Post Script: Modern Day Snail Mail’s Cristina Vanko

cristina vankoAccording to her bio, Cristina Vanko is a “designer, idea person, visual storyteller, printer, letterer, illustrator, data visualizer and an aspiring art director.” For one week, she was the girl “texting” using ink. After discovering her father’s old calligraphy pen, Vanko fell in love with writing words that glided across the paper in lovely flourishes. So, she decided that for seven days she would only “text” her friends with hand-written messages. The result was visually and socially extraordinary. Here, Vanko talks about her snail mail experiment, correspondence as an artform and her father’s delightfully creative envelope addressing.

When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
My dad would always send snail mail to me when I went off to college and decorate the envelope with silly stickers and interesting type, but it wasn’t until I was taking classes in all the different art areas at school until I got really interested in the epistolary world.

Although I had been interested in art at a very young age, at the beginning of my undergraduate career my understanding of art had not yet been developed to think that art could be more than a painting or drawing. But when I was at Indiana University—Bloomington, I came across some really inspiring printmaking graduate students who helped me fully understand what the definition of art is and what it could be.

Kristin Carlson’s MFA thesis, Large Letters, Small Signs, was when I truly fell in love with mail and mail art. It was then when I discovered how you could really push the boundary of surface, type and technique. I remember speaking with her when she was screen-printing this piece and she explained to me that in art school you spend so much time with your work that you miss out on relationships with people.

Not only did I see her thesis as an interesting way to send mail but also I saw her thesis as a good way to share her talent with people she cared about. After being introduced to mail art in such an extraordinary and beautiful way, I became more aware what I sent through the mail.

Tell me about your Modern Day Snail Mail project.
I resurrected my dad’s old calligraphy pen and I was immediately stunned with the range of line thickness that the pen could achieve. After texting some doodles to friends, I decided to send handwritten messages to people for that next week. I wanted to create my own modern day version of “snail mail.”

My rules for this type of experiment were simple: Create handwritten text messages for seven days, i.e. no using the keyboard on my phone to send a message. I wrote out my message on paper and then I snapped a photo to send as a text message. What started as an experiment to improve and learn more calligraphy quickly became an interesting social experiment all together. Not only did I learn a lot about calligraphy, I learned a lot about myself, my friends and technology.

modern day snail mail

modern day snail mail text messages

Why do you enjoy writing letters and/or correspondence?
I appreciate how it’s a more genuine and personal way of creating and/or maintaining conversation with a person. The physical pieces are elements to add to your shared story with a specific person, so it’s interesting to see how your relationship unfolds in a tangible way. Also, I’ve been working on more digital projects as a designer so it’s a nice way to revisit and maintain my analog roots.

What is your favorite step in the process of written correspondence?
I enjoy the final step of the process—constructing and embellishing what contains the message whether it be an envelope, box, etc. Since it’s the first thing you see, I want the recipient to know that this isn’t an ordinary piece of mail.

envelope mail art

If you could be pen pals with anyone in history, to whom would you write and what would you say?
I’d love to start conversations with my ancestors to ask about their stories and to see their handwriting. I have noticed similarities in handwriting among my family members and it’d be interesting to see if there was an evolution involving handwriting style.

To whom do you most often write?
I mostly write to my friends and family, and by write, I mean that I mostly send mail art. After graduating college, my friends are sprawled out all over the country, so I like to send mail art and postcards to friends every chance I have some free time.

Unfortunately, I have noticed it becomes a one-way street. Luckily, I have a couple of good friends from undergraduate with which we consistently send mail art back and forth. My one friend and I give each other challenges to push ourselves, so we try to master a new skill or learn something new when relaying our message.

mail art

Can you describe the most memorable letter or postcard you have ever received?
Besides from visually intriguing letters, simple handwritten letters that reveal your most genuine thoughts and feelings about someone make for some of the best letters I’ve ever received. There’s nothing more personal than handwriting when truly expressing yourself.

What makes a particular letter stand out from a stack of cards?
Knowing that someone wanted to fill a blank page with their a message versus picking out something reconstructed and/or only requires a signature. The extra effort of a physical letter is refreshing.

What makes your correspondence distinct?
My dad literally pushes the envelope with the address alone. Wherever I’ve lived, he’s always figured out a new way to construct an address by using city nicknames, spelling things out phonetically, etc. It surprises me every time I receive a letter that the post office figured out a way to decode the address. Naturally, I picked up the habit of crafting creative addresses and have been applying it to my mail.

What do you think classic correspondence will look like in a decade or two?
I think classic correspondence will continue to become rare, but I can only hope that it will evolve into something new—even if that means digitally. While today people are more connected than ever, receiving a personal email could seem like a rarity. Sometimes I know that I get tricked into thinking that liking, commenting or re-tweeting means that someone cares when really it takes little effort to do such things. I could only hope there will be a way to digitally differentiate correspondence and make it more personal.

Have a question for Cristina or know someone who should be featured in Post Script? Contact our Crane Concierge at concierge@crane.com.

All Hallow’s Eve Inspiration: Orange & Black Hues to Get Us in the Spirit

halloween stationery1. Hand Engraved Black Cat Note: Invite someone to curl up with the news of your world by sending it on our hand engraved note with a tuxedoed cat. The matching white envelope features a white liner with black polka dots.

2. Engraved Black Cat Note on Ecru: What does our little feline friend have on her mind? What all cats do – resting in style. Perfect for a newsy note, a thank you or RSVP. Matching envelopes included.

3. Hand Engraved Monogram on Pearl White Correspondence Card: A penthouse view offers quite the inspiration for one’s correspondence, be it to client or confidant. Equally inspiring is this crisp, pearl white card, engraved with a handsome monogram in black ink — a combination most dapper and decisive.

4. Engraved Monogram on Pearl White Sheet: A monogram Jay Gatsby would adore, initials are handsomely arranged with an Art Deco-inspired touch. Black ink on a pearl white letter sheet allows for stark sophistication. Please note that additional blank white sheets for extra pages are a smart addition to any stationery wardrobe.

5. Orange Leather Refillable Notebook: These full grain goat skin leather notebooks include a spiral insert with 144 lined perforated pages on gold-gilded paper. Handy for everyday note taking, business or journal writing.

6. Black Leather Refillable Notebook: This French Milled Full Grain Calf Skin leather notebook includes a spiral insert with 144 lined, perforated pages on gold-gilded premium paper. Handy for everyday note taking, business or journal writing.

7. Pearl White Note with Lion Motif: King of the Jungle stands watch over this pearl white note. Illustrated in our cheerful Clementine ink, he can’t help but inspire roaring good missives to loved ones near and far.

8. Letterpress Pearl White Calling Card with Dotted Rule: Design with sophisticated sensibilities, personalization in our Clementine hue accompanied by well-placed pertinent information in charcoal makes for business cards that would surely make Eames ecstatic.

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The Evolution of a Holiday Card

The evolution of our engraved starfish holiday card…

From sketches…

holiday-2013-starfish-and-pine-drawing
To a no-ink press run…

holiday-2013-starfish-and-pineTo the finished product…

View our entire Personalized Holiday Card collection here.

How Our Engraved Stationery Comes to Life

We recently took a spin around the factory floor and came across one of our talented press artisans engraving custom cards for Cartier. Thoughtfully, he laid out all of the elements and layers that an engraved card boasting four ink colors goes through to obtain perfection. Which, we must say, this card certainly possesses.

First, the engraving plate is made.
cartier bird engraving platesThe card is then run through the engraving press one time for each ink color.

cartier bird printing stagesEt voila, an exquisitely engraved bird for the most special correspondence.

cartier bird final

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Autumn Adoration: Our Favorite Fall Stationery

Pea coats. Apple cobbler. Crunchy leaves under our feet. Fall has arrived, and with it comes warm hues to add to your stationery wardrobe. Here are our favorites…

Deep Golds: Hand Engraved Initial Note

deep gold engraved initial note

Warm Browns: Letterpress Monogram on Tiverton

warm brown letterpress monogram

Earthy Greens: Monogram on Hand Bordered Pearl White Note

earthy green monogram
Rich Reds: Hand Engraved Ecruwhite Monogram Note

rich red engraved monogram

Brilliant Oranges: Pearl White Note With Large Motif

brilliant orange lion motif
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Stationery with a Story: Introducing Our Signet Collection

Our iconic Signet Collection is inspired by classic symbolism. While the words you provide will certainly inspire, one should never shy away from stationery with a story.

Pineapple: A symbol of hospitality, the pineapple was once considered quite the commodity. Had you been a member of the New England elite or a sailor home from duty, the exotic fruit was often displayed proudly at home. We like to think it still is — in the form of a thoughtful note to the gracious hostess or new neighbor.

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Wheat: A symbol of bounty and prosperity, a bushel of wheat is often referred to as ‘giving grain.’ While it is said that the giving of such grain was the impetus for the wedding cake, a message coupled with such a motif is certainly appropriate for any occasion. Frosting excluded, of course.

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Palm Branches: A symbol of victory, palm branches were often given to winners of prestigious games and military battles in Rome. Thus, such an image is the perfect accompaniment to a note of congratulations for a diploma or promotion well deserved.

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Gingko: A symbol of strength and longevity, the gingko tree has rightly earned such notoriety by its ability to often live for 1,000 years. Thus, a note to a friend in need of an encouraging word is surely the perfect pairing for this spirited motif.

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Post Script: Blacker & Kooby’s Vanessa Kooby

vanessa koobyOne might say Vanessa Kooby was destined to own a stationery shop. Her father, Fred Kooby, along with his business partner Joe Blacker, opened Blacker & Kooby on Madison Avenue 50 years ago. However, it’s dedication, not destiny that has made Vanessa and her family’s shop Upper East Side staples. Here, the Wharton Business School graduate talks to us about letters to camp, Zazzle and what she would ask her 19th century French painter pen pal.

When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
I have always loved stationery and written communiques. I was a doodler as a child and always had pen pals. When I was a teenager, I collected stationery and stickers.

What’s the story behind your store’s name?
In 1963, my father, Fred Kooby, met Joe Blacker through a business broker. They decided to join forces and literally set up shop on Madison Avenue. It was a fruitful and happy partnership, and I still work with my father and have very fond memories of “Uncle” Joe.

What inspired you to open a stationery boutique?
I guess you can say I was born into it, but it is so much more than that. I have always been a visual learner and I am artistically inclined. After completing my MBA at Wharton, I did financial services marketing for Chase Manhattan Bank, but my heart was always in retail, the family business. People fascinate me, and I like establishing relationships and creating. The stationery business let me combine my visual skills and artistic sensibilities with my management training — and work with a nice clientele every day.

Why do you enjoy sending correspondence?
A well-written thank you note makes me swoon. I can still remember customers and friends who have sent me the nicest thank you notes ever. When I receive a sincere note with a nice sentiment, my opinion of the sender is magically elevated!

Additionally, receiving mail is so much fun. One summer when my daughter was at sleep away camp, I wrote random letters to her bunk mates, and it became a game. The whole bunk would wait to see who Stephanie’s mom wrote to next. My daughter will never forget that, and it was so amusing for all of us.

If you could be pen pals with anyone in history, to whom would you write and what would you say?
That is so easy! I would write to Picasso, Matisse and Bonnard, and ask them what their inspirations were for their most famous or lovely paintings. Painting is a passion of mine, and I never tire of New York City and its abundant art exhibitions and permanent collections. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to ask Pierre Bonnard what his relationship was like with all the people in his kitchen and garden paintings? It would explain their expressions and Bonnard’s treatment of them as subjects.

To whom do you most often write?
I write to my kids. My grandfather wrote me the most magnificent letters when I was growing up. He told me, “be independent and to rely on yourself.” I try to impart some life lessons on them when I get a moment, and maybe one day it will all make sense.

Describe the most memorable letter or postcard you have ever received.
Well, Letitia Baldrige did wish me good luck with all my brides, but my grandfather’s letters had the most impact.

What makes a particular letter stand out from a stack of cards?
For me it is the paper and the handwriting. If the paper feels like quality, and there is neat cursive or block print by a human being, I will take note and appreciate it.

Do you have a favorite stamp or stamp series?
I am a total Zazzle.com fanatic. When I do a stunning invitation, I cannot wait to coordinate stamps for my clients. I scan, I tweak, I create, until I am happy… and they are pleased.

What is your favorite product created by Crane & Co.?
I still love Crane Kid Finish Ecru 32 lb stock. No other paper feels so luxurious and present.

What do you think classic correspondence will look like in a decade or two?
I think we all must accept the fact that correspondence will be a combination of electronic and hard copy. Once we accept that, it actually increases the value of a written letter. As email has become so important, and texting is almost a religion, a written letter or a printed invitation really stands out. Wedding invitations and Bar/Bat Mitzvah invitations set the mood for a celebration and leave no doubt in a guest’s mind that they were not just an afterthought.

Have a question for Vanessa? Email our Crane Concierge at concierge@crane.com.

How to Write the Perfect Lunchbox Note

kids stationeryTucked between the turkey sandwich and the apple chips, we like to think that every child finds something sweet. (Besides the mini bag of Peanut M&Ms, of course.)

The lunchbox note has been a staple of cafeteria correspondence since PB met J. It has served as a pick-me-up, a reminder, a pep talk and a hug replacement. It makes a great day even better, and makes a bad day just a little more tolerable. It is, like any note, a small gesture to let someone know you’re thinking about him or her.

But writing a lunchbox note isn’t as easy as scribbling a few x’s and o’s. Like all handwritten sentiments, there is an art to perfectly crafted communication. Here are our tips on how to make sure yours isn’t tossed out with the empty juice box.

  • Keep it short and sweet. Lunchtime is about re-fueling, but it’s also about socializing with friends. Between conversations about homework and weekend adventures, your child has about 30 seconds for reading. Keep it to 1-3 sentences (this isn’t the time to reminisce or tell a story) and keep it light and loving (this also isn’t the time to remind him he needs to clean his room tonight).
  • Don’t use the good stuff. Now isn’t the time to utilize your engraved monogram stationery with lined envelopes. Not that a note to your child isn’t special, but there is a good chance that it will come home decorated in apple juice and peanut butter (if it comes home at all). Instead, invest in a box of notecards reserved only for your note to your child. This way, he’ll know it’s from you to him (and feel special because of it), and you won’t be upset about your monogram getting trampled in the hallway between classes.
  • The delight is in the details. “I love you” and “Have a great day” are certainly lovely sentiments, but chances are you tell them to your child on a daily basis. Every note should touch on specifics. Mention a funny line from a movie you both love, tell her how much you love her new red sneakers or suggest you both get frozen yogurt after school. Whatever it is, make sure it gets a smile.
  • Everything in moderation. Like an extra cookie, a lunchbox note is meant to be a surprise treat. They should be sporadic, inspiring smiles, not groans. Sure, including one on Valentine’s Day or on the day of a big test is lovely. But it’s those not-particularly-interesting-in-any-way-days that make an unexpected note quite a delight.

Need more correspondence advice? Email our Crane Concierge at concierge@crane.com.

Post Script: Needle in a Haystack’s Yash Parmar

NeedleinaHaystack-006

Everything is bigger in Texas. And that includes the stationery business. Catering to Dallas’s finest, Needle in a Haystack has been a purveyor of exquisitely printed paper for more than two decades. Here, co-owner Yash Parmar — who runs the boutique with his wife, Bhavna and daughter, Krishna (pictured above right and left, respectively) — talks to us about the power of pen pals, to whom he writes most and how he may not have been where he is today without sewing.

When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
Writing handwritten letters to my pen pals in various countries.

What’s the story behind your store’s name?
Needle in a Haystack started off as a needlepoint store in 1971 – hence the name.  In the 70’s and 80’s there was strong interest in needlepoint. The previous owners of Needle in a Haystack were avid needlepointers.  They gradually introduced gifts and stationery in the 80’s. We bought the store in 1989, when it was about 80% needlepoint and 20% “other.”  

What inspired you to open a stationery boutique?
Emphasis on stationery was dictated by the market and our interest in paper. Our customers demanded greater variety of stationery. This matched our interest.

Why do you enjoy sending letters and/or correspondence?
It is great to put your thoughts on paper. I had pen pals as a teenager and loved writing and receiving letters.

If you could be pen pals with anyone in history, to whom would you write and what would you say?
Mahatma Gandhi. I have so many questions that I could ask. There is so much that one can learn from his life and experience.

Gandhi

To whom do you most often write?
Customers!

Describe the most memorable letter or postcard you have ever received.
As a student in England, my grandfather wrote to me regularly from India. I loved receiving his letters with all his grandfatherly advice.

What makes a particular letter stand out from a stack of cards?
Handwritten letter on personal stationery.

Do you have a favorite stamp or stamp series?
Scenic American Landscapes series of stamps.  Some of these, such as Yosemite National Park, Glacier National Park are just beautiful!

Glacier-park-slideshow

What is your favorite product created by Crane & Co.?
The Black Label album (that has long been retired) had some fabulous engraved stationery with wonderful motifs and liners.

palmetto engraved black label red cards

What do you think classic correspondence will look like in a decade or two?
I think the classic correspondence in a decade or two will remain classic: handwritten note on engraved stationery.

Have a question for Yash? Email our Crane Concierge at concierge@crane.com.

Photos: Crane & Co.’s American Flags

We’re quite proud of the fact that we’re an American company making products in America. It’s what we were founded on and what we hope to continue to do for centuries to come.

It isn’t uncommon, then, to see lovely and plentiful displays of patriotism as one wanders through our factories. Below are just a handful of such displays we think you might enjoy perusing, especially as we go into Memorial Day Weekend. Go ahead, hum “You’re a Grand Old Flag” while you do…

1) Red, White & Blue With a View

crane and co. factory american flag Continue reading