REAL ADVICE FROM A REAL INDUSTRY PROFESSIONAL
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you found yourself in the world of custom paper?
To be honest, I sometimes find myself wondering the same exact thing! I got my first taste of graphic design during my junior year in high school when I enrolled in a Media Arts class. This was by far my favorite class in high school, and this is ultimately where my interest and education in artistic design really began. I loved my Media Arts class so much, I would visit the classroom (and my favorite teacher, Mr. Riley) during almost every free period that I had. I would even stop in during my lunchtime to hop on the computers and do some work! This class also encouraged me to join the Yearbook Club where I continued to learn about content layout and basic graphic media. While I didn’t continue on an artistic path in college at James Madison University, my love for art and my creative passion never faded.
At JMU, I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Hospitality Management. I had originally thought that I wanted to pursue a career in event planning, which was why I had chosen this concentration. Upon graduating I began a career in hospitality with Marriott International, but I soon realized that the lifestyle associated with a hospitality driven job wasn’t compatible with the life that I wanted to live. After leaving Marriott, I played around with the idea of various career possibilities, until I eventually landed an internship at the NYC corporate office of American jewelry designer, David Yurman. There, at David Yurman, is where my education and interest in creative services kicked back in. During my time at Yurman, I also got engaged and enrolled in graphic design classes at New York’s FIT.
The major event that changed my life forever and altered my path from a life and career on the East Coast to one in Chicago happened in October 2012. In the midst of my first promotion at DY, the enrollment in graphics classes, and an engagement to my now-husband, Greg, my (future) father-in-law suffered a massive stroke that left him with lifelong disabilities. My husband, Greg, is a Chicago native and his family still resides here. When tragedy struck his family, we knew that we needed to pack up our lives in New York and move to Chicago to help his family. At some point before our move, it was my husband’s idea that I should try to put my experience to use and start my own business creating custom invitations and stationery. My first ever attempt at this was for our own wedding, where I designed and produced my own Save The Dates, Invitations, Menus, Programs, and Escort Cards. I loved working on my own designs so much, once we arrived in Chicago I launched right into my own little business and never looked back!
We love that you design a "Mood Board" for all of your clients prior to hitting the press. What kinds of things should clients think about prior to their consultation with you, particularly if they don't have a background in design?
I actually love when clients come in to my studio not knowing exactly what it is that they’re looking for. I really enjoy educating them on the various print methods that I offer (Thermography, Letterpress and Foil Stamping), and then guiding them through the creative process. When someone comes in with no pre-planned notion for the print element of their wedding, we can just start by talking about the overall vision. I also enjoy walking through their Pinterest boards with them. Pinterest is a great place to start gathering and organizing your ideas! Whether the client’s event is black tie, backyard casual, or somewhere in between, the print method and designs we choose can really enhance that overall feel.
Is there a rule-of-thumb timeline that you recommend to a couple who wants to have really beautiful paper products at their wedding, but doesn't want to get into a last-minute time-crunch? (i.e.: When do you start planning out your invitations, vs. your menus and name cards?)
Ideally, I love working with clients who come to me early enough so that I can also design their save the dates as well as their invitations. It makes me so happy when the design scheme and theme we come up with is echoed throughout all of their wedding stationery items. As far as timelines go, I always recommend sending out your Save The Dates 6 months to one year in advance. The actual Wedding Invitation can be sent out 10-12 weeks in advance, but there’s no shame in sending them a little sooner than that too! Designing and printing the menus and escort cards is really dependent on the venue. Some venues hold the right to change your menu items if they rely on locally sourced foods and seasonality, and others will stick true to the menu no matter what. Most commonly I will print Menus about a month in advance, and Escort Cards about two weeks ahead of the big day, but every wedding (and couple!) is different.
Your designs have this uniquely vintage yet sleek aesthetic. Is this a look that you personally love, and does it translate into other areas of your life? (At home, in your fashion choices, philosophically, you name it!)
Yes! I love all things vintage and handmade, so you’ll find that theme throughout my life. If you were to come to my house, you would see it's filled with flea market finds, local artisan pieces and re-purposed barn wood. I also try to mix in more modern pieces here and there too though, so it doesn’t feel too lost to the times. The overall theme of my aesthetic is to keep things light, bright and airy, and as natural as possible. Beyond my home and personal style, I also try to shop local and work with as many local vendors as I can. Even if it ends up costing me a little a bit more, or slightly raises the price of my products, I feel like it’s important to support the people within our communities. I take pride in my designs and products and the pieces made by people that I know. I love being able to tell my clients that most of my raw materials come from the gentleman right down the street, and that I’m actually friends with the artisan who mixes my inks and cultivates many of my papers. As a side note, another passion of mine is trying to live my life and run my business as “green” as I possibly can (hence my love of re-purposed and vintage items). Many of the papers that I print on are chemical-free, tree-free, or produced by wind power, for example. Everyone can make a positive impact on their environmental footprint in some way, even if it’s doing something as small as buying environmentally conscious wedding invitations or stationery products.
Can you tell us a little bit about a really memorable or unique project you've worked on for a wedding client recently?
Right now I am working on a really unique wedding that will also serve as a celebration of the bride’s grandmother’s 90th birthday. My clients are blending these two events so that they can honor their grandmother, have an awesome wedding, and create a truly memorable family event. Obviously this family wasn’t going to find an online invitation template that perfectly captured the essence of this celebration, which was why they reached out to me to create a custom design. I really love hearing people’s unique stories, and this is just one great example of that. It's been a lot of fun coming up with a design that represented this cool young couple, and their amazing grandmother at the same time. We haven’t printed the designs yet, but I can’t wait to see them come to life!
Tell the truth: Were you one of those kids who had the Lisa Frank binder, sticker kit, and 152 Crayola pack complete with crayon sharpener? Did your eye for design rear its head at an early age?
I totally was! I was a huge fan of this 100 color marker set, and I would sit and draw and color literally for hours. When I was about 8 I started coming up with fashion designs for dresses and things. I would draw on computer paper and then put the drawings in clear plastic folders and pile them up in a binder that I called my “portfolio.” I also discovered my love for computer graphics at an early age as well. Aside from every 90s kid’s beloved Microsoft Paint, I was also obsessed with this computer program called Kid Pix that let you create digital pictures and then assign animations to some of the graphics. I loved drawing something silly on the computer and then watching it come to life. Even in school, I was always doodling and drawing and devising different ways to be creative. Even after graduation as I was in between jobs I would just keep saying, “If I could just find a job that let me do arts and crafts all day, I would be so happy!” It may have taken some time and some figuring out, but I finally have that luxury, and I feel truly blessed.
Want to work with Katie and the Bluebird Paper Co. team? Read more HERE!