Behind the Stationery: Richie Designs

California is full of wonderful stationery designers, and Richele of Richie Designs is no exception. Here to share about custom wedding invitations and her story of moving into greeting cards after 20 years in advertising and design – here’s Richele! —Megan

Behind the Stationery: Richie Designs / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Hi, I’m Richele Silva, owner of Richie Designs. Richie Designs is a design studio located in Long Beach, California. We’re the little city jammed between the Housewives of Beverly Hills and Orange County. I have a small office here in Long Beach where I meet with clients, pack orders, and get to leave my house once in a while. This space is new for me this year; previously, I had been running my business from home. It seems ideal that you could work from home, but I really missed “going to the office” and having a routine around that. I split my time now between the office and my press, which is still in le garage.

Behind the Stationery: Richie Designs / Oh So Beautiful PaperPhoto by Eric Hameister

I’ve worked in design and advertising for nearly 20 years, mostly in the power sports / automotive sector. I began at the bottom in a small design firm and worked my way up and essentially learned on the job. Since we were small, I had the amazing opportunity to sit in all of the jobs of the studio — from going to a meeting in place of the creative director to styling a photo shoot. It was a great situation for me, and I feel like it has given me the perfect education to run my business. Two years ago, I left that work to pursue my line. I had just turned 45, and I really didn’t want to get to 70 wondering “What if?” My husband and I made a plan so that I could go out on my own.

Behind the Stationery: Richie Designs / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I’ve done some version of greeting card design for 20+ years on the side, the last 10 being more serious as Richie Designs and letterpress printing. I happened onto printing when I began taking some classes for fun on the weekends. I purchased my own press when my instructor said, “you’re here again?” after I had taken so many consecutive classes for press time.

richie designs - wedding.wall.sized

My business has really evolved over the past 10 years, from custom weddings to a fuller greeting card line and then this year, with the addition of gift items, such as mugs, pencils, and notepads. My day-to-day is focused on my greeting line, but I have a great love for custom wedding and stationery clients.

Behind the Stationery: Richie Designs / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I work with wedding clients the same way that I worked with my Fortune 100 clients: consulting, conceptualizing, collaborating, and executing. I want them to be a part of each step. I find it’s rewarding for them as well as for myself. Sadly, I only take on a few wedding projects a year now because of time constraints from the other parts of my business, but it’s something that I really enjoy.

Behind the Stationery: Richie Designs / Oh So Beautiful Paper

My approach to greeting design is a little selfish, in that I design the greetings that I want to give. I love type, quirky observations from daily life, and conversations with my friends, so I work to blend those things together. I also have the mindset that I want as many of my cards as possible to have dual purposes. As an example, you could use my Snuggle Card for a sweetheart, friend, or child. I’m someone who buys three or four cards to keep in a drawer so that I’m covered, and I want buyers of my line to be able to do the same.

Behind the Stationery: Richie Designs / Oh So Beautiful Paper

My design process begins with sticky notes and doodles, which are usually all over my computer or inspiration boards. I jot quick things down as they come up, and then when I sit down to design I look back at those stickies and work on icons or type treatments to go with them. I might try out two or three designs per concept and then edit down from there. Once I have a collection of cards or a style that I know I’m on, I’ll order my plates and begin printing. Generally, I have colors somewhat worked out ahead of printing, but on occasion I’ll choose colors on the fly.

Behind the Stationery: Richie Designs / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I used to be very regimented about designing to the very nth degree before I got on press, but I’ve learned over the years that being a little bit loose helps my design process and also being open to the creative accidents that lead you to something new and exciting. It’s something that I want to take advantage of since I print my own work; most designers don’t get that opportunity. Art accidents are unexpected gifts — they don’t happen often, but when they do they’re magic.

Behind the Stationery: Richie Designs / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I have a small team: myself, Lis, who is my studio manager, my rep Sasha, and my husband Chris. On a typical day, Lis will print while I design, or she might be packing orders while I work on business stuff. As a business owner, I would say that the worst part of being a creative person and owning a business is that a good 80% of my day ends up being business-related vs. creating art now. I’m an artist first and an accidental businesswoman second, but in reality I have to switch that around to make this all work. With both Lis and Sasha, I feel really grateful that I have really talented and hard-working women next to me whom I also consider dear friends and great associates. My husband’s role is official cheerleader. I tried to teach him to print, but let’s just say keeping that part of our lives separate works out better for everyone involved!

Behind the Stationery: Richie Designs / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Right now, it’s midsummer, and we’re working on new designs, taking care of orders and some custom projects that we’re still discussing. My husband and I are looking forward to our first full week of vacation EVER. We’ve been together for 12 years now, but he went back to school for medicine during that time and then just when he was settled, I started my business. We’re long overdue and really looking forward to it. Thanks for stopping by the studio!

All photos by Richie Designs except where noted.

Interested in being featured in Behind the Stationery? Email megan [at] ohsobeautifulpaper [dot] com.

Behind the Stationery: The Good Twin

Based in the colorful land of Los Angeles, California, Katie from The Good Twin is here to share with us the founding moments of her stationery company and take us through a day in her life. I love seeing her pins and stationery in local Brooklyn shops here in New York! So glad to have you here today, Katie. Take it away –Megan

Behind the Stationery: The Good Twin / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Hi there! I’m Katie, owner and operator of The Good Twin, based here in toasty Los Angeles. And yes, I am a twin, although my brother might argue with you about the “good” part, ha. I’m so excited to be chatting with you guys today – Oh So Beautiful Paper has been a source of inspiration for me for many years, and stationery is one of my favorite things to talk about, go figure.

Behind the Stationery: The Good Twin / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I’ve been working in stationery since my college days in Minneapolis, after a childhood in Portland spent creating greeting cards for family and friends for pretty much any occasion. While I was in art school, I interned for a corporate greeting card company, and then a small letterpress shop, both of which really helped me learn the ins and outs of the industry. I realized I was really excited about the big picture of a business — growing a full line and having creative control, rather than being a hired gun for an art director, and I set my sights on producing my own designs.

When I graduated, I worked a few jobs (barista, library assistant, and freelance illustrator) while my friend John and I started Dude and Chick, a tiny line of letterpress cards. After a few years of long hours and late nights, I moved to L.A., where I eventually decided to leave Dude and Chick and start my own line. The Good Twin was finally off and running in May of 2014.

Behind the Stationery: The Good Twin / Oh So Beautiful Paper

My studio is in Lincoln Heights, way on the east side of Los Angeles just northeast of downtown. It’s small, but it’s mine! I only recently moved into a space outside of my house, which has been a big change, but also very welcomed – my apartment feels like a real place again, rather than a storage locker filled to the brim with paper! All of my inventory lives in the studio, and I also carved out a designated area that feels a bit more officelike, with a big desk for drawing.

Behind the Stationery: The Good Twin / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I usually bring my pug Peggy to work with me, and we’re joined a few times a week by my friend Bryan, who helps out with inventory management and order fulfillment. Having an employee has been my saving grace —before that, my nights and weekends (and sometimes afternoons) would be spent sleeving cards and pulling orders. I still do a lot of that, but now I have a lot more time to focus on illustrating and the business as a whole.

Behind the Stationery: The Good Twin / Oh So Beautiful Paper

As The Good Twin has grown and expanded, I’ve learned to delegate a bit, but I still find myself packing my days with a million different things. I work best when I’m multitasking. My best trick for any problem is to step away for a few minutes and work on something else, then return with a fresh eye. I’ve always relied pretty heavily on a routine and regular work hours, since my brain responds really well to structure. There’s always something to do when you run the show, so I try to put in a full day even if I’m feeling uncreative or having one of those blocks where I feel like I’ll never be able to draw again.

Behind the Stationery: The Good Twin / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Days usually begin around 9am, after a morning run and breakfast at home with my boyfriend. Mornings are reserved for processing orders and managing my books (nothing like a little Quickbooks with a cup of coffee to wake me up!). I spend a lot of time writing and answering emails from buyers, sales reps, and printers, as well as entering expenses and planning budgets for reprints and new products in the works.

By the afternoon I’m ready for a little creativity. I do my best to draw a bit every day, even if it’s just a few minutes of calligraphy practice. I keep a folder on my phone with all my dumb (and occasionally awesome) ideas for new cards and products. About half the time, I start from a really concrete idea, but often I’ll just be browsing through my endless Pinterest boards for inspiration and just make a drawing or pattern I really like.

Behind the Stationery: The Good Twin / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Every week I comb through my sketchbooks and pull anything I feel is worthwhile, and from there I ink those drawings (sometimes with a Micron pen, sometimes with a brush), scan them in, and start playing around with layout and color in Illustrator. Although I do hand draw everything, including type, I usually piece things together either in the computer or with a light box. For me, it’s easier to focus on each piece of a composition separately, and then assemble everything in post.Behind the Stationery: The Good Twin / Oh So Beautiful Paper

My biggest challenge has always been color, and sometimes I’ll go through ten different palettes before I find something I like. Each season’s release gets one huge file where I keep everything so I can be sure it all looks nice together. Once I have the general look down, each design gets a separate file for cleanup, color separations, and other finishing touches before they go off to print. While I’m working, I like to listen to music and podcasts and occasionally audio books.

Behind the Stationery: The Good Twin / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I head home for the day between 5-8pm depending on how busy things are and how much I’m getting done. I really love my job, and hands down my favorite aspect of running a small business is the variety. As much as I love designing, it’s important to me to understand things like profit margins, trend research, and sales patterns. I think it helps me better direct my own work and style. I’m constantly giving myself pep talks and figuring out things that I never dreamed I’d be wrestling with, but that’s how I like it.

Behind the Stationery: The Good Twin / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Stationery is really exciting industry, and I love seeing change in my own style as well as the different lines I admire. Hope you enjoyed the peek into my corner of the paper world! Thanks for having me, Megan and Nole!

Photos by Kate Miss

Want to be featured in Behind the Stationery? Email [email protected] for details.

Behind the Stationery: Emily McDowell

This next story is a really special one that Emily McDowell brought up with me when chatting about this column’s story. She’s been running her company – creative and business – for 5 years and is embarking on a huge change in her company structure. Kindly sharing some very honest details about the struggles she faced in her company’s rapid growth, Emily’s here to delve into how she’s overcoming and choosing what’s best for her business. – Megan

Behind the Stationery: Emily McDowell / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I’m a writer and illustrator, and I started what became Emily McDowell Studio in 2011, as an Etsy shop selling illustrated prints. I had recently quit my full time job as a creative director/writer in advertising, and I was freelancing in that business and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

Pinterest was just getting started at that time, and people were really responding to my work, repinning it all over the place. Lettering also wasn’t a huge trend yet and I’d always loved lettering – it was what I did in the margins of paper when I was bored all through school, and then in meetings once I started working – so people were really digging what I was doing there, too. For the first year and a half, I only sold prints (printed myself on a home Epson). I really wanted to make cards, but at first I thought it’d be too hard to make a profit on something that costs less than $5. I was very interested in the idea of making cards for the relationships we actually have, since so much of what was out there were traditional messages that I didn’t feel personally connected to. Cards also let me combine my writing and illustration skills, plus my love for psychology and human observations, in a really fun, interesting way.

Behind the Stationery: Emily McDowell / Oh So Beautiful Paper

In 2012, I had an idea for a Valentine card for the person you’re kind of dating, but not really, which was something I’d never seen before. I had 100 printed at a local printer and put it in my Etsy shop in late January of 2013. It went viral and I sold 1700 in a week before I had to cut off shipping. That experience helped me see that there was a real need for the thing I wanted to do.

Behind the Stationery: Emily McDowell / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Behind the Stationery: Emily McDowell / Oh So Beautiful Paper

In May 2013, I launched my wholesale stationery line at NSS with 45 cards. I wrote about 35 orders for boutiques and got a huge Urban Outfitters order, which allowed me to get a studio space in downtown Los Angeles (I had to, since the 96,000 cards I was having printed wouldn’t fit in our apartment!). The company grew really quickly; after a year in business, I had 6 employees and we were in about 1,000 stores and doing a big chunk of our sales online.

I have never had a business partner, so I’ve always run the business and done all the creative. This has been rewarding, but also tremendously challenging. As we continued to grow, I was spending about 85% of my time managing staff, infrastructure, production, finances, and putting out various fires. The creative got pushed to the bottom of the pile because it was the only thing I could do on my own, so I did it late at night and on weekends when emails weren’t coming in and people didn’t need me for anything

Behind the Stationery: Emily McDowell / Oh So Beautiful Paper

It had always been my vision to make all kinds of different products beyond stationery – as a creative person, my brain just works that way, and as a formerly naïve person to the world of business, I figured it couldn’t be THAT hard. (Famous last words!) In 2014, we introduced tote bags, mugs, dish towels, and about 4 other categories of gift products. The bigger we got, the more challenging it was to produce gift – the logistics alone are mind-boggling. After running into issues with quality, timeliness, and cost in the US the first year, we began sourcing overseas, which is of course risky in different ways. We had some major issues and financial hits along the way, like a shipment of 10,000 tote bags that arrived six weeks late with the handles falling off, that we had to figure out how to have re-sewn at a local sewing house, while fielding countless angry phone calls from stores due to the delay in shipping. I’m really proud of us for pushing through when we all wanted to give up, and figuring out so many things on our own.
Behind the Stationery: Emily McDowell / Oh So Beautiful Paper

In May of 2015, we launched Empathy Cards, which took the business to a whole different level. This unexpected growth coincided with building out and staffing our own warehouse in Las Vegas last spring after outgrowing two spaces in Los Angeles due to the storage space requirements of gift products (stationery takes up a lot less room than anything else!). By last summer, we were in 1700 stores and I had 13 employees. The six full-time employees at our office in LA included our head of sales, two wholesale coordinators, head of operations, production/customer service manager, and communications manager. In Las Vegas, we had 5 fulltime/2 part-time employees, who managed inventory and fulfillment of all our wholesale and website orders.

Behind the Stationery: Emily McDowell / Oh So Beautiful Paper

My life was constant, unrelenting problem-solving, which is part of being an entrepreneur, but this was extreme. I was in the strange position of being incredibly grateful for our success, but simultaneously exhausted and stressed out all the time. Part of why I left my career in advertising was that I was tired of the stress and sacrifice of working 80-hour weeks for ten years, but I found that I’d traded one business in for another.

This past year, I began to feel like the quality of my creative work was really suffering, and even though I’d delegated so much to my fantastic team, it felt like an impossible task to continue doing the kind of innovative creative work required to keep the business afloat while I was also running the business. I was also having to say no to a lot of creative opportunities that I really wanted to do, like writing and speaking, because I just didn’t have time.

At the end of 2015, in looking at our numbers, we realized that the wholesale arm of our business was bringing in slightly more than half of our revenue, but took ten times the resources and effort to run than our website, which accounted for the rest of our revenue. We had a lot of internal conversations about the best way forward, and it was clear that we needed to make some changes.

Behind the Stationery: Emily McDowell / Oh So Beautiful Paper

At NYNOW in January, I had a meeting with the folks at Madison Park Group about doing a special licensed collection with them, featuring products that we would never be able to make ourselves. A close friend and mentor of mine, Margo Tantau, had just come on board as MPG’s head of product development and creative, and she and I had been trying to figure out how to work together for a couple of years. I also knew two of MPG’s artists fairly well, and had always heard fantastic things about them as a company.

I came out of that meeting realizing that working with MPG might be a bigger opportunity than a licensed collection, and we started talking about what it might look like to enter into a partnership. We ended up negotiating a licensing contract in which Madison Park took over our production and fulfillment for wholesale, which means that about 80% of my daily responsibilities have been absorbed by their team. I still own and have complete creative control of the brand, and we are continuing to run our website and that half of the business ourselves.

Behind the Stationery: Emily McDowell / Oh So Beautiful Paper

The way it works now is that I come up with ideas, writing, and art for new products, and work with Margo and MPG’s product development team to get them made. Madison Park handles all the logistics and finances of production, and all our products destined for wholesale are stored in their warehouse in Seattle. We are able to buy inventory from them to store at our warehouse in Las Vegas and sell on our website.

Two of my three wholesale employees became Madison Park employees doing their same jobs on our brand, so when retailers call the same person answers the phone. Our sales reps and showrooms are remaining the same, and we’re keeping our own trade show booths and wholesale catalogs; those things are just managed by MPG now. Our wholesale orders are all shipped out of MPG’s warehouse and retailers submit payment to them.

This new system allows me to focus on doing what I started this business to be able to do: write and design products! We’ll still be making as many cards as we always have, but we’ll be adding so many new gift categories that we never could have figured out on our own. Between October and January, we’re going to be adding six new categories, which basically doubles our gift offering.

Behind the Stationery: Emily McDowell / Oh So Beautiful Paper

In some ways, this was a tough decision because it felt a bit like throwing in the towel on a thing we had worked so hard to build for three years. But in looking at the long-term health of the brand, thinking about my upcoming 40th birthday and the badly needed changes to my personal life, we all agreed that this was a great solution for the company. I feel really grateful to have been given this opportunity, and for the first time in a while, I feel excited about ideas instead of just feeling stressed about not having the time to come up with them.

The vast majority of our retailers have been thrilled about this shift (hey, more stuff to sell!). I wasn’t sure how other designers in the indie community would react, given that we basically sold out, but the reality is that 95% of the people in this industry are incredibly kind and supportive, which is really a special thing. All our paths are different, and there are a ton of different ways to build a business. I have the utmost respect for artisans and letterpress printers, but it was never my intention to be a maker; I’m personally more drawn to the creative idea part of making stuff. Ultimately, our businesses have to serve our lives, and as entrepreneurs, it’s all too easy to forget this and make your life about serving your business.

Behind the Stationery: Emily McDowell / Oh So Beautiful Paper

All photos courtesy of Emily McDowell.

Interested in participating in Behind the Stationery? Email Megan at megan (at) ohsobeautifulpaper (dot) com for more details.

Behind the Stationery: Katie Leamon

The National Stationery Show is right around the corner and I’m here with London-based designer, Katie Leamon, who’s sharing about balancing designing versus managing staff as her business has grown to be an extension of her family. Katie takes us through her business’ journey, explaining everything from her sketching process to her first debut, straddling studio spaces and more. –Megan

Behind the Stationery: Katie Leamon / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Welcome to our little world at Katie Leamon. Firstly, can I say a big thank you to Nole and Megan for sharing our story. I’m Katie, creative director at the company – we are a family run card and stationery business based in London, UK.

Behind the Stationery: Katie Leamon / Oh So Beautiful Paper

The company grew organically from relatively humble beginnings as I spent my weekends and evenings sketching ideas, building a website and pulling together designs alongside a full time job in fashion. It wasn’t until Spring 2011 that I had a collection together and was ready to launch myself into the world of stationery design and production more seriously.

Behind the Stationery: Katie Leamon / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I was fortunate enough to be accepted to compete in Liberty of London’s Open Call Day – a day which will remain one of the most significant of my career, and one so filled with fear and elation in equal measure! My brand had been born and the summer of 2011 I launched into the world of trade shows by exhibiting at Pulse London, and landed a few incredible new stockists including high profile stores Paperchase and Selfridges.

Behind the Stationery: Katie Leamon / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Behind the Stationery: Katie Leamon / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Before long, I needed another pair of hands and my mum and sister began helping to pack cards and fulfill orders to allow more time to design and drive the business forward. Since then we have gone on to build a production studio in the garden of my family home in the Essex countryside just outside of London, where they both continue to run our production studio. I am still in London where I work from another studio in an old train depot. There are four of us here including my partner, Ruairi, who joined the company a couple of years ago to help me with sales and business development. Being spread across two studios sometimes poses a logistical problem, but generally speaking it works really well and allows us to concentrate on our roles. I think if the production was being done around me I would never get anything done as I still love being hands on with the cards and wouldn’t leave the warehouse!

Behind the Stationery: Katie Leamon / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I was sharing a studio with my brother for the first couple of years and he was a huge inspiration in helping me find my method that we still use today. Our rubber stamp technique was born the Autumn of 2010. We brought a stamp making kit made a series of hand made stamps which, although I don’t make the stamps anymore, the process remains the same and each card is individually hand printed. This is something that I think helps to stand us apart and maintain the tangible, personal touch that goes into our products.

Behind the Stationery: Katie Leamon / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Photo by Laura Hutchinson

Behind the Stationery: Katie Leamon / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Our style is quite minimal with a muted colour palette and simple typographical and illustrative designs. I combine this playful nature with repetitive geometric patterns, which adds a bit of structure to our collections. I keep a close eye on trends and like to know whats happening in fashion, architecture, and interior design trends as they tend to filter down to the stationery world – and it’s good to be ahead of the game in such a competitive industry with so many amazing brands. They key is to adopt trends but make them your own, with your stamp on them to ensure the integrity and heart of the brand is always prevalent.

Behind the Stationery: Katie Leamon / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Behind the Stationery: Katie Leamon / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Photo by Laura Hutchinson

A typical day for me starts by checking emails and updating our Instagram account whilst making a smoothie. Ruairi and I walk to work most days and spend the journey catching up with things for the day ahead. Once everyone is else in at about 9 – 9:30am we run through various ideas and projects that are going on at the time. We also catch up with the production team every morning – Facetime has been incredible at easing the distance between the studios. I go out there once a week, but we are able to catch up with them multiple times a day and visually see samples and deal with issues, which has proved really helpful. There are generally four people out in Essex including my mum and sister, and another four of us in London.

Behind the Stationery: Katie Leamon / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Georgia was my first full-time intern and deals with all our marketing and press as well as helping out with everything in between! Olivia is the latest person to join us full time and she helps Ruairi with wholesale accounts and manages production demands. Our team is incredible; they are an extension of the family, and all invaluable in helping to run the company. We have had a steady growth since I started out in 2010, and it’s lovely to have people to share the highs and lows with. I’m very lucky to be doing something I love for a living and sharing what I do with my partner and my family is such a bonus!

Behind the Stationery: Katie Leamon / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Photo by Laura Hutchinson

For me personally, it can be difficult to juggle my design time and the responsibilities that come from running your own business. There is endless paperwork, forms and logistics that need to be organized, not to mention the managing of everyone in the team and ensuring they are all working as well as possible. I am in the process of restructuring the way I work and making time to get away from my computer to design. It’s a constant battle – one in which I am taking steps to improve but is probably my biggest challenge.

Behind the Stationery: Katie Leamon / Oh So Beautiful Paper

The time I do take to design and brainstorm is lovely. I love to get away from my desk with a sketchbook and pencil and start jotting down ideas, whether its phrases I want to add to a card, people I want to collaborate with, new products I want to explore, or new colours of things that are selling well. My sketchbook has everything in it; it’s a bible of everything going on in my mind and I’d be lost without it. I scan drawings in, send things off for colour matching, print ideas out, and collage them together to see if an idea has any legs to grow. More often than not, I visualize the end product and work backwards to make that come alive. I piece it all together by sourcing the right stock, getting the right shade, and ensuring a very fine detail comes out as I want. I’m a perfectionist, so getting it quite right can sometimes take some time, but it’s worth it. I love nothing more than the day new samples arrive on our doorstep and I get to see my designs come to life.

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Photo by Laura Hutchinson

Behind the Stationery: Katie Leamon / Oh So Beautiful Paper

My goal is to create beautiful stationery that people buy and almost don’t want to use, to ignite excitement in our customers when a beautiful package arrives, and to make things I would not only use but am also proud of. As a company, I am incredibly proud of how far we have come and that we continue to savor and pay homage to the beauty of hand printed, hand written letter, all the while having a wonderful working life with close family and friends.

Thanks again to Nole and Megan for having us! See you in New York!

Photos by Katie Leamon except where noted.

Interested in being featured in this column? Reach out to Megan [at] ohsobeautifulpaper [dot] com.

Behind the Stationery: Atheneum Creative

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
Behind the Stationery: Atheneum Creative / Oh So Beautiful Paper

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.

Behind the Stationery: Atheneum Creative / Oh So Beautiful Paper

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.

Behind the Stationery: Atheneum Creative / Oh So Beautiful Paper

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?

Behind the Stationery: Atheneum Creative / Oh So Beautiful Paper

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.

Behind the Stationery: Atheneum Creative / Oh So Beautiful Paper

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.

Behind the Stationery: Atheneum Creative / Oh So Beautiful PaperBehind the Stationery: Atheneum Creative / Oh So Beautiful Paper

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.

Behind the Stationery: Atheneum Creative / Oh So Beautiful Paper

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!

Behind the Stationery: Atheneum Creative / Oh So Beautiful Paper

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.

Behind the Stationery: Atheneum Creative / Oh So Beautiful Paper

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!

Behind the Stationery: Atheneum Creative / Oh So Beautiful PaperThanks, 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.