2019 Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for Kids

Our next gift guide is all about the kiddos! I have two girls, age 5 and 7, so this guide is mostly geared towards kids in the 5-9 year old range – but if you have kids in that age range I’ve got a lot of great ideas for you! If you’re looking for gift ideas for younger kids, check out my gift guides from previous years to see our favorite toys for those ages! (Hint: Magnatiles is pretty much always the answer.)

2019 Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for Kids 5-8 Years Old

1. I’m kind of obsessed with this wood castle set. It’s completely modular, so your kids can build any castle that comes to mind. I can totally see my kids creating a castle filled with their favorite figurines!

2. This might be pretty specific to my kids, but they play with these Lightfury and Toothless figurines for hours – so I thought I’d include them! I try not to have a million dolls and figurines in the house, but these seem to inspire a lot of imaginative play so they get my stamp of approval.

3. If dragons aren’t your kids’ thing, my kids are also super into all things horses and Spirit. This walking Spirit is at the top of their Christmas list, but they love any horse figurine like this or this with long hair that they can comb and braid.

4. This star projector would be so beautiful as a bedroom nightlight.

5. We discovered these Peaceable Kingdom board games at our local game shop, Labyrinth, over the summer – and we already have three of them! The games are cooperative, meaning everyone wins together and there are no losers (especially tiny younger siblings) with hurt feelings. Feed the Woozle is probably our favorite so far, but we also love Gnomes at Night and this Fairy Game! We also really love this bug building game from Lakeshore Learning.

6. My kids scooter all over the neighborhood – this one folds flat and has light up wheels

7. Thank goodness for beautiful wood toys. I love the colors in this Montessori counting toy for younger kids, and this minimalist wood counting toy for kids above first grade.

8. This shapes puzzle set is perfect for visually-oriented kids! Let them build something entirely from their imagination or work on their problem-solving skills by trying to build the designs shown on the cards. Would make a fantastic travel toy, too!

9. I’m thrilled that Polly Pocket is making a comeback! We have a couple sets already and my girls love them – and they’re small enough to be fun stocking stuffers, too! This unicorn set is on my list.

10. My kids are absolutely obsessed with temporary tattoos – especially metallic tattoos! This Melissa & Doug temporary tattoo book would also be a wonderful stocking stuffer.

11. Bracelets with secret messages! So fun!

12. We took the kids to the International Spy Museum a few weeks ago, and they’ve been obsessed with all things secret and sleuthy ever since! I feel like we’d get a lot of mileage out of this Super Sleuth kit – but an invisible ink pen also makes a wonderful stocking stuffer!

13. Give me all the STEM kits! This Snap Circuits kit looks like so much fun, and there’s also a Magic Rocks kit and a build-your-own Robot Spider kit

2018 Gift Guide: Handmade Gifts

For today’s final gift guide installment, we’re focusing on handmade gifts from small business makers. Supporting small businesses has been important to me since day one of this blog, and while I might turn to big box stores for things like vacuum cleaners and kid toys I always feel like the most special gifts come from artists producing beautiful handmade products. We’ve got plenty of ceramics, some hand painted leather goods, woven art, and some of my favorite jewelry. So many great options!

2018 Gift Guide: Handmade Gifts

1. I let out an audible gasp when I first saw these necklaces from Rare Bird Designs. So beautiful!

2. I could easily spend all of my money in Lillian Faraj’s gorgeous shop. I have one of these hand painted leather clutches (and it has already become one of my favorite possessions), but I desperately want one of the marbled circle purses. Aaaah!

3. I stumbled upon a pair of gorgeous Alchemilla Jewelry earrings at a cool store here in DC, and now I’m obsessed! Each earring is individually beaded completely by hand. It’s honestly wearable art and I love it. 

p.s. I’m definitely feeling jewelry vibes this year. Check out more of my favorites from Four Eyes ceramics and Tidy Clutterings. I want all of them!

4. Did you know that each and every product at Moglea is individually hand painted? Yep. From notebook covers to greeting cards, they’re all painted by hand – making this jotter notebook a truly special holiday gift. I’m loving the colors on this one!

5. I’m absolutely smitten with the fiber artwork from Mandi Smethells. The rainbows are just so cute and clever! I can’t wait to save up and purchase my own piece some day!

6. Completely obsessed with these tassel earrings from Wkndla

7. These ceramic desert bells by West Perro are just so cool – like sculptural, interactive art. 

8. If you know someone who drinks coffee every day, I can guarantee they’d love to receive a handmade pour-over coffee set. I’m completely obsessed with this coffee set from Jars of Dust, and this speckled set from The Lulu Bird is also lots of fun! 

9. I love these hand painted ceramic rainbows – wouldn’t it be so perfect in a nursery? Comes in a range of colors, each with adorable tassels at the bottom!

10. These color-blocked macramé plant hangers are so cool for any friends or family with a green thumb.

p.s. Love macramé but not plant inclined? Check out the gorgeous macramé wall hangings from Noma Macramé!

11. This inspirational quote card set from In the Daylight is the perfect gift for someone working hard to make their side hustle into a full-time gig. The set includes twelve inspirational hand lettered quotes to help brighten any day.

Behind the Stationery: Lionheart Prints

Next up on Behind the Stationery is Liz from Lionheart Prints based in New Orleans! With a hybrid storefront and studio on Magazine Street, she manages her business, staff of 6, and creates all of the designs for Lionheart Prints. She’s here to share her story about how working a hodgepodge of jobs right after college brought her into the stationery world and open up about some of her struggles as a small business owner. Take it away, Liz! —Megan Soh

Behind the Stationery: Lionheart Prints

Photo by Oli Alexander of Gigsy.co

From Liz: I graduated college in 2008, during the height of the financial crisis. My dream was to find a job as a designer in a fancy ad agency, but there were no such positions available. Instead, I worked a lot of (what felt like) random part-time jobs, that ended up paving the way to starting my own business. One of them happened to be a job as a shopgirl at Paper Source in Houston. I loved everything about that job, from helping customers find the perfect gift, to guiding couples through the custom wedding invitation process – but especially restocking the card wall. Every time I would unpack a box of cards, I would turn over each one to read about the brand and how they were made. Realizing that these companies were small studios, often run out of their homes by one or two people getting to make beautiful, funny, tiny pieces of art for a living. I said to myself, “Yeah, that’s the job for me.”

A few years later, I moved to New Orleans and was still balancing the freelance design / part-time job hustle. I was exhausted — working at Pier One during the day, doing improv comedy at night, and squeezing in client work in between. One day I saw a listing for my dream job: a full-time position as retail manager and designer for a beautiful stationery shop on Magazine Street. I got the job and worked my tail off handling dozens of custom holiday cards, invitations, and whatnot, all while managing the retail shop. It was a lot, but I loved it. However, the owner of the store neglected to inform me that this would be her last holiday season, and I was merely hired to get her through the rush. She closed up shop in the beginning of January, and once again, I was out of a job.

Crestfallen, and refusing to get stuck in the same cycle again, I looked back at all the experience I had accumulated and decided that I was going to start my own line. The name Lionheart comes from that feeling; it’s about being brave and doing what you believe in. It’s been five years since I started the company and I’m so proud of what we’ve built it to be today. It started as a little dream, just a gut instinct, a side hustle. Now it’s bigger and better than I ever imagined – and we’re just getting started.

Behind the Stationery: Lionheart Prints

Our studio is located in the heart of Magazine Street, home of the best shopping in New Orleans. We print all our cards in house on two antique letterpress machines, which are visible from the retail floor. Our studio and shop is bright and happy, and we often hear customers say how much they enjoy being in the space, which always makes our day. The front half of the space is all retail, and the back half houses all of our inventory, production area and our office spaces. The space used to be a Buffalo Exchange (used clothing store) so we knocked out the walls where the dressing rooms used to be, and that’s where our offices are located now. In the very back, we have our retail backstock, a break room, and my favorite part – a photo studio! We can shoot products in house, and also use the space to record our podcast, Lionheart Living.

Behind the Stationery: Lionheart Prints

We specialize in hand-lettering and letterpress printing. We love the tactile feel of letterpress printing paired with the humanist touch of hand-lettering; I really think it brings our messages to life. Everything we make is rooted in positivity, so all the copy for our products is either funny or empowering, and in some cases, a little of both. I try to stay away from snark or self-deprecating humor, because I truly believe that the messages we give ourselves have the power to change our lives. I think that underlying philosophy really separates our brand from the crowd.

Behind the Stationery: Lionheart Prints

Since buying our own presses, we are cutting all of our digitally printed cards from our line. It’s really satisfying as we re-release cards in their new letterpress printed versions because it makes our whole line so much more cohesive in terms of color and style.

Behind the Stationery: Lionheart Prints

Typical work day? What even is that?! What I probably love most about my job is how unpredictable each day is. It keeps things exciting! I work in the shop almost every day except for Tuesday and Wednesday which are my “off” days, but really I’m still working, just usually from my home studio where I create the artwork for our line. I get up around 6:30-7:00AM, take care of things around the house, get some exercise, then head to work about 10:30AM. The store opens at 10ish (we have a great store hours sign, which is always a hit on Instagram), but Lauren, our wholesale manager goes in early around 9am to get started on work before the store opens. Ross is our press operator and works regular store hours from 10AM-6PM. We have several retail sales associates who are mostly college students and work in the front of house in shifts of 10AM-2PM and 2-6PM. Between the six of them, we are almost always able to have someone helping customers at the front. Whenever we don’t, I get to play shopgirl – it’s always fun getting to connect with our customers. Magazine Street is a heavy foot traffic area, so the shop stays pretty busy most days.

Behind the Stationery: Lionheart Prints

All of our designs are hand lettered, which means that I don’t use fonts to create our designs (which sometimes I resent not just being able to type good ideas and call it a day, haha!).

Everything starts as an idea, inspired by real life situations and people. When something happens or I say something that I think has potential, I add it to my running notes list of ideas in my phone. It’s about a mile long. When getting ready to design a new collection or group of cards, I’ll sit down with our amazingly funny and creative team to read off what ideas I’ve accumulated since the last release. It’s a good chance to spitball with them and see what actually works, and also figure out what doesn’t make as much sense. Sometimes they aren’t totally on board with an idea, but if I really believe in it, at the end of the day, it’s my risk to take.

Behind the Stationery: Lionheart Prints

Once we get a good tailored list of ideas we want to focus on, I’ll go spend my studio days over the next few weeks bringing the concepts to life. I try to make words look they way they feel. Through typography, colors, shapes and lines, I treat hand-lettering like the costume words wear to get the idea across.

Behind the Stationery: Lionheart Prints

First, I’ll start with a pencil sketch (more like several, if it’s a more intricate design). Once I like the way the text looks and feels, I’ll scan it or take a photo on my phone or iPad (depending on the complexity and detail), and I’ll either draw over it in ProCreate on my iPad Pro, or I’ll plot the points in Illustrator. The goal at this point is just to get the design in black and white, so we can send the file off to be made into a letterpress plate or die for foil stamping.

Behind the Stationery: Lionheart Prints

When we get the plates in, our pressman, Ross, uses our specific library of colors that we have mixed for our line. He’ll place the newly made photopolymer plate on the base, add the ink to the inkwell and start printing. It always takes some tries to get it just right, but once everything looks correct, we can print about 1200 cards in an hour on our Heidelberg Windmills. We usually print 400-800 of any given card to start out with unless we know it’s a best-seller, then we’ll print a couple thousand at a time.

Behind the Stationery: Lionheart Prints

Once they’re printed and scored, we then pair them with envelopes and put them in cello sleeves for wholesale and retail. This is where my experience with Lean Logistics really comes in handy. We have very specific processes for folding such large volumes of cards so that we can maximize efficiency. Then, they hit the shelves and wait for someone to buy them to send to someone they love! It’s pretty awesome being in the business of spreading good vibes. 🙂

Behind the Stationery: Lionheart Prints

I spend most of my time doing about a dozen things at once. My days are filled with managerial tasks like paying bills, ordering products for the store, supplies for production, guiding employees with decisions, and taking meetings with custom clients. Every day is different, and very little of my time is spent actually getting to make artwork. I’m trying to change that though. One of the main reasons I have to make the artwork from home is because my role as the boss is always requiring me to answer questions and juggle many tasks simultaneously. It’s impossible to get in the zone and get into the deep, thoughtful work of creating artwork for products. It’s one of the biggest challenges of running this business along with finding time to make the work that moves our company forward. As a wholesale line, our success depends on consistently releasing new products several times a year. The sheer volume of keeping pace with the wholesale industry is very difficult when balancing so many other high-level aspects of my business. I have hired off a lot of tasks, but there are still just some things that I’m the only one who can handle.

Another big daily struggle is cash flow. We have a huge store to fill and, of course, we can’t sell what we don’t have. Our studio space quadrupled, along with our rent, payroll, and retail floor when we moved to Magazine Street last summer. Although our retail sales are through the roof, it’s still hard balancing all the payments going in and coming out. We are a wholesale line with a retail store, we also do custom wedding invitations, and host workshops frequently. It’s really important to have different verticals for our business, so that when one is slower, we can put energy into another to keep everything in flow. It’s not easy!

Behind the Stationery: Lionheart Prints

Photos courtesy of Lionheart Prints.

Want to be featured in the Behind the Stationery column? Reach out to Megan at megan [at] ohsobeautifulpaper [dot] com for more details.

Behind the Stationery: redcruiser

I fell in love with Heidi’s yoga calendar and cocktail greeting cards at the National Stationery Show this year, so I’m really excited to feature redcruiser‘s behind the stationery story today on the blog! Heidi shares how a blog feature jumpstarted her stationery shop, what measures she’s taken to maintain a balanced life, and what inspires her most in Minneapolis.  —Megan Soh

Behind the Stationery: Redcruiser

Before I started redcruiser I was a full-time graphic designer. For over 10 years I worked at a variety of different design firms and companies, including Starbucks Design Group in Seattle and Little (design firm) in Minneapolis. Both Starbucks and Little were great places for me to explore my illustration and introduce them into many design concepts. While I loved working in a team based environment and as I was nearing the due date of my second child, I was beginning to realize I couldn’t do it all…and do a good job of it all – something had to give, so I decided to leave full-time work to be home with my little girls.

Behind the Stationery: Redcruiser

While at home I had a lot more time to do the things I love – cooking, gardening, and drawing in my sketchbook. Before long I had filled a sketchbook with drawings from my garden with no real intention – but I really liked the feel of that sketchbook so I turned a lot of those sketches into illustrations and made a few calendars, art prints and greeting cards and started a little Etsy shop.

I sent an email to a design blog I read daily called design*sponge with photos of my garden calendar (of which I had 10 made). My calendar was posted on design*sponge the next day and my Etsy store had hundreds of orders, and that really began my transition into stationery. I’ve continued to approach stationery in this same organic way – I draw things I am interested in which keeps it authentic and fun for me.

Behind the Stationery: Redcruiser

I still do a lot of freelance design and illustration so I’m able to be flexible on what I am working on and it keeps things fresh and new. My work days are so different each day, which is what I love the most about this career I have created — every day is different. It can be a little chaotic sometimes but usually I try to start the week off by planning out my schedule looking at different due dates for the week and planning around those using my weekly planner.
Behind the Stationery: Redcruiser

Once I have a loose plan in place for the week, I really try to stick to my list and work through the various tasks or projects. From November until end of December, I am busy packing and unpacking for different maker or farmers markets as well as filling online and wholesale orders. From January to March, I try to devote the majority of my time to concepting and illustrating next years’ collection. Last May, I exhibited at the National Stationery Show with the help of my husband so there was a lot of preparation for that.

Behind the Stationery: Redcruiser

The past two years we have exhibited at the NY NOW show in August so the amount of work in the spring and summer months usually depends on what trade show we are doing. I try to exhibit at a few farmers markets in the summer as well — Mill City Farmers Market is a great little market downtown that I love to do.

Behind the Stationery: Redcruiser

I love being able to be home with my kids in the summer. This past summer I moved my studio back into our newly renovated basement of our Golden Valley home. I had a studio a few miles away for the past few years but found that I was slowly slipping back into that feeling of having too many things going on and not being able to do a good job at all of it. Making sure I reevaluate and make good choices in how, where, and when I work has been one of the most important things I do running this business.

Behind the Stationery: Redcruiser

At this point in my life I like keeping it small (mainly it’s just me), but sometimes I collaborate with other designers and design firms or hire my brother, husband or friends to help me out with packaging. I use a great local book keeper to help with the business end of things — delegating the parts of the business that are not my strong suit is a great way to keep things running efficiently!

Behind the Stationery: Redcruiser
Since I spend a lot of time by myself, I love to get out to farmers and maker markets in the city. It is so great to talk with my customers and make personal connections with them. Minneapolis has a really great maker community — there are so many talented, friendly and supportive people making some really great things here! It is so fun to connect with them at all these different shows and markets and talk about this unique kind of business we do.
Behind the Stationery: Redcruiser
I try to be really thoughtful about the products I create. I don’t want to just be making stuff to make stuff. I try to create products that aren’t out there and, most importantly, products that I would use in my life. All of our paper products are printed locally on 100% PCW recycled paper and are assembled by hand in my MN studio. Whenever possible, organic materials are sourced and we use a minimal amount of packaging for shipping.

Behind the Stationery: Redcruiser

My design process always starts out with a sketchbook and pen. I love spending time in my sketchbook and drawing things that are a part of my life. I love to travel throughout the year and be out in nature to get some fresh perspective. A trip to California always brings so much inspiration! My family and I usually try to spend a few weekends camping or renting cabins in the summer in northern Minnesota as well. The North Shore and Burntside Lake in Ely, MN are my top picks. I also find inspiration doing things I enjoy, like cooking, gardening and entertaining. After I’ve given myself some freedom to explore I usually look for connections in my sketchbook and begin narrowing down my ideas into a few collections.

Behind the Stationery: Redcruiser

I use a lot of different materials when creating my illustrations – paint, ink, pencils, charcoal and lots of different textures. Then, I scan everything in and finish up my illustrations digitally. Once I have some ideas solidified I like to show them to my husband (he’s also a graphic designer) and friends to get an idea of what they think — a kind of very loose focus group. After I have decided on designs, I start working with some great local printers I have developed relationships with. It has been really helpful to have these relationships; it’s great to work with a printer who can print samples, do small runs or large runs without having any difference in the quality.
Behind the Stationery: Redcruiser

I create a new catalog only once a year — it just has to do with my personal goals and what is the right amount of work for me right now. It’s really easy to get caught up with thinking there is a right way to run a stationery company with all the information we have with social media, but really there are so many ways to work in this creative field it’s all about finding the balance that is right for you!
Behind the Stationery: Redcruiser
All photos courtesy of redcruiser.

Want to be featured in the Behind the Stationery column? Reach out to Megan at megan [at] ohsobeautifulpaper [dot] com for more details.

Behind the Stationery: Blackbird Letterpress

Kathryn from Blackbird Letterpress is a seasoned printmaker, stationer, and former teacher! Based in Baton Rouge, Kathryn has grown and built her business in Louisiana since her MFA days and has become known especially for her die cut greeting cards. Today Kathryn is taking us through how she’s grown and transitioned her business throughout the years. Welcome Kathryn! —Megan Soh

Behind the Stationery: Blackbird Letterpress

From Kathryn: When I finished my MFA in printmaking at LSU in 2003, I bought my first letterpress, a Chandler and Price 8×12. I moved the press into a friend’s house who had a large back room and started printing custom work — business cards, wedding invitations, etc. Before making Blackbird a full-time job, I taught adjunct at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette teaching drawing, 2D & 3D Design, and Art Appreciation. I moved back to Baton Rouge in 2007 with the press and type. In 2009, while keeping overhead low (my printshop moved into my husband’s metal fabrication shop) I decided to put all my energy into Blackbird. This meant expanding from custom and retail online & local markets to the wholesale market and exhibiting at trade shows.

Behind the Stationery: Blackbird Letterpress

Our printshop is located in mid-city Baton Rouge in what I like to call the “cemetery district” (we are next door to a 19th century cemetery). We moved into a new studio in 2016 and this expanded our space, almost tripling it in size. My husband and I renovated an old office building for about 4 years where we live upstairs and the printshop is downstairs.

Behind the Stationery: Blackbird Letterpress

We focus mostly on letterpress greeting cards, handmade notebooks, calendars, while also continuing to provide custom letterpress printing from business cards to fine wedding invitations. We print, die cut, bind notebooks, and assemble our products in house.

Behind the Stationery: Blackbird Letterpress

Many of our cards are die cut shaped cards (like the folded hand-shaped and skull-shaped cards). Our biggest sellers are the animal cards in which most are die cut to hold a gift card, money, note, or photo. We love to design things that move, like our perpetual calendars and volvelle info spinners (National Parks, Brilliant Women).

Behind the Stationery: Blackbird Letterpress

Most days are full of nonstop packaging, binding notebooks, and printing, with some design or drawing thrown in somewhere. We have a board that keeps track of the list of card reprinting to do, as well as lists of orders to fill. Personally, as the owner/printer/designer/bookkeeper, my biggest struggle is getting it all done. I do all of our accounting, plus much of the printing and designing, so it can be difficult to fit it all in a day. I’m lucky to have a great team that focuses on printing, scoring, order filling, cutting paper, and custom printing and designing.

Behind the Stationery: Blackbird Letterpress

Most card designs start with pencil and paper, from sketches to the final drawing finished in black ink. The drawing gets scanned into the computer where it is formatted and then compositionally laid out in order for plates to be ordered for printing. As a team we discuss color options, as well as envelope color and packaging options. Plates arrive, paper gets cut, and then the card is on to print.

Behind the Stationery: Blackbird Letterpress

We have 5 presses in the studio, 8×12 C&P platen press, 10×15 C&P platen press, Vandercook SP15, and 2 10×15 Heidelberg Windmills. Each job or card is printed on the press that will print the design the best. Each press has it’s strengths and we use them accordingly. For example, the Windmills do the die cutting and quantity production printing and the Vandercook will print notebook covers and wedding invitations.

Behind the Stationery: Blackbird Letterpress

Behind the Stationery: Blackbird Letterpress

The printed pieces get die cut or trimmed and scored if needed and then move to their inventory place on the shelf until they are packaged and shipped to one of our retailers!

All photos courtesy of Blackbird Letterpress.

Want to be featured in the Behind the Stationery column? Reach out to Megan at megan [at] ohsobeautifulpaper [dot] com for more details.