Antiques. Art. Architecture. Artisans. Avenues. Books. Boutiques. Cafes. Collectibles. Concerts. Concept stores. Contemporary art. Culture. Curiosities. Design. Desserts. Details. Edge. Efficiency. Fashion. Food. Funk. Galleries. Grit. History. Humility. Integrity. Interiors. Magnificence. Marble. Markets. Masterpieces. Museums. Objects. Paper. Parks. Restaurants. Retro. Shops. Spaces. Stationery. Statues. Style. Systems. Tradition. Typography. Vintage. Wine. Wonder…
Vienna has it ALL. I totally fell in love…and hope the little photo ramble below captures at least part of it. If you haven’t been…do your creative soul a huge favor and go! I’ve included a few of my favorite spots at the end…but really I’d recommend you just let your feet wander and get lost in a ramble of your own…
A few of my favorites…
Antique prints and posters @ Irenaeskraus / Scandi design stuff @ Copenhagen Hus / Cool fashion and the coolest mannequins @ Park / Vintage fashion magic and cafe @ Burggasse24 / Lamps, rugs and other bits @ Pop Shop / Old school apothecary + clean beauty @ St Charles Apothecary / Amazing art books + catalogues at contemporary art museum Belvedere21 / Hipster cafe and bookstore @ Phil / And you must must eat and drink @ Ulrich and @ Figar
Vienna’s official tourist site is also pretty great for recommendations!
Of course I leave you with this…
In the wedding invitation world, it’s not often that you see four runs of letterpress, and well, it’s not ever that you come across a client with a CMYK color scheme. Throw in a vellum layer (obvs), bright yellow RSVP postcards, velvety hot pink envelopes, super sleek white-ink address bands…and what could possibly go wrong! Other than Hurricane Florence potentially threatening to rain all over these babies on their way to the post office…not much. Presenting what is without a doubt my most memorable project of 2018…and the FUNNEST wedding invitation suite I’ve worked on, ever.
A big thank you to:
…my clients Caitlin + JT for so willingly and boldly transcending all conventions…and for always choosing rosé over coffee for our meetings;
…Envelopments for their unparalleled paper stock selection and white ink printing;
…Moo for their luxe AF postcards;
…as always, the fabulous Ms. Almond of Shed Letterpress for running these through her presses four fabulous times (see the timelapses below!);
…and of course, my mother, father and brother who were there amidst all the hurricane chaos to trim, glue, score, fold, assemble, package, sign, seal and deliver these babies.
It takes a village my friends.
And now for the timelapses…
If you missed the post on their Save the Dates…check those out here!
It just dawned on me as I was dropping in these images, that one of my earliest memories of Paris is standing around at the Lancôme counter in the Galeries Lafayette waiting for my mom to buy her lipstick. I still remember the shade, No.68. I can still recall that overwhelming scent of countless perfumes meeting in the air...I can hear the salespeople chattering away in French...huge black, white and red shopping bags hang from every hand, with the Lafayette logo scrawled on them in messy, rockstaresque calligraphy. I somehow didn't think of this at all while I worked on these, but I guess that's the wonderful thing about memories, impressions and inspiration...always lurking somewhere in the background, ready to take shape in a new form. This collection is inspired by shades of lipstick, rockstar handwriting (quite similar to that old Lafayette logo in fact), and some bold monochrome options...because what else is Parisian style but a whole, lot, of black.
Of course these are semi-custom...so if shades of lipstick aren't your thing, we can change the color and do all kinds of other things to make them your own. Can't wait to hear your ideas and see these beauties in print. Email email@example.com for enquiries or more information. They start at $4.75/ea including white envelopes. And while you're here...do check out the Copenhagen and Amsterdam collections too.
Paris // 001
Paris // 002
Paris // 003
Paris // 004
Paris // 005
If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I've been excited about launching some new semi-custom wedding stationery collections for the last few weeks. If you haven't seen them yet...go see them! But before you do that...have a look at this first order that's about to go out. These Save the Dates have brought such a happy, summery vibe to my space that I am actually sad to see them go...and had to spend an afternoon photographing them before they do. [FYI, the table I photographed them on was about knee height, pushed up against a window for natural daylight, with no interns around to help...so I just want you to know that I really put my back into it.]
Enjoy, happy summer, and stay tuned for more new collections soon...
Ok, and now you can make banana pancakes and pretend like its the weekend.
Introducing the Copenhagen + Amsterdam Collections...
Two cities, eight save the dates, countless ways to make it your own. The standard (but let's be honest, still pretty luxe) option is 4x6", printed on luxurious 600gsm Mohawk Superfine, and starts at $4.75/card, including envelopes. Optional upgrades are: think bigger and go for 5x7"...think deeper and have them letterpressed...or think wilder and add some hand-finished touches. You can also choose from a selection of accent color stripes for the edging or add something fun to the back. Of course, each one can be turned into a wedding invitation set if you want to keep things on brand. As I said...countless options, and will share some examples soon, but in the meantime, scroll through, get inspired, fall in love...and get in touch! Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to place an order, or fill out the contact form here.
Copenhagen // 001
Copenhagen // 002
Copenhagen // 003
Copenhagen // 004
Amsterdam // 001
Amsterdam // 002
Amsterdam // 003
Amsterdam // 004
Email email@example.com to place an order or if you have any questions. Look forward to working with you to make these your own. xo
It's amazing how many people told me in the weeks leading up to this event that they're not a fan of Valentine's Day...don't celebrate it or believe in it, aren't into it..."don't do Valentine's"...or straight up HATE it. Really though? HATE? Seems like a rather strong emotion to harbour over something that's essentially an over-commercialised celebration of LOVE. I'm not a huge fan of the over-commercialised part either, I'm definitely allergic to the cliche aesthetics of all the mass-produced crap that gets put out in shop windows, and also glitter...I HATE glitter. But LOVE? I'm a huge fan of love. And for me, that's what this third edition of our pre-Valentine's Open Studio was all about. Everything I LOVE.
Paper, jazz, literature, stationery, humour, champagne. Political pencils (The Future is Female and Bring Barack Back!)...Sade song lyrics emblazoned on coasters...fun millenial note cards (Carpe #DM and unBAElieavable)...deep novelistic love notes by Tolstoy, Hugo, Hardy and co., and close to 1,000 origami butterflies fluttering the night away. We also launched our first ever notebook this year: 256 pages of premium Munken paper, thread-stitched and cloth bound (in Germany!) with the words LIMA OSCAR VICTOR ECHO debossed in gold foil on the front. Gah, just typing out those notebook specs gives me butterflies. There were also some brand new jazz-inspired prints I called "improvisations"...but I think those might deserve a post of their own which I'll do soon. In the meantime...hit play on the song below...scroll through...and whether you hate Valentine's or not...Let there be love.
All event photos by the incredibly talented John Healey.
There’s always a moment a few days before an Open Studio when I’m forking out hundreds of dollars for bubbly, catering, frames, shopping bags, pretty napkins…we’ve got to have pretty napkins!...and I think…wait, why am I doing this again? This money could very well go towards a little beach vacay and some yummy cocktails. But then about an hour into the event, the room is full, you can hardly hear the music above all the lively chatter, there’s a dashing waiter in my living room attentively topping up my glass of bubbly, and I think…omg…I should totally do this all the time! Not to mention that we also had a ball pit at this one, and the hour I spent in it after the event was worth every penny and more.
Jokes aside, this particular event turned out to be even more worthwhile because it was our most successful Open Studio yet! We've barely been able to keep up with the storm of post-show orders, and all the colourful walls and frames you're about to see in the photos below are pretty much empty! A big thank you to everyone who came, shopped, mingled and worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make it happen. And a special thank you to someone who came over the day before the show and asked me, "Wait, why is this for kids? I want this stuff for ME!" We all need a little reminder to never grow up...and this event was mine.
Photographs by Vince of Kreative Kingdom and my awesome intern Sana. I've inserted a few of my favourite jams from the day's playlist, in the hope that you'll get a more wholesome picture of what an absolute joy it was...and more importantly that it gets you excited for the next one, because I've got some bigger and better dreams now. In the words of Peter Pan...Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning!
PS. If you're local and missed it...we'll be at the Bump, Birth & Beyond market this Saturday 16th December from 10-4! Come and play!
[Ok, if you skipped all the previous musical interludes you have to HAVE to watch and listen to this one because it is the best, and I adore both of these men so so much.]
If you want to see a ridiculous Boomerang of me celebrating in the ball pit...and all the other awesome work we do...follow The Letterist on Instagram.
Happy December darlings! It's been a busy couple of months of big branding projects, luxe destination weddings, and prep for our first ever kids&baby Open Studio...which was such fun, and such a success! Will share more of all that with you soon...but we thought we'd take advantage of this date and talk about our new 2018 Desk Calendar. One more month before we can really whip out and start using these babies and frankly, I can't wait.
If Letterist calendars are usually a show of hand-lettering and calligraphy, and our wall calendar this year was an homage to paper...this little guy is definitely an ode to words and typography. Totally inspired by an excerpt from Walt Whiman's preface to Leaves of Grass...(first published in 1855!)...it is twelve wonderful pieces of advice, which as he suggests are to be read, "in the open air every season of every year of your life." Paired with the beautiful ghostly numerals of Moshik Nadav's Paris Pro Regular White...and set in a circular and beautifully architectural layout, which I must admit, I needed dad's mathematical wisdom to create.
They come with natural Mukwa wood holders...designed by yours truly and made right here in Zambia, although if you notice in these photos...I also partnered with a dear friend and local client - Lake Iron - to carve some kick-ass, hand-crafted holders out of stone. If you're one of my favourite people...you may just get one in your stocking this year...but if you'd like to order one, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.
Wishing you a festive December...and all the best for 2018. Until then...enjoy this little visual story of our favourite calendar yet, put together (almost entirely without me!) by my awesome interns B+S. Looking through this makes me realize...2018 is going to rock in so, so many ways.
meet c+c. two of my favourite people, who became two of my favourite clients, when they decided to tie the knot last year, and gave me carte blanche to create some of my favourite wedding work yet. this incredible view is from haute cabriere vineyards in franschhoek, cape town...where we spent an unforgettable afternoon celebrating their love, and a wild evening having one hell of a party. the title of this post is taken from one of neruda's love sonnets, which they chose to have read at the ceremony...but as i reflect on it one year later, i realize it also blissfully sums up the process of working with them: simply, without problems or pride. i could probably talk for days, as i usually do, about the absolute joy of working on this wedding, and the even more memorable one of attending it. but i think that would belie or weigh down the perfect simplicity and lightness of these two people, their love, their wedding, and their attitude to just about everything. so in their very own spirit, i chose to keep it short and sweet, and tell the story through a selection of photos instead. happy first anniversary c+c...and in the warm spirit of this week of thanksgiving, so very grateful for you both.
Gahd. Printers. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em. Oh wait, yes I can. In this particular case at least. The design, printing, packaging and sales of The Letterist calendars over the last three years have always felt like a bit like a natural disaster. First of all, I've never quite managed to get one done on time. All year I'm thinking about it, making grand but vague plans for how it's going to be the Cadillac of calendars...waiting for the perfect idea and the perfect quiet, rainy, jazzy, winey evening to arrive. Of course that's never how it works...as with anything...you just have to do it. Like Hemingway once said, "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."
I don't know why, but my calendar projects have always felt exactly like that. Bleeding. I never want to start on it too early in the year, because my style and skill evolve and I'll probably hate it come October. So I usually leave it til October but then I'm so busy that I rush through it, hate it, redo it, rush through it again, and never have enough time to get it perfect. I sit down and write Jan, January, Feb, February, Calendar, Twenty Eighteen, over and over and over again in different pens, nibs and styles...and each iteration somehow further descends into the deep, dark abyss of horrible, unshareable work. It may seem a little dramatic to you, but....it is.
Then, when I'm finally ready to finish, no abandon (in Joyce's words) the work and save it for print - there arise a whole new set of complications, and yet even less time. Will it be bound? Do I need cellophane sleeves? What paper will I print it on? Can I get all that crap here and coordinate in time to have this thing ready before the calendar year starts? And usually, sadly, the answer to that question turns out to be no. Which is followed by at least one afternoon of tears, and then a long evening of I'm-so-over-this-whiskies.
I won't bore you with all the details and each year's own unique horrors, but I do have to tell this one story. Two years ago I thought I had this perfect plan. I found a printer around the corner (close! I can check in every day!), I sourced my own paper (Cadillac!) and I had the cellophane here on time and had some kick-ass local wooden blocks made to hold it. Check, check, check.
And then one afternoon I walked in...hoping to have the latest batch of 100 to collect...and I noticed a worrisome, just-shat-my-pants look on the printer's face. I took a deep, conscious, collecting breath and said tell me. He then whipped around and in his hands held a huge stack, of the tiniest calendars I have ever seen. It was like a magic trick. Printed, trimmed, collated...a lot of them. [I mean, when you realize something is wrong, why would you see the project through anyway?] I burst out laughing but it was pure shock-awe-WTF laughter. My little head couldn't even fathom how that was possible. And the dude just stood there, like an emoji, wide shiny teeth all in a row, with a face that said only one thing. "Honey, I shrunk the kids."
Turned out that some important, very busy client had walked in in the middle of my print job and given him something to do. Something that need to be scaled down to about 65%. So when he got back to completing my babies, he forgot to uncheck the scale button. And then, he also forgot to look up from his screen where he was probably downloading pirated movies, to notice that this was happening...so he let a whole bunch of them come out like that! And then, because he knew he was in big trouble - making a mess of my imported paper, he somehow reckoned, hey, better collated than not. I think that was what got me most. He took the time to friggin' collate a hundred teeny-tiny mis-printed calendars! Didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so yeah, I did a bit of both.
Anyway, two years later - I decided the only way to avoid the disaster was to print them myself, and to avoid the bleeding, I'd skip the calligraphy. The Letterist's signature is handwriting for sure, but I am also insanely passionate about paper...textures, weights, nuances, transparencies, and layers...so I decided my twenty-eighteen wall calendar would be an ode to that. I wanted to use a varied selection of stocks that not only looked good together, but would somehow commemorate my best year yet...by using some of the leftovers from my favourite print jobs. Anyway, yada yada, as usual, I sat down to write a paragraph and post a bunch of pictures, but I've now written seven so I guess its time for the pictures.
Introducing the Twenty-Eighteen Letterist Wall Calendar. Starring in this Paper Porn feature: Rives Tradition Pale Cream (250gsm), Conqueror Laid Cream (300gsm), a little accent panel on Keaykolor Biscuit (300gsm - heartbreakingly now discontinued!) or Curious Skin Grey (380gsm - 380!) and of course, could never ever do without it...a little band on Curious Translucent Bright White (112gsm)...otherwise commonly and oh-so-lovingly known as, vellum. There is also a single sheet of Curious Matter Andina Grey (270gsm) which I'm totally obsessed with but sadly can't print on, so it forms the backdrop. And...all this magic is held together by a trusty little binder clip. I mentioned in my last post that I have two wonderful ladies working with me...so here's a little visual story they put together themselves as they worked on it. They're meticulous, they're creative, and these honies ain't never going to shrink my kids. Enjoy.
PS. Sorry...I haven't really thought about retailing them this year...but if you love it, and want one (or more), please email email@example.com and we'll figure something out.
PPS. Also...there is a pretty rocking little desk calendar coming too. Stay tuned.
xo Calendar Girl
If you thought I forgot about the musical interlude...never. Yeah, yeah, my heart's in a whirl...I love, I love, I love my little calendar girl.
Last week The Letterist turned three. And sure, three may not be a worthy or large enough number to call for celebration...but this is now officially the longest I've ever held any job, not to mention, sustained reasonable interest in pretty much anything...so, I celebrated. Or "celebrated." I'm busier than I've ever been, so there wasn't really time to plan the big champagne soirée I quite often envision - let's save that for ten? no, no, too far away, five! - so I scaled that way, way down...to a week of Instagram posts instead. A mini-retrospective of sorts. The very first thing I did when I came up with the idea and name for this little venture was set up an Instagram account, so this seemed fitting: a week of posts featuring some memorable, some successful, and some downright scribbly work from the last three years. After all, the work is the joy and the joy is the work...so I thought I'd let it speak for itself. [If you don't already follow The Letterist on Instagram, get it together].
I also thought I'd write a long blog post...featuring some of the weird and wonderful emails I've received, bizarre client meetings I've had, lessons I've learned and never stop learning along the way. But I was about 4 pages into that when I realized it was getting a little creepy, over-indulgent and emotional so I decided to save you from that. In design, words, make-up and just about everything else, less is always, always more.
So I scaled that way, way down too...and landed on this other idea. What if I just went all the way back to the beginning and told the story of how this crazy little venture started. In the words of Joan Didion, "It is much easier to see the beginnings of things than the ends..." and as you're about to learn...the beginnings were vague, uncertain...and let's just say questionable. Of course in hindsight...they were also funny af. Enjoy.
It was 2014. I was spending sweltering New York summer nights in a beautiful loft in Williamsburg surrounded by stacks of aquarelle paper and hundreds of pens, pencils, markers, nibs and paintbrushes. It was a phase marked by wild exploration and severe [artistic] insecurity in equal measure. I was so unsure of myself as a creative and what I was doing, that I would literally hop on the L train or East River Ferry every other day and trek to an art store in search of some new paper, ink or writing implement, in the hope that it would catapult me to amazingness. I even recall stealing a crappy permanent chisel marker from the US Post Office after labelling a box. This is it! This is the tool that will make me! I laugh at this now because my favourite tools three years later consist of a pen, a stylus, and a single calligraphy holder with two go-to nibs. [Nikko and Tachikawa if you're curious. Calligraphy, like whiskey I believe, is always smoothest from Japan]. I still explore new toys once in a while - but for the most part, I tend to [as do we all, I think] defer to my steady squeeze.
Anyway, I digress already. The first piece I made at the time, for someone other than my portfolio or the dustbin, was a gift for my sister-in-law: a tiny 5x5" hand-lettered and framed print with gold leaf that read "DON'T WORRY, BE YONCE." [Don't say I didn't warn you...the beginnings are a little umm, shaky].
Anyway, she posted it on Instagram, and besides the handful of orders she immediately sent from her friends, I also got an enquiry from a cute boutique that wanted to stock my prints. My prints? I don't have any prints! WHAT ARE PRINTS!? How would I invoice you? I need a business! A name! A website! An Instagram account...
It took me about five minutes to come up with the name, ten minutes to check no one else had it and set up Instagram, and about 48 hours to scrap together a website. Cool and all, but platforms aside, I still had absolutely no idea what I was doing or how I was going to do it...so the exploration and insecurities continued. I made it my simple mission to create and post something - anything - every day...but I was so terrified of sharing work I had created with the world...and absolutely convinced! that no one would ever take me seriously...as an artist, business or human...so I came up with a simple grammatical solution. [As a LOT of start-ups do, btw].
Problem: I suck. My work sucks. Everything sucks. Solution: I know! I just wont say "I," I'll say WE. Look what we're working on. Here's our favourite quote of the week. Contact US! Bullshit. There was no we, there was no our, and there was certainly no US. It was all me (unless of course you to take into account the hundred markers as part of our census). But as with the pens and markers, in the world of high insecurities, plurality was king. It gave others a sense of confidence and it gave me a way out. You don't like this? Jane made that.
This achieved two things. One is that people very soon started emailing me saying, hey, love the work you guys do...are y'all taking on any new clients? YOU BET WE ARE! Check. Fake office buzzing with employees and the smell of good coffee created. And false sense of customer confidence instilled. The other thing it led to was my friends constantly making fun of me. Yo, Savic! How's the team? Can you ask your people to reach out to my people about a project we might do together? Bastards.
To be fair tho, it was a little coo-coo. Exhibit A:
Man, that was exhausting. Anyway, there are a couple of poignant points to this story. One is that it took me close to two years to find my voice and vibe and finally be able to say, hey - check out this thing I'M working on. Like it? Cool. Don't like it? Sorry, not sorry. The other is that, from day one - though they may not identify as part of the team - I've definitely always had one. Mom and dad here, and my brother and sister-in-law in the US. It started with a crappy Yonce print, and just last week they were penning their signatures on the Operating Agreement for the US-based Letterist LLC! Yes, that happened!! Ok, a few more...[!!!!!!!!!!!!]
As for mom and dad, I recently took a friend to see my parents' house and we found my father busily trimming wedding invitations. Without stopping, he looked up over his glasses and with his best customer service smile said, Welcome to the Woodlands Branch of The Letterist.
So yeah, not only are we a we, we're nationwide bitcheeeees!
But the real coup de grâce of this whole story is that today, three years later, (besides my relatives who were never really given a choice), I am proud to announce that I have two other fantastic people working with me. I love the perfect, seemingly astrological alignment that it has taken three years to grow to a team of three. And I love that in this momentous era of female empowerment, both of these people are women. But most of all, I love that we have finally become WE.
PS. All Letterist blog posts usually include a musical interlude, so I couldn't leave this out. It was an especially easy and obvious pick because the original version of this song governed the radio all through that infamous summer of 2014. Happy Friday, stay inspired...and all that jazz.
Whenever I find myself on an airplane about to take off for a long-haul flight...there'll be someone in the row in front of me whipping out their laptop and clicking away through what looks like a very serious, climate-change-solving Excel spreadsheet and a rather scarily full email inbox. I look at them and think yeah, go you, you Type-A demon-hero-unicorn, power on...I'll join you in a minute. But then of course I never do.
And its not that I don't have the tools. The me that packs my carry-on is super ambitious and prolific - she'll take a laptop, an iPad, a stylus, a sketchbook, various markers, pens and pencils, books to read, magazines to flick through, at least one Moleskine for genius epiphanies, and glasses of course, to fit the part. The me, however, that then lugs that shit around for two hours and finally sits down on the plane...really just wants to drink two dinky bottles of crappy red wine, watch eight movies, and reapply eye drops like an addict. And somehow, despite decades of long-haul travel, these two personalities have never quite managed to sit down and reconcile their differences. So yeah, let's just say I'm not quite living my best life on planes. (Although I suppose that depends on one's definition of this wonderful millennial term).
The bigger problem is, that when I get there...because I've been drinking crap wine for what seems like an eternity, all I really want is a really big glass, of really good wine. And a great meal. And then what basically ends up happening is I have about 82 of those and suddenly three weeks have gone by and I'm back on the plane headed home...reaching for the eye drops again and realizing the only time I opened my laptop was to check the weather in New York. Ok, I exaggerate a little. I worked. I had lunch with my clients, I visited my suppliers, I ordered some envelopes and inks and things, I went to museums and even edited photos to post on Instagram! I totally worked!Read More
There's always a moment about a week before the Open Studio, when the to do list seems to be getting longer, the hours are getting shorter, it feels like there's no way it'll come together, I'm wondering why I ever thought this was a good idea...(and then my iMac crashes and I'm ready to cancel not only the event but life in general). But somehow a week later, I'm two glasses of rosé in, the studio is full of beautiful, stylish people flicking through cards and notepads, you can barely hear the music from all the laughter and conversation, and ramekins of the infamous chicken liver paté can't make it out of the kitchen fast enough. And then I think what's the big deal! I should do this every month! Ok, not quite, but its always so much fun...and not that I really need one, but its a great reminder of just how much I love what I do...of how sleepless nights are always worth it in the end...and of how rosé fixes everything. A huge thank you to all of the people who helped make it happen, came, wined, mingled and shopped.
Rap lyrics Valentine's cards, a new collection of prints, and a whole lot of old school love. A glimpse of this year's Open Studio, captured by the awesome, and awesomely talented, Vince of Kreative Kingdom.
And just for fun...
If you read this blog often, you’ll remember that I promised a few months ago to try be regular at it, and as is fairly obvious, I’ve umm, failed. But let’s just agree that that makes me totally human and relatable in a cool, casual, Jennifer Lawrence kind of way. I mean, if you’re blogging about your life a little too regularly, it must mean that you’re not spending enough time living it. Right? No? Ok, far-fetched guilty rationalization over.
Let’s start again. If you read this blog often, you’ll know that I’m always somehow thinking about where ideas come from. When I’m not actively seeking inspiration, or putting it to paper…I am, almost always, trying to understand and explain it, to somehow capture its essence and own it, so that I’ll never again have to go without. Sort of like when you’re a kid at an amusement park, and you’re looking at the Candy Floss machine dreaming of having one, in your bedroom. So yeah, probably not going to happen. But a kid can dream!
The other thing I’m always trying to do is seek out other avenues, or alternative modes of inspiration. I’m totally over Pinterest, and I simply can’t look at wedding invitations if I’m about to start designing one. I prefer instead to put on Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach’s Cello Suites and listen to them on repeat as I sketch. I find trying to capture the absolute effortlessness of his playing a far more intriguing premise than trying to impersonate someone else’s calligraphy. Or I might look up fashion week invitations for Menswear shows. Or I might just crack open a bottle of rose. (Ok that last one is not a great example because what I’m trying to say is that the inspiration has to be a little less than obvious.).
And because no Letterist blog is every truly complete without a musical interlude, here he is for you, the incredible, the inimitable Yo-Yo Ma.
When its not music, its film and when its not that, it's interiors. I realized the other day as I was scrolling through Instagram that most of the people I follow, and most of the posts that catch my eye are interior design and styling. Call me simple-minded or predictable, but I’m a total sucker for a room full of natural light and palm leaves in minimal vases casting all the right shadows. I double-tap shit like that all day long. Though, double-tapping things in your feed is still fairly passive, there are a few such ‘grammers that I’ve actually turned on notifications for. As in, even when I’m in the middle of a meeting, gallery opening, or delicious dinner…I want to know they just posted something, and I’m going to put my pen or fork down and knowingly be rude just to see what it is. (If for similar reasons you’ve turned on notifications for @theletterist…you rock.) So what I really want to write about today is one of those people. An incredibly talented and insanely inspiring interior designer, who also happens to be a dear old friend of mine…Christine Alice.
Christine and I went to college together and it was a very liberal, hippy, anti-everything kind of place…so I’m pretty sure our first interaction was sort of a love-at-first-sight on the basis that we both washed and ironed our clothes. In a place where no one wore shoes, combed their hair, ate meat or consumed anything even remotely mass produced...meeting someone in pressed linen holding a Starbucks coffee cup definitely felt like it was meant to be. Needless to say, I didn't make a lot of friends...but the ones I did, I very much kept.
Many, many years later, I was working a tireless and uninspiring corporate job and would spend my evenings looking at motivational quotes on Pinterest – do more of what makes you happy! – and scrolling through my Facebook feed jealous of what basically everyone else was doing and where. And then one of her posts popped up. She had just quit her job at a think tank and decided to become a freelance Interior Designer. There was a link to her blog, which featured gorgeous photos of her and her husband’s home in DC, completely decorated by her. (He went to college with us too, ironed his clothes too, and is awesome too...but we'll have to talk about him another time.) Here are a just a few:
I was blown away. I knew we both had very liberal arts degrees from an institution that pretended vocational skills like design don't exist, so she didn't get any of this from college...and she had been working at a think tank so couldn't really have picked it up there. It was pure, raw, natural, inimitable talent. She obviously had not only a keen eye for design and a very distinctive style, but a passion that had even in her spare time turned her into an avid collector. The items in these photographs clearly weren't just off the shelf from Crate and Barrel or Restoration Hardware...some might have been, but others were inherited or found...in antique shops, estate sales, markets, bookstores, dark basements or hot attics...far and wide, and she knew exactly how to put them together. I've always loved her effortless ability to combine different eras, colors, textures and patterns into an uncluttered whole that makes it look like all those things asked to be brought together. In the same way, she blogged about her process, inspirations and finds in a natural, light, humble and funny way. And...she had the gumption to make that massive career jump. To think, so what if I didn't study this, so what if no one's taught me, so what if no one would hire me because its not on my CV. I want to...I can, and I will. I remember it clear as daylight, that night, that moment, seeing all that, thinking...hey, maybe I can do that.
I continued following Christine's projects, travels and blog with great interest and about a year later I did it. I made the jump. Following a couple of intensive graphic design courses at Parsons, I was hanging out in New York drawing, painting, lettering and dreaming up what you now know of as The Letterist, and starting to share a few things on Instagram. I didn't quite know what I was doing yet...but I had a big stack of aquarelle postcards and each day I'd paint a swash of watercolor and overlay it with a quote. One afternoon, Christine wrote that she was in New York and we decided to meet at Eataly for a glass of wine. Before she even sat down, I said tell me more about what you're doing! You're my hero! I love your work! And she turned around and said, what I'm doing?! Forget what I'm doing...I want to hear about what you're doing! I saw it on Instagram and I love it! In the time that has passed since, I've had many an encounter or project that has given me the praise, reward or encouragement to believe in what I'm doing and to continue doing it...but I still remember that one fondly. One of my favourite interior designers, and the person who inspired me to even consider this, loves my work. Forget Pinterest, Instagram, classical music and the rest. This. Is. Inspiration. (And its not just inspiration...because when I posted my first collection of Christmas cards on my online shop, the first sale came through in less than a day, and of course, it was from Christine.)
[For some silly reason, I at the time was going through an obsessive hot yoga phase, so when one glass turned into two and was about to turn into three, I said my goodbyes and ran towards the subway. And Christine – I gotta tell you, I still regret it! Trust that I have since then grown up and matured into a rational, sensible adult who picks cold wine, over hot yoga, any day.]
I still follow what she's up to...and hope that if you've read this far, you might too. She's moving to New York in the next couple of weeks so I'm also secretly praying that her magical inspiration might strike again and it wont be long before I end up there too. Ha. In the meantime...a couple of working photos from her latest and I believe most beloved project...their new weekend home in Maine. I've already said I'm coming to visit, and that I want to stay, in that bathroom. To see more of this project (together with some shocking before photos) and her other work, follow Christine on Instagram or visit her website here.
And...in whatever way you can...stay inspired.
If you follow me on Instagram...you'll know that the last few weeks have been filled with lots of fun custom prints for kids. If you don't follow me on Instagram...ummm, you should. Besides seeing all the stationery, invitations, prints and gifts that come out of the studio weekly...you get to see a little bit more about the behind-the-scenes process, the occasional Friday afternoon G&T...and of course, the totally-unrelated-but-I-can't-help-myself pictures of my adorable little puppy, Dante.
If you follow this blog regularly...you'll know that I recently went to Amsterdam...and I may not have mentioned it back then, but we stayed at this gorgeous Airbnb apartment with a huge open-plan kitchen...lots of palm trees in the living room, a giant jacuzzi tub and our very own little balcony (complete with giant sea shell to put cigarette butts in). It was one of those perfectly designed apartments...the ones that say, yeah, we happen to have such great taste that even the pile of magazines we casually left lying around is worthy of a photograph...not the ones that say we hired a professional interior designer to turn this into a severe and unrealistic living space made up of star design pieces straight out of Architectural Digest. You know what I mean?
Anyway...one of the things that struck me the most was the kids play room. Soft colours, gorgeous wooden Scandinavian toys (and not a lot of them), and some simple, classy prints on the walls. I love to imagine that one day, if or when I have kids...and someone randomly calls to say they're going to pop in, I won't be hectically running around, cleaning up and tripping over gawdy Fisher-Price objects that sing Old MacDonalds Farm on repeat if you push the wrong button. I'd rather believe that I'll walk casually past the simple, smoky blue and always-tidy kids room, smile proudly to myself, and head for the wine fridge to crack open a bottle of rose.Read More
You know its been one hell of a week when it’s suddenly Friday night, your friends are inviting you to a bar…and you’re all, “I can’t. I have to write my blog post.” Ok, that’s not entirely true. I did get invited to a bar…and umm…I went. (Have we met?) But then I had one drink and said, "Sorry gotta go…I have to write my blog post." Whatever, that’s not true either. I wouldn’t dare use the words “blog post” in a bar. I just said I had to work. But the truth is...the week has flown by so quickly that I felt like I needed to write it all down, and relive it at a more manageable pace. And well, frankly, I’ve always been much more of a Saturday Night kind of gal.Read More
For the most part, I think my friends know I like good wine, and my friends like good wine, and my friends also like me...so, when they come over, for drinks, dinner, or (as is most often the case) for wine...they bring a good bottle of wine. That's the friends. Then there's the acquaintances. The ones who think its a polite and culturally expected gesture to bring "a bottle of wine" to a party - and so that any old bottle will do. The ones who think "it's the thought that counts." For the record - and as a working professional in the gift industry I think I can say this with reasonable authority - if the thought is going to count...you actually have to put some thought into it.
Like...hmmm...I think I should go to The Wine Shop and find something she might like. Or at the very least, something she might consider drinking. This one's in a pretty bottle...that could work. Hey, this one has a copper foil letterpress label...she'd love that. Or, this one's got two gold stickers on it. Must be a winner. Whatever the grading rubric, whatever the occasion, "Natural Sweet Red" is not the answer. In fact, the thought of not getting Natural Sweet Red would count a hell of a lot more than the thought of getting it. If you're at a gas station or small corner shop that only has that kind of wine (the kind that's not really like wine at all)...then the thought should be, hey, this sucks...I'll just grab a box of chocolates or some flowers instead. Chocolates get eaten, flowers eventually die and get thrown out...but that bottle of sweet red? That stays. That stays forever.Read More
Apparently they say you go to Amsterdam twice. Once to see Amsterdam, and once to remind yourself of what you saw. So while my memory is a little hazy like everyone else's...I'm glad I have all these photos to remind me of my wonderful first visit. Its been a few weeks since I got back, but I'm still very much in an Amsterdam frame of mind. Here's a summary of it all in 15 pictures. Captions follow...and needless to say, I'm going back.
1. Handmade Japanese Paper from Vlieger Papier.
2. Van Gogh's handwriting from his infamous letters to his brother Theo...turned into a wallpaper at the Van Gogh museum. Did you know that he was only an artist for about 10 years and in that time produced over 2,000 works? He was a failed pastor who decided to start painting in his late 20s...so if you're thinking about a career change, or worrying that you'll never get good enough at it, think again. Its never too late to let the artist in you, out.
3. Stork. A fabulous seafood restaurant on the other side of the river. Yes, I dragged everyone on a ferry and somewhat uninspiring 20-minute walk through backyards and parking lots to get there, but then we sat down, ordered champagne and oysters and it was all very much worth it.
4. An elevator with a light show taking you to the top floor of the brand new A'DAM Tower. Great views, great cocktails, and totally the 'in' thing to do right now. As our Airbnb host told us on arrival...you won't find it in the guide books so the tourists don't even know about it yet.
5. Handwriting on the windows of Cafe de Paris. Large industrial-chic cafe that turns into quite the buzzy spot in the evenings...and happened to play a lot of old school hip hop jams the night we went in. Bonus. Dreamlover, come rescue me...
6. The city is full of interiors to write home about but this gorgeous copper-toned one was at De Vergulden Eenhorn...a farmhouse from 1702 (!) in the middle of the city that serves an awesome brunch.
7. Gorgeous shops and window displays in Amsterdam's very own "Brooklyn" - De Pijp.
8. We spotted our little Dantellino in a poster gallery! Missed the little guy while we were away so Picasso's one line dachshund made me feel like he was with us in spirit.
9. Tulips! Tulips! Everywhere.
10. Lots of minimal geometric design objects...did I mention I'm going back?
11. Biiii-cycles! Also everywhere. Had the Queen song in my head the entire time, but included that already in my Copenhagen post so if you haven't read that one...please do.
12. The best olives ever - served as an amuse bouche at The French Connection. Very cute little spot near the flower market that serves delicious French tapas. And also, champagne.
13. More cute little stores in De Pijp. (Went twice so a second photo seemed fair.)
14. Rembrandt's signature beneath his statue in Rembrandt Square.
15. Cheese. Love. Cheese.
Ok so, to be completely honest...I begin this blog post without really knowing what I'm going to write about...or any idea of how what I end up saying might relate to design or hand lettering, or how it might be of interest to any of my potential or existing clients that stumble onto this blog. What I do know is that I feel incredibly compelled to tell the world that Copenhagen's Little Mermaid, actually, is, little. [And also, that as we checked into our Copenhagen hotel...Cate Blanchett checked out. Incidentally, our hotel room also turned out to be actually, very, little...and all I could think during our luckily brief 3 nights there was...I bet her's wasn't. Of course I tried not to stare...and then that thing happened that happens when you try not to stare...I stared.]Read More