My Biggest Project to Date Was Unpaid

Since last August, I knew the biggest challenge of the upcoming year was going to involve working with the toughest client on a fully custom invitation suite to one of the most important events of her life thus far.
What's more, is that despite the hours and hours of brainstorming, vendor research, supply building, paper purchasing, custom illustrations, lettering, calligraphy, digital tweaking, not to mention revisions, assembly, and actually mailing the damn things - I wouldn't be getting paid.

That's right. Zero reimbursement for my time and materials.

"What event could be so worthy of such labor intensive, painstaking detailwork and cause you such stress? What kinds of important people would be receiving these invitations anyway? Who is this crazy hellcat witch woman for whom you were working!?" you might ask. 

And I would say, "Jeez, hey, I'm right here!  Don't talk about me like that! I can hear you!"

Yep. I'm the client, and I did my own wedding invitations and I would only wish it on those of you who love a good, Herculean task, and a fair amount of papercraft.

I didn't really have a good design process for the project, which may have been part of the whole "stress" issue. I'm exposed to SO much inspiration every day working in invitations at Paper Source, and through the channels I follow on Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest that it's a constant barrage of visual stimuli that I didn't really make time to process. So I would just sit down some evenings and, in between paid jobs, crank out a few elements of our invitations at a time. It was easy if the calligraphy tools were already out, if there was already a hot cup of coffee right there, if the playlist was already in full swing and I could just kind of zone out and do work that came naturally to me. 

Once I did that a few times, I had a bunch of bits and pieces of things that I wanted to cram into one suite, with a few goals in mind. So I set out to:

  • Make sure it represents Matthew and I, and aesthetically reflects the location and vibe of our wedding
  • Create a visually cohesive suite that efficiently communicates important information to our guests and makes them feel as if their presence would be truly appreciated at the event
  • Create a happy experience for our guests from the moment the invitation arrives in their mailbox, through the process of opening and enjoying the invitation suite, all the way up through our reception

and, admittedly:

  • show off what I've learned since January 2014 and celebrate that with people who've supported me along the way

So once all the artwork was done by hand, scanned and digitized and scaled and positioned and tweaked and complemented with some type, I sent them to print at my favorite local print shop here in Austin on paper that I've worked with before. I'd have loved to include a letterpress piece, or some gold foil, but cost was already getting out of control, so I stuck with digital printing which allowed me to use as much color as I wanted to in the final pieces.

After a round of revisions with the printers, I picked up all the assembly supplies and postage and started working on the antique gold ink calligraphy in the evenings while watching tv or a movie.

And then I realized, I am NOT going to be able to do this alone, or even with the help of Matt. Not only because we had to send out 165 of them, but because the components of EACH invitation were as follows: 

  • Outer envelope (addressed in gold, return addressed with embosser, postage stamped)
  • Lining of envelope
  • Invitation enclosure pocket, to be bound with a 
    • Gold embossed sash (of a custom designed stamp)
      • Which would hold an invitation AND
  1. A custom map (mounted on the enclosure)
  2. A details card
  3. A reply postcard (with appropriate postage)

So with the help of not one, not two, but FIVE Paper Source employees, 2 friends, and Matt, we worked for a total of FIVE HOURS assembling all these pieces into heavy little packets of art + love, aided by pizza, white wine, and some good music.

By the end I couldn't tell if I even liked the invitations, or if I was sick of them, or if anyone else would like them, but it didn't matter because they had to go out.

I took them to the post office to be hand-canceled (like hell I was going to let those babies get tossed around in some dirty sorting machine conveyer belt situation) along with a box of donuts, which was well-received let me tell you. If you take anything away from this, let it be that you ALWAYS bring the post office treats when you need 165 envelopes hand canceled.  

Off they went, out of my hands, and into the hands of our guests. 

I wanted to create a little piece of art that 275 (!!!) of our closest family and friends would be able to enjoy. I wanted people to feel loved, and to feel my commitment to Matt and this event through my attention to detail and beauty.  And I think they turned out alright.