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. 


Wedding Inspiration: A Styled Shoot with Birch & Brass (and me?) for Free People

I've been working really crazy hours the last few weeks. I took on more projects than I should have because they all sounded fun, and a whirlwind wedding-planning trip to Portland, and am still working at Paper Source 30 hours a week. 

But, fun fact: did you know that there are 24 hours in a day? Turns out they are all equally useable!

All joking aside, in the last month alone I've been lucky enough to work on custom illustrated wedding table cards (with these adorable little beachy motifs that I can't wait to share), TWO full wedding invitation suites, hundreds of calligraphied envelopes, custom paintings, a full set of wedding paper goods (place cards, menus, and programs), the last mugs (ever, I hope. If I never have to ship ceramic again it will be too soon) AND my own wedding invitation suite.

But of course when Brittany Pigorini* of Birch & Brass Vintage Rentals reached out to me and said she'd been asked to do an editorial shoot for Bldg 25, the inspiration and lifestyle blog of bohemian behemoth Free People, and would I want to contribute and would I have time to do it, how could I have said anything other than what I did?

Which was "Uhhhhh, yes. Absolutely."

*I should mention that Brittany Pigorini is a Cool Girl. Not like, "oh hey, that girl seems chill" but more like, "Damn. That girl is cool. I am afraid to talk to her."  She owns her own vintage rentals company, looks like the spitting image of young Sandra Bullock, can often be seen with her adorable husband and equally adorable bulldog, and does events regularly for a hotel that I got politely asked to leave during SXSW because, and I kid you not, I wasn't cool enough to be there. 

So yeah. When she asked if I wanted to contribute to this shoot, I was like, WHAT IS SLEEP WHO NEEDS IT LET'S DO THIS. 

And things have been so nutty since then that I honestly kind of forgot about it or figured my pieces wouldn't make the final cut and that it was just fun to have worked with her on it. 

But I happened to remember to check out Bldg 25 today and lo and behold, there it all was!

It's sun-soaked and strawberry summery and bright and happy and natural and cheerful and bountiful and relaxed while still feeling intentional. Brittany did a beautiful job, looks great in the photos, and made my stuff look good too.

A snippet from the post:
"As the launch of FP Ever After (Free People’s first-ever bridal collection) drew closer, I knew that Brittany would be the perfect person to turn to for some countryside wedding inspiration, and she did not let us down.

Countryside weddings are becoming increasingly popular and it’s easy to see why: A sunlit field, a rustic barn, maybe even a chicken or two… the entire scene is one that exudes romance and simplicity, an escape for the couple and their guests, a day to focus on love and beauty without distraction. For a simple farm-set ceremony, choose bold pops of color to contrast with rustic and antique furniture, silver flatware plays against the wildness of farm-fresh flowers, and a spread of artisnal cheeses, olives, and other delicacies hint at an elevated picnic-inspired meal. Allow Brittany’s gorgeous photos — all shot on film, mind you — inspire you, below..."
Link to the full spread here, but here are the shots featuring my watercolor inspired brush lettering on baguette bags:


Marriage Material: Custom Wedding Invitations

This project meant so much to me. It was only my second full wedding invitation suite, but the first one where every piece was designed by yours truly, from 100% hand-drawn, painted, or written originals. From the script on the invitations themselves, to the custom floral liners, to the address stamp - all from my hand, to the digital workspace, to print (in this case, letterpress! Done by the lovely Studio Slomo here in Austin).

A specific and super-chic, elegant, vision from my clients (who also happen to be a dear darling friends, sue me) formed this from nothing into something - and I truly think they're something. I appreciate the trust and confidence they placed in me and am so grateful for it.

When you care so much about a client, the project is nerve-wracking to work on, twice as such to put them in a box and send them across the pond - and as nerve-wracking as that was, translate it to currency and double *that* for how expensive it was! (A lesson learned: I do not think I will be shipping invitation orders internationally anymore). I felt badly for not having anticipated that, but every day I'm learning. Also learned some lessons about the Pantone Color Matching System on Coated paper and if I were able to do it over again, would have asked for another round of revisions with the print shop on the liners to get a softer pink. We were on a tight timeline, though, and didn't have time for another round. 

Jess + Joe have been kind enough to let me share these, so, cheers to them and their lifetime ahead of happiness, health, and paying stupidly high taxes to retrieve things from customs (as long as they live in the UK, anyway).