The Stationers Guild

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Man with Stationery seeks Woman with Pen

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

I came across an interesting article in today’s New York Times by Sam Roberts with the intriguing title that “More Men Marrying Better Educated, Wealthier Wives.”   The gist of the article suggests that men who have sought marriage “from the standpoint of physical and mental well being”  now realize that a better-educated partner can also contribute to their “economic well-being.”   While this might be seen as a major evolutionary break-through in male maturity and self-realization,  the “alpha female” (The Knot’s characterization of the upwardly mobile female) is unlikely to compromise her rigorous approval standards.  One anonymous textile executive quoted in the article reportedly queries bar slugs and first dates with “Do you have a passport and a library card?”  Gosh, that will certainly weed out the field of eligible males rather quickly and so much for “Love at first sight!”

As I have no skin in the game (married to a far smarter woman and breadwinner -a fact which she reminds me of each day), I am free to offer this advice to men whose emotional IQ is higher than their testosterone level:  Buy engraved stationery and seek out a woman with an expensive pen.   I might add that Crane & Co. and William Arthur have sensational personalized stationery promotions going on right now, so you can buy in cheap and score big with a personalized note to the woman of your dreams who is currently involved in an unhealthy relationship with her Blackberry.   Can you imagine her reaction when she receives your hand-written note on engraved stationery?   Her Facebook “friends” and “Twits” on Twitter will simply fade into oblivion proving decisively that the pen is mightier than texting. 

 William Arthur Stationery - Square Button

If you need help selecting your stationery, please enter your Zip code or City and State in the Search Bar in the right hand corner to locate a qualified stationery store in your neighborhood.   If, however, you are looking for a woman with the “right”  fountain pen, might I suggest a limited edition Omas Château Lafite Rothschild fountain pen with a sterling silver nib which retails for $1,750.  I ordered the Chateau Lafitite pen for a woman as a birthday gift to the man of her dream’s whose passions were limited edition pens and French wine.  Apparently, his passions didn’t extend to the woman in question and I still have the Omas pen.  If your bride-to-be is looking for a pen to ink the relationship, tell her I have a great deal for her at Thérèse Saint Clair.

Chateau Lafite Fountain Pen

Chateau Lafite Fountain Pen

Richard May
Therese Saint Clair

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The lost art of fine stationery

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

I don’t like to quote myself since it appears – and is – self-serving, but I recently published an article called “It’s not worth the paper it’s printed on – The lost art of fine stationery.”   The tongue-in-cheek article seeks to apply a monetary value to correspondence using engraved stationery to determine if it is any more relevant than the new forms of social correspondence such as Twitter and text-messaging.

Clearly, the conscious act of  visiting a stationery store to design your own personal stationery demonstrates a level of commitment to a  meaningful form of communication.  I think it is fair to say that words exchanged in writing tend to leave more of a lasting impression than a phone conversation.   While both may accomplish the same objective, the simple act of taking the time to write a brief note resonates on a more personal level.

I recently learned that an industry research study (I did not actually read the report) had concluded that 86% of people interviewed still considered “paper” correspondence to be a more effective form of communication.  More than that, the trend is holding steady suggesting that text messaging and social media sites may not be making as much headway as once suspected.

Certainly, today’s New York Times article “Buying, Selling and Twittering All the Way“  suggests that the Twitter model has been seriously compromised by Big Business.  Twitter’s tag line of “What are you doing?” now seems to have been overtaken by paid mercenaries building “brand awareness” for their employer.  According to the article, Greg Ahearn of Toys “R” Us stated that Twitter is “a way people can stay connected with the brand in a way they’ve never been able to before.”   Now, I can’t really understand why people would want to stay connected to a brand (even Toys “R” Us), but I am absolutely convinced that the Big Business footprint in Twitter will drive their audience to greener pastures.  Big Business simply doesn’t get it:  Twitter is about people, Twitter is not a medium for aggressively selling or creating brand awareness!

I am reassured that people still value the exchange of social correspondence:  It is a habit and art form well worth preserving.

Richard W. May
Therese Saint Clair

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Kindle & 1984: Don’t throw out your stationery just yet!

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

George Orwell must be having a chuckle – maybe even a hearty laugh – at the hullabaloo that ensued when Amazon deleted Orwell’s 1984 from it’s Kindle library because it didn’t have publishing rights to the digital reproduction.  Big Brother must certainly have been impressed by the ease with which faceless technocrats can deprive us of one our most sacred rights:  the right to read.   In his wildest imagination, Orwell could never have dreamt that Big Brother could control what people read with the simple flick of a switch.  Makes me start to wonder about the implications of Google’s digital library.   

Maybe I’m paranoid, but I don’t think I will be recycling my book collection any time soon.    For that matter, I’m taking a long position in personalized stationery even though the Post Office may not be around much longer.  I have even stopped converting my photographs to digital images and gone back to leather photo albums.   I’m stopping short of building a bomb shelter, but will seriously consider getting rid of the TV if they have anymore “reality” TV shows.   I guess Paula Abdul’s abrupt departure from American Idol is a sign that reality TV is even less silly and hilarious than life in digiworld.

Just when I thought that digiworld couldn’t get any loonier, I discovered that someone was actually converting John Quincy Adam’s 1809 diary entries into Tweets.  In today’s New York Times, reporter Katie Zezima writes that a college student has been taking JQA’s journal entries of his boat trip to Russia and coverting them to tweets on Twitter.  According to the article, JQ already has 4,800 followers (I’m not one of them) and “the number was climbing.”  This clearly adds a new dimension to the Twitter tag line “What are you doing?”  In John Quincy’s case it might be “I’m dead, but still chirping!”  I wonder how many more people will become followers of someone who has been dead for more than 150 years.   ”Curiouser and curiouser!” said Alice in Wonderland (Yep, I have the book).

As we race down the digital highway of new “awareness” and greater “sensitivity” and “connectivity,” I do hope that some of us will pause to consider the consequences.   We  refer to that as “stopping to smell the roses.”  Personally, I find digiworld as confusing and as transient as Alice. 

Richard W. May
Therese Saint Clair

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Facebook Wedding Invitation?

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

Mikel King just received his first wedding invitation through Facebook’s event system. He relates his reaction to this invitation in an article entitled Welcome to the age of the techno-wedding for   Mikel, the NY Consumer Technology editor, is no stranger to emerging technology, but even he was taken aback by the largely impersonal and tasteless (my word!) decision to reduce a wedding to a Facebook event.

Mikel’s  reflection on techno-weddings might best be described as forward-looking satire.   Nevertheless, I feel that he shares my concern that the new technology is radically changing the way human beings (even New Yorkers!) relate to each other.    While cost is obviously an important consideration for a wedding, I am not convinced that the extra pasta dish at the reception buffet is worth skimping on your wedding invitation.    In fact, your wedding invitation will be around a lot longer than the pasta.

Having “followers” on Twitter or “friends” on Facebook seems to be the equivalent of having lice on a dog.  The lice are along for the ride without  having to make an emotional commitment.  “Let’s party” is the not the equivalent of “Let’s get married,” even though Facebook Events would like you to think so. 

As a tired old dog, I just think the Generation Y-ers have simply exchanged the TV remote control for a super-smart phone.   Texting is not engagement. In fact, one wonders if texting is really a form of communication or just a nervous habit  to avoid a commitment at a more deeply personal level.  Surely, once we strip tradition, elegance and etiquette from important events in people’s lives we effectively sever the connection to past generations that transcends our daily concerns. 

Like Mikel, I guess I  need to wait for the “neo-retro-wedding trend” to emerge once tweeting about yourself loses its moronic charm.

Richard W. May
Therese Saint Clair

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Stationery, Facebook and Twitter

Monday, May 11th, 2009

Melissa Magsaysay makes a very impassioned case for fine stationery in a May 10 article in the Los Angeles Times.  She laments that she has yet to receive a handwritten note from any of her 250 “friends” on Facebook.  She adds, “Does anyone under 30 even remember what handwritten notes are all about?  I am hoping that all this public chirping gives way to something more personal, maybe even a return to the romance of beautiful stationery, flair and making an effort.”

Melissa’s plea for “something more personal” got me to thinking about the relevancy or impact of social networks on interpersonal relationships.  Sure, I’ve experimented with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks but, for the most part, I’ve never really made a serious commitment to develop a network of friends, acquaintances, followers or other network buzzwords that define relationships.   Melissa’s article got me to thinking “Why?”

I think it has to do with the type of person that I am.  Let me explain.  The relationship theme of Twitter is based on the simple question:  “What are you doing?”  Frankly, I never really thought that people really cared what I was doing and, even if they did, would they think more or less of me if I didn’t tell them?   It seems to me that “real” relationships are based on consideration for another (“empathy” strikes me as the appropriate word) rather than talking about myself.    As Melissa points out, making the effort to write a handwritten note brings the cream to the top and separates the casual acquittance from those you might like to know better.    The handwritten note sends a message that is far more intimate and caring than any 140 character “tweet” could possibly convey. 

I do not understand why so many people find it so meaningful or liberating to talk about themselves and eavesdrop on others who feel the same way.  Maybe I am missing something, but it strikes me that one is either an egomaniac or is suffering from a rather severe inferiority complex.   In fact, much of the social network “chatter” is based on “my” feelings,”my” views,“my” beliefs,“my” activities to the detriment of a relationship based on mutual respect developed through listening rather than talking about oneself.

I am hopeful that many of Melissa’s “friends” will take up the the challenge and experiment with the civility, etiquette and beautiful craftmanship that define fine stationery.

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National Stationery Show to be digital by April 1, 2012

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

In a surprise development that has taken the stationery industry by storm, National Stationery Show spokesperson, Shirley Greenhouse, announced that the National Stationery Show would be “entirely digital” by 2012.  Ms. Greenhouse stated that “today’s consumer is embracing a new medium to express themselves and, quite frankly, paper is no longer considered Eco-chic, timely or relevant.”

While this will come as a shock to traditionalists and the many artisans who produce fine paper, it is a huge cost-saving boon to online resellers and printers who can now substitute paper invitations and stationery with online images.   Said one delighted CEO, who preferred to remain anonymous, “we can finally compete with the Chinese now that we don’t have to deliver the goods.”   For another anonymous executive,  it is a dream come true:  “Brides can now have digital stationery and invitations to match their wedding website.  To be quite honest, producing ‘real paper’ was just a distraction and got in the way of cross-selling other products and services to bridal couples.”

While Ms. Greenhouse, dismissed accusations that the NSS digital plan was a sell-out to online resellers who produce little of tangible value other than advertising revenue, many brick-and-mortar retailers were disappointed with the announcement.   Store-owner Elizabeth Long from Stillwater, OK remarked that she looked forward to visiting NY and catching up with the latest industry trends.  Says Elizabeth, “despite the over-priced food and beverages at the Jacob K. Javits Center, I will really miss rubbing elbows with talented designers and the beautiful papers they produce.  Quite frankly, I’ve never understood the ’save a tree’ mantra of online marketers since we only sell stationery made from cotton rag.  I guess it’s a generational thing.  If the new generation can’t spell stationary correctly, I suppose there is no reason for them to buy it.”

Charles Avery, a long-time distributor for many fine paper lines watched a lifetime of ”pushing paper” disappear in a cloud of low-resolution pixels.  While obviously distraught, Mr. Avery summed up the situation quite philosophically, “this adds new meaning to the expression that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’”   Even the “Twits” on Twitter were taken aback by this stunning announcement and were furiously text messaging the organizers for further clarification.  Fortunately for Ms. Greenhouse, the NSS email Server was down again, a regular occurrence that the GLM management company laughingly refers to as “turning a deaf ear to the situation.”

It is hard to believe that the National Stationery Show organizers would take such a radical step and turn the lights off on a 500 year-old industry spawned by the Johannes Gutenberg.  “Certainly, it is better than moving the Stationery Show to Las Vegas, but this is still rather extreme,” summed up one grizzled paper veteran.  Ms. Greenhouse offered no apologies for the decision, and deftly fielded many cynical questions with the curious sound bite “if we can rebuild Detroit without gas-guzzling cars, we can certainly build a better world without paper.  Long live the Spotted Owl!”   We are hopeful that the organizers will certainly reconsider their pronouncement on April Fools Day.

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Business Cards 101

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

“You never have a second chance to make a first impression.”  I can’t remember who had this sage but practical piece of advice, but nothing could be more true in today’s electronic workplace.  With website page views clocking in at 1.8 seconds and a “twit” on Twitter limited to 140 characters, you’ve got to make a strong positive impression from the get-go.

With your social and business network persona on display 24/7, one might ask if the business card is still relevant?  Thank you, it is!  In fact, we are seeing a resurgence in consumer demand for tastefully designed calling cards and business cards.   Despite the down economy, customers at Therese Saint Clair are trading in their fast-print cards for more distinctive business cards.  Business professionals recognize that their non-descript business cards just may not make it to their recipient’s Rolodex.  Maybe it makes sense to invest in a little image-building.  One way of doing so is to have an elegant business card printed on fine paper stock.

While Crane & Co. has long been the company of choice for fine business stationery, many other companies are now introducing their own distinct lines of business stationery.  William Arthur has a good selection of business cards printed on 96# paper stock to go along with a growing selection of fine stationery.  Smock Paper has a stylish but somewhat pricey line of letterpress business cards printed on bamboo paper.  Lallie and Encore have some great designs for truly distinctive business cards.

If you feel your stationery is not making that right “first impression” then perhaps a visit to a Stationers Guild member store is in order.  There you can work with experienced stationers to custom design a business card of your choice.

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