I can hardly believe that National Stationery Show is less than a week off! When I think about what I love most about the Show, it’s that its approach to stationery is not so much novelty-driven, but more about its evolution. NSS never fails to provide a revealing glimpse of where we are now culture- and design-wise as it celebrates the freshest of fresh designs within the medium.
More importantly, if you miss this edition of #NSS2020, you’ll miss some of the biggest stationery design news of the year! Crane will be presenting its first public reveal of its marvelous, marvelous rebranding — and honestly, I think it truly reflects which way the wind is blowing. I’ve seen a glimpse of it, and while I can’t share it yet, I’m here to tell you that it is so much more than just a (fabulous) new logo! Founded as America was coming into its own, the 200+-year old brand finds itself with not just new owners, but needing to redefine itself to an entirely different, 21st-century generation.
With the rebrand, the act of corresponding is reformulated into an intentional act that includes setting down one’s phone to reflect, then creating a special space just for two. Expect the brand to expand its Upper East Side vibe in the sense that it’s now more approachable, abandoning rigid etiquette constraints for a more modern, civility-driven sensibility. While all its offerings retain the printing excellence and expertise for which is Crane is renowned, this redefining of stationery will ultimately benefit us all.
That’s all I can say for now about that … except that you will see these concepts mirrored throughout the light-filled, cozy Emerging Designers section. My favorite part about this area is that you never know what amazing maker (and perspective on life) you will stumble across. Here’s a sneak peek of a few!
First up we have 7th & Palm, a smart, simple stationery collection designed by lowcountry artist Andrea Smith. Art meets design in these coastally-inspired finds, ideal for both seaside and inland locales.
“As an artist and designer, I’ve admired NSS from a distance since starting my business several years ago, but am excited to bring more wholesale offerings to shops around the country and meet the owners that bring those beautiful boutiques to life!” Andrea wrote me. “I’m striving to change how we think by prioritizing giving back to the local and global community with our time, profits, and more—and love to partner with other small businesses with like-minded goals.”
Now, meet A Little Something Extra. Founded by Madison Calder & Rachel Devitt, the aim here is not only to redesign how cards can be given/experienced, but also how they can support loved ones during tough times and life shifts.
Their mini-envelopes are sent within other greeting cards with clear instructions telling the receiver to hold onto the sealed card until they are having a difficult day, when some extra words of encouragement can help them push through.
“Our inspo to create these cards and envelope came after we saw people around us going through life shifts,” Madison told me. “There was lots of support when something changed, but slowly the support faded away and they are left feeling isolated. Losing a loved one, having a baby, international moves are all moments when there is lots of support for a short period, but slowly people go back to their normal lives, and those going through the life shift are left feeling a bit alone. We like to say: “Designed to be opened only when needed. Be there for your person; even when you can’t be with your person.”
Here’s a range I’ve blogged about & can’t wait to experience in person: Amador Collective! Founded by Daniela Garcia Allie in 2018, this ever-evolving line of distinct, design forward greeting cards and colorful keepsakes reflects Daniela’s own nostalgia-infused personal style, as well as her openhearted outlook on life.
In a busy tech-saturated world, each Amador Collective card encourages real conversations and tangible, offline exchanges. Through the Collective, Daniela is dedicated to sharing her wisdom with the world, inspiring everyone to slow down and “wholly embrace life’s vibrations on a higher frequency.”
Amador Collective is a movement expressed through eccentric cards and colorful keepsakes. Each message is specifically crafted to inspire tangible connections across time and space.
Next up we’ve got Joy Paper Co., founded and designed by Chandler Cooksey.
Chandler primarily offers greeting cards, about 70 SKUs, as well as art prints and pocket journals. No shortage of upbeat color here!
“The style of Joy Paper Co. is a mixture of modern, yet vibrant illustrations and hand lettering to reflect the mission of creating joy through paper goods that give back,” Chandler told me.
Not only is each piece specifically designed to spark joy (so to speak), each offering is crafted with care, using 100% recycled paper and being manufactured in the USA with a portion of proceeds donated to support mental health research and awareness.
This range includes not just greeting cards but self-published decks (affirmation, tarot, quotes), art prints “and creative design in general,” Krystal wrote me.
“My inspirations include my childhood, pop culture, music, color, travel, humor and self-discovery. I’m passionate about diversity and very deliberate about increasing representation. My tagline is ‘color & culture’, which I feel is very descriptive of my brand.”
Krystal’s goal is to create products and tools that inspire people to enjoy life and empower others to discover their own passions. “My desire to attend NSS is to increase brand awareness and present something that I believe is unique to what is usually seen at NSS,” she noted. “I look forward to sharing my creativity and connecting with others in the world of stationery.”
She is an activist as well as a lifelong pen pal. “I have several postal workers in my family and have had many lifelong long-distance friendships maintained through mail, so my love runs deep for the intimate connection and joy that greeting cards can inspire,” she wrote me.
She primarily uses richly-pigmented handmade watercolors for her original art, and it’s very important to Katie that her cards are printed at a worker-owned union printshop on high-quality recycled paper stock.
“I like to say I’m making cards for the world we want and need, and for abundance and celebration in all kinds of relationships,” she finished.
Now, meet Kwohtations, the handiwork of Janine Kwoh, which is making its trade show debut! This Brooklyn, New York, range of letterpress cards and gifts celebrates a the commonality and diversity of our identities and life experiences, always with a bit of humor.
“Kwohtations products aim to lift up and celebrate all the ways in which we are wonderfully, hopelessly human, and reflect the real life ups and downs that make the journey both so hard and so delightful,” Janine told me.
“I started making cards as a way to reflect on and honor the lives we actually lead, versus the ones we think we should,” she pointed out. “Kwohtations has essentially become my life in greeting cards, in which I offer up my own truths about navigating love and loss, (re)defining family and success, and figuring out what it means to show up for myself and others.”
Representation is at the heart of Kwohtations. Many designs feature a variety of character options with different skin tones and genders, and recognize life milestones for people on all different paths. “My hope is that anyone can recognize some of themselves in Kwohtations, and feel a bit more seen and less alone,” Janine explained.
This is proudly a one-woman show; after creating the illustration, Janine letterpresses each card, then paints in any colors by hand, so each one is truly handmade and one-of-a-kind. Plus there’s stickers, tote bags, tea towels, bandanas, and mini zines to check out.
“I am an artist and poet with an architectural background and everything created is done with great care, special attention to detail and with great joy!” she told me. “I am always creating, pushing the boundaries and trying to take my talents to the next level. To create is truly a blessing. Having the ability to take an idea from your mind and then express it in an art form is simply magical. Being able to share it and have others find joy, solace or pleasure in it is priceless.”
Everything is produced in the USA, Jean finished. “We take pride in trying to incorporate recycled materials in our products. Our greeting cards are full of inspiration and uplifting messages for everyday moments! Those same images you can also find on our canvas reusable totes, our canvas zippered pouches and our art prints. Spreading good juju in many forms!”
Next up, making its trade show debut is RICE & INK, founded by Haesung Changtsai. Call her HS though, it’s easier — even her husband does!
While was working as a fashion designer in NYC, HS kept devoting more and more time to drawing animals and symbolic images as opposed fashion illustrations. “That was the beginning of RICE&INK,” she recalled. “It took me awhile, but I discovered that presenting my drawings is what I really want to do.”
It took two years to build this into an actual business, because of HS’s other job and birth of her son. Sumie-e is the Japanese term for black ink painting; HS terms her style as Modern Sumi-e.
“The subjects (lots of Shibas!) and the painting style are not as serious as traditional Sumi-e, but I believe our works still attempt to capture the spirit and simple beauty of the subjects,” HS told me.
“Cards with humorous or literal messages are popular in the stationery business,” she points out. “My works, however, try to convey a warm message with the painting itself.”
I can’t be the only one who loves it when you see children on the show floor — especially when they are bona fide inventors!
11-year-old identical twins Izzy and Sophie came up with SOZY Pencils because their schoolwork necessitated their switching back and forth between highlighters and pencils. They designed a hack by taping the two together. Then, when it didn’t exist in stores, they decided to introduce it themselves!
The Annotator’s name derives from their directive from teachers that they annotate their books. It combines a #2 pencil, eraser, and highlighter in one instrument. No need to carry or switch between separate instruments.
It currently comes in a pack of four pastel shades. But new styles are being developed as you read this; it’s part of the twins’ aim develop stationery products that are both helpful and bring a little color to people’s lives.
While I have never seen this range, I met its founder, Melanie Griffin, at my AmericasMart seminar this past summer. It’s always so amazing to me to witness an idea blossoming on the next level.
Spread Your Sunshine is dedicated to providing inspirational products, tools and resources to brighten the world and empower all to believe in themselves, find joy, achieve their dreams, and shine beyond the glass ceiling.
I think nearly anyone would appreciate receiving one of these!
Now, meet The Treasurie. Jenny Koland founded this San Francisco design studio specializing in hand-illustrated and hand-lettered paper goods.
“Our greeting cards are all designed (by me!) and printed locally and feature colorful, graphic illustrations and modern hand-lettered greetings,” Jenny told me. “We’re all about the joy of letter-writing, the personal connections that are strengthened by exchanging something physical, the appreciation of clever and thoughtful words, the beauty of everyday life, and the importance of slowing down to share appreciation for the people around you. We want our products to bring more smiles into the world.”
Like so many young ranges, sustainability is a core value. “We are working with One Tree Planted to plant a tree for every purchase made with us to help their reforestation efforts around the world,” Jenny finished.
“I create greetings cards that celebrate real life,” she wrote. “I started Tigerpocket Press at the end of 2018 to give people ways to start conversations about all the parts of the life: the beautiful, the hard, the funny and the lonely. My cards make people laugh and feel a little bit less alone.”
You can see more work from Tammi below as well. And you can discover each of these makers (and a whole lot more) for yourself at NSS. There’s still time to register here … I hope to see you there!