Brick + Mortar: Clementine Turns 5! (+ a giveaway!)

On Clementine’s 4th birthday last year, I started daydreaming about collaborating with beloved stationery designers on a few custom cards. I had plenty of time. But as the months went on, I talked myself out of it: maybe it would be asking too much; or the project wouldn’t make sense to customers; and I couldn’t ask some designers but not others. So, I shelved the idea. But the year went on and the daydream still tapped lightly, so I went for it. I emailed each designer, asking them to jump in. I hope my joy in this project translates, but for a little extra, Nole + I are giving away a full set of everything to one card-loving reader! –Emily of Clementine

Clementine Turns 5! And a giveaway! / Oh So Beautiful Paper

The Clementine Turns 5 Card Set!

As designers said yes, I emailed back with two things: 1) What I loved most about their work and 2) a few ideas for what I’d love to see them try. Through this process, the goal became clear: I wanted to highlight the joy that stationery has brought to Clementine, and I wanted to give die-hard stationery lovers a set of cards they could use to send love and laughter into their world. Here are the 14 cards:

People I've Loved for Clementine Turns 5! And a giveaway! / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Carissa of People I’ve Loved understands all of the parts of being human that I love. Joy, frustration, maybe both together.

Iron Curtain Press for Clementine Turns 5! And a giveaway! / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I knew Rosanna of Iron Curtain Press would nail the lightning bolts that fly in love and friendship when you’re such a fan.

Belle and Union for Clementine Turns 5! And a giveaway! / Oh So Beautiful Paper

There’s no one to better to capture the sweet Vermont-Americana than Meg of Belle + Union Co. And there’s no creamee better than a maple creamee, in case you needed a reason to visit Vermont.

Letter & Lark for Clementine Turns 5! And a giveaway! / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I askedColleen of Letter + Lark to capture something between parent and child. Her cards are so poetic and the back and forth between us made me cry more than once.

E.Frances Paper for Clementine Turns 5! And a giveaway! / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I sent Ali, of E. Frances, a phrase that my momma said to me. I hope other families love her Brussels sprouts as much as I do (as always, the back of the card has a little love surprise!)

May Day Studio for Clementine Turns 5! And a giveaway! / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I’ve long wanted Kelly of May Day Studio to add another sweet bold card to her stack, this silver lullaby was an easy choice.

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I’ve been saying this phrase to mama friends for a while now and there was no-one better than Lisa from Sapling Press to conspire with to print it.

Birdwalk Press for Clementine Turns 5! And a giveaway! / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Mina and Ian of Birdwalk Press know how to pack a punch into beautiful foil type. I wanted a card to send to friends in moments of “I don’t think I can.”

Near Modern Disaster for Clementine Turns 5! And a giveaway! / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Speaking of friendship, I knew Sam from Near Modern Disaster was the lady to design a card about the unspoken rules of true friends.

Ink Meets Paper for Clementine Turns 5! And a giveaway! / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I asked Allison + Daniel of Ink Meets Paper to balance the light side of friendship and family with how deep those bonds can be.

Parrott Design Studio for Clementine Turns 5! And a giveaway! / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Lately, I’m drawn to cards that celebrate people just for being. I knew Sarah of Parrot Design Studio could mix neon and pattern to produce the perfect punch of love.

Marnetta for Clementine Turns 5! And a giveaway! / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Abbey of Marnetta sketched this saying on instagram and I tracked her down to say: Please make this into a card. Lots of donuts ensued.

Printerette for Clementine Turns 5! And a giveaway! / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I just wanted Catherine of Printerette to make a card that felt like hugs. She did it with rainbows.

Banquet Workshop for Clementine Turns 5! And a giveaway! / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I sent Sarah of Banquet Workshop a photo of a watermelon my grandmother painted 40+ years ago. Sarah got it, plus a sentiment I couldn’t love more.

These last few weeks were a whirlwind of drafts, designs and sweet surprises. Several designers said no too, for good reason: time, energy, the constraints of the project didn’t fit with their style. I know I am lucky to be in a world where so many people said yes. Thank you. It brought bushels of joy and fun (and I would probably do it every year for ever in case anyone is wondering.)

I hope you all love this set as much as I do and for a chance to win your own set, just follow the options on Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Brick + Mortar: How “No” Can Help Grow Your Business

As an independent retailer, I receive product submissions daily. I say no often: In my head, in emails, in person. It’s uncomfortable, confrontational, and I would love to avoid it. But lately my relationship with no is changing. Though no can feel like a door closing, it also offers you the ability to carve your own path and to hone in on what you do best. If you let it, no can be the sharpest tool you have to help your business grow. ~ Emily of Clementine

Hello Brick + Mortar: How "No" Can Help Grow Your Business / Emily Blistein of Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Illustration by Emily McDowell for Oh So Beautiful Paper

I’ll set the scene:  You’re a designer, I’m a small retailer. You are excited about your line. You put together a great submission. You ship or email it to me. I say no, or worse, you don’t hear from me (oof, I’m sorry, email again!). Here are the top reasons why I say no:

  • Your work isn’t a fit for my shop.  Clementine is mine; I get to trust my gut as it screams yes or winces no. The yeses are fun, the nos are hard. There isn’t always a clear reason – maybe your style isn’t for me or maybe too many other shops have picked you up and it feels like you’re everywhere. These are the nos that make trade shows or your follow up emails hard: I love meeting each of you and watching your lines grow, but it can feel like the interaction rides on my yes or no. I’m working to see this moment differently. Rather than saying no with apology, I try to remember it is the unique combination of my yeses and nos that make my store mine. The same is true for your business. No is not a comment on your talent, or your future. A no from one shop might mean you’re ready for far bigger things. If you really want to grow your wholesale line, these are the nos you should be seeking out; they are the glacier that carves the path to stores and customers who will say yes.

Hello Brick + Mortar: How "No" Can Help Grow Your Business / Emily Blistein of Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Scout’s Honor Paper reminds you: you probably think each “no” is about you, but it may not be.

  • Your work doesn’t stand out/You are growing. Maybe I have too many hand lettered lines or maybe you haven’t found your voice yet. Either way, I want each line I carry to have a consistent, unique voice. I may see something really great in what you’re doing, but I know you need time to develop. If you listen closely, this isn’t a no, it’s a “call me in a few years.”

Hello Brick + Mortar: How "No" Can Help Grow Your Business / Emily Blistein of Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper

People I’ve Loved with precisely the vague encouragement I want to give to many submissions I receive.

  • Your work feels too much like someone else’s. Pretty touchy subject right? We could go down the slippery slope of copyright, but instead, here’s a story: Recently, I received a submission from a new designer. One of their cards was very similar to a card I already carried. I emailed my current seller to let them know that I was concerned. Rather than being angry or defensive, they simply said yes, it did look “inspired by” theirs but “designers see each others work often and copying is not always intentional, we’ll keep an eye out to make sure it’s only a one time thing.” I loved this response. As a retailer, it’s not my job to adjudicate copyright infringement. It is my job to make sure each line I have has a place and adds something to my store. As a designer, it’s your job to be inspired and to make (and also be sure you made it first.)
  • Your work needs work. A lot of people seem to be starting stationery lines. I applaud this. But hey, a lot of people seem to be starting stationery lines. Now more than ever, lines are launching with founders who lack traditional design or fine art experience. You don’t always need traditional training (but sometimes you do.) You should follow your dream, but if you want me to sell your dreams they need to be well designed, well printed + packaged, and distinctly your own.

Hello Brick + Mortar: How "No" Can Help Grow Your Business / Emily Blistein of Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Sapling Press’s Beyonce Card: We’re all supposed to feel not like Beyonce sometimes.

  • I don’t have the space/money. This is totally not about you! At last count, I had 64 stationery lines. I would love to add more, but we’re full. Sometimes submissions come in and I think: I love it, I need it, I can’t buy it now. To these submissions I always try to say: keep in touch! And I mean it.
  • Your understanding of wholesale is a bit wonky. Sometimes I love a line, but the pricing or minimums are way off. This is common for lines that are new to wholesale. After all, without a mentor, how would you know what’s standard? Each industry is different. Luckily, a tactful email to a designer you admire, or google search will get you far (and I’ll do another post on this soon.)

Hello Brick + Mortar: How "No" Can Help Grow Your Business / Emily Blistein of Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper

This Dancing Cat print should be your compass as you reach out to wholesale accounts.

Those are some of the reasons I say no. Now I want to try to shift your relationship with no a little more. I want you to consider inviting it in to your business. Stay with me. If you invite no into your business, you also invite more opportunities we have to hear yes. Here are a few ways I’ve seen that happen:

  • “No” can help hone your line: Stationery brands may try on several styles before finding their own. This is great for figuring out what you do best. My no, in this case, means I’m waiting to figure out who you are. But if your first catalog shows several discordant styles, I may be wary to establish a relationship with you right now. Luckily, people grow, lines develop (even after you find your voice, keep finding it)! Your voice shouldn’t be static, but it should be clear: mix your gut, your inspirations, the yesses and nos to find your style. Let nos give you permission to shed your old skin, drop the cards you don’t love, prune your line to make it stronger. Reflect on your voice and delve deeper into your style and your unique voice. (Still not sure what your voice is? There are some great podcasts, blog posts and courses that can help, I’ll share my favorites soon!)
  • “No” is an opportunity to ask for feedback. I often procrastinate saying no because every no is different: not now, not ever, not until you find your voice, I’m excited to see what you do next, I love what you’re doing but I can’t afford it. Based on the quantity of submissions I get, the quality of my replies has diminished. I want to tell you more, but I just don’t have time. Honestly, my dream job would involve having these conversations with emerging lines each day. I’m not suggesting retailers always have the time to reply, or have a clear answer why they said no, but if you’re willing to ask for more feedback, you might get some really valuable advice. How? Simply thank the retailer for replying and tell them you’d love to hear their thoughts on why it’s not a fit, or what you can do to grow your line. Don’t want to start with retailers? Ask friends and colleagues what they like about your line, push past “it’s all great!”
  • “No” helps you find your people. No doesn’t feel good until you get some yeses. When you do, you start building your identity, your brand, and your tribe. Your first wholesale submissions should cast a wide net. They should grow more tailored as you understand the landscape. Some stores may take several submissions before you get a yes. Some will never say yes. But as your line evolves, no will become something you rely on to help spur you further and relieve you from the places you shouldn’t be.

Hello Brick + Mortar: How "No" Can Help Grow Your Business / Emily Blistein of Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Ghost Academy’s Warrior Card ~ for the days that “no” has you down, remember….

I own Clementine, in large part because of some big nos I’ve been dealt. Yet, some days I’m still not brave enough to say no to others. This post is to remind me to embrace no too. When I avoid no, emails go unanswered, thoughtful submissions pile up, we stay stagnant. Instead let’s make a space to give and receive everything no has to offer.  I know that no feels weighty, but it doesn’t have to be a barrier. If you’re open to hearing no, you can help determine how it guides you. That’s powerful stuff.

You know? (Now I’d love to hear your stories of no)

NSS 2015 Mailers

Back in March, Emily and I shared some thoughts on pre-trade show mailers along with some of our favorite mailers from the 2014 National Stationery Show. I shared this year’s mailers over on Instagram, but I thought I’d share them here, too, so that you all have them in one place! I put them in alphabetical order just for my own sanity – and I’m loving the range of design styles and formats reflected in the mailers for this year’s show!

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A beautiful tropical laser cut mailer from Alexis Mattox Design (and how great is that pineapple envelope liner?!)

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I loved Antiquaria‘s peach box mailer with a little sample notebook inside – and that beautiful wax seal!

OSBP-NSS-2015-Mailer-Dahlia-Press

Dahlia Press

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Brick + Mortar: I know the feeling.

“Actually, I had a panic attack. It happened in the middle of the Javits center. In the middle of the Stationery Show. It was terrifying. It knocked the breath out of me. It happened in an instant. Minutes before I’d been laughing, I’d been fine.” Has it happened before? “Yes, once. I was on a plane to Italy, traveling alone. I was 16.” Do you know why it happened? “Yes. No. Sort of.” For the past three weeks, these are my answers when people ask how I’m feeling. It is an awkward, embarrassing reveal. But I spend my days talking about life and work. I like the meat of the conversation, the part where someone says: me too. The part that helps you breathe. ~ Emily of Clementine

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Illustration by Emily McDowell for Oh So Beautiful Paper

I’ll spare you the details, except to say that I was devastated to leave, and lucky to be able to. A wonderful web of family and friends stepped in and got me the hell out of the city. I regained my equilibrium by talking about what happened (I also saw my doctor and got some meds). But I was surprised how quickly, so many people responded: “I know the feeling. That’s happened to me too.”

I don’t like cliches. I cringe at the idea that the world was telling me to slow down. But, hey, I had a panic attack in the middle of my favorite things, so maybe it’s time to take the long way home on this. I’m writing about it publicly because hiding it means living in fear that it will return. When you share, people shrug, or hug, or send you emails and say: me too. And you learn, you’re normal. Anxiety is part of running a business. People you admire have been here too.

I became a shop owner and a mom within the same year. Five years ago, I hit the ground running and didn’t look back. Through Clementine I found camaraderie, work I’m good at, strengths I didn’t know I had. But I forgot how to breathe. This world of creative small business owners is thick with inspiration; it zings with excitement. It is also filled with people who have a hard time turning off. We stay up late. We barrel toward the next thing. We skip everything, from lunch to vacations. We leave little space for things to go wrong. But anxiety and overwhelm lap at our heels. We all feel it, no matter how happy or pulled together we seem. Sometimes we pull ourselves together to feel it a little less.

I am not an anxious person, but obviously, something is going on. As my business grows, I have non-stop requests for reply; endless customer and vendor relationships to maintain; opportunities I can’t say no to. Each month more to-dos pile on. I was overwhelmed, but I shoved the anxiety down, yelling back: how can I be overwhelmed by a life that I love? But I am. I am anxious about how often I have to reject artists whose efforts I admire, by how many emails go unanswered. I am anxious about disappointing my husband, about money. I am fearful that I’m not making the best choices for my family, about the future.

I was juggling it all, until I wasn’t. I was happy and overwhelmed, they weren’t mutually exclusive. Together, they enveloped me, they ate up the space I had reserved for my creative life, for rest. I want that space back. To help me, I’ve called on a few favorite, kick-ass creative women, to share what they’ve learned about managing the anxiety and overwhelm of running their businesses.  I am so grateful to them for saying yes to this, for making me feel normal. I love the choir of voices. I hope you’ll share your stories too.

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Lisa Congdon for her upcoming book, On Swimming: A Tribute to Life In the Water

From Lisa CongdonOne of the things I have realized is that I will never, ever get to perfection. And while that sounds terrible to most of us, it’s actually quite liberating to realize! Running a small business, especially by yourself or with a small team, can feel all-consuming (at times like you are literally drowning & cannot breathe). For a period of time right after my business took off and I got really busy, I had panic attacks every day. And when I relaxed enough to consider why I was panicking, it was always because I was afraid of disappointing someone else — a client, an art director, a customer, my agent, my wife — for not delivering perfection. That somehow if I didn’t make the perfect illustration or get the work turned in ahead of time or get home from the studio in time for dinner, I had somehow failed. I was so stressed out all the time. And so I made a conscious choice to accept (and embrace) that I will never get to perfection, ever. And that’s okay because actually no one is capable of perfection (even those people you see online who look like they have the perfect lives or businesses). I have worked super hard to get comfortable with things being messy or unfinished. I also stopped comparing myself to other people who I admired. I have worked really hard to embrace my own relaxed work pace and to focus on my own unique path. As a result, my anxiety has decreased exponentially, and I still mostly get my work done! If I don’t, there’s always tomorrow. [Lisa is a vibrant thoughtful artist and illustrator, she also writes beautifully about confronting anxiety on her blog]

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Emily McDowell’s Awkward Sympathy card

From Emily McDowellI think a huge part of owning a small business is just figuring out how to not freak out all the time. When I get overwhelmed, I remind myself that I chose this life (thanks to Lisa Congdon for that one) and I get to choose how to respond to stress, nobody is going to die if things don’t go right, and the present moment is my only reality. Worrying about things that haven’t happened yet is a waste of time and energy, and if I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that none of us really have a clue what the future holds. I also try to pick my battles as carefully as possible; I know I don’t have enough energy or time to deal with everything I could technically deal with, so I decide what’s most important to me and I try hard to let the rest go. And, of course, I would also be totally screwed without my small network of close entrepreneur friends. But when all else fails, Xanax is the answer. [Emily has brilliantly mastered truth-telling in her cards, but I’m a big fan of how she talks about it, and this Anne Lamott post she shared]

From Carrie Holmes: I dealt with anxiety long before owning my own business, specifically about work and job security. For years, at any job I had, I would walk through the doors fearing that today would be the day I was fired. Not for any rational reason, but because I always feared that I was an imposter – not genuinely intelligent, creative, or “good” enough. It’s a big part of the reason I decided to start my own business. Fear of failing on my own terms seemed like a better option than being fired. Of course, most of those anxieties came with me, and I developed a few new fears along the way, especially the fear of not achieving perfection with every order, every interaction. Eventually I began to accept that things WILL go wrong. Sometimes it’s out of your control, but sometimes it’s something that was very much within your control that you managed to screw up royally. But the world doesn’t end. And if you have an honest, humble discussion with whoever is on the receiving end of the screw-up, you get a chance to correct it 99% of the time. People are compassionate when you give them a chance to express it, and it helps me immensely to keep that in mind when I feel the fear rising. [Carrie just began a beautiful new textile business, though many of you know from her past-paper life running the popular Two Trick Pony.]

From Carina Murray: I actually swing more towards introversion than extroversion, which often surprises people, as I’ve been able to cultivate a professional persona that (typically) doesn’t reflect my natural resting mode. Over the years, I’ve become pretty dang good at putting myself out there and being warm, friendly and supportive to colleagues and acquaintances within this brilliant industry; that’s not to say that it is an act, but it’s not always as effortless as it may appear. A beloved high school teacher taught me the motto, “Fake it ’til you make it” and I took it upon myself to make this my own mantra in the first few years of my business. And you know what? For me, it really worked! Projecting the type of person that I wanted to become, both personally and professionally, slowly transformed me. I still need some serious recharge time after being booked with a week full of appointments, exhibiting or attending trade shows or participating in conferences, but I’ve learned and accepted that about myself and over time I have become a bit more skilled in striking a better balance. And balance is such a challenge for most of us business owners, isn’t it? I remind you all to be gentle with yourselves and to not succumb to the guilt that so often accompanies taking a much needed breath and a break, which ultimately makes us stronger individuals and business owners. [Carina has gathered some of my favorite stationery businesses under her representation with Crow + Canary and I know she often serves as confidante in addition to cheerleader for the artists behind her brands.]

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Carina’s spot on card choice from Laura Berger.

I am still navigating my anxiety, learning how to say no, to slow down. I’m still sad I missed so many of you at the show. What I know is how much I’ve gained by talking, how relieved I am each time someone says;  “I know, I’ve been there too.” So I’m starting with this: I’ve been there too, it’s humbling and incredibly scary. But it’s also normal, it’s part of our work. Let’s talk about it, let’s listen to it. Let’s see our doctors when it gets too hard. And when we’re strong, let’s write letters, smile genuinely, offer to be the call in the middle of the night when the undertow is to heavy for someone else. Like monsters in the closet, a little light can go a long way. Let’s make some space so that creativity can win. We have better things to do.

xoxo for real, Emily

Brick + Mortar: I don’t know what the prize is, but you won it.

A few weeks ago, Near Modern Disaster posted a photo of the custom USPS stamps she made for her NSS mailers. I was impressed, so I commented: I don’t know what the prize is, but you won it. She replied: Can I make that into a card? And I said: Yes! (and thought: ohmygod, is that how cards are born? That was so easy. Let’s make more!)  I am not in the business of making cards, though. I am in the business of following you, watching your lines grow, waiting to pounce on a new design. In doing so, I’m acutely aware of how hard you’re all working and I am grateful; that you share your pre-NSS journey and post sneak peeks of what’s to come. I thought the least I could do was make up a few fake awards to celebrate what I’m loving most in this pre-season. So here we are, in a make-believe award season, born from the #nss2015 instagram hashtag and I don’t even have a dress.*(*Kidding, I totally have a dress).  ~ Emily of Clementine

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Illustration by Emily McDowell for Oh So Beautiful Paper

WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, let’s give out some awards!

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TO Near Modern Disaster for alerting us to the fact that instead of holding up the line at the post office you could just make your own stamp. (Are you already imagining the possibilities? Me too.)

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TO Live Love Studio for adding a little bit of rhythm to NSS this year (and thus reminding me to wear sensible shoes).

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TO Life is Funny LA, for making a Valentine’s Day card for the other 364 days.

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TO Carolyn Suzuki for reminding me of those sweet few months I secretly/illegally had a kitten living in my college dorm room and for giving me a card that makes me an honorary cat-lady again, despite in-house(/marriage) allergies.

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TO Iron Curtain Press for making me dig through a few closets to find that bulletin board. Also, for challenging me to correctly spell bulletin board twice.

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TO Gold Teeth Brooklyn for reminding us to bring snacks (and start a weeks long black + white cookie craving) because no one has time to wait in line at the Javits for that Starbucks donut.

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TO Sapling Press, in collaboration with Braden Graeber, for giving me something to text to my friends weeks before I buy it. (Photo by Shindig Paperie)

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TO Big Wheel Press for being the honorary dude in the Ladies of Letterpress booth and for busting out this incredible collaboration with Molly Hatch.

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TO Angela Liguori for finding those scissors I thought I’d have to steal from someone else’s desk, but now they’ll have to steal from my desk, because: Look at them!

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TO Frances Lab for showing me the booth details that will make me marvel into wasting endless hours at home trying to recreate them.

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TO 9th Letter Press for starting the party early, while exquisitely bowing out of this year’s show with a mailer so mind-blowing, we need a new word for it. (A Boxer maybe?)

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TO Bramble Workshop (for Hello Lucky Cards) for making me wonder, in advance, if the cacti are for sale and if they’re sold in threes or sixes (or just given away to the retailer who writes a blog post about them?)

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TO Ghost Academy (via Crow & Canary) for reminding me that I’ll find things that need to be said, in ways I’ve never seen.

What items are you excited to see / what awards would you add? Share them (with a link!) in the comments section.  I wish I could help set up all of your booths (not in my fake award season dress, though, this thing is fancy). I will see you in a few days, and I’m totally cheering for you. xoxo – Emily

(Unless noted, all photos were swiped from the artist’s instagram feed as the gentle reminder to their spouse/parent/self that instagram is, in fact, work.)