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

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Several hours ago, I received this interesting note from a recent Guild reader:

QUOTE

Dear Stationers Guild:

Crane cards are for stuffed shirts.

Looking for exuberant cards for holidays and your blog goes on and on about Crane stationers who make truly boring formal holiday cards for stuffed shirts.

Constance Kay Inc. is a lot of fun, but I also want alternatives and I am very tired of having to purchase Papyrus Cards in emergency situations such as I am working in some god forsaken place with only – horrors – Hallmark around.

Perhaps your blog isn’t a total loss and I will find clues as to get other fun things such as diffraction grating wrapping papers.

Regards,

UNQUOTE

Firstly,  I appreciate any relevant feedback from a human being since most feedback comes from spammers in Eastern Europe.

Secondly, I agree that there is a tendency to think formal correspondence (referred to as “Crane cards”) is something for “stuffed suits.”  I don’t happen to share this opinion, but clearly written correspondence doesn’t seem to resonate with the vast majority of our socially mobile population.

Thirdly, I feel compelled to tell the kind reader that I wouldn’t hold out much hope about finding information about “diffraction grating wrapping papers” anytime soon on the Stationers Guild website. It is a subject that I take as seriously as “Romancing a Snow Shovel.”

But more to the point, I think I would like to spend the next few paragraphs to defend the importance of a handwritten note. “Defend” is probably not the right word, since I know of no one – stuffed shirt or not – who wouldn’t want to receive a handwritten note rather than a banal Tweet –  Tweety Bird included!

Now Crane stationery or a unique greeting card from Constance Kay may not be the reader’s thing, but quite frankly both are far superior to the rather pedestrian greeting cards and stationery you can find at retail establishments.

The issue is generally not the quality of the greeting card or stationery, but one’s willingness to make an effort to meaningfully “communicate” with another human being. To say that “formal correspondence card” is for “stuffed shirts,” is akin to saying that Twitter is for “illiterate teenagers.”  I suspect that either assumption is probably wrong.

Making an effort to exchange a handwritten note requires a level of personal commitment to a relationship that many people feel is not warranted in today’s digital world.  I, like others, feel strongly about the importance of the personal expression achieved in a handwritten note and plan to continue the time-honored tradition of exchanging an annual paper holiday card with distant friends.

If others feel the same, write on!

Happy Valentine’s Day (a lovely letterpress greeting card from Oblation)

Richard W. May
Founding Member of the Stationers Guild

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Hi all,

Just a quick update on some positive stationery trends that I have been hearing at the International Gift Show in NYC.  As many of you now know, many stationery, paper and greeting card designers now show at regional, national and international gift shows rather than the National Stationery Show in May at the Javits Center.

Found below are a few sound bites (paraphrased quotes but no third-party verification) that I have picked up:

  • Several Vendors:   “Atlanta was pretty good – flat to slightly up from last year – with less buyers but more volume.”
  • A stationery store owner:  “I find Atlanta intimidating – far too much stuff and difficult to navigate around.  I much prefer NYC.”
  • A greeting card vendor:  “Our business in paper greeting cards is exploding.  We have no idea why, but I suspect that people are realizing there is little ‘real’ intimacy on the Internet.  I guess relationships are personal.”  Editor’s Note:  I too saw a wide array of very tasteful and nicely printed (mostly letterpress) greeting cards.
  • Several vendors:  “Unexpected surge in demand noted by independent paper brokers and printing companies for 100% cotton and high quality letterhead and standard business paper stock now that Crane & Co. has dropped many lines.  We’ve got to scramble to get this right.”
  • Personal observations:  “A surprising number of fill-in invitations surfaced at the shows.  I believe that printed invitations for casual affairs (birthdays, etc.) has been greatly impacted by the Internet, but now people feel the need to add a personal touch.  It may not be much, but it is certainly reassuring.”
  • Personal observations:  “There are quite a few vendors living the ‘green life’ like Oblation and Saturn Press rather than those that simply talk about it.  I am hopeful that this talk of sustainability and the environment will shed its commercial marketing deception and truly  embrace and celebrate the integrity of the the movement.”  Editors Note:  Personally, I think that “greenwash” will continue as companies deceive consumers with bogus environmental claims.  As Mark Twain said, “It’s much easier to fool someone than it is to explain to them that they have been fooled.”

More later.

Richard W. May

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Over the last several years there has been a deluge of designers and printers introducing new styles of letterpress invitations.   Often considered a west coast phenomenon, letterpress printing has gradually displaced engraving as the choice of bridal couples for wedding invitations.

While some of the new letterpress designs and print quality reflect the standards of some of early pioneers in the letterpress revival, most letterpress designs fall flat.   As with any product, oversupply tends to lead to deterioration in quality and price competition at the lower end of the market.

Letterpress wedding invitations are not a commodity and there are huge differences in the quality of the end-product provided to the consumer.  This is not readily apparent when you see the many exaggerated claims of online printing companies hawking their latest letterpress wedding invitation designs.  In virtually all cases, these hyped claims fail miserably when compared to the mastery of letterpress printers who have plying their craft for a number of years.

For instance, if you compare the print quality, papers and tasteful designs of printers such as Julie Holcomb, Press New York, Oblation, Elum and Page Stationery (to name just a few) with most of the newcomer’s letterpress invitations, you will immediately see the difference.  Granted, these letterpress wedding invitations tend to be more expensive, but only the buyer can determine whether the print outcome is worth the difference in price.

The best way to experience the beauty of letterpress printing is to visit an experienced stationery store in your neighborhood to compare designs and feel the papers.    Frankly, color resolutions on the internet fail to capture the rich subtleties of letterpress printing.

Richard May
Thérèse Saint Clair

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

The growth of letterpress invitations, letterpress save the date cards, baby announcements and letterpress stationery over the past ten years is not unexpected. Affordable second-hand letterpress printing presses have made way for a lot of skilled designers and artisans to indulge their imagination to produce beautiful wedding invitations and stationery using this centuries-old printing process.

Much like the process used for engraving, letterpress uses polymer or metal dies to “press” ink into malleable card-stock, principally cotton. Every color is applied using a individual press run, which calls for persistence and appreciable skill to get the close registration needed to correctly align colors and design images.

Each May during the National Stationery Show in New York City, new letterpress vendors take center stage to introduce their new styles. Even though letterpress was regarded as somewhat of a novelty some a few years back, many of the new letterpress printers simply don’t have the flair, originality and, oftentimes, the ability and expertise to produce pleasing letterpress stationery. The truth is, most “new” designs offer little that’s unique. Truth be told, the stationery marketplace is over loaded with letterpress.

Letterpress printers with deep roots in the craft, such as Julie Holcomb, Elum, Oblation (letterpress images shown here), Press New York, Page and Real Card Studio still build on their craft and their sturdy hand and passion for the craft continues to elevate the bar for letterpress printing.

Although some letterpress printers now sell online, most letterpress artisans sell their invitations by using seasoned retailers throughout 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 wise to talk to an experienced stationer in your area.

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 NYC Wedding Invitations.

Friday, September 30th, 2011

The emergence of letterpress wedding invitations, letterpress save the date announcements, baby announcements and letterpress stationery within the last decade isn’t unexpected. Easily affordable second-hand letterpress printers have made way for a lot of gifted artisans and designers to apply their creativeness to produce beautiful invitations and stationery using this very old printing process.

Similar to the process used in engraving, letterpress employs polymer or metal dies to “press” ink into pliable card-stock, generally cotton. Every color is applied using a separate printing press run, which demands patience and considerable skill to have the close registration needed to properly align colors and motif designs.

Each May during the National Stationery Show in New York City, new letterpress vendors take center stage to introduce their fresh styles. Though letterpress was regarded as being a bit of a novelty some 5 to 10 years back, most of the recent letterpress printers simply do not have the flair, creativity and, in many cases, the ability and expertise to make attractive letterpress wedding invitations. In fact, many of the “new” designs provide little that’s new. Quite frankly, the stationery marketplace is saturated with letterpress.

Letterpress printers with deep traditions within profession, such as Julie Holcomb, Elum, Oblation (letterpress samples shown here), Press New York, Page and Real Card Studio are able to innovate and their firm hand and love for the craft continues to set the standard for letterpress printing.

While a few letterpress printers now sell online, nearly all letterpress artisans market their stationery by way of experienced retailers across the United States. In the words of 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 definitely worth following. If you’ve got your heart set on letterpress for your wedding invitations, it is wise to talk to a professional stationer in your area.

Sheila P. May is the owner of Therese Saint Clair, a stationery store located in Greenwich, CT. A Found Member of the Stationers Guild, she writes frequently about national and  NYC Wedding Invitations trends.

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

The increased popularity of letterpress invitations, letterpress save the date cards, baby announcements and letterpress stationery within the last ten years isn’t surprising. Affordable second-hand letterpress printing presses have allowed a lot of gifted artisans and designers to indulge their creativity to create gorgeous wedding invitations and stationery by using this very old printing process.

Much like the process utilized in engraving, letterpress employs polymer or metal dies to “press” ink into pliable cardstock, primarily cotton. Each and every ink color is applied using a separate press run, which calls for persistence and great skill to have the close registration needed to properly align colors and design images.

Every May at the National Stationery Show in New York City, new letterpress vendors take center stage to display their latest designs. Though letterpress was regarded as somewhat of a novelty some a few years ago, the vast majority of recent letterpress printers and designers simply do not have the good taste, originality and, in many cases, the ability and expertise to make eye-catching letterpress wedding invitations. In fact, most of the “new” designs offer little that’s unique. Truth be told, the stationery market is saturated with letterpress.

Letterpress printers with deep traditions in the profession, like Julie Holcomb, Elum, Oblation, Press New York, Page and Real Card Studio still build on their craft and their sturdy hand and passion for the craft continues to raise the bar for letterpress printing.

While a few letterpress printers now sell online, most letterpress artisans sell their invitations by way of knowledgeable retailers throughout 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 your wedding invitations, it is advisable to talk to an experienced stationer in your neighborhood.

Sheila P. May is the owner of Therese Saint Clair, a stationery store located in Greenwich, CT.   She writes frequently NYC Wedding Invitations.

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.

Monday, January 11th, 2010

This month Oblation Papers & Press will release its new line of wedding invitations called “&” or ampersand.  This trend-setting letterpress design and printing company based in Portland, Oregon has been creating cutting-edge stationery and invitations since 1989.    Oblation uses hand-made cotton paper from recycled fabric scraps to create its custom invitations.

Oblation Press

Late last year, we learned that Oblation would introduce a new line of invitations called “&” or ampersand.  Ron Rich, who together with his wife Jennifer, own Oblation informed me that they had originally intended to call the new designs “Black and White” but finally settled on ampersand.  Like most everything the Rich’s take on, this new line of invitations displays a comtemporary edge while still retaining the great elegance of traditional letterpress designs.

Letterpress Printing

For more information on Oblation’s wedding invitations, contact a guild member store in your neighborhood.   As with most fine stationery, appointments are recommended.

Sheila P. May
Thérèse Saint Clair

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Last Christmas one of my daughters gave me Mark Bittman’s book, Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating.  Clearly more concerned about my growing waistline than my malnourished intellect, my daughter’s inspired gift got me to thinking about calories and food production from an entirely different perspective:  the environment.  In Mr. Bittman’s eye-opening introduction he asserts that, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultual Organization (FAO), “global livestock production is responsible for one-fifth of all greenhouse gases – more than transportation.”

Mark Bittman, the noted food critic for the New York Times, and straight-man to hilarious chef Mario Batali in Spain… On The Road Again, makes an utterly convincing case for reducing our meat consumption and  ”save ourselves and our planet (and some money) by doing so.”  While I have not yet swapped cow for tofu, my daughters will be delighted that I have decided to moderate my diet and eat more responsibly.  In addition to practical reasons for modifying our eating habits, Food Matters has 75 great recipes to help facilitate that change.

You may be asking, what does stationery have to do with global livestock production?   A cynical answer might be that if everyone were to skip the double cheeseburger and instead send out a hand-written note the world be a better place.  Surely, a nice piece of social correspondence doesn’t  use  any more paper than the wrapping paper and bag that accompanies your 700 calorie burger.

While it is fashionable to be “green” I am always a bit skeptical of “green” claims when it comes to paper.   Scot Case of TerraChoice discusses the seven sins of greenwash which are routinely violated in most ”green” stationery promotions.   I am not sure if these questionable claims are deliberate, but stretching the truth seems to be a common and growing trend within the stationery industry.  It is indeed unfortunate as there are so many passionate and talented designers and craftspeople like Julie Holcomb, Oblation Papers and Elum Designs where “green” is a way of life rather than misleading promotional hype.

Mr. Bittman’s book on eating habits and global livestock production brings home a sad truth:  We seem to spend far too much time focusing micro-issues while  the “big green picture” gradually slips out of control.  Certainly, global livestock production and packaging, which represents more than 40% of all paper production, are far more serious environmental concerns than the simple yet elegant act of sending a personal note.

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

Sheila May, the owner of Therese Saint Clair, writes that “business stationery is the simplest, most obvious and  cost-efficient advertising, marketing and public relations vehicle your business will ever use.”  Sheila goes on to say “Hand someone your business card and you are handing someone your brand, your identity and your professional credibility.  What you are on paper is what you are instantly perceived to be in business.”

In his book, The Etiquette Advantage in Business, Peter Post writes “business stationery is a form of public relations.”  We often say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and many business relationships begin with the simple exchange of business cards.  Says Sheila, “it’s surprising to see how little time business people spend on designing a proper suite of stationery.  They are often shocked to see the difference that fine stationery can make:  it’s like giving your business a fresh coat of paint.”

While Crane & Co. remains a popular choice for business stationery, many fine paper companies have greatly expanded their business offerings.  In particular, we have noted that a number of fashionable invitation designers now have now expanded their calling card and business card lines.  We recently received samples of letterpress business cards from Oblation that are simply stunning and quite well-priced.

If your business stationery could use a facelift, we strongly recommend contacting a Stationers Guild store in your neighborhood.  Also, we would encourge you to consult the Stationers Guild website which has some excellent advice on designing your business stationery.

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