Gifting to someone who loves writing letters? Who enjoys the feel of good quality paper in their hands? Or, who has fun choosing their writing paper based on their current mood, or the personality of the person they are sending their letter to? If so, chances are that the gift of some high quality stationery would be greatly appreciated and much enjoyed.
But, perhaps social stationery is unfamiliar territory for you? Or, you’re keen to branch out from your usual go-to stationers? With that in mind, we’ve done a little round-up of some highly regarded engravers, paper makers and letterpress printers that might be worth checking out. All of these makers are doing high level work and, as with any quality product, it should be no surprise that their stationery does not come cheap. That said, there is some variation, so we’ve roughly organized them into expenditure levels, ranging from moderate-splurge, to splurge, to serious-splurge.
Ink Meets Paper - Based in Charleston, SC, we discovered Ink Meets Paper via Instagram, wooed by marvelous pics showcasing their gorgeous designs. They have nifty greeting cards but, in the context of this post, what we think are especially fab are their sets of flat correspondence cards. They manage to be whimsical, fun, modern and super classy all at the same time - no easy feat. Correspondence cards are perhaps one of the most well used weapons in any stationery arsenal. They are perfect for everything from an “I’m thinking of you,” to a “thank you,” and it’s lovely to have a selection to choose from.
Original Crown Mill (Pelletier Co.) - Since 1870, Pelletier Co., has replicated a line of stationery commissioned by Belgian royalty. It is called Original Crown Mill. More recently, they have been expanding their range to encompass both traditional styles and newer, contemporary offerings. Our go-to are their Color Edge Note Cards (vermilion! navy! amazon!) which we order from Orange Art Store, one of their stockists here in the States. Those snazzy cards, though, are just the tip of a sizeable iceberg - they have a whole range of cards and papers in varying sizes and styles. Chances are you’ll find something to delight that special correspondent in your life.
G. Lalo - Founded by Georges Lalo in Paris in 1920, this French stationery company is still going strong on the cusp of its 100th anniversary, presumably thanks to their range of stylish and high quality products. Many of G. Lalo’s offerings are available in both traditional tones and in more brightly hued colors. Depending on your recipient, one or the other - or, perhaps a selection of colors, might fit the bill. We source G. Lalo products from one of our favorite local stationery shops, Bob Slate, in Harvard Square. If you do not have a local stockist though, you may wish to browse New Orleans based Papier Plume. Through their website, they offer G. Lalo products online. Having a local source to hand, we haven’t ordered from them personally but, judging by online reviews, they seem to be highly regarded.
Crane & Co. - Crane & Co. is perhaps one of the most well known names for stationery in the United States. Given that it’s a seventh generation family business in its third century (!) of operation, perhaps that’s not too surprising? We’ve used their paper to print resumes, to write notes, letters - and, before it was phased out, had an ongoing love affair with their airmail paper which couldn’t be beat for lengthy epistles. Interesting factoid: as per Crane & Co.’s website the company has, “continually supplied the United States Treasury with its currency paper since 1879. United States currency utilizes the most durable banknote paper in the world, achieving the longest life span of any paper currency.” Needless to say, the Crane & Co. team has quite a bit of paper-related expertise and, based on our experience, that knowledge translates into superior social stationery. Whether you want to go the custom route, or snag a box set of pre-designed paper, chances are, if you are US-based, you’re not far from a stockist that carries a selection of Crane products. Failing that, the Crane & Co. site is definitely worth checking out.
Sesame Letterpress - Based in New York City, Sesame Letterpress is another stationer that we found courtesy of Instagram and, ever since, we’ve been ogling their goodies online. All of their offerings are printed in their Brooklyn studio on Victorian era cast iron platen presses and, as part of their commitment to environmental sustainability, they print on paper that is, “tree free, archival, acid free, recyclable, biodegradable, and elemental chlorine free.” With a background in fine arts, owner Breck Hostetter started letterpress printing in 1999. Today, she works with a team of designers and printers to stock Sesame Letterpress’ shelves. A whole host of greeting cards and a couple of sets of correspondence cards are available via Sesame’s online shop. However, if you are interested in gifting personalized writing paper, or notecards, you’ll want to check out Sesame’s custom options.
Sugar Paper - If polka dots, stripes, gold and/or silver sound like trigger words of delight for your gift recipient, then you’ll likely do well to check out Sugar Paper stationery. Based in Los Angeles, with shops in Brentwood and Newport Beach, and a separate production studio, this stationery company was founded by two friends, Chelsea Shukov and Jamie Grobecker, back in 2003. A goodly selection of ready-to-shop note sets are available in their online shop - or, you can opt to go the custom route for something personalized and/or totally unique.
Smythson - If we could have unlimited amounts of stationery from one place, we might well choose Smythson. We’re partial to their papers for so many reasons - their simple yet elegant designs, the jewel-colored tissue linings on their envelopes, the weight and feel of their card stock and their paper, not to mention their classy (and sturdy) signature blue boxes with navy grosgrain ribbon that beautifully protect and present their gorgeous goods. We’ve never gone the custom route, only once or twice splashing out on some notecards that we’ve saved for special occasions, but if you are looking to treat someone royally - both literally and figuratively (Smythson currently holds three royal warrants) - look no further than their several brick and mortar locations around the world, or their online shop.
Dempsey & Carroll - Founded in New York City in 1878 by engraver John Dempsey and businessman George Carroll, Dempsey & Carroll’s first place of business was located down on 14th Street in Union Square. These days, after more than a dozen moves over the intervening years, they are located further north, on Lexington Avenue (between 74th and 75th Streets), and remain specialists in their field - engraving, as opposed to letterpress printing. In the company’s own words, “as a form of printing, engraving is in the intaglio family, meaning it is a technique in which the area carved away is the intended shape or letter. This differs from relief printing processes, like letterpress, where everything but the intended shape or letter is carved away.” On their website you can browse their collections of engraved correspondence cards, paired with envelopes hand-lined with brightly colored Mandarin tissue - or, opt for basic cards, or sheets of paper in classic colors such as white, ecru, blue and gray. Bespoke services are also available.
Bernard Maisner - Bernard Maisner is not just a stationer, he is a calligrapher as well (check out this YouTube video for a little clip of him at work). His boxed sets of correspondence cards are among the most expensive we have come across, but expect to see a lot of gold, rich jewel-like colors, and luxurious cardstock - many, too, feature hand-painted details, making each card truly unique. His individual cards often feature calligraphic elements and his “grand statement” cards can involve everything from games, to magnifying glasses, to nested envelopes and secret messages. Bespoke stationery is an option if you wish to have something personalized or made-to-order and, presumably, given the range of Mr. Maisner’s artistic talents, the scope for creativity is wide and varied.
Mrs. John L. Strong - Founded in 1929 by Flora Strong, the success of her venture in the midst of the Great Depression must serve as a testament to her business savvy and the quality of her products. Over the years, customers have included First Ladies, members of the British royal family, and numerous luminaries of the stage and screen. Today, Mrs. John L. Strong is owned by J.P. Kotts & Co., a Houston-based investment firm. They purchased the company in 2009 and have maintained Strong’s 5th floor Madison Avenue atelier, as well as the company’s production methods, from hand-engraved motifs, to envelopes lined with tissue paper. Expect stunning colors offset against “Strong’s vanilla,” the signature cream color of this stationer’s cotton paper. Customers placing bespoke orders can choose from a wide selection of pre-existing dies (metal engraving plates) or opt to have a custom die made.
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