If you’ve ever watched The Office, then you know that people who specialize in paper have their work cut out for them. In a society where so much of our experience takes place within “the cloud,” ink and paper have, regrettably, been all but tossed aside along with former greats like the cassette tape and the typewriter. For years there have been rumors (really more like urban legends) that snail mail and handwritten notes will one day be extinct along with post offices, mailmen, and stamps. But there are a handful of people — four local ladies included — who are keeping the tradition of paper alive through stationery design. Next time you’re planning a springtime cook-out or just sending along a thank-you note, forget sending a mass text and keep these Charleston-based companies in mind.
Sarah Reed’s love of paper may seem counterintuitive to some. After all, she’s the owner of Dodeline Design, which specializes in web design. “One of my first jobs was in a scrapbooking store, so I’ve always loved paper,” says Reed, who graduated from the University of Georgia with a BFA in design. “So although I’m a big techie person, I think it’s important that we not let paper die. It’s much more personal. An e-mail doesn’t have your handwriting on it.”
Reed began what she calls “the whole card thing” on Etsy.com in December 2009, but she really got local exposure when she displayed her wares at the Lowcountry Artist Market at the Music Farm. Because she has a background in interior design and a deep love for the history of design and art, many of her cards feature singular pieces of furniture and other simple, vintage-inspired prints. Reed will custom-make almost anything for her clients, from logos to web ads to postcards and brochures, but her obvious favorite is her line of stationery, which is available for purchase online and at Celadon and Mac & Murphy. “I get e-mails and texts all day long, and almost all of them are annoying. Nothing is out of the ordinary. But getting a card in the mail is.”
Twin sisters Cheryl and Sherie LaPrade’s intro into the world of stationery started as a hobby; the two made invitations and announcements as favors for friends and family. Through word-of-mouth and the magic of Etsy, these two self-taught designers with matching computer networking degrees became full-fledged purveyors of all things paper with their company Merrymint Designs.
The LaPrade sisters’ specialty, however, is undoubtedly their handmade wedding invitations, which can be custom-made any which way to suit their clients. “Most of our designs are strongly influenced by classic and vintage elements,” Cheryl says. “We truly are romantics when it comes to design.” That love of romanticism is apparent in their work, which features intricate calligraphy, flourishes, arabesques, and lots of Victorian elements.
One look through their Etsy store and any type of bride-to-be would fall in love — there are invites featuring Ferris wheels, sailboats, and landmarks like Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower. But there are also a handful of quirky, more modern designs, like the sisters’ “Amore” invitation, which displays the word “love” in several different languages in varying bold-face fonts. “We do try not to keep ourselves confined to one particular style, though,” Sherie says. “We work hard to keep things fresh and interesting.”
At Novel on King Street, Liza Cleveland designs and sells her line of stationery called Bon Vivant. After working in real estate and retail, Cleveland decided to pursue her passion for paper full-time last July. “I realized that the time was now to do my own thing,” Cleveland says. “I’ve always wanted to be a small business owner. It took a long time to figure out what I wanted to do, but then I realized: paper. And it all just sort of came together on its own.”
Cleveland sells classically simple stationery sets at Novel emblazoned with playful, colorful images like glasses, anchors, bowties, koi, and even shotguns. She says she’s inspired by fashion trends, art, and Pinterest. “A lot of my inspiration comes through pattern and color and then also the environment around us,” she says. “A lot of times it just comes from things I love.”
Above all, Cleveland’s paper-loving clients keep her thinking creatively. “It’s been interesting seeing all of the tendrils coming off of it that you don’t plan on, but when people start to ask for different things, you start to grow in an area that’s totally unexpected,” she says. “That’s been really fun.”