Behind the Stationery: E. Frances Paper

In honor of family, these three sweet ladies started the beloved E. Frances Paper. Sharing their beginnings story and how they collectively create as a team and family, Ali, Jenni, and Pippi are here to divulge their experiences with us on this installment of Behind the Stationery! –Megan

Behind the Stationery: E.Frances Paper / Oh So Beautiful Paper

E. Frances Paper! It’s still fun just writing it, this real dream come true to work every day and run a business with your sisters. Well, we are technically two sisters and a cousin, but we’ve been so close the term “sisters” has always seemed more appropriate. (We carried our little Pip for so long her parents had legit concerns about her learning to walk.) We’re sure it’s a common feeling among those who have also started their own businesses… some days you have to give a little pinch to remind yourself you’re not just playing office… it’s all real!

Behind the Stationery: E.Frances Paper / Oh So Beautiful Paper

It was never a stretch for Ali, our Creative Director, to enter the world of stationery. As far as we can remember, no piece of paper was safe from her grip. Our childhood soundtrack was one of scissors, tape and the crinkle of paper. We’ve seen entire boxes of tissues turn into parades, rolls of tape into paper fashion shows. Our parents have graciously lived through decades of homemade everything, especially cards. She grew into the world of fashion illustration, graphic design, and eventually her own design business, but we have always tried to think of the best way to exploit her talents. Eventually, it seemed cards were the perfect fit for her artwork and illustrations. A weekend in LA for Katie Hunt’s Paper Camp, and an early mentorship from Carina Murray (Queen of Crow & Canary) opened the door to the industry through which she skipped forward and never looked back.

Behind the Stationery: E.Frances Paper / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Our factory is currently located in Newport, Rhode Island. It’s hilarious to look back on our past offices: from Ali’s guest room (“Dad, seriously just walk between Holiday and Birthday, the bed is in there on the left”), to an attic, to a basement, and we’ll never forget the storage unit where the lights went out every 90 seconds. The building we’re in now is an old Bubble Gum Factory built in 1912 which we love, because it was also run by women! We are happy to carry on the girl boss tradition. The gum produced was sent to soldiers during during WWI. It’s cool to be an all-women team in the same factory space. They did gum wrappers; we do cello sleeves. It’s basically the same thing.

Behind the Stationery: E.Frances Paper / Oh So Beautiful Paper

E. Frances is named for our Grandmothers, Elizabeth and Frances, who must be looking down on us and sending us the gifts from heaven that are our employees. We currently have three full time employees and two to three part-time stuffers we call the Pit Crew. To trust your entire company to girls you actually want to be around every day is a gift. Also, it’s a special atmosphere to work with all girls! Aside from when our favorite UPS guy Joe comes in each day, it’s a free atmosphere to discuss facial hair, coconut oil for everything, and wayward toddlers. The stationery industry in general is one that builds each other up. We’ve been grateful to find how open and helpful other stationers have been, both with advice and support. It’s really a beautiful thing.

Behind the Stationery: E.Frances Paper / Oh So Beautiful Paper

It definitely takes all three of us to come up with our product ideas. We always say we each have a third of a brain and it only works when we put them all together. The artistic third is Ali, amazing combo of brilliant artist and wicked paper dork. We try to balance our designs between beautiful and sweet and happy. We want our products to always feel positive. It seems easy to veer off in new directions, so to stay true to E. Frances, every product has to pass a little test we’ve created in order for us to print it. Sometimes it’s tempting to do something we think will sell well, but if all three of us don’t want to buy it ourselves, it gets the boot.

Behind the Stationery: E.Frances Paper / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Behind the Stationery: E.Frances Paper / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Ali does all the artwork in large, hand-painted watercolors, then scans them in to add text and get print ready. Everything is offset printed and foil stamped. Years ago when we started we were told that ‘watercolor’ has an old-fashioned connotation, but we believed in Ali’s modern, washy look. Today we see a lot of gorgeous watercolors out there, which is awesome. It’s not just a cliché – believe in yourself.

Behind the Stationery: E.Frances Paper / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Along with our signature watercolor washes, we have our unique illustrated pieces. Pip and Jenni love coming up with new ideas and sending them to Ali. “Can you just draw a chicken who’s nervous, maybe a little shady, but cute and perfectly chubs?”

Behind the Stationery: E.Frances Paper / Oh So Beautiful Paper

A typical day is…Ha! Nonexistent! Our days are constantly changing and in motion. Most days are spent fulfilling orders, packaging raw goods, organizing inventory, and lately, planning for the National Stationery Show this May (Should we change hotels this year in order to be closer to Whole Foods?). Aside from the painting, Ali is busy re-designing our website, sourcing everything, trying to be clever for social media, and keeping the wheels of new design ideas spinning. Pippi, with her insane talent of being able to do 21 things at once, manages the daily office, works with the bookkeeper, and usually has her leg up doing a barre exercise all while constantly on the phone with customers and reps. Jenni is presently on maternity leave so she spends most of her time ‘doing milkins,’ as her three-year-old would say. And the whole office runs on jelly beans.

Behind the Stationery: E.Frances Paper / Oh So Beautiful Paper

There seem to be lessons and struggles on almost a daily basis. How many cards to order? How will we know which ones will sell better than others? Which of the kabillion shelves from Uline do we choose? Do we seriously need to actually count physical inventory again? What is girth? It’s a constant potpourri of unknowns and a lot of (we hope educated) guessing. But we’ve learned that guessing is an intrinsic part of it. Sometimes we’re very wrong, but you have to go for it. There has also been a lot of learning, and then then more learning on top of that! Balance sheets and budgets and bonus structures, oh my! We have made a lot of mistakes along the way but it turns out our moms were always right: You learn the most from the mistakes. There has definitely been a learning curve but we have truly enjoyed all of it. Ok… most of it. 🙂

Behind the Stationery: E.Frances Paper / Oh So Beautiful Paper

We want to grow bigger and bigger. We want to own a forklift one day and laugh at how excited we were when we bought a dolly and cheered we’ve made it! It’s a very challenging and fun dream to be living. We are grateful to be doing what we do – working hard alongside one another and our amazing crew, having our products in stores across the country and overseas, making new friends in the industry, and learning how to run a real business and say, “Whaaaattt?! We built that!”

Behind the Stationery: E.Frances Paper / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Thanks to Nole and Megan for letting us wax on about our sweet little company. We’d love to stay in touch with you through Instagram!

xo Ali, Jenni & Pippi

Photos by Maaike Bernstrom.

Interested in participating in the Behind the Stationery feature? Shoot me an email at megan [at] ohsobeautifulpaper [dot] com.

Behind the Stationery: Hammerpress

It’s a true honor to feature printmaker, designer, entrepreneur, business owner, and true craftsman Brady Vest of Hammerpress in our latest installment of Behind the Stationery. Today Brady takes us behind the scenes, talking about his staff, daily business, and how he started the company before the internet took over. –Megan

Behind the Stationery: Hammerpress / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I started Hammerpress in 1994 while studying printmaking at the Kansas City Art Institute. The school had two letterpresses and some type that no one really used. I started working with friends on collaborative projects – mostly posters for local bands, record covers, etc. Once I graduated, I had no letterpress equipment to continue the work, so I began looking for presses and type. This was pre-internet and sources like Briar Press were non-existent. You would basically just walk into print shops and ask if they had any old equipment to sell. I lucked out when I was visiting my hometown of Oklahoma City and wound up scoring a bunch of type and other equipment. Then I got a studio space, and it was basically a word of mouth business. Again, pre-internet and pre-website for your business.

Behind the Stationery: Hammerpress / Oh So Beautiful PaperBehind the Stationery: Hammerpress / Oh So Beautiful Paper

In those first years we printed job work for designers around town, making custom wedding invitations & business cards. From there it just kind of slowly grew and morphed into what it is today. The big jump happened in about 2004 or so, with the help of a couple of good people, we decided to go to the National Stationery Show in New York. I think once we entered that world, Hammerpress really started to develop into more of a business. We now have over 300 products in our wholesale line, mostly greeting cards, but also prints, notebooks, postcards, gift tags & calendars. We have an amazing network of reps selling our product on the road, in their showrooms, and at trade shows, and we couldn’t do it without them.

Behind the Stationery: Hammerpress / Oh So Beautiful Paper

We still continue to design and print work aside from the stationery line. Our custom work includes wedding invitations, business cards, restaurant menus, coasters, posters, and logo design. And we have our storefront, which is an important part of our local identity in Kansas City.

Behind the Stationery: Hammerpress / Oh So Beautiful PaperBehind the Stationery: Hammerpress / Oh So Beautiful Paper

The Hammerpress print shop, design studio & retail space exists in a 1950s building in the Crossroads Arts District in Kansas City, Missouri. We moved to this space in January 2015 after 7 years in our previous location. But Hammerpress has operated out of the Crossroads district since ’95 when it wasn’t more than auto shops and a few art galleries. The Crossroads now hosts a great mix of restaurants, lofts, galleries, bars, retail shops, alongside the glorious Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Behind the Stationery: Hammerpress / Oh So Beautiful Paper / PHOTO BY LANCE FLORES

Photo by Lance FloresBehind the Stationery: Hammerpress / Oh So Beautiful PaperOur work - postcards in the shop

Our new building was vacant before – basically a giant open space with no walls and in need of a lot of attention when we moved in. With the help of some very talented friends and a lot of staring into space in an empty building, we turned it into a really wonderful studio space. The building’s architecture is characterized by a mix of mid-century modern and industrial manufacturing.

Behind the Stationery: Hammerpress / Oh So Beautiful PaperPressroom - preparing photo polymer plate for You Are My Sunshine card

On a typical day, a few people start work at 9 am, and few at 10 am. We like to keep a flexible schedule that accommodates different people’s needs. The press room is usually buzzing by time our storefront opens. You can see through to the shop from the storefront and get a glimpse behind the scenes. Our inventory and fulfillment department is located just behind the front counter. And the office is just beyond that. Currently the designers here at the shop are myself and Jenn Rogers. Britta Rice handles all of our wholesale business, working directly with our retailers, reps, and distributors. Ben Jones and Kate Morgan make up our production team. Debbie Swan and Olivia Tedford take care of order fulfillment and donation requests, and Elise Sanders manages our storefront.

Behind the Stationery: Hammerpress / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Everything we make here is letterpress printed on recycled-content paper. The majority of our projects are printed on our three Heidelberg windmills. For more particular jobs, we utilize the automated Kluge press, or the two hand-fed Chandler & Price platen presses. And all art prints and posters are produced on our two Vandercook Universal I cylinder presses.

Behind the Stationery: Hammerpress / Oh So Beautiful Paper / PHOTO BY LANCE FLORESPhoto by Lance Flores

With letterpress printing, you’re making a connection with all of the people who designed those machines, all of the people who built them, and all the people who made their living printing on them. And it’s a lovely reminder that there will always be a need for tangible things made by people.

Behind the Stationery: Hammerpress / Oh So Beautiful Paper / PHOTO BY LANCE FLORESPhoto by Lance Flores

Our goal is to continue to make quality letterpress work that has a connection to the roots of letterpress printing, as well as the roots of Hammerpress. I began the company on my own and, whether by accident or by design, established a look and feel that is recognized as Hammerpress work. We strive to keep that connection to both histories while continuing to change and develop fresh ideas and new directions offered by others within the Hammerpress team.

Behind the Stationery: Hammerpress / Oh So Beautiful Paper

We draw inspiration from so many sources that it’s hard to be specific. Each of us look at many different things – old sign painting, postage stamps, matchbooks, textiles, Russian posters, Cuban posters, Vaughn Oliver, Peter Seville, Bruce Licher, folk art, old science books, record covers, fashion, ceramics, etc.

Behind the Stationery: Hammerpress / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Each product usually starts out as sketches or doodles with some loose ideas regarding color, etc. The design process can really vary depending on the type of project. There are some projects that I work on completely solo, without a lot of interaction or involvement from others. But for our stationery products, it’s a few of us collaborating throughout the design process. When we’re developing product for a new release, we meet twice a week for product planning and group critique.

Behind the Stationery: Hammerpress / Oh So Beautiful Paper

After all of these years, I think the most important thing about letterpress printing is the connection to the machine and your hands. As the business has changed over the past 20 years, the connection to the machine always seems to stay the same. We are choosing to take an old and obsolete form of printing and strive to make a living doing it. By this, we are paying an homage to an era of the past.

All photos courtesy of Hammerpress, except where noted.

If you’re interested in participating in the Behind the Stationery column, contact Megan at megan[at]ohsobeautifulpaper.com!

Behind the Stationery: Our Heiday

This installment of Behind the Stationery features a stationer who creates some of the most beautiful acrylic and gouache work I’ve seen. Patricia at Our Heiday is a talented artist who left the world of law to grow a stationery company in LA. This sister act has found great ways to break out responsibilities and grow the team. I’m so excited to have them here! Take it away, Patricia. –Megan

Behind the Stationery: Our Heiday / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Hello, friends! Patricia here, founder and creative director at Our Heiday. We’re so excited to give you a little peek into what goes on behind the scenes at our studio in downtown Los Angeles. I started this company in June 2014 after leaving two years of law school at UCLA. A lifetime of reading contracts or writing legal briefs was not a commitment I was willing to make and so pivot I did! Our Heiday is named after my mom and her four sisters who fostered so much of my creativity growing up. I’m a self-taught artist who draws so much inspiration for my family’s endless repertoire of painting, graphic design, dance, and film. My sister and I were given drawing pads before we could even write properly and working with our hands was part of the daily.

Behind the Stationery: Our Heiday / Photo Credit: Lily Glass Photography / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I spent about 9 months prior to starting Our Heiday refining the first release and because my mom had run a robust wholesale business my entire life, I knew that was the direction I wanted to take the company. When the website launched, I expected nothing more than to grow organically, one shop at a time, one order at a time. After months of running solo (read: living room was a warehouse, dining table a worktable, floors a packaging station), our “Ooh Those Baby Toes” card was picked up by Anthropologie in March 2015 and this gave me so much momentum heading into the National Stationery Show that year.

So much changed after May 2015 – we had an incredible experience debuting at NSS and after running the booth with me, my sister, Donna, also left her career in teaching to join Our Heiday full time. Working with family, let alone your best friend, has been the most amazing shift!

Behind the Stationery: Our Heiday / Photo Credit: Lily Glass Photography / Oh So Beautiful Paper

We moved into a separate studio space (my husband is still singing praises) immediately after we returned from New York and hired two more employees so that I could focus solely on the creative side. These big moments have shaped so much of how efficient and effective we’re able to be day-to-day. Prior to having a team, I was shouldering all of the daily responsibilities of running a creative business and being able to delegate was one of the best things that happened after the show. Amber and Megan head up packaging and production, making sure that all of our orders are fulfilled quickly and carefully. Donna handles all of our operations, accounts, customer service, and communications so that no one slips through the cracks. We wouldn’t be here without our customers and it’s so important to us that every one of them feels invested in Our Heiday.

Behind the Stationery: Our Heiday / Photo Credit: Lily Glass Photography / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Behind the Stationery: Our Heiday / Photo Credit: Lily Glass Photography / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Behind the Stationery: Our Heiday / Photo Credit: Lily Glass Photography / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Details, details, we love them. From the branding stamps on our shipping boxes to the labels on our wrapping paper, each element is meticulously thought through before we send our products.

Behind the Stationery: Our Heiday / Photo Credit: Lily Glass Photography / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Behind the Stationery: Our Heiday / Photo Credit: Lily Glass Photography / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Every week, we have a team meeting so that everyone is contributing to the conversations about new product releases, systems that need improving, projects with upcoming deadlines. Donna lives in New York currently and joins us remotely unless she’s in town visiting. This will change when she’s back in LA this August!

Behind the Stationery: Our Heiday / Photo Credit: Lily Glass Photography / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Behind the Stationery: Our Heiday / Photo Credit: Lily Glass Photography / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Behind the Stationery: Our Heiday / Photo Credit: Lily Glass Photography / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Having a team means I can focus most of my time on creative and high level growth. I spend my days painting and lettering new work and making sure that we’re always coming back to the core vision of the company. I’m so grateful that my hands have been freed to do what they’re best at; it’s been the ultimate blessing. We currently offer cards, art prints, gift wrap, phone cases and table decor items, but my goal has always been to become a lifestyle brand, offering a wide-spanning range of products that elevate the everyday. We’ll be showcasing a new line of desk products full of fresh patterns and a calendar for 2017, which was so fun to put together. Sneak peek below!

Behind the Stationery: Our Heiday / Photo Credit: Lily Glass Photography / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Thanks so much for joining along today! You can shop all of our products including the newest release on our website at ourheiday.com and follow along with us on instagram, facebook, and twitter at @ourheiday.

Photos by Lily Glass.

If you’re interested in participating in the Behind the Stationery column, contact Megan at megan[at]ohsobeautifulpaper.com!

Behind the Stationery: Wild Ink Press

Today we’re bringing you a MEGA edition of Behind the Stationery with the one and only Rebekah of Wild Ink Press­! She shares a little bit of everything: why she started Wild Ink Press, a tour of their studio and small storefront, the process behind her designs, and so much more. Thanks Rebekah!

Behind the Stationery: Wild Ink Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Behind the Stationery: Wild Ink Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Hello! Rebekah Tennis here – owner, designer, and general boss lady at Wild Ink Press – and I’m delighted to take you behind the scenes of our stationery company!

I started Wild Ink Press­ in 2009, springing out of a desire to create a cherished, finished product. I have a BFA in Graphic Design, and while I loved my job working in a corporate design firm, I found the nature of branding design to be frustrating – websites getting tweaked over and over, logos stretched out of proportion, with no finality to the work. I longed to create art that was both finished (forever!) and something that I loved, and so Wild Ink Press was born to create beautiful paper goods that others would value and enjoy. My husband Matt listened to my wild-haired ideas and we both took a series of letterpress classes at the San Francisco Center for the Book, then made the plunge and purchased a 1908 Chandler & Price Platen 10 x 15 Press on Ebay.

Behind the Stationery: Wild Ink Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Our company has grown and expanded over the years (through lots of blood, sweat, and tears, believe me) and we now are a staff of seven with a retail and printing space in a converted old soda bottling shop in downtown Chico, Northern California. It houses our letterpress machines, inventory, and also our creative and packaging space. We bought the abandoned building, and it has been very rewarding to restore it to its former glory and let it shine as a 3200 square-foot open studio workspace. We now have three Heidelberg Windmills, a 1912 Golding Jobber, a Vandercook Universal I, and a baby Kelsey 5 x 8 press (for the kids) in addition to our original C & P. And yes, we do print on all of them!

Behind the Stationery: Wild Ink Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Behind the Stationery: Wild Ink Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

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Tips for Working From Home

Like many other creative entrepreneurs, I work from home. Some people assume I must stay in my PJs and work from my couch all day. But working a few steps from where I do dishes and laundry can sometimes be a challenge. I am my office coordinator, janitorial staff, accountant, cook, and receptionist. I can sit down at my desk and get lost in emails any time of day or night or weekend or holiday. But while it working from home may not the PJ-wearing, movie-watching life that people sometimes to imagine, I really love it. I’ve found that a few simple habits help me maintain a healthy work-life and get my work done, all from the comfort of my own home. –Kim from Bright Room Studio

Tips for Working from Home from Bright Room Studio / Oh So Beautiful Paper

1. Keep a schedule. I used to work in my PJs for a few hours in the morning and then shower mid-day, but you know how that goes. Sometimes the shower gets pushed later and later, sometimes my mid-day shower break took way too long, and sometimes taking a break to shower breaks my creative momentum. Now I get up in the morning, shower and get dressed (in real clothes!), get a cup of coffee and get to my desk at 9am. I’ve found my mornings to be WAY more productive when I started my day “properly” – I can jump in to big projects more freely and I don’t feel embarrassed to open the door at 11am in my sweats. That doesn’t mean there aren’t yoga pants days, but I try to keep that as a little treat on rainy or cold days or when I have a lot of production projects to do.

Tips for Working from Home from Bright Room Studio / Oh So Beautiful Paper

2. Keep a dedicated space (if you can). I’m lucky enough to have my own office space and I try to do my work in there (my hubby has a corner of the office but I take over more and more all the time). I have a large monitor that connects to my laptop and a nice comfortable chair that helps keep me at my desk (working on my laptop on the couch isn’t as efficient). This keeps me from answering just one more email late in the evening. My office is decorated with inspiring things to make sure it is a place where I can happily work day in and day out. 

Tips for Working from Home from Bright Room Studio / Oh So Beautiful Paper

3. Set some boundaries. This means for you – and for your friends and family. For me, I try not to answer emails in the evening or weekends if I don’t need to. I might pop in the office to quickly respond to someone but, in general, I save communication to business hours as best as I can. I do my best to treat my work-from-home job the same as any other job, so we have a dog walker just like we would if I worked in an office. For friends and family, its a little harder, because you always seem so available. When someone asks if you can go shopping with them on a Tuesday, just let them know that you have to work (you’d be surprised how quickly using the word “work” changes people’s perspective on your time!). It will take some reminding but they’ll start to realize that your flexible schedule isn’t just open and free all the time.

Tips for Working from Home from Bright Room Studio / Oh So Beautiful Paper

4. Podcasts! People always ask if I get lonely working alone. I don’t, but I do sometimes miss the energy of having other people around. Podcasts are a great way to mix things up. They are perfect when you are doing work that doesn’t require too much focus. My current go-to favorites? This American Life, The Mystery Show, Start-Up, Reply All (and anything else that Gimlet will release next), Invisibilia, The Lively Show, and After the Jump. 

Tips for Working from Home from Bright Room Studio / Oh So Beautiful Paper

5. Enjoy the good parts of working  from home! Don’t be so strict about keeping your schedule that you don’t get to reap the benefits of working from home. Whenever I can, I do my shopping on weekdays and I meet my mom for lunch at least once a month. I get to make dinners that require more cooking time because I can get them in the oven mid-afternoon. And since I don’t have office lunches or coffee breaks, I sometimes make up for it by treating myself to a nice lunch or latte break at my desk. 

What are you tricks for staying happy and healthy while working at home?

Photos by Chiarashine Photography