“Snail Mail,” the disdainful word coined by early adopters of the internet, is giving way to a renewed interest in the best use of the written word. Bored with — and overwhelmed by — the bombardment of images and invective on social media, many people all over New York, and across the country are finding new interest in reading and writing to one another. Spring is just about here. Do you need wedding suites, or anything else? Now is the time to start thinking about those. Why not explore the options?
Social stationery won’t replace social media, but at least it will charm us when it reaches our mailboxes. The go-to names for invitations, announcements and personalized letter paper and notes in Manhattan are better than ever. These uptown stalwarts have been joined by new businesses with a slightly different take on things, in different parts of the city, as well as businesses that offer special products for communicating on paper online. The art of producing beautiful paper goods is practiced with a mix of tech and artistry, but it is brought to life with loving hands that understand the craft of the trade.
Located on a prime Madison Avenue block, the 5th floor showroom of Mrs. John L. Strong is dedicated to the art of writing. The company was started in 1929, and continues the tradition of fine social stationery. The finest paper and engraving is available to express your personality on paper.
It is best to book an appointment. There is an overwhelming assortment of typefaces, a library of 85 years of engraved motifs and crests, and different sizes and weights of paper. Everything that is bespoke is engraved. There is a team, including an in-house graphic artist, who will help with your project.
You can create your own proprietary dye, for a motif, family crest, a building, a pet, or anything else you can dream up. The paper colors are classic white, but you can chose different colored envelope linings, striking or classic ink colors, and different edgings. The team will walk you through the many choices, and help you make each project uniquely yours.
There are also notes, cards, and more that you can buy in the showroom or online.
There are thank you notes, social notes, calendars, and decorative items for entertaining and for the study or office.
Beautifully patterned wrapping paper is also available, along with gold engraved themed tablets and gift cards.
Mrs. John L Strong, 699 Madison Avenue 5th Floor
Dempsey and Carroll was founded in 1878. Mr. Dempsey was a talented engraver and Mr. Carroll was the business brains behind the company. They did the writing papers for bookstores and other sellers of fine paper goods at the time, and Mr. Carroll wrote books on manners and demeanor that advertised the brand and burnished its image. Their invitations and and personal writing paper are flourishing today.
It is best to make an appointment for bespoke orders. Some things like simple stationery and basic announcements can be ordered on line, with many examples for you to choose from. In this frame there are samples of the different paper colors that are available for some of products. There is a team in the store to help you design your bespoke orders, no matter how complicated they are. The fine paper is engraved to your specifications, with a choice of borders, motifs, and flourishes to make the notes, announcements, or invitations yours.
A selection of type fonts is on the walls as well. Dempsey and Carroll has a team of graphic designers that will work with the in-store team to make you proofs of the actual projects. These days most of the proofs from every brand are sent via email for you to approve. Interesting.
Another wall shows the different colors of liner paper that are available for the bespoke items.
Dempsey and Carroll also work with many brands to do collaborations, that are not quite as serious as the formal bespoke work. Kule, an online clothing purveyor that features stripes did these. Most of the engraved notes and pads are available in the store and online, but Kule also does fun birth announcements, O Boy and O Girl, that are custom made with signature graphics, and the notes can be personalized.
These skull and rose motif cards and tags are a collaboration with Robert Graham, the men’s wear designer. They, too, are engraved, and can be personalized at an additional cost.
New York, L.A. , Paris or London. These fun cards have an engraved motif picked for each city and an assortment of envelope liners with different maps and views of your fave city. Personalize them for you.
There are any number of fun papers to be found, that you can buy as they are or customize. You can have a engraving die made with the motif of you choice too. Dempsey and Carroll is happy to work with you to create just about anything. Take a look online or in the store.
Dempsey and Carroll, 1049 Lexington Avenue
If you want some really cheeky social stationery and notes, check out DearAnnabelle.com. The brain-child of Marcie Pantzer, a former Town and Country editor, it is named after one of her daughters. There are different themes and multiple collections that run the gamut from sweet to street.
Some are filled with perky illustrations, and some like these riff on the real words of everyday life in the city. They sort of take the air out of stuffy formality.
The collection includes notes, notepads, place cards and gift cards. They can be personalized, and are engraved with printed envelope linings.
There are cards to celebrate your and your friend’s vices, sentiments, feelings and expressions.
Engraved notepads run the gamut from practical, like these home-centric cards, to sweet ones and spicy themed packs. These days one needs to have an opinion.
There are many suites of tender thoughts that are modern while having a definite personality. You can add some spice to your correspondence, and bring a smile to the faces of your friends and family.
Thornwillow Press is another online source for social stationery and much more. Started as a bookbinding business in 1985, it is located in upstate New York, where owner Luke Pontifell has turned his love of books and printing into a maker’s village. He has a collection of vintage printing presses, envelope machines, die cutters and die stamping machines, envelope machines and much more located in the village.
Once you create an account on the website, you can start to build your own suite of paper, note cards, stationery, and envelopes, all engraved. There is a selection of fonts and ink colors on the site that you can use to create your design. Should you want something more special, you can contact Thornwillow to get help realizing your design ideas.
Engraved business cards in different sizes, calling cards, and mini cards are all available as well. Some cards are available with different colors of paper as well as inks. The cards come in mini boxes.
Do you want a menu printed for your dinner party or event? Thornwillow can do it. Invitations that are called fill-ins or ones that custom made, as well as place cards are available in different motifs, and custom printed programs can be created online or working with a designer on the phone.
Matchbox sets of Quotes from Shakespeare, French Quotes, Party Packs or Motivation themes are all available to order. So are Memory Books, journals, thank you notes, note pads, calendars, bookplates and many other forms of printed expression — all on the site to be ordered.
Everything is made by hand, using the vintage machines.
The mixture of old fashioned artistry and craft, with a hand made touch is brought to you on a modern website, so that wherever you live, the art of bespoke printing is at your fingertips.
Greenwich Letterpress was started in 2005 by two sisters who are third generation printers. The business is “green.” Paper is made from tree-free post-consumer cotton or is 100% recycled and printed with soy ink. The letterpresses that they own are run on wind energy. A very low carbon footprint, indeed. You can come into the Village store to see what they have and make an appointment with the staff designer or you can work with her by email.
They make anything, wedding suites, party invitations, writing papers, announcements — pretty much anything. They work with hand letterpresses, so these pieces are not hand engraved. Therefore the costs are much less than engraving, which is more labor intensive. Their work is imaginative, and they are able to work with you on a one-to-one basis.
There are many books with examples of invitations to use as a guide when designing your project. Do you have a design? Greenwich Letterpress can bring your ideas to life. Maps make everyone’s lives simple. They can also do programs and menus.
Give the designer your graphics, or an idea for them to work with, or pick from their many books of graphic designs. They can also do illustrations for your invitations for an even more personal touch.
Unlike most of the other stationery makers, Greenwich Letterpress works with different colors of paper, and many colors of inks, and can even match an ink color to a Pantone chip.
The shop also offers a wide range of boxed sets and amusing cards. They have a large selection of pens and other tools to aid the process of writing.
Greenwich Letterpress, 15 Christopher Street
Goods for the Study was created by the owners of McNally Jackson Books. The shop specializes in all things having to do with paper. Paper, journals, pens, notebooks — you name it. There are two locations in downtown Manhattan. The West Village branch has an area dedicated to social stationery. You can stop into the store and take a look at the stationery area, and then book your appointment with a specialist as no one in the shop actually knows much about what is available.
There is a lot packed into this little corner. Goods for the Study works with different suppliers, and can do your invitations and writing paper engraved, letterpress printed, or digitally printed. This means many price points are available to chose from.
They have books full of fonts, ink colors, motifs and monograms. They, too, can print your designs, and help you create anything you might want. The books and the wall are full of samples of invitations they have created.
The different resources that they work with offer different paper colors and weights of papers.
Envelope liners come in the usual solids, and also a large variety of prints. On the left hand page are maps of different parts of the world and scenes from cities.
The project coordinator can also introduce you to calligraphers to address your special projects.
When you are in the shop, be sure to look around. It’s a popular store, with walls of pens and markers, a real pen bar, and all sorts of supplies for your work or home office. This is a a store to experience.
What is most wonderful is that there is a swelling demand for these stores, and the imaginative items they produce. The printed word lives, and people continue to celebrate their life events and communicate with one another in a tangible way. I know I look forward to discovering what the postman brings, except for those annoying bills that are not yet paperless.
Let’s keep communicating.
Goods for the Study, 50 West Eighth Street
Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn.