Archive for October, 2011

Orange and Black Can Only Mean One Thing …
October 30th, 2011

Orange is one of our favorite colors here at J. Falkner, so naturally we’re very fond of Halloween. It’s interesting to see how strongly one date can possess a pair of colors. Put orange with black and you have Halloween. No debate. Rarely will you see that color combination used for anything else. Orange and brown, sure (hello Hermes), red and black fine, but orange and black are owned by Halloween.

Where did this palette come from? Many date Halloween way, way back to the Celts in 700 BC, who celebrated it as the end of harvest and hence orange symbolizes the richness of Autumn. But the day also emerged as one when prayers would be made to the dead, and therefore the black of death became a partner to fiery orange.

Orange also leads us to the tradition of pumpkins,
and here there is a charming story in Irish lore, featuring a man named Stingy Jack. Heaven didn’t want him because of his miserly ways, and he was also rejected by the Devil, so poor Stingy Jack was forced to wander the world in misery. He may have been stingy, but Jack was also inventive: to see his way through the darkness, he travelled with a piece of burning coal in a hollowed out turnip — which gives us the name “jack-o-lantern”. The earliest Halloween carvings were of turnips, but when the practice came to America, pumpkins became de rigueur.

We’re sorry to say we were too busy fulfilling our holiday orders to create a Halloween collection this year, but we did want to share at least one card, made especially for you today. Here it is. Happy Halloween!

What is a Chinese Snuff Bottle?
October 29th, 2011

When we mentioned to friends that we’d recently been hard at work creating a pair of greeting cards for the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society — which this week celebrated its 43rd annual convention here in Palm Beach — more often than not the response was: exactly what is a Chinese snuff bottle?

In the hope you enjoy learning new things as much as we do, we wanted to share this account. Tobacco arrived in China in the mid-16th century, but a century later the smoking of it was banned. However, sniffing tobacco was still allowed since the Chinese believed it to have medicinal purposes. Go figure. But the unintended and rather fabulous result was the development of lovely, tiny (rarely taller than 2.5”) bottles to carry the snuff itself.

As the vogue for these bottles reached its peak in the 18th century at the height of the Qing Dynasty, there were increasingly intricate examples of the craft emerging from the Emperor’s workshops. The use of snuff fell out of favour after the establishment of the Republic of China in 1914, but the bottles themselves became increasingly collectible. Today they are a hot market among collectors: last year, one bottle from the Qing dynasty fetched a record $1.17M. Not bad for something barely 2 inches tall.

So that’s your history, but what really attracts us to the bottles is their simple beauty. Yes, they can be intricately carved and decorated, but we prefer the ones that are less adorned and instead celebrate their materials — whether it be white jade, which is notoriously difficult to carve (up top), or a luminescent green glass blown into perfect symmetry (above). And what super-chic color combinations: jade, black and coral looks just as modern today.

With this pair of cards (below), created as a limited edition for the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, we wanted to celebrate the vivid color palette — a Chinese lacquer red, a deep jade — and the intimate charm of delighting the eye with something so small and fine.

* For more info on Chinese Snuff Bottles, read the recent article in The Palm Beach Daily News, or visit the website of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society.

Wedding Magic in the Catskill Mountains
October 27th, 2011

It’s our opinion that the best design is often one that tells a real story. So here is the story of a wedding that took place in the Hudson Valley last weekend, for which we were doubly fortunate to design the invitation suite, and also to attend.

The wedding was a union between two men who both led dynamic lives in Manhattan, but who had found their Eden together in Upstate New York — and therefore chose as a venue an amazing old house (with its own stories: it was built for the Hellmann mayonnaise mogul in the 30’s) perched high in the Catskill Mountains.

The inspiration: sugar maples in the region are of national renown, so hand drawn leaves provided us with a design motif. The orange card stock anticipated the golden colors that, we hoped, would be peaking when the wedding took place at the end of October (our luck held, the photo at top was taken on the day). And, naturally, the font was in chocolate brown, the navy blue of chic weddings.

The design elements: leaves tumbled romantically in different configurations, from the invitations to the place cards, to the dancing, monogrammed pair on the menu cards (just visible tucked into the napkins, above). The program (positioned in one of floral arrangements, top right) featured a photograph taken by one of the grooms of the Hudson Valley landmark, Kaaterskill Falls. Table cards (above) further enhanced the feeling of place: each was named after a local town or site.

The flowers: a rich palette of reds and greens were found in elaborate centerpieces to do Carolyn Roehm proud, but also in exquisite miniature in corsages for the wedding party (above, left). And we marveled at the unexpected textures of yellow autumn leaves and blush-pink lilies in a giant bouquet (above right).

Food, friends, drinks, dancing and laughter … So ends our story of a magical time in the mountains.

* Onteora Mountain House, Boiceville, NY.

* Flowers by Dennis Nutley at The Green Cottage, High Falls.

Putting “Pan Am” Glam into a Card
October 16th, 2011

Like a lot of America, we’ve become rather taken with TV’s new guilty pleasure, Pan Am (above, with Christina Ricci and Margot Robbie). Sure, we’d be a little less embarrassed watching it if one the ditzier stewardesses wasn’t also working undercover as a CIA agent, but what’s not to like about those JFK days in the early 60’s when planes were chic and spotless, and air travel itself was as glamorous as any destination.

Well it didn’t take us long to think there could be card in there somewhere. The palette alone — the sky blue outfits with their crisp white accents — represents a sunny optimism we’ll definitely get on board with. (And, no, we never knowingly resist a good pun.)

We found a great piece of airplane art that felt suitably retro, and then we thought to delight the eye by letting the words themselves create an elegant arcing slipstream. So far, so good. But how could the card be that little bit better? Back to our travel inspirations for more help.

Suddenly: what about those marvelous airmail envelopes we never seem to see anymore? And look at the difference (below). A simple graphic border transformed the birthday card into something as jaunty as the stewardesses’ hats.

This card, which has a greeting of “Happy Birthday” on the inside, forms part of our new collection that will be released in the next few months. But we couldn’t resist giving you this sneak preview now.

Artist Profile: Adrian Valencia
October 12th, 2011

One of our best-selling cards features a pair of long slim legs clad in Prada kitten heels. Sure, the line “May All Your Gift Be Shoes” is hard to resist, but what makes these cards stand out are the super-chic drawings, courtesy of illustrator Adrian Valencia.

We first met Adrian over 10 years ago in London, when we commissioned him at a fashion magazine. He arrived at our offices, not long out of art school, and luckily for us his portfolio was as delightful as his Argentinian charm.

When we started J. Falkner, we knew we wanted a great line of fashion cards and our immediate thought was: get Adrian! Since we first worked with him, he’s assembled a pretty fabulous client list, including British Airways, Montblanc, Cartier, and Vanity Fair Italy. But he was as enthusiastic about collaborating as we were, and found the time to create the wonderful “Style Set” range, which features everyday cards, and also a new holiday range.

We are fascinated by how visual ideas come together, so we were delighted when Adrian agreed to share his creative process. Here, in his own words:

“Everything can be a source of inspiration. A woman getting out of a car … A couple waiting for the ski chair lift in the Alps … Elle McPherson taking her kids to school … The little toys I keep on my desk … A great music video … A fun night out with my friends …

“I don’t think I’m drawing fashion. I simply observe what is around me and then draw. I’m fascinated by how people carry themselves in certain clothes, and I hardly ever get bored.

“I see illustration going back to basics. I see a lot of illustration mixing watercolor and graphite. There are many trends around but it is still something precious to see hand drawn artwork.

“I love art that tells a story. I love Lori Earley. Her work makes me want to paint. Her talent is not only inspirational but sexy, fun and emotionally provocative. (See Lori’s work here.)

“Right now my favorite color is fluorescent orange. A friend gave me a beautiful orange folder to keep my desk tidy, and on sunny days it seems to glow with its own light.”

See Adrian’s full portfolio of work at, and don’t miss his blog His illustrations of fashion’s front row and Will & Kate’s wedding guests (see them here) are our favorites.

A Jackie Kennedy Quote That Deserves a Card
October 10th, 2011

It’s no surprise to us all the attention paid to the recently released Jacqueline Kennedy interview tapes, recorded shortly after the assassination of her husband, now nearly 50 years ago. They reveal that the sugary soft voice could also dispense a surprising bit of spice, calling Indira Gandhi a “bitter prune”, Charles DeGaulle an ”egomaniac”, and Lady Bird Johnson “a trained hunting dog”. Oh dear.

To us, focusing on those particular soundbites seems a bit of a shame. Instead we like to imagine Jackie’s comments being as unwaveringly chic as her outfits.

There is one Jackie phrase in particular that enchants us. Late in her life, when she was very ill, she had a lovely lunch of six (yes, six!) desserts with her good friend John Loring. It so lifted her spirits that, in a note to him, she wrote: “… Seeing you is always like champagne.”

Well, if that wonderful turn of phrase doesn’t call out to be a card, we don’t know what does. The quote itself is marvelous enough, but we puzzled — in a sea crowded with cards with quotes — how to give it a distinctive visual treatment? … And then, from the deep and occasionally creative recesses of our mind, an idea burst forward: what if the type was in the shape of a champagne glass? And there you have it.

This card will be going into production later in the year, accompanied by other quotes that have caught our attention. And certainly we’d love to hear about your favorite quotes. Let us know, and maybe they, too, could become a card.

Read the whole story of John Loring’s friendship with Jackie as it was published in Harpers Bazaar here.

Eye Travel: Fantastic Floors
October 8th, 2011

Our instinct, when taking in travel sights, is to look high for new perspectives. But it can also be fascinating to look down, and find unexpected beauty in the floors on which we tread.

We’re reminded of Fay Wray’s wonderful story about Cary Grant, who was once besotted with her. “Whenever we went to a party,” she recounted, “he would always sit on the floor beside me. I thought that was kind of beautiful, like that’s where he wanted to be.” Kind of beautiful, or kind of crazy — on ne juge pas — but here are some elegant floors that might tempt Mister Grant.

The terrazzo floor (above) is from the Museo Correr in Venice. Viewed up close, the shattered colors remind us of an abstraction by Jackson Pollock or Jean-Paul Riopelle.

We love the clever whimsy of these tiles — see how exactly the same circles can act as air bubbles from a fish or eggs guarded by a gander — and the irony that they should be found in the home of one of America’s least-whimsical authors. From the bathroom floor of the Hemingway House in Key West.

These floor tiles, from a lovely little hotel outside Carcassonne in France, have a shifting perspective that evokes the art of M. C. Escher. Intellectually mischievous, Escher once asked: “Are you really sure that a floor can’t also be a ceiling?” Look again at these tiles (above), and let your eye play tricks.

When we finally arrived at the little palazzo in Marsala, Sicily, it was in the darkness of near midnight. And we confess we found the place a little forlorn. But, the next morning, when the sun had spread like a song through the house, we realized the same floors over which we had dragged our suitcases the night before were in fact these luminous beauties. And our holiday spirits lifted.

Stand-out Shop: The Mouse with the Mostest
October 4th, 2011

Like the first swallow of Spring, the opening of the Church Mouse in Palm Beach is one of those signs that the start of The Season can’t be far off. This charity store, with its pretty blue walls and fresh white awnings, has been a village institution since it opened its doors in 1970. All the money raised by the shop is given to area non-profits — which makes you feel so much better as you seize that pair of Stubbs to see if they’re in your size.

So it was with a skip in our stride that we arrived on Monday to check out the new stock, and here’s what we scooped up.

A silver-plated, wood-lined cigarette box from Germany. Don’t quite know why we keep on buying little boxes, but we do. What clinched it for us was the unexpected detailing on the legs — we love the way the chunky round discs play with the geometry of the square box. It feels modern and unfussy, in a 30’s deco way.

Nope, no actual shoes in our size, but these shoe-trees were. It almost seems a shame to hide them inside shoes, they have such a marvelous sculptural quality. And the leather tags give them a great touch of luxury.

A whimsical crystal paperweight. Definitely cute, but when we saw it was signed Oleg Cassini, we had to have it. Some of our favorite finds are from the days when fashion companies went license-mad and put their names on all sorts of silly things. Now everyone is deeply corporate and strategic. So the sheer frivolity of a dice-shaped Oleg Cassini paperweight is worth celebrating.

(The paperweight is sitting on our Flamingo folded cards.)

* The Church Mouse 378 South County Road, Palm Beach, FL 33480. (561) 659 2154

Just Because: A Longing for Falling Leaves
October 1st, 2011

We confess it’s hard to have many regrets in all the Florida sunshine of Palm Beach, but one thing we do miss — especially as October starts today — are the leaves that begin to fall up North. Even a slightly moody existentialist like Albert Camus had to admit: “Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower.”

So while the palm trees sway outside, we look back with a little bit of longing to our memories of their deciduous brothers, and the clouds of color in Central Park that used to hover outside our balcony (above).

How many perfect shades of orange you can find in one simple tumble of maple leaves (above, at the New York Botanical Gardens).

The gingko trees (above, top), with their yellow helicopter leaves, were always our favorites. It’s no surprise to us that Irving Penn seized on their graphic shape for the cover of his 1991 book, “Passage” — one of the landmark photography books of the 20th century. If you ever happen upon an edition lonely at a garage sale, pounce.

In Lenox, MA, we were struck by the golden yellow of this maple tree against the white clapboard siding. And understood why the 19th century Massachusetts poet William Cullen Bryant once wrote: “Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.”

We marveled how a single perfect oak leaf, blushing red, stood out in a pile — and it inspired us to create a similar cluster of leaves for this sympathy card (above).