Our next guest on Behind the Stationery is bartender-turned-stationer, Lauren Reed from Darling + Pearl Lettepress. Her stationery business focuses primarily on custom wedding invitation suites and Lauren’s here to share about how she works with her clients in innovative ways, encouraging couples to share non-designer work as inspiration. Welcome, Lauren! —Megan Soh
From Lauren: Hi! My name is Lauren Reed: bartender, turned designer + letterpress printer and the founder of Darling + Pearl Letterpress. I started designing stationery in 2009 during my engagement to now-hubby, Greg. Terribly cliché story, I know. After bartending throughout (and after) college, I was itching to find something to be wildly passionate about, so I put together a small collection of invitation designs to jump into the industry.
Photo by Quarter Moon Co.
I knew I had a ton to learn, and a niche to find so as I settled in and started to get comfortable, I decided I wanted to understand the process and equipment involved in everything, but specifically letterpress printing. In 2010, I bought my first small press, followed by my 1905 Golding Pearl (part of my namesake). And in 2014 I bought my workhorse 10×15 C&P, along with some other additions to my cast iron “family”. I’m a natural born problem solver — dead on ISTP (if you’re familiar with Myers–Briggs Personality Types) — so really this entire learning, printing, business-owning process has brought me a greater understanding of myself and some of my greatest strengths (and weaknesses, naturally).
I currently work out of 2 different studio spaces (one for press and one for design and finishing) in the Central New Jersey area. At this point in my life, with two small kids (Declan 6, and Finna 3), a “typical” workday for me doesn’t really exist. It’s more like a typical week with flexible details.
Mondays and Tuesdays are generally spent in my home studio designing, sketching, communicating, emailing, and ordering supplies to prepare for the following week’s presswork. Wednesdays and Thursdays are usually dedicated to the print studio. And Friday is flexible, even to the point of sometimes being able to keep my daughter Finna at home to hang (and help me style some stationery to photograph!). Since my work is all varying levels of custom, my work schedule is more of an ebb and flow and very much dependent on the communication of my clients at any given time. I find that it’s easier to batch projects so I’m moving them through the same part of the process at the same time.
At this point in my career, I’m focused on custom/semi-custom (mostly wedding) letterpress and mixed media stationery.
I absolutely adore the process of piecing together a custom invitation suite and the supporting stationery — save the dates all the way through event day items and signage. For me, it’s very similar to completing a puzzle, or even successfully loading the dishwasher (haha, seriously though!). The elements are: the couple, their history, their vision, their colors, the venue and the *feel* of the event, as well as *my* aesthetic and design sense, which is also really important for me to hold on to. I love the challenge of balancing all of these items and at the same time creating a final design that both my clients and myself are head over heels in love with. It’s so corny, but I tell my clients that working with me for custom stationery, they really get a piece of my heart in the process. And I think realizing that has made all the difference in understanding that this is where I need to be for now.
Since I handle the vast majority of production in house, it’s really a great opportunity for me to fulfill some different creative avenues without the typical risk (and the cost) of outsourcing to other production houses. It also enables me to stay creative with mixing and matching my processes in new and exciting ways.
To get started, my clients fill out a contact questionnaire so I can send over some pricing and package options. Once the invoicing details are in place, I’ll setup a communication board (through Trello) where they can upload inspiration images, view proofs, their timeline, and have access to wording questionnaires, address templates, and they can sign off for final approvals- etc. What’s really great about this setup is the lack of emails, and the detailed (and easy to find) record of communication. There’s no searching though inboxes or mis-filing a final approval.
Another important revelation of the past couple years is in regards to inspiration images.
I always felt a massive struggle to try to create something unique when my clients were putting other designer’s work in front of me. So at the end of 2015, I started asking for 4-5 non-stationery images (and I love floral inspiration!). I found that I had a great connection with their organic inspiration and it really helps me create something that fits them and their event. This is really where I started to develop my unique and recognizable “voice.” After I have their wording and inspiration, I put together the first proof. We then communicate any adjustments to work towards a final approval. Once everything is perfect, they sign off, settle the balance, and then I get to work (on the physical, churn-it-out side).
Assembly days are always my favorite. It’s the first time I get to see all the elements together in the same physical space and get to experience my entire vision really come to life. And most times it’s the culmination of weeks or months of work and collaboration.
My favorite add-on-details to include are venue sketches and curated vintage postage. There are so many different postage options out there and it really allows us to tell their guests about some of the details of their lives, or even just deepen or accent the color palette that we’re using for their stationery. Plus, it always makes for a beautiful envelope, full of character. Adding a sketch to the package also helps distinguish the event in a new an unexpected way from what people have grown accustomed to.
Photos courtesy of Darling + Pearl Letterpress except where noted.
Want to be featured in the Behind the Stationery column? Reach out to Megan at megan [at] ohsobeautifulpaper [dot] com for more details.