Of Note Stationers is a Boston based stationery shop filled with fun, minimalist designs. If you haven't checked out their shop yet, you're in for a treat! Their love for stationery will certainly make you want to slow down, take a breather, and write a letter. Read on to find out about how they started their own business and their creative process!
Being a small business owner myself, I love to hear the origin stories of other makers. When and how did you decide to start your own business? What is your creative background?
As we share in our Instagram bio, before we were business partners we were first friends. Our friendship blossomed in the fall of 2013 when we were each in a time of career transition. Isabel was moving from a position at an industrial design consultancy to working as a graphic designer and Kate was taking a break from teaching Special Education. Although our career backgrounds were different, we bonded over our deep-seated interests in human interaction, relationship building, and connection. We realized that our interests conjoined most fiercely when it came to paper goods and letter writing.
Our first business meeting was held at the Boston Public Library, where we both presented ideas of what we envisioned our stationery line to be. We found that we were drawn to cards that would allow us to write for non-occasions, to write “just because.” We loved sending notes to friends and family because something made us laugh, because we fondly recalled time spent together, or because there was something magical about our day that we wanted to share. Shortly after our first meeting, we took our project to Instagram, where we began documenting our incoming and outgoing snail mail and familiarizing ourselves with our fellow “snailmailers.” After many meetings and many cups of tea, Of Note Stationers was born, a card company committed to meaningful correspondence. We designed our first three cards last May: Magnificent, Lovely Time, Think of You Often, and sold them for the first time in September 2014 at the Brooklyn Renegade Craft Fair.
You make gorgeous stationery cards - how did you decide to focus on stationery as opposed to any other product?
Thank you so very much!
We both come from families with deep appreciations for the art of correspondence. Kate’s great grandfather was a Stationer and her grandfather a Calligrapher. Isabel’s grandfather was an avid stamp collector. This love for the tools of writing was passed onto each of their parents. Isabel’s mother is known to carry notes in her purse to use on the go. Kate’s parents have drawers full of postcards and personal stationery that they’ve been tapping into to send Kate notes ever since she left for college.
With this upbringing, we recognized the power of the handwritten word and its ability to deepen relationships. We also found out that there is an avid letter writing community on Instagram. These two factors inspired us to keep the tradition of letter writing alive by designing cards for everyday correspondence.
Can you describe your creative process? How do you bring a design from start to finish?
Our cards start as a running list of themes, words, and phrases. When it is time to add to our line we come together for brainstorming sessions, where we write our ideas on post-it notes and paste them to the wall. We then assess whether or not each phrase exemplifies our brand. We are looking for phrases that inspire our customers to start conversations, share memories, and voice appreciation. With our definition cards we aim to draw attention to words that get used often, perhaps so often that we forget the true meaning of the word. Highlighting the definition on the front of the card gives the choice to use that word even more power. Before designing, we take into consideration how our new ideas fit in with our current line and whether or not each idea adds value to the line that we already have.
Once that is all done we move into designing! Isabel takes our phrases into Adobe Illustrator and works her magic. Despite our very simple aesthetic, there are so many different ways we can play with typography that we typically end up with far too many front-runners for a single card. After selecting our absolute favorites we make the final choice of card stock for each of the newly designed cards making sure to complement our already existing neutral color palette.
Have you set any exciting goals for yourself or your business for 2015? What can we look forward to seeing from you!
We have talked about starting our blog for quite a while now and while it is still in the early stages of planning, we are excited to share our story, document our various projects and new designs, and perhaps interview other makers! Although there is no set date for its launch, we are very much looking forward to exploring this new medium. Additionally we will be participating in the SoWa Open Markets in Boston’s South End this summer. We are eager to expand our current line of cards for these markets and really can’t wait to connect with and get to know our local community better. Finally, we have so enjoyed our first two collaborations with Salt Cellar Shop and Kristin Texeira and we really look forward to continuing that creative work
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in their own self-made business?
Our first piece of advice comes from William Wordsworth who says, “To begin, begin.”
It’s really easy to dream, plan, and wait for the right moment to get it all started. We totally understand wanting everything to be perfect (we are absolutely guilty of this), but it’s impossible to predict all the little hiccups that will come your way. You’ll learn as you go and that is okay. We are TOTALLY still learning!
We also recommend cultivating a community that you can turn to for support. There are tons of other small businesses out there facing similar challenges. Don’t be afraid to ask others how they made it to where they are and how they continue to make it all work. We are deeply grateful for the support we’ve had from fellow creatives along the way and know we wouldn’t be where we are today without that guidance.
Finally, running a small business is time consuming, especially if it is not yet your full time job. Make sure to take time for yourself. This is not just important for your health and sanity, but also for your creativity!
When you're not creating, what do you love to do?
We love to thrift shop, write letters, spend an afternoon at Tatte -- our favorite Bakery/Café in Boston -- and explore new places. We recently took a Sunday adventure to Portsmouth, NH and Kittery, ME where we spent the day popping in and out of our favorite shops, warming up in local bookstores and coffee houses, and enjoying a late lunch. It’s always inspiring to spend time in creative communities outside Boston. We can’t wait to do it again!
Lastly, can you share three of your favorite artists?
We would love to!
Our favorite artist is Kristin Texeira, not just because she is a friend, but because her work is both vibrant and thoughtful. Her command of color is mesmerizing. With each piece we find ourselves smiling because we are moved by the memories she shares and tickled by her handwriting and the way she titles each piece.
Another of Isabel’s favorites is Proud Mary: I don’t know that she falls under the category of artist per se, but she is definitely a designer who is making a difference. I deeply admire her mission to spread the love for worldwide textiles and her ability to make these artisanal techniques modern and fashion forward.
Another of Kate’s favorite artists is Ellsworth Kelly: I am impressed by his range and ability to work subtlety within each medium. With that said, when I look at his body of work I am most taken by his contour drawings of plants and flowers; they are elegant in their simplicity. For me, it is that tact and sophistication that inspires our work.