality, most of the “new” designs offer little that’s unique. To be honest, the stationery market is over loaded with letterpress.

Letterpress printers with deep roots within profession, like Julie Holcomb, Elum, Oblation (letterpress images displayed here), Press New York, Page and Real Card Studio still build on their craft and their sturdy hand and love for the craft continues to raise the bar for letterpress printing.

Although some letterpress printers have migrated online, the majority of letterpress artisans market their stationery through experienced retailers across the United States. Quoting pioneer Julie Holcomb, “If you are like most people, you have never ordered any kind of custom printing prior to ordering your wedding invitations. You can benefit a great deal from the experience of your local stationer, who orders all kinds of custom printing, from many vendors, all the time. They’ll help you make sure you’re covering all the bases and making decisions you’ll be happy with for a long time.”

Julie’s advice is worthwhile following. If you have your heart set on letterpress for the wedding invitations, it is prudent to see a professional stationer in your neighborhood.

Sheila P. May is the owner of Therese Saint Clair, a stationery store located in Greenwich, CT. A founding member of the Stationers Guild, she writes frequently about national and local Custom Wedding Invitation trends.

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Reflecting on the 2011 National Stationery Show, I came across this  Blog post entitled “Don’t take it personally”  by Seth Godin, who was the Keynote speaker at the NSS Future Conference.    Here is an extract from his post:

QUOTE (Slightly Edited)

“Don’t take it personally.”

This is tough advice. Am I supposed to take it like a chair? Sometimes it seems as though the only way to take it is personally. That customer who doesn’t like your product (your best work) or that running buddy who doesn’t want to run with you any longer…

Here’s the thing: it’s never personal. It’s never about you. How could it be? That person doesn’t truly know you … All they know is themselves.

When someone moves on, when she walks away or even badmouths you or your work, it’s not personal about you. It’s personal about her. Her agenda, her decisions, her story.

Do your work, the best way you know how. Is there any other option?

UNQUOTE

Indeed, is there any other option?  Sure, you can exit the playing field and move on, having let someone else’s opinion determine your relevancy and/or artistic value.   Seth Godin’s advice is for leaders or “tribal chiefs” as he refers to them who are not intimidated by failure and certainly not the opinions of others.

With these words of caution from Seth Godin, I would like to reflect on some of the major trends I saw emerging from this year’s National Stationery Show.    Most certainly, you shouldn’t take my views “personally” since my objective is to create a dialogue and not to discredit anyone’s work or business strategy.   The business is hard enough for another naysayer in our midst.

Stationery Trends & Observations

  1. The Chinese have Landed:   This is the first time that I can recall a strong Chinese presence at the NSS.  It seemed that they occupied a dozen or so booths and while I didn’t see a great deal of activity, their presence signifies that more cheap imports will be arriving soon.    I admire the craftsmanship and work ethic of the Chinese; however, their business model is very much different than our own.  Designers and manufacturers who outsource production to China do so at their own peril.    You may win the cost-efficiency battle, but you are most certain to hasten the demise of your brand and, quite possibly, the industry.
  2. Too much Letterpress:   I adore letterpress, but there are simply too many suppliers.   Let’s face it, most anyone with an old press and Photoshop can produce “unique” and “eco-friendly” stationery and invitations.   As a stationery store, I am reluctant to take on new lines since many of the designs look the same.  While I commend everyone on “doing your own thing,” it seems to me that only the established lines that maintain quality standards and continue to innovate will survive.
  3. Pricing Models –  Established Lines Hold the Line:    I have long been concerned that manufacturers and designers of quality paper products would succumb to the temptation to lower quality to compete with the “fast-food” paper companies that now dominate our industry.   Meetings at the NSS convinced me that a line in the sand has now been drawn and serious brands will no longer follow Alice down the pricing hole to oblivion.    I welcome this change and believe that consumers will opt for higher quality products at price levels that can sustain the industry.  Maybe this is wishful thinking, but this is the first time in several years where industry leaders have said “No mas!” to price cutting. 
  4. Online Sales & Affiliate Marketing:    It is good to see that Crane has re-established an affiliate marketing program.  Other companies that sell online should do the same thing.  While this is all well-and-good,  these affilitate programs will be of little use to bricks and mortar stores unless they take advantage of them.  Affiliate marketing is like learning to ride a bicycle:  lot’s of bruises and scrapes as you learn to ride and pretty easy after you get the hang of it.    I fear that many stores will not do so and the benefits of leveraging one’s sales by providing an online option will be missed.  In effect, Crane and others have given  stores a vital piece of online real estate and it is our responsibility to make it work.   In order to accelerate that process, I will shortly be expanding the functionality of the StationersGuild website into an affiliate marketing laboratory to test various online marketing strategies.  In addition, an affiliate website, Rite4U.com will be focused on best practices to build, maintain and market your local business online.  There is a lot to learn and it is changing each day, but at least you won’t have to repeat my mistakes.

Again. let me thank the organizers of the National Stationery Show and particularly Patti Stracher for keeping the flame burning.    Everybody approaches NSS differently and if I have stepped on anyone’s toes, “don’t take it personally.” We are in the boat together.

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Just received an announcement that Jamie Ostrow has resurfaced and has set up shop in East Hampton, New York.  While her website in not yet up, Jamie has contacted many of her dealers to encourage them to order her new letterpress invitation album and stationery album.  Her holiday album is also available and we understand that she is also working on a Wedding Invitation Album. 

According to Jamie, she will be manufacturing on premises “so that we can control all phases of productions, from order taking through shipping.  Some of you know that for the last several years, we relied on outside printers, now we’re back on our own presses.”

The biggest change Jamie’s loyal customers will notice is that Jamie Ostrow has now moved to letterpress rather than engraving.  While her sharp design, contemporary font styles and very clever wording remain, letterpress will give her  invitations, stationery and holiday cards a “softer” edge.  Personally, I think her clients will be pleased. 

If you are interested in receiving more information about the Jamie Ostrow line, please email Jamie at [email protected]

Richard W. May

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

One of my special treats at the National Stationery Show is to visit the Saturn Press booth and see their old-fashioned designs on letterpress greeting cards.  It is a welcome relief to see something done in good taste with a printing process that brings back memories of a time when craft and tradition were still appreciated.  The Stationery Show has changed a lot in recent years, but Saturn Press confidently sticks to their traditions.  I am most happy that they have chosen to do so!  Sadly, Saturn Press will not be exhibiting this year and I for one will miss them.

Saturn Press was established in 1986 by designer Jane Goodrich and her printer James van Pernis.  Based in Swan’s Island, Maine near Bar Harbor, Jane had set about acquiring “letterpress stuff” from typesetters and printing companies that were “modernizing.”   With the simple premise that quality should never be compromised for expediency, Jane and James used their heavy presses to create a tactile impression that modern printing cannot duplicate.   Their client “saw something authentic, they saw something real.”

Now some 25 years pioneering a resurgence in letterpress printing, Jane and James (humorously referring to themselves as the “Grandpa and Grandma of Letterpress”) note that “we had no idea we’d be the link between the retiring generation of printers who rarely printed beyond black ink, to the new generation of designer-printers, who cherish the beauty only letterpress can create.  Let the craftsmanship continue!”

Saturn Press does not have a website or even an email address.  Honestly, who would want one after experiencing the beautiful scenery and light of the Maine coast.   In their most recent catalogue which contains beautiful samples of their greeting cards, bookplates and calling cards, they remark “Shopping the Internet is like standing beneath Niagara Falls with a teaspoon in order to get a sip of water.”  How true!

They continue with their letter of introduction to their new catalogue:  “So enjoy the catalog, comfortably knowing the only teaspoon you will require is the one needed to stir your tea or coffee, and the pages will graciously accommodate any spills.  In perusing our offerings you may find that your cup runneth over, but we guarantee you won’t leave feeling all wet.”  How gracious and reassuring.

We have been buying Saturn Press cards for years and will continue to do so.  My husband compares it to an “out-of-body experience” or “time-warp” when you run across their lovely greeting cards.  To appease my husband, we always buy six boxes of his “favorite” holiday greeting card (#0565 Juncos) which has two birds sitting on a leafless branch with the following quote by Rainer Maria Rilke, “And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.”

I had planned to include a few images in this Blog post, but realize that digital impressions do not do justice to the beautiful creations of Saturn Press.  Thank you Jane and Jim for preserving the craftsmanship and beauty of fine paper and printing.

Sheila P. May
Thérèse Saint Clair

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