design process

A Summer Garden Party in Palm Beach
May 17th, 2012
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With its balmy evenings, and lush tropical gardens, Palm Beach often feels staged like a Hollywood set for a party. And, truth be told, there are a few Norma Desmonds here, who enter as if from stage left.

The Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach is renowned for throwing some of the best parties on the island, and their summer party has a hard-to-match venue: the lovely secret that is Pan’s Garden, right in the centre of town. So imagine our delight when they approached us to design a suitably chic invitation.

The theme was Modern, which naturally can mean any number of things, but the modern we like best is the one with the “e” on it: moderne, which was an evolution of art deco. Crisp white and ice-mint green emerged as a compelling color pairing (see our mood board, above).

Sometimes all you need is type, pleasantly arranged — especially if it’s Guggenheim, a font derived from the original Frank Lloyd Wright lettering from the museum’s facade. But we’re not beyond a bit of whimsy, so we created a little martini glass out of the “y”, a motif that is reversed out on the other side of the invitation (above).

Fortunately for us, the dilemma of what to wear was immediately answered when we spotted this splendidly sybaritic blazer at CJ Laing. Palm Beach-based, they create pieces you really can’t find anywhere else, and we’re always suckers for a fabulous ikat print.

Striking blue lighting enchanted the garden, especially here at the lily pond with the charming statue of Pan himself (above).

And speaking of parties … this week, at the National Stationery Show in New York, we’ll be launching a new range of party “imprintables”. These are 6 x 9″ cards with playful, colorful borders that can be easily run through a printer to provide a personalized invitation. Here are a couple (above): a martini with a border of tipsy olives, and palm trees in vivid pink and green.

Next you hear from us, it will be with news from the Stationery Show and our very own booth!

A Trio of Cards Takes Flight from the Runway
May 8th, 2012

We love following trends. What’s better than discovering the new?

Jewel tones, like purple and teal from Gucci (above, left), and flirtatious bird patterns, like those from Carolina Herrera (above, right), dominated fashion runways the last couple of seasons — and made us wonder how we could bring this luxury and whimsy to a range of cards.

First, we explored different paper options. We found a premium opalescent paper stock that gives flat color a wonderful, luxurious shimmer: mere purple and green alchemizes into amethyst and emerald (above).

Then we discovered a new font, Carolyna, with a lovely hand-lettered feel, to bring added flourish to these cards. See how the descender of the letter “y” swirls off the page and back again (above).

Speaking of showing off (above), imagine our delight to see, just last night at the Met Ball in New York, a further evolution of the fashion trend. Jewel tones and bird motifs suddenly combined as one in purple feather dresses, worn fearlessly by Beyonce (in Givenchy, below left), and Diane Kruger (Prada, below right).

Might we gently suggest it could be a little easier to stay on-trend by sending one of our cards than trying one of these dresses? “Flights of Fancy”, our trio of cards, is one the new collections we’ll be bringing to the National Stationery Show in New York (May 20-23). It will be in stores and available online from June.

4 Quotes to Live By
April 12th, 2012

Long, long before we started our card company, we were collecting quotes. Scribbled on little notes, distributed in emails, shared at dinner parties. When we found one that really resonated, we wanted not to forget it.

But, now that we’re in the biz, how to make our quote cards distinctive? Here at J. Falkner, when in doubt, we bring the sun in. Let’s make these cards as bright as they can be. Then let’s draw on our magazine days, and get bold and inventive with type.

So here they are — our “Colorful Quotes”, from Oscar Wilde, Emily Dickinson and Cole Porter (top, left to right).

Let’s face it: no one says it quite like Oscar.

Who knows where this one came from, but it spoke to us.

It’s true, isn’t it? But, like any bit of wisdom, this quote can be interpreted in different ways.

These cards are part of our current collection and all available online here. We also offer them in a great mixed boxed set of each of the 6 different quotes.

This collection has been such a success for us, we are creating a new trio, and here’s a sneak peek at one coming in June, a quote from Cole.

What are your favorite quotes? We’d genuinely like to hear: leave us a comment. Who knows, yours might be perfect for a “Colorful Quote” …

Color Symphonies at Sea
April 2nd, 2012

We recently had the occasion to sail the high seas on a Caribbean cruise. Sure, the buffet plates were the size of serving platters, and the best-dressed couple on the boat were the Italian magicians, but surrounding us — and soothing us — was the bluest of blue seas we ever did see.

In fact, simple blue quickly became an inadequate description, as the approach of each island seemed to bring its own unique shade of sea.

The promenade deck was pole position to watch the constantly shifting colors of the sea. The navy cushions and varnished teak chairs (above) were appropriately nautical chic.

Arriving at Eleuthera (above), in the Bahamas. This emerald green reminds us why, for many centuries, the oceans on maps were depicted as green, not blue.

The flash of a white boat (above), against a deep rich blue sea, seems to welcome us as as we cruise into the port of St Maarten.

How adorable is this dolphinfish tile work we discovered along one of the pretty streets of Marigot, le capital of St Martin.

Look at this palette of blue laid out in the harbor of one of the Turks and Caicos islands (above). The progression from inky blues to rich cyan to shimmering turquoise could be a masterclass in color.

John Burroughs, the 19th century American naturalist, wisely remarked: “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” We know when our senses begin to align, because fresh new ideas start to bob up to the surface.

And naturally we were card-inspired on this trip. The result is this anniversary card (below), which celebrates the beautiful colors of the sea we saw, and the sweet serenity we felt, cocooned in our little portside cabin.

(This card will become part of our new card collection that we’ll be presenting at the National Stationery Show in New York at the end of May. Stay tuned for more card sneak peeks to come!)

Railway Rhapdsodies
March 16th, 2012

Last week in Paris, editors from around the world crossed the finish line of the fashion show marathon that began 5 weeks ago in New York, and the results are in: NY was distinctly ho-hum, Milan luxuriously beautiful, Paris unexpectedly trendy — and the breakout star was a train.

Not just any train, of course, but the full-scale steam engine Louis Vuitton built specifically for its fashion show. On it steamed to the runway (above), with models disembarking, accompanied by uniformed bellhops. Bravo! What a way to sell hand bags.

We weren’t surprised at the consensus of delight: we’ve long adored trains. One of the most enchanting train trips we’ve ever taken was also on one of the smallest trains we’ve ever seen: just two carriages made up this little PeruRail train (above) which traveled from Cusco, the old Inca capital, to magical Machu Picchu.

As fate would have it, our office actually sits alongside a rather active train track (above), and the rumble and shake of passing trains inspired us to create not one, but two cards (below).

Welcome to our new Palm Street offices!
January 18th, 2012

New year, new offices! We have decamped from our home-office situation into genuine office space in Grandview Heights, a fab little historic neighborhood in West Palm Beach. This past month we’ve been buzzing like bees putting it all together, and now we want to give our readers the first look.

Ok, we admit it. Our offices are on the intimate side in terms of space. So what we quickly decided: Small space? Streamline colors. Sure we love color in our cards, but it made life a lot easier to choose just two for the office. White (and as glossy as possible, please), and a jolt of yellow. (High-gloss desk, white leather chair, and file cabinet from CB2. Lamp is West Elm. The prints are Avedon.)

We always like to think of our cards as mini pieces of art, so why not blow them up and hang them like that (above)?

Let’s bring the sun in. Yellow hanging files in a yellow file cabinet (above) never fail to cheer us up, even when we’re reaching for our printing bills.

Heaven for us is a place with more mood boards that we can fill. Fortunately we have plenty of wall space for them now. Simple modern white furniture (thank you Ikea) lets the images bring color and texture into our meeting room (above).

We love a high low office mix. Take cheap office supplies and put them in elegant containers. Don’t the pop colors of these pushpins look chic when set against the lovely blue glaze of this hand-thrown bowl?


Our lunch spot. The Curbside Gourmet food truck (above) that parks along the Dixie Highway is a local fave, and fortunately its grilled mahi fish tacos — with lime and mango — are as delicious as its turquoise livery and whimsical typography.

And doesn’t everything taste a bit better on sunshine-happy plates? (These are from C. Wonder.) If you’re ever in the area, stop by and let us make you a cup of tea.

Local inspiration. If ever we get stumped for idea, how lucky are we to find the world-class art collection of the Norton Museum a 5-minute walk away. A splendid art deco bronze by Paul Manship (a personal fave of ours) of Diana graces the original entrance (above, left).

Sometimes we manage to leave the office before it gets dark, and then we are treated to this view along Flagler Drive (above), a moon just beginning to rise against a darkening sky. And with that, we cycle happily home.

* J. Falkner Fine Stationery & Cards. 500 Palm Street, Unit B. West Palm Beach, FL 33401. Tel (561) 833 8455. Fax (561) 228 0633.

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.

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.

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. www.onteora.com

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