Making it Personal: Messaging on Social Stationery, Not Social Media

Featured image
Courtesy of Thornwillow

“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.

The elegant Mrs. John Strong showroom.
The elegant Mrs. John Strong showroom.

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.

This is Where You Start to Design Your Bespoke Invitations and Stationery.
This is where you start to design your bespoke invitations and stationery.

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.

Examples of the Engraved Invitations
Examples of the engraved invitations.

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.

Cards, Notes and Tags at Mrs. Strong
Cards, notes and tags.

There are also notes, cards, and more that you can buy in the showroom or online.

Thank You Notes and Items for the Desk and Home.
Thank You notes and items for the desk and home.

There are thank you notes, social notes, calendars, and decorative items for entertaining and for the study or office.

Notepads and Colorfully Printed Gift Wrap
Notepads and colorfully printed gift wrap are available.

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

Inside the Dempsey and Carroll store.
A case  full of inspiration and books on good taste and social decorum written by Mr. Carroll.

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.

Colors of paper at Dempsey and Carroll
Samples of paper colors.

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.

Different fonts at Dempsey and
Pick your font.

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.

Dempsey and Carroll Envelope Liners
A display of colors for envelope liners.

Another wall shows the different colors of liner paper that are available for the bespoke items.

Design Collab cards
Collab cards.

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.

Witty Cards at Dempsey and Carroll
Cards and tags with wit.

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.

Themed writing cards at Dempsey and Carroll
Jet set city cards.

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.

Novelty sets of wrting cards
Cards to match your mood.

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

Cards With a Beach Vibe from Dear Annabelle
Cards with a beach vibe.

If you want some really cheeky social stationery and notes, check out DearAnnabelle.comThe 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.

Are You Naughty and Nice card sets
Are you naughty or nice?

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.

Place Cards with Attitude for Sale in NYC
Place cards with attitude.

The collection includes notes, notepads, place cards and gift cards. They can be personalized, and are engraved with printed envelope linings.

Note Cards for sale
A subtle way to celebrate your vices.

There are cards to celebrate your and your friend’s vices, sentiments, feelings and expressions.

Notepads For The Home
Notepads for the home.

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.

Send Loving Thoughts with these cards
Send loving thoughts with these cards. Photos courtesy of Grant Friedman and Dear Annabelle

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.

A Pressman Hand Stamping Engraved Stationery.
A pressman hand stamping engraved stationery at Thornwillow Press.

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.

A Suite of Personal Stationery.
A suite of personal stationery.

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.

Note Cards and Calling Cards
Note Cards and Calling Cards.

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.

Seating Cards, Place Cards and Menus
Seating cards, place cards and menus.

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.

The Shakespeare Set.
The Shakespeare Sset.

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.

Envelopes Being Made on a Dedicated Machine
Envelopes being made on a dedicated machine.

Everything is made by hand, using the vintage machines.

Small Colorful Notes
Small colorful notes. Photos courtesy of Thornwillow Makers.

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.

 Thornwillow Makers

Greenwich Letterpress is Located in a Federal-style Townhouse.
Greenwich Letterpress is located in a Federal-style townhouse.

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.

Samples of Cards at Greenwich Letterpress
Samples of cards at Greenwich Letterpress.

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.

Invitations to a Destination Celebration
Invitations to a destination celebration.

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.

Books of Graphics For printing
One of the many books of graphics for your project.

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.

More Samples of Possibilities at Greenwich Letterpress
More samples of possibilities.

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.

Pens, Cards and Gift Ideas Surround the Original Fireplace.
Pens, cards and gift ideas surround the original fireplace.

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

Inside Goods For The Study
Inside goods for the Study.

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.

A Wall Devoted to Custom Stationery
A wall devoted to custom stationery.

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.

A Book Full of Possibilities for Colors of Ink, and Fonts.
A book full of possibilities for colors of ink, and fonts.

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.

Paper colors at Goods for The Study
Paper colors.

The different resources that they work with offer different paper colors and weights of papers.

Conversational Envelope Lining Paper.
Conversational envelope lining paper.

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.

An Assortment of Samples and Calligraphy.
An assortment of samples and calligraphy.

The project coordinator can also introduce you to calligraphers to address your special projects.

Pens at Goods For The Study
Name your pen.

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.

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