Behind the Stationery: Sapling Press

Our next designer is one of my favorites because whenever I need a good laugh, Sapling Press is there. Lisa’s simple cards with a bold and clever sense of humor are right up my alley – and I particularly look forward to her new offerings each year. Lisa has grown her business from a one-woman show to leading and managing a staff and working with other local businesses. I am so honored to share their story today. Here’s Lisa! –Megan

Behind the Stationery: Sapling Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Before starting Sapling Press in 2003, I worked in Baltimore as a full-time graphic designer for a small firm. I became interested in letterpress printing and I contacted the letterpress professor at MICA and she was nice enough to give me a 4-hour personal lesson out of her home studio. I fell in love with printing and within a few months I found a studio space, bought my first press, and registered to exhibit at the National Stationery Show. I had no plan, zero product, and absolutely no idea how to run a business – I just went for it.

Behind the Stationery: Sapling Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I dedicated as much time as I had to printing and growing my business while working my 9-5. Two years later, my husband and I moved to Pittsburgh and I made Sapling Press my full-time gig. However, shortly after moving I had 2 kiddos back to back, started a side wedding stationery business with a friend, and just took some time to reevaluate my product, plans, and goals for Sapling Press. Those years were crazy hard, but I was in it to win it. In 2010, I basically started over and re-introduced Sapling Press with the look and vibe that we’re known for today.

Behind the Stationery: Sapling Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I’ve moved my shop three times within the last five years all within the city of Pittsburgh. Our shop is currently located in a 3-story building in the borough of Lawrenceville, close to lots of great shops and other small businesses. The first floor is dedicated to printing, production, and classes, while the middle floor is reserved for packaging, shipping, and meetings. I rent out the 3rd floor to my husband who has his own design firm.

Behind the Stationery: Sapling Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

While we don’t sell any products out of the space, we have a retail store front where our presses sit front and center. Having people stop and stare and seeing kid’s faces pressed against the window definitely took some time to get used to, but we love watching people watch us and the presses in action.

Behind the Stationery: Sapling Press / Oh So Beautiful PaperEverything we do is letterpress printed in house. While there are a ton of great letterpress stationery companies out there, I think our minimal design and copywriting sets us apart from some of the others. Smart words on a page – that’s our thing. Humor has also been known to be our calling card. 99% of our products have no real sentiment or intention other than to make someone laugh. A few years ago, I started reaching out to folks in the hopes of collaborating on some cards. The collaborations have lead to great friendships, lasting partnerships, and have resulted in some of our best selling cards. Working with others is something that we’ll always do.

Behind the Stationery: Sapling Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I hired my first full-time employee almost four years ago. There are now seven of us here, and everyone has their own role in the business. The shop employs 3 printers, 2 packagers, and a project coordinator who runs everything else behind the scenes. We meet every Monday to go over the week in regards to deadlines, meetings, custom orders, etc…and then we each go our separate ways and do our thing throughout the week.

Behind the Stationery: Sapling Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Behind the Stationery: Sapling Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Behind the Stationery: Sapling Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

As the business has grown, I’ve found myself sitting more behind the desk than behind the press, which has been my biggest adjustment within the business. These days I play the role of creative director, head of product development, social media maven, and all the other non-glamorous jobs that come along with owning a business. When I’m not here at the shop, I’m busy being a mom and shopkeeper at Sapling & Sons, a separate retail shop I opened almost one year ago. I like to stay busy.

Behind the Stationery: Sapling Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I struggle with time management more than anything else. Because I’m a night owl, I sometimes count all 24 hours in the day as possible working hours. I’m a lot better than I used to be, but I still enjoy an all nighter every once in a while. The majority of my ideas, designs, and scheming are all done after midnight. My inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. I love watching sketch comedies. I like pop culture. The wordsmiths of ’90s hip hop. I love people watching. When something gives me pause, or I find myself laughing at something, I make a note of it on my phone. Why did I laugh, what memory did that spark, who did that make me think of, and so on. That rabbit hole usually leads me to a new idea which is always just one card.

Behind the Stationery: Sapling Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Because I design in complete collections instead of individual SKUs, I think about how we could expand on that one card. In the end, the result is usually about 8-12 cards within that collection. As time goes on, I’ve realized we seem to have a bit of a formula. A caffeine reference, a grammar reference, a pop culture reference, and so on. I write what I can, keep what I think is good, and then reach out to my collaborators to see what they can add.

Behind the Stationery: Sapling Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Once I go through their ideas, I filter them down a bit, and then share them with the team. The ideas are printed out, and everyone is asked to read them on their own and simply make a note as soon as one makes you laugh out loud. Those are always our winners. Designing this way has us expanding our line by about 40-50 new cards a year, keeps us current, and continues to help the business grow in every direction possible. Our next endeavor is a brand new website, product lines that go beyond stationery, and a collaboration between some of our favorite local designers on a new line of Sapling Press wedding stationery. Gotta love the hustle!

Behind the Stationery: Sapling Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Photos by Matt Dayak

Interested in participating in this column? Reach out to Megan at megan(at) for more details about Behind the Stationery.

“Dinner With Thieves” Menus and Paper Goods

Well, these are super cool! Shanleigh of August & Osceola created these beautiful paper goods for a mysterious dinner party, including menus, questionnaire cards, and event calling cards. The menus feature gold foil on black paper and were individually hand washed and distressed for an even more mysterious vibe and unique texture!

"Dinner with Thieves" Menus and Paper Goods by August & Osceola / Oh So Beautiful Paper

From ShanleighI love when a client has a vision that really challenges me creatively. Jessie (House of James Parker) and Heather (RTTO Events) were looking for custom paper goods to accompany their design of a “Dinner with Thieves.” Picture an evening with an abundance of delectable meat platters and a mysterious vibe. The paper elements had to be the perfect complement: masculine yet intricate; refined yet worn-in. 

"Dinner with Thieves" Menus and Paper Goods by August & Osceola / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I posted a picture on Instagram a while back of my business cards that had taken a trip through the washing machine — a happy accident. We used this as inspiration for a menu design that was heavy on texture and full of character. Each menu was foil stamped in gold and then very carefully washed and distressed by hand. The process left the paper feeling like leather and looking like it had been around for years. In addition to the menu, we designed questionnaire cards for guests to fill out and contact cards that were edge painted in gold. These were a labor of love.

"Dinner with Thieves" Menus and Paper Goods by August & Osceola / Oh So Beautiful Paper

"Dinner with Thieves" Menus and Paper Goods by August & Osceola / Oh So Beautiful Paper

"Dinner with Thieves" Menus and Paper Goods by August & Osceola / Oh So Beautiful Paper

"Dinner with Thieves" Menus and Paper Goods by August & Osceola / Oh So Beautiful Paper

"Dinner with Thieves" Menus and Paper Goods by August & Osceola / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Thanks Shanleigh!

Photo Credits: August & Osceola

Behind the Stationery: Dancing Pen and Press

For our next feature, I want to introduce Elecia from Dancing Pen & Press – she’s a calligrapher turned letterpress and watercolor artist. Learning from Morgan of Ladyfingers Letterpress, Elecia expanded her skill set to expand and appeal to her customer base. Her story is proof that with determination in teaching yourself and the powers of Google, you can learn and do anything. From selling on Etsy to having her own website and soon her own brick & mortar location, here is Elecia! – Megan

Behind the Stationery: Dancing Pen and Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Hello, Oh So Beautiful Paper readers! My name is Elecia and I would love to share with you all a bit about us here at Dancing Pen & Press. It started with just a pen and a dream…literally. As a little girl I was obsessed with calligraphy. Going to grade school in New England in the ’80s while most kids had their “erasable” ballpoint pens (that never really erased, did they?), my love of calligraphy and art followed me throughout my teenage years. I started college as a Biology major, but I ended up graduating with a major in Textiles, Merchandising & Design and a minor in Fine Arts. The numerous color theory and color science classes I took did not go to waste. Mixing color is one of my favorite tasks here at Dancing Pen & Press, and we mix a LOT of color!

Behind the Stationery: Dancing Pen and Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

We custom mix all of our letterpress inks, watercolors, and calligraphy inks. I find it a personal challenge when a client gives me a swatch to get it exact. After working for a few years in corporate retail, I started Dancing Pen in 2008. I learned that there was a “new” type of calligraphy out there. It wasn’t new at all, actually. It was a form of calligraphy called copperplate, dating back to the 1700s. This type of calligraphy uses a pointed dip pen instead of a flat tip. Using pressure on the down stroke of the letterform creates the gorgeous thick and thin lines of this style of calligraphy. This opens the nib and allows more ink to flow through.

Behind the Stationery: Dancing Pen and Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I ordered all of the supplies and instructional guides from the United Kingdom because they weren’t yet available here in the States. I didn’t have a website, and had not heard of Etsy, so I put up a listing on Craigslist of all places. Within 24 hours, I had my first job! It was 275 envelopes for a Bat Mitzvah in Boston. More and more jobs came my way, and a few short months later I started my Etsy shop.

For a few years, calligraphy was the bread and butter of Dancing Pen Calligraphy. We offered hand calligraphy envelopes, place cards, vows and simple marriage certificates. I would ask my clients to include one sample of their wedding invitation so I could get a feel for their aesthetic and carry that look to their envelopes. I remember getting my first letterpress invitation in my hands and just fell in love!! I didn’t even know what it was called, but I knew I had to learn how to create something with that type of depth, texture, and handcrafted yet luxurious feel.

Behind the Stationery: Dancing Pen and Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

After a few minutes on the Internet (Google did not fail me), I learned about the wonder that is letterpress printing. Lucky for me, AS220, a local community print shop offered three-day letterpress workshops. Morgan Calderini of Ladyfingers Letterpress (before there was a Ladyfingers Letterpress) taught the class. I quickly realized that this was a calling for me. I just adored the way that I could “marry” the hand calligraphy I have always loved, with my new crush – letterpress. I scoured local ads and found a Chandler & Price New Style letterpress for the deal of the century at $200. And this is when Dancing Pen Calligraphy, became Dancing Pen & Press.

Behind the Stationery: Dancing Pen and Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

In 2010, I packed my bags and moved from Rhode Island to sunny Houston, Texas. I wanted to expand my horizons with custom marriage certificates and add more flair to them besides hand calligraphy. My Chandler and Price letterpress isn’t large enough to print an 18×24″ certificate so I knew that I had to learn watercolor! Just like calligraphy, I purchased a book and taught myself that as well. I seriously LOVE the unpredictable nature of watercolor and plan to incorporate it more in letterpress wedding invitations in the near future.

Behind the Stationery: Dancing Pen and Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Our business is busy all year long, but depending on the season product popularity ebbs and flows. Late winter to early summer we are humming right along with letterpress invitations, then mid-summer to early fall we are in marriage certificate season, followed by a huge Christmas/Holiday letterpress card season. I love all of the different aspects of what we do. They are all my babies and I could not pick my favorite!

Behind the Stationery: Dancing Pen and Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

In 2012, Allison joined the team. It was so nice to share some of the responsibilities of running a business. I am also a huge brainstormer, so it’s fantastic to have someone to bounce ideas off of. I have always thought of myself as having a keen eye for color. She helps with quality control, packing up letterpress goodies with care and scheduling.

At this point we were still running our business 100% off of Etsy. We shipped all over the world, but most clients came from Los Angeles, NYC, Australia (yes, Australia!), and the Southern Belle states. Allison and I launched our website exactly one year ago and our new Houston clientele immediately responded.

We like to joke that we should rebrand ourselves as “Swanky Letterpress”, because we are Southern (Allison), and Yankee (Elecia). Did I mention we are huge word dorks? We work well together since we are so different. I love traditional curly calligraphy or trendy gold foil on an invitation, while Allison leans more towards clean lines and a contemporary aesthetic.

Behind the Stationery: Dancing Pen and Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

We have been wanting to expand to a brick & mortar storefront for a while now. Envelopes, boxes of Crane Lettra paper, pads of watercolor paper, samples, ink cans, watercolor palettes, hot foil stamping machines, and the like have been overflowing to other parts of my not-so-huge house in the past year or two. We have been searching for the perfect location for Dancing Pen & Press to call home. We are THRILLED to announce that we have secured a location, and are in the process of renovating & will open doors the first week of November!! We will of course be posting a photo diary all along the way of our progress. Think dove grey painted wood floors and cabinetry, blush walls, gold…well, we won’t give it all away.

Stay tuned!

All photos courtesy of Dancing Pen & Press.

Interested in participating in the Behind the Stationery column? Please send an email to Megan at megan[at] for more information.

NSS 2015 Sneak Peek: Ferme à Papier

Aaaaah! The 2015 National Stationery Show is less than two weeks away! Today I’m excited to share the first sneak peek from an NSS 2015 exhibitor – Ferme à Papier by Cat Seto (Booth #2034)! For her newest releases, Cat is channeling a geometry theme that she’s calling “Golden Rectangle...harmony in geometry.” Cat is incorporating the golden ratio and rectangle into all aspects of organizing and giving with new Foiled Yearless Planners and Foiled greeting cards, along with an illustrated a set of friendship cards and a “Girl Power” art print.






Thanks Cat!

Photo Credits: Ferme à Papier

Lauren’s 2nd Annual Derby Day Party Invitations

You might remember these super fun Kentucky Derby Day party invitations from Lauren Chism last year – I loved the preppy navy and green color palette and stripes! Well, Lauren and her husband decided to make their Derby Day party an annual tradition, and I’m thrilled to share this year’s invitations today!


From Lauren: When it was time to design invitations for our annual Derby Day party, I felt the pressure to design another fun invitation (self-imposed of course). I loved how last year’s invitations turned out, so I wanted these to be equally as special, without overlapping in style since we were inviting a lot of the same people. I kept the color scheme the same-ish with cobalt blue and kelly green, but that’s where the similarities ended.



I wanted to wow guests right out of the mailbox, so I planned the envelopes as much as the invitations. I used white digital ink for the addresses, which just popped on the kraft paper and each envelope had a mix of vintage postage that I curated from various Etsy shops. From the horses to the roses, I don’t think I could have found more perfect postage for a derby party.



Wait, it gets better on the inside… the invitations were square gate fold format, but I had the back facing up, so that when guests open the envelope, the first thing they see is “2nd Annual Derby Day.” When they flip it over, the cards were sealed with a little bow-tie sticker. The green stickers popped on the background of patterns, inspired by jockey silks.




On the inside, I utilized the unique format to layout the party details. From the mint juleps and southern snacks to requesting guest wear ‘derby attire’, I made sure I all the information was there but love how the layout was simple and fresh. We had fun with the puns too: calling our house ‘Chism Downs’ and asking guests to RSVP with yay or ‘neigh’. Now, we just need to make sure our party is as much fun as the invitations!


Thanks Lauren!

Lauren Chism Fine Papers is a member of the Designer Rolodex – you can check out more of Lauren’s work right here!

Photo Credits: Lauren Chism Fine Papers