If ever a couple were to embody the unconventional joie de vivre of rebel stationer Vigilante Paper it would be Abigail and Nathaniel. The bride, Abigail, is a twin: it was her sister Rachael, who contacted Vigilante Paper and ordered two sets of invitations for her as an act of sisterly love (or perhaps to remove one less task from her plate). It occurred to me that only a twin, this sacred co-inhabitant of the womb, could possibly know a person well enough to select her wedding stationery. For two events! This weekend the couple was featured in the Chicago Sun Times’ Chicago SPLASH Magazine for both the unique story of their union and the cool, unfussy way they celebrated their marriage. The Chicago Sun Times piece says it best, but in brief, this is a real-life, hold-the-cliches story, which touches on the following topics in roughly this order: two young people living abroad in their twenties doing exciting work benefiting the others (she as a medical social worker and he as an English teacher), then fall in love in Vietnam, travel together more until Abigail must return to the States. She is quite sick. It turns out to be cancer. They remain together, she beats cancer (YES!), they become engaged (YES!) and together make a commitment to share a lifetime together in two joyous, unconventional celebrations in both Chicago and Madison, Wisconsin (they are both graduates of University of Wisconsin, Madison). The bride wore a stunning Mary Katrantzou dress which, does bear a likeness to Vigilante Paper’s Kaleidoscope suite (sample pictured below). My very best wishes to a lovely,original couple who had their wedding their own way! (Photography courtesy of the Chicago Sun Times.)
This winter I was approached by a bride asking if Vigilante Paper could provide her with custom Scottish-themed wedding invitations. She and her husband-to-be are of Scottish ancestry and had been remiss in finding any pre-designed wedding stationery. Most of what she found was “Brigadoon Hell” as she described it. So she showed me examples of their two family tartans and the location (a charming historic Inn in Raleigh, North Carolina) and asked me to come up with something summery but not too flouncy to combine the two aesthetics. It was going to be a somewhat understated wedding: not huge, groom in his kilt, bride in a seersucker wedding dress.
I focused on the tartans intertwined at the top of the invitation, and lush greenery on all the pieces to reference the Southern location. There is even a sly reference to kudzu in the envelope liner. I think they came out as crisp as a gin and tonic and elegant without being too girly. There is something so pure and refreshing about green and white in contrast to all the foil and glitter being hyped right now in the stationery arena. If I see another hand-lettered foil print I’m going to yak. I love that this couple wanted to celebrate their heritage – and stayed clear of all the design cliches that dominate the paper landscape right now.
(Sidenote: this project had a special place in my heart as I am part Scottish and have always loved the whole idea of Scottish warriors and their tartans. I haven’t worn a kilt since I was a kid, but I did recently upholster a chair in it. Seems to me the Scots are in general a rather Vigilante people.)
Courtesy of Scotweb Tartan Mill
My family’s tartan upholstered on a chair and window seat in our house.
One of the challenges in practicing illustration is steering clear of the cliches that saturate the design world. The ubiquitous trend of the moment appears to be the chevron pattern. First lauded in the pages of the now-defunct Domino Magazine which was laid to rest in 2009, the chevron pattern was used first in chic area rugs and bed linens. Five years later, it’s on everything from blouses to Christmas cards. I am bored to tears by this pattern, as much as I genuinely liked it at first. When you see something everywhere it loses it’s potency. Another such cliche is the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster, which also took flight as a trend via Domino Magazine. Now part of the public domain, this World War II era poster is now re-purposed by Paper Source and other trendy stationers on cocktail platters that say “Stay Calm and Eat Latkes.” Jesus! Could this be any more a grotesque distortion of the purpose of these posters — to assuage the fear of Londoners during the extended arial bombing of their city? WTF Paper Source? Not to point fingers, but I now look to Paper Source if I want to know what to avoid drawing for my clients. Right now, they’re showing a lot of octopus-strewn paper products, owls (a now nauseating trend since 2010 or so), prisms, mason jars, and still (!) the ever-present deer with antlers.
If I am 100% honest, I am guilty of following trends in my own work too. My logo for Vigilante Paper is surrounded by antlers. (I’ll be changing my logo in 2014.). Similarly, I offer a really fun wedding invitation on my shop that features a prism-esque pattern. Perhaps the most difficult for me, as an illustrator and hand-letterer is the proliferation of “naive lettering” which everyone & their step-brother is attempting — in particular in the manner of the talented Anna Bond of Rifle Paper. I feel bad for Mrs. Bond: she was so original and cool that the establishment has stolen her great ideas. Her calligraphic approach to lettering has snowballed into a naive movement of sorts — especially now at the holidays when you’ll see Happy Holidays printed in gold foil cursive. It’s not easy to stay ahead of the curve. And it’s not easy to drop one of your signature moves (in my case, naive lettering) once it becomes an official trend on the shelves of Paper Source. One must keep inventing new drawings and themes and stylistic forms to stay relevant and not get sucked off the cliff, an illustrator lemming.
One of my goals as an artist is to seek inspiration from within and bring it to paper. And also to crush convention. Why can’t a wedding invitation feature a VW Bus? Why can’t a birthday party invitation just feature a bunch of trees and a hammock? Can a holiday card reference Soviet style from the 1970s? The longer I am in the marketplace as a stationer, the longer I realize that it’s pointless to look at what others are doing. It will flavor your work subconsciously and taint your original ideas. At least this is what is working for me right now. And that is why you will not be finding a chevron pattern on my holiday card this year. But you might indeed find a weird portrait of Yul Brenner. Or a bowl of acorns. Or anything else amusing and out of the depths of my perverse noggin.
A few months back, I posted about Tiny Atlas Quarterly, a new online travel magazine that is revolutionary in it’s spare layout and poetic photography. San Francisco Bay Area photographer Emily Nathan founded Tiny Atlas Quarterly as an online project to collect new, sumptuously photographed work from locations all around the world. As it happens sometimes in the universe, I was subsequently invited by Tiny Atlas to provide custom illustrations this summer for this piece featured here called “Demystifying Abalone.” Shot in Jenner, California north of San Francisco Bay, Ms. Nathan tapped writer David Prior (formerly Director of Communications at Chez Panisse and the Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard Project) to explain the culture of abalone diving and the mollusk’s unique status as rare delicacy and skilled diver’s prize. It’s a private world, and Prior does a wonderful job cracking it open.
As a native Northern Californian (I’m from Santa Cruz, a surf town on the Monterey Bay) this project was an utter joy to work on. I’ll spare you a tome of Proustian memories of barking elephant seals that served as my alarm-clock through my bedroom window — but suffice it to say that I know this majestic landscape of ice plant and rocky coast like I know my own family. Emily Nathan has done it justice by capturing the messy seaweed waves, the unfinished, unfancy, salt-worn wood beach houses speckled along the cliffs, and the ruddy faces of surfers and divers who spend much of the day in a full wetsuit in the Pacific’s icy waters. I guess I am a bit homesick for Northern California. But at least I can spend some time on Tiny Atlas’ Jenner piece and let my eyes soak in the beauty. And dude, I am all over that orange WV bus.
Vigilante Paper was delighted to learn that our wedding invitations are featured in the August/September 2013 issue of BRIDES Magazine — a massive inch-thick tomb of wedding planning ideas for the bethrothed. They chose our Odorantes suite, our darkest, most sultry and mysterious invitation suite that features taxidermy birds, luminous moss green leaves and our beloved hand-lettered Caslon font which bespeaks a casualness, despite it being a classical serif. We’re in good company in BRIDES’ invitation round-up, which also features the work of Brooklyn’s hot stationery and paper goods company Paper + Cup Design, and the lauded Cheree Berry Paper of St. Louis (famous for designing Chelsea Clinton’s wedding invitations among many other high-profile gigs) ; both of these stationers have served as inspiration for Vigilante Paper prior to our founding in 2011 for being innovative, creative women-owned stationery design outfits. So we’re feeling good! And we all have a different take stylistically, don’t we? Go check out the issue now on newstands! We’ll keep you posted about new unusual, quirky, and luscious designs in the works for 2013. We’ve only gotten our feet wet folks… looking forward to swimming in outre wedding stationery in the year to come.
One of my favorite things about being an illustrator is getting requests for custom wedding invitations from photographers for a shoot. When it’s custom, it can be an exercise in trial and error. But sometimes you just meet someone with your own design sensibility and the process is a complete joy. In the case of this Vincent VanGogh-inspired shoot, the photographer Danielle Woodall of www.photosbydanyelle.com gave Vigilante Paper a palette and then set us free. What I love about Danielle’s photography is her embrace of the natural landscape — and capturing couples in the most graceful, unposed way possible. Her wedding photography avoids the ubiquitous shots that make me want to yak. No, Danielle’s gift is to see the light on a wooded hillside or a smile in the eyes of a subject and capture it — without a smidgeon of corny-ness. It’s been a pleasure working with her. While I went with the palette of VanGogh’s sunflowers, the end result is more kraft paper meets delicate white buds. In a world of floral overload in the wedding arena, this is a nice way to nod to tradition but works in a more autumnal mood. I also like the austere white invitation envelope, which, when opened offers a world of vibrant color.
What a momentous week! At Vigilante Paper, we have been jumping for joy ever since the Supreme Court announced the legalization of marriage for all people. We’ve been serving the gay community with pride since our founding in 2011. The prospect of all the forthcoming Vigilante weddings in America for lovebirds of all orientations makes us love what we do even more. Love is Love, dammit — and a marriage is a marriage. Our Lovebirds Suite, for example, was designed with two gorgeous Peacocks as a nod to beautiful gay couples out there, as luminous and colorful as two of nature’s regal birds. Sure, a straight couple could happily use our Lovebirds design too, as the design is delicate, lovely and lush. But like all good art, there is an undercurrent of radicalism here — those peacocks are TWO BOYS, people. Vigilante Paper’s Kaleidoscope Suite, is similarly inspired by gay marriages — the color bursts a riff off a deconstructed rainbow. So if any of you are preparing to marry given the Supreme Court’s new ruling, come on over to www.vigilantepaper.com and get your paper on! We would love to help you celebrate your nuptials in the most celebratory, fun, momentous way possible!