Thoughts on Squarespace

When I first started my business, I knew that I needed a website. I have heard of businesses that function well without them, but for the end goal I had I knew that a site would be essential. I was pretty intimidated by the thought of trying to find the prefect platform! I am far from computer-savvy, and I'm much more artistic than I am practical. My husband is the one who is gifted at figuring things out through trial and error/Google research - not me! I did my research and found a few top contenders for sites that were supposed to be simple, user-friendly, and aesthetically pleasing.

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The platform I decided to try first was Squarespace. I started off as a lifestyle blog (which you can still see if you go way back in my archives...haha!) but quickly changed direction as I realized that my line of work should be in art and design. Squarespace had provided the perfect platform for my blog: a simple, clean, beautiful layout, places for an about page and contact page as well as for the blog content, and a very easy back-end system that was perfect for my lack of computer knowledge! 

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Later on, Squarespace also provided the perfect platform for my illustration and calligraphy work. I kept my about page and my blog, but added portfolio pages as well as a webshop. I was so glad I didn't have to worry about changing platforms when my business changed direction! Since then, I have added more pages to my webshop, increased my number of portfolio pages, and have started using Squarespace as my client proofing platform. I'm still thrilled that it's all easy enough for me to figure out! 

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From my very humble beginnings as a lifestyle blogger to my current design business, Squarespace has been the perfect platform for my website! I have loved using it for different purposes as my business has grown and expanded, and I can't wait to see how else I will use it in the future!

If you want to try Squarespace for yourself, use coupon code ESTHERCLARK to get 10% off your first site!

This post has been a sponsored collaboration between myself and Squarespace. All text and opinions are my own.

Ethereal Late Spring Collaboration

Working with local vendors is always such a pleasure, and none more than when said vendors are also an incredibly kind and talented bunch of women! When I first moved to Minnesota, I was a little bit nervous about meeting vendors in the wedding industry. I am shy and introverted, and my business was still very new. Moving to a much larger city than I had ever lived in before was intimidating, and the thought of making friends was even more so! Thankfully, I met some amazing people very quickly, and I've loved building relationships with them since! 

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One of these women - the first I met - is Shasta Bell, who does calligraphy as well as botanically dyed ribbon. Her warm personality and kind smile immediately made me feel welcome in the Minneapolis wedding industry. She told me about some of her favorite vendors to work with, Ashley Fox and Amanda Nippoldt being two of them. Amanda is an amazing film photographer, and Ashley does the dreamiest and most ethereal floral arrangements. Ashley often sets up styled vignettes and photoshoots in her lovely studio, and when she asked me to create a suite for one such shoot, I was thrilled!

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The shoot was going to have lots of focus on texture, and Ashley told me lots about the model she would be working with, whose look was very whimsical and other-worldly. I immediately started thinking about how I could incorporate that mood into the invitation suite. I chose a selection of several handmade papers and small, minimal typeface for the main elements of the suite. Ashley requested graphite calligraphy - which is such a beautiful texture, especially on handmade paper! - and I also created a pencil sketch of an iris to incorporate the graphite texture more fully. I finished everything off with thin black twine, vintage stamps, and a lovely gold wax seal.

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As you can see, Ashley's floral arrangements for the shoot are completely breathtaking, as is the model! The lovely Heather Trachsel created a perfect makeup look for the shoot, and ribbon dyed by Shasta and ceramics from The Foundry finished everything off perfectly. Amanda captured everything so well, and the end result is such a light, ethereal, and organic shoot full of delicate late-spring flowers. 

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I loved collaborating on this shoot with such a fun group of women, and I even got to attend it, which hardly ever happens! Keep up the good work, ladies; you are all a pleasure to know and I am thrilled that I get to work alongside you! 

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Photography: Amanda Nippoldt / Florals: Ashley Fox Designs / Model: Ignite Models / Makeup: Heather Trachsel / Table Settings: The Foundry Home Goods / Ribbon: Shasta Bell

Italian Chiaroscuro

The concept of "chiaroscuro" in renaissance art is the study of light and darkness, the contrast between brightness and shade and the affect they have on shapes and forms. I first heard of chiaroscuro in my college Painting I class, where we studied the masters who used this concept frequently in their work. My favorite of these masters was Caravaggio; he captured chiaroscuro perfectly and I spent hours pouring over and trying to recreate the effect in my own paintings. 

Louise of Taylor and Porter was inspired to use the concept of chiaroscuro in a bridal fashion shoot in Italy over the summer, and the result is a completely stunning set of photos that capture the brilliance of the Italian light perfectly. The venue was a gorgeous villa full of lavish paintings and beautiful carvings. There are old-world detailed everywhere, and the setting is positively dripping with history and grace!

Lacy Geary, who styled and designed the shoot, chose two dresses that worked wonderfully with the concept of light and shadow; one dress sparkles and shimmers in the light, casting soft dapples of its own on the walls and floor of the villa. The other gown is delicate and lacy, and seems to melt into the model's skin when the sun hits it just so.

The flowers are lavish and bold, and I love how Siloh Floral combined deep burgundy tones and dark greens with soft peach and lavender blooms. The installation is wild and organic; it looks like it's been growing from the walls of the villa for years!

When creating the paper for the shoot, I let myself be inspired by the architecture of the villa and the lavish nature of the artwork that was created during the height of the use of chiaroscuro. I used handmade paper with rich texture and wild deckled edges and chose soft, earthy tones for the color palette. The illustration at the top of the main invitation is derived from an ornate golden frame in the Renaissance section of the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The architectural sketch underneath the ring is a portion of arches and windows inside the villa.

Each time I look through these photos, I find something new to look at and dwell on. I am so inspired by the way Louise captured such historic beauty in a bold and modern way. The crumbling stone and soft, earthy plaster are so ancient, and yet each photo is fresh and innovative. I'm so thrilled that my work was able to be a small part of this incredible shoot!

Photography: Taylor & Porter / Design + Styling: Lacy Geary / Floral Design: Siloh Floral Artistry / Dresses: Inbal Dror and Ersa Atelier  via Morgan Davies Bridal / Hair and Makeup: Elena Cameranesi / Ribbon: Silk and Willow / Rings: Susie Saltzman / Calligraphy & Paper Goods: Esther Clark / Model: Daphne via 4 Upper Models

Molly & Ben

Molly and Ben had the most gorgeous wedding day! I started talking with Molly about her invitations in January, and I could tell immediately that her plans were going to take shape into something incredible. 

Molly's dress is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen, and fit so well with the elegant and modern choice of venue, the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The wedding was the perfect blend of soft, romantic florals, classical European sculpture and paintings, and ivy-filled courtyards.

When designing Molly's invitations, I wanted to keep things simple, but also modern and classic. Molly wanted everything to be written in calligraphy - which is such a gorgeous look! - and loved the texture of deckle-edged handmade paper. We went with a color scheme of mostly white with touches of grey, and used subtle details like a hand-embossed border, thin white twine, and a blank vellum cover page to add layers and depth. I finished everything off with shiny gold envelope addressing and a white wax seal. Molly's vision of white on white took the invitations in such a lovely direction!

Molly also wanted a seating chart and numbered place cards. In keeping with the aesthetic of the invitations, we chose handmade paper and grey calligraphy for everything. Molly wanted each place card to be tied to the back of the chairs for visibility, which was very unique and pretty. The seating chart is one of my favorites, with all those lines of calligraphy, and is the only element of the stationery where illustration is included.

This day was so gorgeous, and I am so honored that I was able to create stationery for it. Every vendor added so much to the beauty of the wedding, and Molly and Ben's sweet love for each other is so evident! It's always a treat to work with brides in my own city, to be able to meet them and learn about their personality and ideas in person, and this couple was nothing short of exceptional! Thanks for having me, you two! 

All photos by Geneoh Photography

The Story of Us and Botany Coffee

It all started one slow Sunday afternoon four years ago. I remember it so clearly. My roommate Nikki and I were lounging in our living room with Aaron. Aaron liked me, but I was determinedly not interested in him. I was laying on the floor, Aaron was sitting in a chair next to me on his computer, and the late-summer sun was streaming through the windows. When we asked Aaron what he was up to, he sheepishly showed us a logo design that he was working on for an imaginary coffeeshop. “It’s just a pipe dream,” he said dismissively. “It won’t turn into anything.”

Fast forward to today, and here we are. We are married, and Botany Coffee is open. They are obviously two separate things, our marriage and our company, but they are so intertwined. Coffee has been a huge part of our relationship and our lives ever since we first met.

Aaron was playing acoustic bass in a folk band at the local specialty coffeeshop, and I was at the show by myself. We had mutual friends, but had never met. It was a classic situation - Aaron saw me and thought I was pretty, asked Nikki to introduce us, and fell for me when we all hung out a few weeks later. I was absolutely not interested in dating him, but I didn’t mind being friends (poor Aaron). By August, we were both working at the specialty café and all of my friends were trying to convince me to date Aaron. I was determinedly interested in someone else, and I did everything I could to make sure Aaron knew it. Sometime in December, Aaron decided it was time to move on and abruptly stopped talking to me. I responded by getting offended and no longer talking to him - so mature. This went on for about four months, until the other boy I liked broke things off with me and I slowly started to see the value of Aaron’s character and the respect with which he had always treated me.

Aaron took a trip to Grand Rapids, MI - where he had attended Calvin College for awhile - the exact same week that I stopped seeing the other boy. Aaron chose to add me in a group Snapchat photo he sent out while he was away. This was big news, since we literally hadn’t spoken in any format in four months! When I first received the snap, I was confused; had he heard that things were over between me and the other guy, and was swooping in when he had the opportunity? Or was he just ready to be friends again? Later on, I learned that he knew nothing of my “breakup” and was just reaching out a little olive branch. In any case, I snapped back, and by the end of the week when he returned home, we were snapping hundreds of times per day. Yes, hundreds!  

I was totally confused. I could tell that I was starting to develop feelings for Aaron, but I was also so afraid - afraid of hurting him again, afraid of being hurt myself so shortly after another relationship had ended, afraid of unintentionally using Aaron as a rebound guy. I sat out on our porch one night at 3am with Nikki, watching the moon and trying to work through my tangled thoughts. “I think I like Aaron!” I told her. “And I know that if I start dating him, we are going to get married.” That might seem ridiculous or crazy, but it was true. I knew that with Aaron, it wasn’t going to just be a short fling or a casual relationship. As a very shy and reserved introvert, I never looked for those kinds of relationships, but it was still different with Aaron. Something in the way he had always treated me, something about the way he smiled when we were together, something in his tender care for my well-being, had told me that he loved me long before we ever started dating. I knew it in those early months of our friendship, when I was so certain I didn’t like him. Perhaps it was the depth of the affection he felt for me that caused me to run during those early months.

We started hanging out when Aaron got home from Michigan, and after a week or two Aaron told me that he still had feelings for me and wanted to start a relationship. I shyly and so timidly admitted that I also liked him, but mentioned that I had just been hurt and didn’t want to rush into anything too quickly. We resolved to take things slow and feel it out as we went along; perhaps in a few months I would feel ready to make the relationship official. Fortunately for both of us, it didn’t take me anywhere near that long! Two weeks later we were dating, and it all went quickly from there.

Another conversation I remember clearly took place as we were driving from Bagel Boy to the mall on a Sunday afternoon date. We were heading to the GAP to pick out some new clothes for Aaron, and as we traveled, Aaron brought up the coffee shop dream again. He told me how he had a grandfather who had been an entrepreneur, and how Aaron hoped to use some support from him as part of the start-up funding for his café. It’s all a little blurry now, but I remember thinking how serious he was about this dream. It was then that I started trying to picture what our lives would look like as the owners of a coffee shop.

Four months after we started dating, we were engaged, and five months after we got engaged, we were married. It took me a whole year to figure out that he was the right guy for me, but once that finally got through my thick skull, we didn’t want to be apart for any longer than we had to be. Shortly after our engagement, Aaron competed in a local barista competition, and as we trained and planned, I could picture more clearly than ever what owning a coffeeshop together would look like. 

During our engagement, a digestive issue I had struggled with in the past reared its ugly head again and started limiting my diet and life severely. I made it through the wedding and our honeymoon alright, but had to leave work on a semi-regular basis after we got back home. It quickly became clear that caffeine and dairy were both big triggers for flare-ups, and it was then that I started realizing our dream of running a café together might not work after all. It was so disappointing, and I cried plenty of times as I saw that I could never function as a full half of our two-person team. 

At the same time that all of this was happening, Aaron was becoming increasingly discontent in his position at the coffeeshop we worked at. In March, he began looking for other jobs in earnest, and applied to Madcap Coffee Company in Grand Rapids. Aaron had gone to Madcap often while studying at Calvin, and it was their style of service and commitment to quality that really got him interested in specialty coffee in the first place. We waited until late May to hear back from Madcap, when we finally learned that he had been hired! We were expected in Michigan two weeks after he accepted the position. In the midst of the flurry of packing and planning, I saw a gastroenterologist and was put on a new diet to try and calm my symptoms. He confirmed that caffeine and dairy were two of the things that my body couldn’t digest, and I officially knew that I needed to look for a non-coffee job.

When we arrived in Grand Rapids, I knew my life was going to be very different. I had lived in Sioux Falls, SD my entire life up to that point, and I had worked in coffee for years. Now, I was in a new city and needed a job in a new field. It was this move that kickstarted my decision to start my own business. 

We were so excited to be in Michigan, at first. It was a new adventure, a bigger and more interesting city, and Aaron’s dream job. But I could never have anticipated how difficult it would be for me to make friends, for us to find a church, and the extent to which we would miss our family and friends who were now 12 hours away. Christmas came and we road tripped back to Sioux Falls, and I found myself desperately wishing not to go back to Michigan. Aaron saw my pain and started thinking about a way to remedy the situation - start up the coffeeshop. 

Our first idea was to purchase a multi-family home and use the income to slowly build up our savings account. In maybe five years, we would have a good start towards the amount we needed. We got pre-approved, met with a realtor, and looked at a house, but the house got sold before we could put in an offer and that kind of ended the plan for us. 

In January, Aaron decided to see if we could use money from his grandfather for part of the amount he needed to open the shop. We both thought it was a huge long shot; the amount was large, and the risk fairly high. We waited with baited breath until March, when the overseers finally chose to give us their decision: the money was ours! We started planning immediately. Our first thought was to move back to Sioux Falls and open the shop there, somewhere downtown. There was still only the one specialty shop there, so there was plenty of room in the market.  We looked into spaces to do a small pop-up and talked about who to hire. 

But, the more we thought, the more Sioux Falls didn’t seem like the right place to start. There would be a lot of awkwardness between Aaron and our previous employer. Aaron’s ideas were progressive and his menu would be much more limited than anywhere else in town, and we weren’t sure that there would be a lot of interest in the drinks he would be serving. Our thoughts started turning towards Minneapolis; it seemed perfect in so many ways. There was a much more established specialty coffee market, meaning that a more limited menu would fit in quite a bit better. Aaron also wanted the café to be non-tipping, and we knew a bigger city would be more receptive towards this idea, which hasn’t yet been widely implemented in the food industry. We already had friends and family located in the city, so we knew the transition would be much smoother, and the four-hour drive to Sioux Falls would feel like nothing compared to the 12 hours it took from Michigan. Last but not least, I knew there was a thriving art community in Minneapolis where I already had some connections. It seemed like the right place for Botany, but also for me to grow and expand my business!

As soon as we had decided on our location, we gave in our notice at our various work places and started planning for our move. By July, we were settled in a sweet apartment in St. Paul. We spent most of our early days in the city driving around in search of the perfect space for Botany. Aaron wanted Botany to be on the smaller side, and we were told by a broker that most spaces 1,000 square feet or less weren’t listed online. As we looked, we also started developing the aesthetic the space would have. We wanted it to be bright, airy, filled with natural light, and minimal. We also wanted to make sure the shop felt warm and inviting, as opposed to stark or sterile. We settled on a color palette of a few limited greens, white, and grey, with accents of blonde wood, brass, and concrete to add texture and warmth. There would also be plenty of live plants in the shop; how could there not be, with a name like Botany?

Sometime in the fall, discouragement started to set in. Aaron had come close to leasing a few spaces, but they had all fallen through for one reason or another. The overseers were re-thinking their decision to contribute, to the point that we were afraid our move had been very premature. If we were at all uncertain of our finances, we would have waited in Grand Rapids for a few more months until we had more clarity. Aaron took a job at an Amazon fulfillment center to fill his time and had to put a hold on searching for spaces, as we no longer had any capital to bargain with. We had hoped to be open by that point - or at the very least have construction on our space underway - but we started thinking it was more realistic to plan for an opening date several years in the future.

January rolled around, and Aaron was having a harder time than ever with the fact that Botany was on hold. Our funding was still on hold, and we had watched multiple spaces with lots of promise be leased by other business owners. Then, on our second wedding anniversary, we received news that we weren’t expecting in the least! The overseers had decided to contribute to Aaron much earlier than we thought, and it was deposited to our bank account within the week. Now that he had some of the start-up costs covered, Aaron applied for a Small Business Association loan to complete our funding. The process was detailed and rigorous, and we waited with anxiety while the bank sorted through the business plan and all of our information. Aaron entered into talks with a potential landlord about a space in South Minneapolis. It wasn’t an area we had spent much time looking in, but the landlords were pleasant and accommodating, the street corner was all set for a boom in the near future, the rent was relatively low, and the space was just under our 1,000 square foot size limit.

Things with the space were looking good, so we started meeting with an architect in early spring. They took our design ideas, provided us with a floor plan, and sourced materials for us. By late spring, the blueprints were complete, the contractor was chosen, the lease was signed, and we were all set to begin our build-out! We closed on our SBA loan in late April and couldn’t believe that our plans were finally starting to take shape!

When we first found our building, it was a huge warehouse that had been completely gutted from floor to ceiling. The whole space was open and unfinished, with dirt floors, raw stone, and no walls. The first step was to pour concrete in our unit, and then drywall went up and sectioned our space off from the rest of the building. Meanwhile, Aaron was working to put the finishing touches on all of the back-end business things, such as an employee handbook, finding an accountant, and choosing suppliers.

Watching our space take shape was one of the most rewarding things I’ve experienced. Aaron trusted me with most of the aesthetic decisions, and I had put hours into finding inspiration for our space. Each corner had been lovingly planned, from lights to paint colors to tile and grout types to wallpaper printed with my own coffee plant illustration. We drove to Botany twice a day, once in the morning to talk with the contractors and answer any questions they had, and then again in the evening to see all the progress that had taken place during the day. Slowly but surely, the bar took shape, the millwork started arriving, the tile was laid, and the concrete floor was sealed. Paint changed the space beyond recognition, and we started focusing on details like plants, ceramics and glasses, and condiment bar fixtures.

We made our first two hires sometime in May, choosing a wonderful married couple who both have lots of experience working in coffee. The husband had even worked at Madcap; we had met briefly on our first night in Grand Rapids, right after our move to Michigan and right before their move to Minneapolis. The space was finished in early July, and we breathed a huge sigh of relief when we passed all of our inspections and finally had all of the design elements in place! We spent the last week before our open date cleaning, creating and testing recipes, and tying up odds and ends with our signage. 

July 22nd was our soft open, and we were amazed by the response we had! All four of us were working for the whole shift, and the shop was full from the minute the doors opened until the minute they closed. Everything went relatively smoothly, and we were so excited for the next week! Monday - our official open date - was busy, as well, and the whole week surpassed our expectations. We couldn’t be more grateful!

I am filled to the brim with pride in my husband! He has put so much thought, effort, and work into Botany Coffee. At 25, Aaron has his own brick-and-mortar business and is living out his long-term ambition. I can’t believe that this once-distant dream of his is now our reality! I am not able to be his partner in business in all the ways that I hoped, but I do small behind-the-scenes things like dishes, errands, and emergency supply runs. I have absolutely loved working on the design elements of the shop, from the interior to the logo and printed materials like menus. I also enjoy tag-teaming on the Instagram account with Aaron! 

I would like to thank everybody who has supported us and both far and near, from those who have visited the shop to those who have prayed for us along this whole journey. We are humbled, thankful, excited, and oh-so-happy - and a little tired, of course. If you live in Minneapolis or are ever in the area, stop by and say hi! If you live a long ways away, stay up to date with our journey at botanycoffee.com or on Instagram at @botanycoffee. 

Which of us knew, on that slow Sunday afternoon in our sunny living room, that Aaron and I would be married and the owners of Botany Coffee four short years down the road? Not Aaron, and certainly not me! And what a wild ride we have been on to get to this point. It hasn’t always been easy - in fact, a lot of it has been more challenging than either of us ever imagined - but it’s always been right and good and sanctifying. And I am so looking forward to what the next four years brings! I hope that there is a little less change and excitement, a little more time to settle into our life and city, and a sense of peace and belonging in our current situation, whatever that may be. Because we certainly do feel peace and contentment about our life at the moment, crazy as it is, and that’s definitely something to be thankful for.

All photos by Emilie Anne Szabo.

Jake Anderson Workshop

Growth as a creative is an incredibly important thing. It is tempting, when you see your own designs day after day and work alone without criticism, to become complacent, or even worse, arrogant. While I love owning my own business, one of the things I miss most about working for someone else is the constant opportunities for thoughtful critique and tips for improvement. We don't really have that in the wedding industry, at least not anywhere I have experienced. A workshop is perhaps the closest thing I've found to a critique; it's a wonderfully unique experience for vendors and attendees alike. The attendees have a chance to learn from a carefully selected team of wedding professionals, but the vendors themselves have a huge opportunity to grow, expanding their knowledge by learning from each other, the experience, and the attendees, as well. 

 

Jake Anderson Workshops was just that type of experience for me. I was thrilled when Jake asked me to create some materials for him; he is a talented photographer and works with so many amazing vendors. While creating the suite for his workshop, I found myself feeling pushed to expand my horizons and try something new, something unique. I strive for excellence in all my work, but this...this had to be my very best. The source of the pressure I felt was applied entirely from my own mind and desire to succeed, but sometimes that is the most effective motivator! The mood board for the workshop was full of soft, gorgeous neutral colors, rich texture, and light details. These were the things that I decided to incorporate into my suite.

When creating texture-heavy stationery, my starting point is always handmade paper. These sheets from Saint Signora, Share Studios, and Silk & Willow were the perfect canvas for the rest of the textural elements I incorporated: smooth vellum, wispy, carefree calligraphy, thick-yet-subtle strokes of paint, and dried flower petals. I also created some small hand-embossed details, and finished the whole suite off with minimal typeface.

Creating this suite was definitely out of my comfort zone! I usually specialize in more simple styles and rely on my illustrations to add that extra touch of je ne sais quoi. Using more texture and loosening up my calligraphy style were huge growth opportunities for me. However, I found myself learning just as much on the day of the workshop as I did while I created the stationery! I picked up film photography tidbits from Jake and his attendees, and I loved watching each photographer style stationery in her own unique way. It was so refreshing to watch other people working with my stationery instead of styling and photographing it myself! 

Ashley Fox, a wonderfully talented floral designer, was another huge source of knowledge and inspiration on that day. Ashley has spent lots of time in the wedding industry, has developed a clear style and voice in her work, and has creativity galore. Her words of wisdom and kind instruction were so valuable! I'm grateful to Jake for bringing together so many wonderful humans and creating an environment that fosters learning and improvement. An environment that brings loads of creatives together and then requires them to use and increase their skills is a wonderful thing indeed.

Photography: Jake Anderson / Event Planner: Blush & Whim / Florals: Ashley Fox Designs / Model: Allison Brown / Dress: Mira Zwillinger / Makeup: Heather Trachsel / Hair: Leah Anderson / Table Linens: Shasta Bell / Ceramics: Dust & Form / Styling Surfaces: Pilgrim & Co

Inn at Barley Sheaf, New York

The East Coast is, without a doubt, one of the most romantic and lovely areas of America. The rich history, the plentiful trees, and the gorgeous architecture all contribute to the beauty of this part of our country. When Kayla Barker contacted me and asked if I wanted to create some stationery for a New York styled shoot she was doing, it was a no brainer! This shoot captures everything I love about the East Coast: historic buildings, stunning trees (in early autumn colors, no less), and rambling country scenery. Pair that with a gorgeous Sarah Seven dress, incredibly lush florals, and breathtaking autumn light, and you have the perfect recipe for some stunning wedding inspiration!

I wanted the stationery for this shoot to be very classic and elegant. I decided to use soft white handmade paper as the backdrop for everything, and used only one other color to keep things simple. I knew that the florals were going to be a big part of this shoot, so I chose to use big, ruffly, romantic peonies to compliment the calligraphy in the invitation suite. I tied a delicate silk ribbon around the main invitation and sealed it with rose-pressed white wax, then finished off with distinguished presidential stamps. 

I couldn't be more obsessed with the marbled fondant covering the wedding cake, and I love the way the cool blue tones contrast with the greens and rusty colors in the seeded eucalyptus! The jasmine vines wrapped around the chair (and also in the bouquet) add such a whimsical and garden-y feel to the whole thing.

This whole shoot just felt like a fairytale! From the flowy dress to the blue and pink tones to the beautiful colonial-style inn, everything was utterly magical. I'm so glad my stationery could be a part of it!

Photography: Kayla Barker Photography / Photography Mentoree: Christina Piombetti / Design & Florals: Sebesta Design / Venue: Inn At Barley Sheaf / Dress Courtesy of: The Dress Theory / Dress Designer: Sarah Seven / Chairs and Rentals: Dove Tail Rentals / Hair and Make-Up: Janelle on Location / Model: Wilhelmina Philadelphia / Ring: Susie Saltzman / Cake: Queen Bee Pastry / Ribbons: Frou Frou Chic

Pacific Northwest Collaboration

Sometimes, you find a photographer, and their images just speak to you. There is something about them that is magical, moving, and completely emotive, and you're hooked. That is what happened to me when I saw Alyssa Wilcox's photography. I loved the way she captured moments and images, the way she edited, all of it. I knew I had to work with her! Funnily enough, she contacted me at the exact same time I was going to contact her, and we quickly decided on a collaboration!

I have mentioned before that I absolutely love collaborations, because they give me the freedom to do whatever I want with an invitation suite. This case was no different, and it was oh-so-refreshing to put into reality a suite that had been floating around in my mind for awhile. I used Arpa Handmade Paper in several hues, custom-mixed watercolor ink, vellum, and Silk and Willow twine. I am totally obsessed with vellum; I love the way it adds depth and layering within an invitation, and in this particular suite, I love how bits of the text underneath interact with the illustration on the translucent vellum. The whole thing is sealed with copper wax and pressed with a rose stamp I designed.

When these photos arrived in my inbox, they quite literally took my breath away. When I receive images of my stationery, I am used to seeing it all perfectly styled, wonderful and portfolio-perfect, but without a story. And indeed, it had never occurred to me that there might be a story behind styling stationery before! But, Alyssa captured not only beautifully styled paper goods, but also the story behind it. I felt like I was there in the room, watching as the invitations were laid this way and that. I could almost smell the delicate fragrance of the flowers, and feel the velvet paper with its softly deckled edges and buttery smooth wax seal.

Alyssa also talked her friend Carey, of BleedFoot Florals, into providing some flora for the shoot. The perfect selection of delicate flowers Carey chose, as well as the way she carefully styled each bloom and leaf with the paper, floored me! I can't stop starting at the florals in each photo, and yet, despite all their beauty, they somehow manage to compliment the stationery, rather than detract from it.

I feel so, so blessed to be able to work with talented artists of all kinds all over the USA. This collaboration is the perfect example of why! Alyssa and Carey, you blew me away. 

Photography: Alyssa Wilcox / Florals: BleedFoot Florals

Big Sur, California

Big Sur is renowned for its beauty. The rugged cliffs, the miles of beach stretching out into the endless ocean...it's one of the most memorable and mystical coastlines in America. It's the perfect setting for a wild, free spirited, and organic photoshoot.

The sun flares, soft, misty ocean light, and wide expanses of sand and water make this, quite simply, the most dramatic and exquisite shoot I have been a part of. The natural beauty of the area shines on everything else around it, casting a glow upon everything it touches.

The invitation suite is meant to be just as organic and free-spirited. Created on handmade paper in dull blue-grey ink, the suite captures some of the natural, wild beauty of Big Sur. Each piece of stationery is decorated with whimsical foliage illustration and hand-dipped in steely watercolor paint, which recalls the rushing waves of the ocean. 

The envelope liner of the suite is a hand-painted watercolor ocean scene reminiscent of the landscape that inspired it. The style is soft and painterly, the colors of the ocean and sky meld and blend together, and smudged white highlights create the impression of rolling waves.

I honestly don't have much more to say about this shoot, because the photos speak for themselves. Why try to add beauty through words when there is so much beauty present already? Big Sur, you are pure magic.

Photograpy: Kayla Barker Photography / Photography Mentee: Jennifer Clapp Photography / Design: Spreading Lovely / Florals: Michelle Lywood / Venue: Big Sur Bakery / Dress Courtesy of: The Dress Theory / Dress Designer: Bo & Luca / Hair and Make-Up: Beauty by M / Model: Diana Rykun / Rings: Trumpet & Horn / Cake: Lana Yarkin / Runner: Silk & Willow / Ribbons: Frou Frou Chic

Brittany Village, Berkeley, CA

When you step into the Brittany Village District of Berkeley, CA, you might feel as though you've walked straight out of Northern California and landed in Europe, instead. The streets are lined with Tudor-style houses, and the streets are curved and rambling. Pair that with a soft blush dress, a garden-style bouquet complete with ferns and wild strawberries, and two gorgeous models, and you have a recipe for a stunning styled shoot! 

When Natalie Papova of Styled and Inspired asked me to create a botanically themed invitation suite for this shoot, I couldn't have been more excited. I started out with clean and modern black typeface on crisp white paper, but softened the look with hand-painted, delicate watercolor foliage and shimmery champagne calligraphy. Vintage stamps in various shades of green added to the character of the suite, and a sharp black wax seal was the perfect finishing touch!

This styled shoot was so elegant, yet effortless, classic, but with the perfect modern twist. It was a pleasure to work with such a talented team, and I can't wait for more shoots in the future!!

Vendors: Photographer: YourDreamPhoto / Scans: PhotoVision Prints / Creative Direction + Styling: Natalie Papova of Styled and Inspired / Florals: Amanda Vidmar Design / HMUA: Beauty by Jasmine Chan / Models: Sami Swanson and Jeffrey Dean Moran

Esther Clark Co: An Artists' History

I’ve always loved art, ever since I was a little girl. My mom tells me that when I was young, I didn’t like coloring books; I preferred to draw my own outlines and then color the picture in. Some of my best memories are molding dollhouse-sized food out of clay, drawing horse after horse after horse, illustrating my own “books,” and learning how to shade with a pencil.

When I entered fifth grade, I forgot about art a little because I started playing the clarinet. Music took over my free time, especially once I entered high school. Art was such an impractical avenue to pursue, so I turned my attention to English and clarinet (although I’m not sure how much more practical that was, in hindsight!). I didn’t really return to art until my senior year in high school, when I picked up Photography I and Drawing I as an easy way to fill in my schedule. It didn’t take much; as soon as I was back with my art supplies and connected to a creative community, I was hooked.

I did major in art, and the more I learned, the more I yearned to experiment and grow as a creative. I dabbled in nearly everything: painting, photography, sculpture, drawing, and printmaking, and even considered taking my art history courses further into some sort of museum career. Here are a few of my early art school pieces (the painting on the left is a study of one of Monet's Cliffs of Etretat paintings).

But when it came down to it, it was always the process of creating that truly fueled the flame in my heart. I fell in love with woodcuts; the feel of my tools carving the wood, the smell of the ink, the soft crispness of a beautifully made sheet of paper, the sight of my inked block rolling through the press, the success of seeing an image transferred smoothly from block to paper. I also fell in love with the darkroom, with seeing my images come slowly to life from a blank sheet of paper dipped into the correct chemicals. My senior show focused around black and white woodcuts - a huge influence in my work still - and photographs.

When I graduated, I didn’t really know where to go with my art. I worked as a receptionist for awhile, then found a job decorating wedding cakes (which served as my creative outlet). I worked at several different coffeeshops, and there - again - found inspiration and community that led me to spend more time creating. I decided I wanted to get a tattoo. I knew I wanted to draw it myself, so I spent time searching through image after image and finally settled on a black and white floral piece done mainly in delicate linework. As I carefully drew each line of my tattoo, I knew I had found my style. I loved sketching the curvy, gentle lines of each petal and leaf, and loved even more how they came to life when I added in shading. Two years after I graduated, I had a show at the coffeeshop I was working at and felt proud of my first cohesive body of work since college.

A year and a half later, I got married and decided to drop down to working four days a week, so that I could focus more on art. I had received commissions here and there, and cherished a dream of doing freelance artwork full time. I had no idea how to achieve my dream, but knew that the first step was to pour more of my time and effort into creating artwork. 

In June, we moved to Grand Rapids, MI. I faced a career change, didn’t know a soul except my husband, and had lots of extra time on my hands. If I’m ever going to take the plunge and do this, I said to myself, why not now? I started posting my work on my social media accounts, and I was determined to learn calligraphy in an effort to make myself more marketable (my first efforts are below! So funny to look back and see those). Slowly but surely, the commissions started coming in, my Instagram following started growing, and I became more refined in my technique. I started to build a brand for myself, launched a website, and began to market my work in earnest. My husband - who is ever so much more business-savvy than I am - helped me write a business plan, I set some goals, and I started learning how to turn my passion into a proper career.

A few months later, I had another show, this time at Madcap Coffee Company, where my husband was working. My body of work felt more cohesive than ever, and I decided to launch an online shop of prints created from the originals that were hanging at the cafe. By this time, I was down to working two days a week, and my goal of being a full-time freelancer finally seemed to be within reach! I was taking on branding and wedding clients - my ideal target market - as well as the tattoo designs and custom artwork commissions I had received at the start of my business.

We decided to move again that May, and as we left Grand Rapids for our hometown of Sioux Falls, SD, I faced questions I couldn’t answer. Sioux Falls would only be temporary, and our final destination was the Twin Cities; I wouldn’t need another job just yet, but should I look for one in Minnesota? How much could my business support us through our moves and the start of my husband's own business? I kept taking commissions and selling pieces through my shop, and tried to be content with waiting to see what would happen.

We settled into our St. Paul apartment in July, and I half-heartedly looked for part time jobs while we got accustomed to our new city. I met up with creatives in the Minneapolis area, started taking on more styled shoots, and built my portfolio. It soon became clear that I was too busy with my own business to really be able to get another job. I couldn’t believe it!! Here, four years after I had left college, I was pursuing my dream. I was a full time freelancer. To be honest, I still can’t believe it sometimes! Being in the Twin Cities has been such a gift; I’ve met so many wonderful creatives, been involved in some amazing collaborations, and been fueled so much by the community here. I still worry that there will come a time when I’m no longer receiving commissions - that there won’t be a place for me in the vast world of creative small business lady bosses - and it’s never easy not having a regular paycheck. But my heart is so full, and I take on every new project with so much joy and thankfulness.

My style is pretty well established now, although I am still experimenting with new things. For example, I started dabbling in watercolor over the summer, and have loved seeing how subtle color brings my florals to life.

I’ve received quite a few questions about my favorite materials lately, so I’d like to add some of those to this post. I’ll divide the supplies into three sections:

Black and White Illustration

When illustrating in black and white, I always use either printmaking or multimedia paper, usually Strathmore. I like to draw on something that has subtle texture, but also isn’t too rough - watercolor paper, for example, tends to break up the fine lines that I use to shade my florals. It’s also important to me that the paper is about 100 lb, so that it has some nice weight to it. I always start out with a pencil sketch - a mechanical pencil with high-quality lead is my favorite here, since the tip is more fine and pointed than lead in a wooden pencil - and then trace over my rough graphite lines with Micron pen. My favorites are the 01 and 005 - I use the larger tip for outlines and the smaller tip for detail work and shading.

Watercolor Illustration

In regards to watercolor illustration, paper is the most important thing. My favorite is watercolor paper by Arches. It’s more expensive than some other papers, but the quality is incredible! Most of my paints are Blick Artists' Watercolors, and my brushes are a mix of Princeton and Master’s Touch - usually round, to help blend easily and squeeze into small corners or areas of detail. Again, I always start out with a pencil sketch and trace over that with Micron pen. Adding color is the final step! In all honesty, I still have lots and lots to learn about watercolor - this was the one paint that we didn’t cover extensively in my art classes, so I’m self-taught and am not always confident in my technique.

Calligraphy

There are so many tools that I love to use for calligraphy. I strongly prefer oblique holders over straight holders. I have always used a simple Speedball plastic holder, although I hope to upgrade to a beautiful wooden model at some point in the future. My favorite nibs, in order of preference, are: Leonardt General, Blue Pumpkin, Leonardt Principle EF, and Nikko G. For black ink, I use Speedball, for white ink, I use Winsor & Newton, and for gold ink, I use the Finetec palette. Other favorites are walnut ink (so good!) and Iron Gall ink. I prefer to custom mix any other colors from watercolor paint, and I always thicken them with a small amount of gum arabic. 

Paper

Paper for calligraphy deserves a whole category by itself! My love affair with fine paper started in my freshman year of college and has stuck with me ever since. Some of my favorite brands, in no particular order, are:

Arpa Handmade - wide range of colors, lovely velvety texture, and so easy to write/print on.

Silk & Willow - beautiful, ruffly deckled edges, fine canvas-like texture, and also wonderfully easy to write/print on.

Fabulous Fancy Pants - gorgeous soft, fabric-like texture, perfect deckled edges, and excellent to print on (although not so easy to write on with a nib).

Share Studios - so unique, completely gorgeous, and superbly textured. Available in both shimmery whites/pastels and dark, rich colors. Perfect for stunning accent pieces.

These are all of my favorites, and my standbys when it comes to styled shoots and wedding invitation suites. You can’t go wrong with any of the above, and I’m sure there are plenty of other excellent companies out there that I haven’t discovered yet!

I think that covers everything, from my humble beginnings as an art-crazed toddler to my favorite tools of the trade today! I hope this post has been helpful and encouraging. To anyone out there who wants to start their own business - go for it. If I can do it, anyone can. I have the stereotypical artists’ personality: highly impractical, a little dazed and dreamy (think Luna Lovegood), scatterbrained, emotional, and very introverted. I never thought I could be where I am today, and I’m the first to admit that it’s due to so many other people as much as it’s due to my hard work. I’m forever thankful to my husband, who has supported me and helped me since before we even started dating. I’m so humbled by and grateful to each and every person who has ever commissioned something from me or purchased a print from my shop, because it is entirely due to them that my business survives. I'm so thankful for the thoughtful and thorough education I received from three very talented art professors, and I use pieces of the knowledge they passed on to me daily. And I’m so thrilled to be a part of an amazing community (both in Minneapolis/St. Paul and online) of talented artists that inspire, encourage, and motivate me daily. Without all of those people, my business wouldn’t exist. Most of all, I am thankful to God, who orchestrated my journey and chose to place the gift of creativity in my hands, then helped me to nourish and nurture it over the years. The freelance life isn’t always dream projects and pretty pictures - in fact, a lot of the time it’s about financial stress, late nights, and self-conscious doubting - but it is so. worth it. Every minute of panic and every hardship is worth it. I can’t wait to see where this wild ride takes me, and it’s my goal to cherish and drink in every second.

Thanks to BethCath, YourDreamPhoto, and Alyssa Wilcox for the above photos of my prints and wedding work.

2016: A Year in Summary

2016 was such a huge year for me. It started out in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which was the first place I had ever lived besides my hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Aaron and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary and started our second year of marriage in our new city, both of us in new jobs, 12 hours away from all of our friends and family. We experienced tremendous growth as a couple; being isolated from all we had ever known caused us to rely and depend on each other in whole new ways. Here are some photos from our wedding day - January 23, 2015, complete with our "unity pour-over" and the first wedding invitation suite I ever made: our own! It's so funny looking back on that and seeing how my style and process have changed.

2016 also saw the launch of my online shop, where I started to sell prints of original artwork I had created over the winter. My business and website launched in December of 2015, and by March I was excited to expand my scope from strictly client/commission work to retail, as well. Throughout the year I developed some card designs, expanded from solely black and white illustrations to watercolor pieces too, and also created my first botanical calendar! I'm so excited to develop more new products throughout this next year.

I worked with my first logo and branding clients as a professional business owner/designer, and was able to develop a process and several packages that I love. I'm so thankful to each and every one of the branding clients I've worked with: it's an incredible honor to create permanent artwork for your brands that will stick with you for years and years. I'll always be humbled by and so grateful for your decision to work with me!

At the beginning of fall, I launched a huge new project as a part of my shop: my semi-custom wedding invitations. There is so much thought, effort, time, and work (both design and logistical!) behind these suites, and they are definitely a product I am proud of. I learned so much about figuring out proper pricing, back-end website work, and persisting through frustration and exhaustion while creating these suites. I can't wait to see how 2017 brides use and customize them!

I was also ecstatic to work with a handful of brides this year, creating lasting and meaningful wedding stationery for their special days. Making wedding invitations and other paper pieces is so fulfilling and creatively stretching for me! Again, I feel so blessed to be working with people who trust me and appreciate my art enough to use it as part of such an important life event! After getting married myself and dwelling on that perfect day time and time again, creating wedding stationery for other lovely couples will always hold a special place in my heart.

This was the year of my first styled shoot, and the first time I saw my work published (both in print and online). I had the opportunity to work with so many amazing creatives and wedding vendors, and I am so happy I got to "meet" and collaborate with each of those people! Styled shoots are wonderful because they not only provide beautiful photographs of your work, but connect you so well within the industry and get your name/work out much farther than you ever could on your own. I also love styled shoots because they leave the artist with complete creative freedom (maybe with just a few limitations on color scheme and what pieces are needed). While I will always love working for clients, it's also so refreshing and important to sometimes be able to come up with my own vision for my work and then see it to completion. Creative freedom fuels my passion for what I do and rejuvenates me when I am feeling burnt out or tired, and is therefore a necessity for me throughout each year. To see each shoot in its entirety, look back through the archives of this blog!

We chose to move from Grand Rapids to St. Paul, Minnesota in late spring of 2016. Lots of factors went into our decision: we hated being so far from our friends and family in South Dakota, I wanted a larger and more developed creative community, and I had always wanted to live in the Twin Cities (it was the main destination of both of our high school/college road trips, lots of my extended family live here, and the art, food, and coffee scenes are all thriving). However, our biggest reason for the move was because my husband wanted to fulfill his years-long dream of opening his own coffeeshop. We had considered lots of possible locations over the years, but we always kept coming back to Minneapolis. The cafe hasn't opened yet, but keep a lookout for updates and announcements! Aaron's vision for this shop is wonderful, and you'll definitely want to check it out! Here's a preview of some of the design work for the cafe:

With our move came a new apartment: a beautiful one-bedroom space in historic St. Paul, complete with gleaming hardwood floors, antique built-ins, and crown moulding. I've never enjoyed decorating and styling a living space so much! It's been so much fun making this space our own, and I can't wait to continue doing that as long as we live here.

When we moved into our new apartment, I insisted on getting a pet! Anyone who knows me at all knows that I am totally dog-obsessed, but any animal can easily work its way into my heart. Our landlord doesn't allow dogs, so we decided to get a bunny! Cromwell is a seven-month-old Flemish Giant rabbit, and he is hilarious. We get endless entertainment from watching his silly antics and amusing mannerisms. He's so soft, snuggly, and cute - really pretty impossible not to love.

This past year was so full. We moved across the country, both started our own businesses, adjusted to life in a new city, got a pet, and Aaron started a new job. We have been through periods of extreme change and busyness, and it hasn't always been easy. However, while it's been the most challenging year of my life, it's also been the most exciting and fulfilling. I can't imagine a better gift than life lived with Aaron by my side. I couldn't be more grateful that I get to do what I love every day for a living. And I couldn't be more in love with the vibrant, diverse, and exciting city we live in! Things haven't always gone according to plan - in fact, our lives look so very different now than we thought they would. But I've never felt more clearly that God's plan is greater than ours, that he loves and cares for us perfectly, and that he teaches us good and valuable lessons in trust and dependence through years like these. At the end of 2016, my heart is so full. I couldn't be more excited to see what's to come in 2017!

Credits:

Wedding Photos: BethCath

Portfolio Photos and Semi-Custom Suite Photos: BethCath

Selections of Styled Shoots from: YourDreamPhoto, Emilie Anne Szabo, Emily Kirke Photography, Alyssa Wilcox Photography, Kayla Barker Photography, and Jake Anderson Photography

Glamping in Northern Minnesota

Back in August, I had the opportunity to work on stationery for my first styled shoot! I was so excited, and also a little nervous. I so badly wanted to capture the essence of the mood in the art I created, and I poured lots of time and effort into each piece. The team was incredible, and the shoot was to be published in MyWedding Magazine. I had never seen my work in print before, and I couldn't wait for December to roll around!

The theme of the shoot was "glamping." I didn't - and still don't - know much about glamping, but the resulting photos are so, so gorgeous. The table is rustic, yet so elegant, overflowing with lush florals and smooth candles. There are sheer, flowy tents, bohemian details, and classy bridesmaids dressed all in white. Every last detail - from the gorgeous tablescape to the delectable s'mores - is perfect.

I wanted this invitation suite to feel every bit as organic and elegant as the rest of the shoot, so I used understated, graceful foliage illustration and free-flowing walnut ink calligraphy. Everything is hand-done on Meredith Spradley's soft, fabric-like paper. I painted in shimmery gold detail here and there throughout the illustration, and finished the suite off with green vintage stamps and a gold wax seal. The hand-drawn letters and delicate illustration really create the natural feel I was going for!

And can we please just talk about how amazing Jake Anderson's photography is?! The soft film texture and the stunning way he captures light is breathtaking.

I could not have dreamt for a better team or concept to work with on my first styled shoot! This suite is still one of my favorites, and I feel so honored to have been a part of such a lovely set of images. If you want to see the photos in print, pick up MyWedding Magazine's spring issue!

Photography: Jake Anderson / Styling and Planning: Blush & Whim / Florals: Munster Rose / Event Rentals: Collected Rentals / Desserts: North Mallow / Hair: Julie Swenson Beauty / Dress: The White Room / Tux: The Black Tux

Autumn in Elko, Minnesota

I've participated in a fair number of styled shoots at this point, and almost all of them have been far away. I love sending out my finished stationery and imagining it on the coast of California, somewhere in the historic East Coast area, or off in Mexico. But as much as the destinations of my paper goods tempt the wanderlust in me, I also found myself wishing I could actually experience a styled shoot, rather than simply seeing the photos that are the result.

The perfect opportunity came to me earlier this autumn, when the talented team from Maven Events here in Minneapolis asked if I wanted to be a part of a foraging-themed rehearsal dinner shoot in the picturesque town of Elko. Of course I said yes, and was so excited! They had such a perfect vision for the shoot that included some very unique elements for me to work on, and I couldn't wait.

One of the paper pieces Maven asked me to create was a cocktail recipe! I really enjoyed not only creating illustration and calligraphy for this suite, but also experimenting with different fonts as elements of the overall design. 

When it came to creating the invitation suite, I wanted to really capture the earthy, foraged feel the shoot was going to have. I used creamy white handmade paper and rich brown ink paired with wild, reaching branches of foliage and a left-aligned text. I normally stick to center-aligned designs, but I wanted to experiment on the overall layout as well as with different fonts. I used a blue-grey envelope with coordinating vintage stamps for the main envelope, and created an RSVP envelope out of stunning feather and kozo paper by the amazing Share Studios. The final touch was an antique gold wax seal, pressed with a foliage stamp I designed.

The beautiful natural light, sumptuously laid table, and gorgeous linens and dishes were all so perfect! We all had a difficult time restraining ourselves from nibbling on the bread and hand pies provided by The Copper Hen!

One of the Maven girls had a really great vision for a specific part of the shoot, and this was the main reason I actually got to go along. We took a variety of foods and placed them on butcher paper, and then I hand-lettered labels alongside each individual item. It's so fun for me to see my own work in action; I've never had photos taken of me while I work before! I loved the way this turned out!

The final piece I created for this shoot was a vendor list. Once again, the Maven team was full of wonderfully unique ideas! I loved that they thought of a vendor list, and hope that I am able to make more for shoots in the future! 

Photography: Kristen Dyer / Venue: Krista Reynolds / Planning and Styling: Maven Events / Florals: Maven Floral / Dessert and Bread: The Copper Hen / Accouterments: Williams Sonoma / Place Settings: General Store of Minnetonka

Farm and Garden Estate, Connecticut

Although I've only been in the summer, I have heard countless times that the East Coast in the autumn is spectacular. This styled shoot took place in Connecticut, and it certainly made me long for a fall East Coast road trip more than ever before! The shoot is earthy, organic, and full of rich, autumnal color; the perfect set of photos to share at Thanksgiving! There are so many talented vendors that pulled together to create this shoot, and it turned out so beautifully! There is a lush, textural bouquet full of gorgeous peach roses and burgundy dahlias. The table is laden with a sumptuous feast of farm-to-table goodness: cheese, bread, berries, cocktails, and a stunning pomegranate-topped cake. The dress is full of lace, the models are beautiful, and the estate is absolutely gorgeous!

When creating this invitation suite, I wanted to keep the dark, moody fall tones in mind, as well as let my decisions be inspired by the natural, earthy theme of the shoot. I used cream handmade paper, hand-mixed burgundy ink, thin Saint Signora paper twine, and a soft green watercolor crest to add a delicate feel. I used black envelopes for contrast, and lined them with beautiful Share Studios kozo blend feather paper. The final touches were red-toned vintage stamps from Vintage Postage Shop, gold wax seals, and shimmery hand-written calligraphy on the envelopes.

I also created a menu for this shoot, and used black abaca paper and gold ink for consistency with the invitation suite. This paper is also from Share Studios, and I cannot say enough good things about it! If you are a handmade paper geek like I am, you have to purchase some items from Share. The textures, colors, and overall quality are incredible.

This invitation suite was a bit out of my comfort zone; I usually stick with light neutrals and cool tones, and hardly ever venture into warmer hues. But I absolutely loved working with burgundy, black, and gold, and I am so pleased with the way this suite turned out! I hope you enjoyed looking through these photos as much as I did.

Photography: Emily Kirke Photography / Event Planning: Gathered Vintage / Florals: Jakkelyn Iris / Dress Courtesy of: Everthine Bridal Boutique / Dress Designer: Romantique by Claire Pettibone / Rentals: NECR Rental & Design / Hairpiece: Emma Katzka Bridal / Jewelry: Local Eclectic / Model: Amy Brandi / Hair and Make-Up: Upstyle / Cake: Erica O'Brien

Collaboration with Emilie Anne Szabo

As an artist who works mostly on a commission/client basis, it's not often that I get to call the shots and make all of my own decisions about a piece of artwork. I absolutely adore working with clients to make their creative visions come to life - there is nothing like it, and I'm grateful every single day that this is the work I do! However, as is true in so much of life, balance is essential, and I find that my creative juices flow so much more freely if I make sure to create for myself sometimes. 

This collaboration with Emilie Anne Szabo was a breath of fresh air for me! I have followed Emilie's photography for a long time, and have always been inspired by her simple, organic styling and impeccable taste. So when I moved to St. Paul and realized she was only a city away, I had to reach out and see if she'd be interested in collaborating! I was thrilled when she said yes, and the resulting shoot was so. much. fun.

I came up with a simple, elegant invitation suite inspired by minimalism and simple, delicate lines. I decided on relatively plain type and un-fussy calligraphy, and chose to stay within a black and white color palette. I added some interest with champagne calligraphy on the envelopes and presidential stamps that the post office recently came out with. 

However, the element that really makes the whole suite is the vellum overlay! I used a lovely marbled vellum, and carefully drew delicate poppies in a graceful pattern all over the paper, creating a wrapper that I tied with Silk and Willow twine. Emilie paired the invitation suite with some amazing, textural greens from her garden and blushing bride proteas, a personal favorite from my florist days! She used several different backgrounds, one a gorgeous white and grey marble, and the other a dark grey linen. 

As Emilie shot, we chatted about art and life, sipped on tea, and snacked on clementines. It was so refreshing to not only be able to follow my own creative vision for the invitations, but also to spend time with another artist and create something beautiful together just for the joy of it! If you haven't checked out Emilie's work yet, you definitely want to. She is so talented, and her portfolio is full of inspiration! See more here.

Finca El Rosario, Mexico

Creating an invitation suite for this beautiful, colorful styled shoot in Mexico was a dream. This was one of my first styled shoots ever, and it was such a good way to get started on my journey collaborating with other creatives!

This dress, though. Can you believe all that stunning beaded detail?! I'm completely obsessed.

When creating the invitation suite for this shoot, I tapped into the lush landscape and earthy tones of Finca El Rosario, while also considering the beautiful detailing of the table scape and wedding dress Maria had chosen. I kept the overall feel of the suite fairly neutral, but hand-painted in touches of shimmery gold ink to add interest and a little glamour. I used a watery grey ink and soft grey stamps to compliment the beautiful beading of the wedding dress. The simple gold edging on the envelopes was one of my favorite things about the whole suite!

All in all, this was such a wonderful concept, and is still one of the most unique shoots that I've been a part of! Check it out - and hear Maria's take on everything - on Utterly Engaged!

Photography & Concept Maria Corona Photography | Location Finca El Rosario | Wedding Planner Paula Balderas | Floral Designer Paulina Soberon Flower Studio | Wedding Gown Natalie Wynn Design | Grooms Suit Galo Bertin | Groom’s styling for Galo Bertin Nabila Hurtado | Valeria García | Desserts & Cake Chef Silvana Zanella | Decor Rentals Diez14 | Jewerly The Land of Salt | Calligraphy & Invitations Esther Clark | Hair & Makeup Artist Denise Ibarra

Bonnie + David

Bonnie is one of those brides who has simply impeccable taste. She and David had a New York City wedding complete with stunning views, beautiful weather, and a magical brick and ivy venue filled with twinkle lights. The sweet love Bonnie and David share is so evident! Each element of the wedding was thoughtfully planned, so that the day melded together into a mirage of soft greys, joyful smiles, white lace, romantic florals, and tender kisses. It was such a pleasure to create some stationery for this sweet couples' wedding day!

The first piece I created was an illustrated map of the venue and nearby NYC locations, such as iconic Central Park and the striking Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. I loved illustrating each of the three locations and their beautiful architecture.

The couple also ordered a seating chart for their reception. Bonnie had a unique vision for the seating chart: instead of writing everything on one big piece of material, she asked for the guests' names to be grouped alphabetically and listed on separate cards. Gorgeous grey linen acts as the background for the cards, tying in with the theme of gentle textures and soft, muted tones. Finally, Bonnie requested place cards in antique gold calligraphy, which were written on long, elegant rectangular tent cards. The place cards were complemented by large gold and cream table numbers.

Bonnie had a wonderfully clear and artfully curated vision for her wedding, and it couldn't be clearer how much she and David enjoyed their day. It was an honor to create pieces for this special couple! See more of their wedding on Style Me Pretty.

Photographer: Sawyer Baird / Venue: The Foundry / Florals: Designs By Ahn / Cake: Baked NYC / Dress: Monique Ihuillier / Hair and Makeup: Agata Zmudka + Sachiko Yanase