We’re headed down south for today’s Behind the Stationery feature. Melissa of Atheneum Creative is a rockstar at custom invitations and pretty event trinkets of all kinds! Working with and beyond the paper medium, Melissa collaborates with other vendors and artists to create something special and unique for her clients. Take it away, Melissa! –Megan
Hello! I’m Melissa, creative director and owner of Atheneum Creative in Charlotte, North Carolina. Atheneum was established in 2011 with the idea of bringing stories to life through a unique branded experience. I have always had a passion for pretty things, paper, and pushing the envelope. With my background in branding, it was a natural fit to bring that process into the wedding world.
Prior to the start of Atheneum, I was working for a small boutique design shop based in Chicago. Over the years, I had the opportunity to collaborate with some of the most challenging and inspiring industries in the field, creating nationally recognized work and truly building a love for this profession. Working with a lot of non-profits, educational institutions and hospitals, my everyday was filled with annual reports, branding and promotional collateral. Don’t get me wrong, I love working on all of that especially with the non-profits who have such great stories to tell, but it was always the special invitations and events that would grace our door that really light the fire in me. Picking papers, materials, and thinking about unique ways to mail always got me excited and I knew where my heart was.
So from there, Atheneum was born. I love a challenge. It is always a little scary to be experimental (I never tell the clients I’m scared), but I love when a client comes in for a meeting and says, “I want something no one has ever seen before.” It makes my heart race a little, but that’s the fun part, right?
I incorporate almost all printing methods into our work: digital, offset, letterpress, foil, engraving, screen, vinyl, etc. I especially love when a client wants to bring in something more three dimensional — bowties on a stick, keys, or wood blocks — or when we push the materials and print on wood, glass, metal, copper, leather, silk, etc. I think that is what makes Atheneum Creative a bit more unique: I love to challenge myself to make something really unique and help tell the story of our clients.
I recently sat down with a client to brainstorm a birth announcement / baptism announcement and she showed me the bible verse she wanted to use, but didn’t know how to tie it all together to tell her story. I came up with the idea of exploration and adventure to pull you through his birth and life moments to the baptism. We even brought in a real compass to include in the announcement, which we printed on the inside cover. I am hoping to shoot this soon so we will have some photos to share, but for now, I included some iPhone process shots.
I am the creative director for all of the work, but we do have a great team we collaborate with including graphic designers, calligraphers, illustrators and photographers. Collaborating is one of the best parts of being a designer. My typical day is usually broken up by a few hours of design work and a few hours of assembly.
There is almost always a trip to some of the local printers we use for a press check or pick-up. Everyone at the post office knows me! I call that my second home as I spend so much time there! For example, this morning, after dropping the kids off, I was on a foil press check at 8:30 am with the client, approved a digital sheet at another printer at 9:15 am, dropped off envelopes to a calligrapher at 10 am and then wrapped up my morning at the post office to purchase 920 stamps for an assembly job tomorrow. I don’t have a set schedule as every day is different, but I am usually in the office from 8am – 6pm (with my dog sitting by my side all day long). My kids also love to visit me when I am working!
A lot of our clients are not local and a good handful of them are overseas. I typically start every project with a call or in person meeting to discuss the look of the wedding day. Sometimes brides have a good idea of what they are after and others have no idea—which is not a problem! We take the look and feel of the day and carry it over into their stationery. We might start with a logo or monogram, or just colors and patterns that will pull everything together.
From there we work on various design options to give clients a nice range to choose from. We also work with creative language to ensure a wedding brand fully expresses the client’s personality. Once we go a few rounds of revisions, we are off to print. We are usually assembling in about three weeks. Then we shoot it and submit it to OSBP
I know everyone always says this, but our clients are truly the best! They trust us and allow us to get creative and unique with their work and if it was not for clients like that, we would not have the super fun portfolio we do today!
Thanks, Nole and Megan!
Photos by Allison Kuhn (office), Chelsea Davis (new work), and Melissa Broderick (compass work).
Interested in participating in this column? Email Megan at megan [at] ohsobeautifulpaper [dot] com.