Archive for November, 2011

Reindeer Facts and Fictions
November 28th, 2011

We’ll start with a Christmas confession. The deer we found to illustrate our holiday cards is more likely a white-tail deer than an actual reindeer. But who were we to resist his cheeky smile? After all, sometimes the holidays are best served with a little dose of irony.

Perhaps you’ll ask what’s the difference anyway. A deer is a deer and Santa (cover your ears, kids) is a bit of fiction. But actually there are some wonderful facts and contradictions to explore.

Reindeer are called Caribou in North America. Like many members of the deer family, they shed and re-grow their antlers every year — but caribou are the only species where female sport antlers, too. And here’s where it gets interesting. Mature males lose their antlers as winter begins, while the females keep them through to Spring. So those eight reindeer helping St Nick at Christmas? All had antlers, and therefore all must have been ladies. While we’re not pretending we’ve cracked the Da Vinci code, it’s interesting to consider that the holiday reindeer we always assumed were male must, in fact, have been female.

And Santa was definitely savvy to choose reindeer for his drivers. A study conducted just this year at the University College London established that reindeer are actually the only mammals that can see ultraviolet light, which definitely gives them an edge during snowy nights.

These are but two of our holiday card designs. The whole 14-card collection can be seen online here.

Giving Thanks — To All of You
November 25th, 2011

This Thanksgiving weekend has helped us to think about gratitude. When we started this company — not even a year ago — we were like Pilgrims on a journey: a bright idea of where we wanted to go, but a little vague on how we were going to make it. So the support and enthusiasm we’ve received this year is well worth celebrating today.

Thank you to everyone who follows this blog. (Or likes it on Facebook, or sees it on Twitter.) Your keen interest has encouraged us to be more ambitious, and expand “Inside J. Falkner” from a little stationery blog into our own (highly personal, we admit) arts & culture magazine.

Thank you to the 36 marvelous stores across the US and Canada who have supported us in our first year. We will truly never forget the shops that took a chance on us. And our heart still leaps whenever we see one of our cards in a shop window.

Thank you to the people who take the time to put a stamp on our envelopes and send our cards. We know you have so many choices, and we’re touched when you choose us to help express your thoughts.

Thank you all, truly.

(And, thank you for asking, yes: all these cards, and many more thank you notes, are available at our online shop.)

Our Favorite Christmas Collaboration
November 23rd, 2011

Hands down, one of the best things about running our stationery company is the opportunity to work with creative people, especially when they take our bits and pieces of an idea further than we’d ever imagined ourselves. Check out, for example, these holiday cards that Adrian Valencia created for us.

The “Holiday Shoe-Tree” (above) started off as a whimsical little thought. Wouldn’t a Christmas tree made of super-chic shoes be everyone’s holiday dream? (In our book, visions of Manolos and Jimmys definitely trump a few old dancing sugar-plums …)

How splendidly Adrian brought the concept to life. Another illustrator might have taken a photoshop shortcut to copy and paste the same half a dozen shoes, but look closely: each one of Adrian’s 20 shoes is a different style. And how genius to make a Birkin bag the tree trunk, and a glittering Fendi baguette the star?

(The inside greeting reads: “… and a chic bag in a shoe tree! Happy Holidays!”)

Naturally we had our fashion friends in mind when we dreamed up this card, so you can imagine how delighted we were when People Stylewatch, one of the bestselling fashion magazines, chose this card for their Holiday Gift Guide (above). The issue hits the stands this week, and we’ve already gone back to press so we don’t run out. You can make online orders here.

Adrian also illustrated this Holiday Skater (above). The challenge here was to make blade carve the words of the greeting into a single flowing line on the ice. And voila, Adrian pulled it off like Katarina Witt. How clever is that tiny, little snowflake apostrophe? Order either single cards, or a boxed set here.

Design to Delight in Atlanta
November 19th, 2011

We had a brief but beautiful November weekend in Atlanta, and were impressed and inspired by the vibrant design work throughout the city. Here’s our visual postcard of the city, with fabulous gates, shiny turtles and even a topiary teddy bear.

The gates at Piedmont Park (above). We didn’t realize what a spectacular Autumn arrives in Atlanta. We loved how the silhouette of leaves, punched through the iron work on this gate, lead the eye to consider all the different shapes they will find in the park itself.

Aged Antebellum beauty (above). Yes, there are far more pristine examples of the Southern neoclassical style, but somehow the faded, paint-peeled character of this neglected chapter of the DRA (Daughters of the American Revolution, where have you gone to?) seems to hold greater mystery for us than its spruced up neighbors.

Popping color at the High Museum. Richard Meier’s building is piercing white against this blue sky, and the triptych of Warhols provide a jolt of color.

A “zoo” at White Provisions (above). This site was originally a meat packing plant that dated from 1910. Nearly a hundred years later, it was reborn as a restaurant and retail hub for the Atlanta cool crowd. It’s a marvelous success. And the ghosts of animals past seem to have let loose a preponderance of animal imagery. We sipped on “Bee’s Knees” cocktails at Abbattoir (top right), were charmed by the big white pig signage, and loved the topiary teddy bear that sat outside a children’s store (below).

But most impressive might have been the glass-eyed, gleaming sea turtle (above) that greets customers at Sid Mashburn’s eponymous shop, a destination for Atlanta dandies. This is the kind of wonderful, singular store that requires a memento: we chose this belt, with its unexpected brass hook closure. Check out Sid Mashburn’s charmingly designed and illustrated website, which also includes women’s offerings from Ann Mashburn.

No visit to Atlanta would be complete without a drive through the rolling hills of Buckhead to peak over hedges into the lives of the other half (or, these days, the top one percent!). Swan House is one of the most exquisite; how beautifully the ironwork arcs into swan-like shapes.

Aurevoir, Atlanta! We definitely hope to see you again before too long.

Christmas Cards in Red & Green
November 16th, 2011

Our love of red is well known from earlier posts, so naturally holiday cards are ones we particularly enjoy designing. We have a range that is printed on red stock paper, with matching red envelopes (a boxed set of “Just a Little Note … to wish you happy holidays” is seen above). The red-on-red combination struck us as simple and very chic.

We printed these with dark green ink so both holiday colors are represented. Most of us would easily imagine the Christmas green color drawing its history from the pine tree — and we’d be right. But how many would guess that the Christmas red arrives, not from Santa Claus, but from the apple? (Not us!)

Here’s the story. In the 14th century, the church began staging Miracle Plays, which were religious plays that taught the Bible stories. Come 24th December, it was traditionally the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, with the essential stage prop being that tempting apple tree. In winter, the pine tree was by necessity the stand-in, and apples were fixed to it. It became popular for the Martha Stewarts of the Middle Ages to recreate such trees in their own homes, and soon the season was identified with the red of apples and green of pine.

We have two other cards in this series (above). Our Bow-Tied Card (which reads inside: “May Your Holidays be Wrapped in Good Cheer!”), and our Ho-Ho-Ho Tree (inside: “’Tis the Season to be Jolly”). All our holiday cards are available to order online here, and in stores across the country. Single cards, or boxed sets of 10.

Just Because: Four Fiendishly Funny Letters
November 15th, 2011

One conversation that is beginning to tire us is the one where everyone has a good moan about how new technology has coarsened our lives and ruined our manners. I’m sure the same was said of the telephone back in the day. Truth is, if Dorothy Parker was with us today she’d definitely be tweeting, and what’s wrong with the occasional text that makes us LOL?

But, and here’s the but, if these words were not put down on a sheet of actual paper, it’s unlikely we’d be able to celebrate them today. (So keep buying your stationery, please.)

1. Letter to Marilyn Monroe (below). An exasperated New York Times journalist tries, without avail, to reach the increasingly elusive star in 1960.

2. Letter from Proust to Princesse Clermont-Tonnerre. This one was so delightfully dotty that Maira Kalman couldn’t resist turning it into an illustration, reproduced below.

3. Publisher’s rejection letter to Gertrude Stein (below). Clearly this publisher saw no charms in now-famous lines like, “A rose is a rose is a rose.”

4. Diana Vreeland memos from Vogue. We’ve saved the best for last. DV was the incandescently brilliant editor of Vogue in the late 60s. Each morning her routine would be to dictate, from her bathroom, a memo to her secretary for immediate circulation to an inner circle of staff. These missives were to become legendary in fashion circles, and they still make for great reading today. (Visionaire published 150 of them in a now very collectable edition.)

(Scratchy quality so transcript follows each one.)

“December 9, 1966. Re: Pearls. I am extremely disappointed to see that we have practically no pearls at all in the past few issues. In fact, many necklines could have been helped by pearls worn inside the dress that show inside the cutaway sides and back of most ordinary dresses on top…

“I speak of this very often — and as soon as I stop speaking the pearls disappear.

“Nothing gives the luxury of pearls. Please keep them in mind.”

And here’s one more memo we couldn’t resist:

“December 6, 1966. Re: Cover situation. Our cover situation is drastic…

“I do not hear from anyone an idea or a suggestion of either a face or something that would be sutiable…

“We are on the verge of a drastic emergency.”

* Sources: We found the Marilyn letter and Vreeland memos at Letters of Note. We’d recommend subscribing, as we did, to this wonderful blog, so each morning you get a new letter in your inbox. They are marvelous way to start the day.

Yes, Virginia, Christmas is coming …
November 8th, 2011

We actually held off as long as we could, but we can’t ignore it any longer. The build-up to Christmas seems to have begun. It always fills us with a mixture of excitement and anxiety — we are prone to enormously optimistic to-do lists, and spend far too much time in ribbon-selecting. At least this year we don’t need to shop for cards … but hopefully you will!

Above is a pair we are especially taken with. There is something about the little sleeping holiday mouse that touches our heart, and we love the troop of reindeer reporting for Christmas duty.

We actually went a little further with the design of these, and on the back of each card we shared what we’d discovered in our research — perhaps you enjoy an interesting fact as much as we do.

The Reindeer Group: “Originally, in the 1823 poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, there were only 8 reindeer. The ninth and most famous reindeer only arrived on the scene in 1939, when ad-man Robert L. May dreamt him up for a department store holiday coloring book. May wanted a name that began with ‘R’ for reindeer and so the red-nosed one was born.”

The Holiday Mouse:‘Twas the Night Before Christmas was first published anonymously in 1823. Now it’s mostly attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, but there is also a claim by Henry Livingston, Jr. What is indisputable, however, is that this American poem was the first to establish the vision of Santa Claus that we take for granted today.”

We are reluctant to let commercial considerations intrude our story, but should you wish to explore our entire range of holiday cards, you can do so here. As well as find them in many lovely stores across the US and Canada.

Eye Travel: A Palm Beach Weekend
November 5th, 2011

When we first started J. Falkner, not even a year ago, and before we’d designed a single card, we had our concept: color. And our philosophy: share color, spread happiness. The wonderful colors of Palm Beach, where we’re located, always lift our spirits. Here are some pictures we took today on a sunny stroll of just a few blocks along Worth (which runs the width of the island, hitting the Atlantic ocean, above) and Peruvian Avenues.

Any discussion of the singular beauty of this island has to start with Addison Mizner, the architect who in the teens and twenties brought a Mediterranean flourish that has become the trademark Palm Beach style. Mizner was quite literally an enormous character: well over 6 feet and nearing 300 pounds, he often stepped out with his pet monkey, Johnnie Brown, on his shoulder. (The little monkey’s tombstone can be found just off Via Mizner.)

We were touched by the monkey detail in the ironwork which celebrates Mizner’s beloved pet (above, right). And how marvelously the signage for the via (above, left) mirrors the organic flow of the bougainvillea.

Wander the alleys that link Peruvian and Worth Avenue to discover the most enchanting details. We love the syncopating colors that make us want to dance up these stairs (above left), while the curving coral staircase (right) that leads you to Sarah Gavlak’s art gallery could itself be a painting by Georgia O’Keefe.

As Northerners, we never fail to be astonished by the orchids that grow in such abundance and variety along the Avenue.

Peruvian is the sleepy sister to glittering Worth, but it’s also home to the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach (above left), renowned for some of the chicest events on the island. And Peruvian Avenue features this mysterious blue door (right), our favorite. We’ve never seen anyone going in or anyone coming out, but when we do we’d like to imagine it will be a Contessa of ancient Venetian descent, swathed in Fortuny.

And, yes, certainly there is shopping to be had. Of course all the big fashion heavyweights are here, but why bother when local designers, with a genuine feel for the light and style of this place, are doing it better?

How fabulous is CJ Laing’s lovely new shop (above)? Designer Jack Laing celebrates color and terrific ikat prints in his designs, and they also feature a wonderful mix of accessories. But, be warned: it’s the kind of relaxed, sun-filled store you never want to leave.

When friends visit Palm Beach, they often ask (or want to ask), “Why is everyone walking around in their bedroom slippers?” The slipper trend just happens to be back for Fall, but Stubbs & Wootton (above) are the Palm Beach originals. With a wide range of whimsical motifs (above right), we like to think of Stubbs as stationery for the feet.

Even the dogs on Worth Avenue get their own little Mediterranean Revival flourish. The charm of this dog bar never fails to make us smile.

Four Fab Things in New York
November 3rd, 2011

With some time to spare in Manhattan last week, we took a cultural spin around midtown. Even in a single day, the jolt of shows and stores in New York gave us a fresh new perspective. Here are four things that particularly captured our attention.

1. De Kooning’s Colors. (above) The blockbuster art show in New York this Fall is unquestionably this enormous retrospective at MOMA. Frankly, for us, a little bit of carnivorous women paintings goes a long way. Instead, what impressed us about the show was how, over a very long career, de Kooning returned time and again to the color pink (often complemented by a mustard yellow). It’s this color that gave his paintings a consistent sensuality. As de Kooning himself said: “Flesh was the reason why oil painting was invented.”

2. Elie Nadelman in the MOMA Sculpture Garden. We can’t believe we never spotted this wonderful Nadelman bronze before. (One of his drawings, above right, takes pride of place in our personal collection.) The graceful stance is pure Nadelman, and how charming is the whimsy of the bowtie, sitting like a butterfly on his chest?

3. Organic shapes at Museum of Art and Design. The show itself — Flora & Fauna, MAD About Nature — was a little lackluster, but we were intrigued by Ted Muehling’s “Thorn Necklace”. (See more of his lovely pieces here.) The way the shapes interlock is striking, but then we noticed a single coral pendant, nearly hidden among the thorns. This made the whole piece that much more arresting. Perhaps the thorns had drawn a drop of blood?

4. Cheap clothing, fantastic stores. Just enough time for a retail dash along 5th Avenue. Forget about Gucci and Armani, the most sensational stores this Fall are the new Uniqlo (above left), with its Blade Runner light show, selling cashmere sweaters for $49.90, and the sleek video cube minimalism of the Hollister store (right), which features $25 sweatpants.