One Man’s Trash, Another Man’s Treasure

While the old adage “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is true, I am using it here in a different sense.  A more literal sense, actually!  I came across these trash cans photographed in my October 2011 issue of House Beautiful magazine and haven’t been able to stop thinking about them for the last 24 hours!  What a visual treat, this trash is a treasure!  Not to mention what a fun, whimsical, thoughtful and unique combination of materials this is!  This is right up my alley.

In fact, I think they might be too cool for garbage, and maybe better suited to small kids toys, dog toys, or even maybe the ‘catch all’ for the mail that needs to be shredded.  We are always using old amazon boxes (shoved under the table in our foyer) to hold the bounty of soon-to-be-shredded credit applications that never stop showing up, and the unsolicited bank statements that keep arriving, regardless of the fact that we went ‘paperless’ months ago!

These baskets are even good for the planet; Not only is all the rattan used sustainably harvested, but a Philippine human rights and social development organization called Preda is responsible for commissioning the basket-weaving by the indigenous Aeta people of the Philippines.  For 34 years Preda’s mission has been to help the poorest and most vulnerable people in society and to overcome injustice and poverty. Check out their website for more information.

Enjoy!  And if you want to buy some of your own too, they’re available online here.



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The (Re)New Year!

I was reading Gwyneth Paltrow’s weekly newsletter GOOP this morning and I was reminded of what it really means to celebrate Rosh Hashannah; the Jewish new year.  Not having a lot of family nearby, this holiday doesn’t have as much significance in my current life as it did when I was younger.  But every year at this time, I eat apples and honey in the hope of sweetening the year ahead, and I tell my ‘peoples’ Shana Tova and then we fast on Yom Kippur and it’s all done again.  Pressure’s off for another year!

Anyway, so like I said – I was reading GOOP this morning and Gwyneth had a man named Michael Berg, a Jewish scholar/author, contribute to her newsletter.  His words so profoundly affected me that I’ve been sending his message to all my friends, Jewish or not, encouraging them to read his beautiful message as it pertains to everyone, and carries so much weight and value.  I suppose I’m getting a little evangelical, but it is the new year, so indulge me!

Below is the text, taken directly from GOOP.  I hope it inspires you in the same way it did for me, and that your new year, your next year (Jewish, personal, fiscal or whatever!) is restrengthened and renewed, and blissfully happy.  I hope that the seeds you plant for the next chapters in your life grow and flourish and become exactly what they are supposed to be.

From Michael Berg:

“Rosh Hashanah is an important time of the year; there are blessings available to every person during this time. It is the beginning of the lunar calendar year, and is therefore called the “head” (Rosh) or beginning of the Year (Hashanah). The Kabbalists also call this time the seed of the coming year. We know that the seed of a tree, even before it is planted, holds within it all the potential that the tree will become. It will take time even after the seed is planted for the tree to manifest its complete growth and potential. Nevertheless, the seed that was planted already determines much of what will grow and happen next. If you plant an apple seed, no matter what you do afterwards, you will not be able to grow an orange tree. This is what occurs on Rosh Hashanah; we are creating and planting the seeds for the coming year. We want to have a year filled with great blessings and happiness so we take the opportunity through our thoughts and actions now to draw all of the energy that we will manifest later. Everything that we do on the days of Rosh Hashanah (this Thursday and Friday) is meant to assist us in planting the right and best seeds for the blessings that we want and will need in the coming year.

Another beautiful teaching is that on this day everything is renewed. One of the greatest sources of unhappiness is that everything ages and becomes old. Usually we are more excited and in love in the beginning of a relationship than 10 years into the marriage. Many of the gifts that come into our lives are exciting and fulfilling in the beginning, but then they become old. Even if we still appreciate them, it is not usually with the same joy and vigor as in the beginning. But it does not have to be so. We can and are meant to renew ourselves, our relationships, our lives, and our blessings at least once a year. One of the gifts available to us on Rosh Hashanah is the ability to draw the energy of renewal to the important areas of our life. Think about the areas of your life that have become old, and blessings that you want to fulfill with the energy of renewal. Through this consciousness you draw the energy of newness into every area of your life.

There are many tools that we can use during the two days of Rosh Hashanah but there are two important connections that we can all make. The first is to take time during these two days and think about our past year, the good, the better, and the not so good. Then ask yourself, “What do I want to change from last year?”, “what do I want to make better?” Also, “what blessings do we want to draw for ourselves and our family in the next year?” The supernal gates open up during these two days and by opening ourselves up to the flow of light and energy from above we can receive endless blessings.

The second important connection is how we think and behave during Rosh Hashanah. If we desire to connect to the supernal energy that is revealed we should behave like the supernal light. We should act in only ways of sharing, forgiveness and care. No anger, no doubt, no jealousy, no sadness, at least for these two days. How we are during these two days will influence the next 363.

May we all be blessed with a wonderful new year and endless blessings for ourselves our families and the world. Shanah Tova.”

Michael Berg is a Kabbalah scholar and author. He is the co-Director of The Kabbalah Centre. You can follow Michael on twitter,


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The Value of Experience

I met with a wonderful, potential new client this week and we talked for a long while about the concept of “perception IS reality”.  We looked at it in a couple different lights and mused over this idea from a few different vantage points.  I thought it was worth sharing.

My initial desire, in talking about this concept, was to describe my belief that the “reality” of a situation is only that of the emotional response or reaction of the person who is interpreting a piece of information.  For example (in more of a business capacity) a client sends you an email saying they would like to meet with you in a few days to discuss something you previously produced for them.  Either you get totally nervous and spiral down the path of “what did I do wrong, why do they want to see me?” or your reaction is just the opposite and you think “wow, I can’t wait to hear what they want to talk to me about, maybe they want to commend me, or give me new work?”.  Either way, the email that your client sent “is what it is!” It is just fact.  It has no emotion tied to it, it’s just a bunch of words; your client wants to meet with you.  But your emotional response to this fact is what colors your view and becomes your reality.  Am I getting anywhere here?  This is a bit of a challenging concept!

In terms of a creative services provider (ie. me, or my lovely new potential client, a fantastic photographer) this concept can also be looked at from both our own perspective as well as our clients’ vantage point.  From our own perspective, we want to ensure that every contact with our clients is ‘branded’ and ‘cohesive’ in order to ensure that when our clients read our emails, receive our notes in the mail, hold our business cards or look at our websites, that everything encourages their perception to be what we want it to be; pretty, powerful, creative, bold, dynamic, etc.  But from our client’s vantage point, their actual perception is going to be based on how much they value our services… for some clients, who don’t put much importance on things like beautiful custom photography, nothing that an amazing, experienced, established photographer does is going to convince them to spend 400% more money on pictures of their children, when they could go to Sears and have studio portraits done for a fraction of the cost!

I have worked with some extremely successful, affluent clients/corporations who could afford to spend the money to produce the most awe-inspiring, award-winning graphic design, but they don’t believe that graphic design, on a whole, is as valuable as other aspects of their business.  So they put pennies towards the design and end up with very modest graphics, no matter how hard I fight them, and encourage to act otherwise!!  It’s like fighting with a toddler, trying to win these sorts of battles; there’s just no reasoning with them.

This is where the value of experience entered our discussion.  Above-mentioned fantastic photographer told me about an article she’d just read, and posted on her own blog, about a boat mechanic.  There’s no way I’ll tell the story as well as the version she posted, so I’m just going to copy/paste it below, then we will discuss!

“There is an old story about a ship that cost a company millions of dollars.  Something went wrong in the engine room and the ship was stuck at the dock.  They called various “experts” who spent weeks trying to fix the issue to no avail and at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars.  Finally a older gentleman was called in, who simply brought in his small tool bag and a hammer.  He set about pinging on various parts of the vast engine with his hammer, finally settling on one area.  He spent a few minutes pinging in that area, took out a few tools and fixed whatever what was wrong.  After a few moments the man straightened up, looked at the captain and instructed him to “start her up.”  The captain disbelievingly went to get the engines started while the man sat in the engine room listening as the engine roared to life.  The man tipped his hat as he exited the ship to the staff who sat dumbfounded because they had seen all the experts come on board for days with their expensive equipment only to have the ship not fixed.  This man did it in a few minutes with a few pings of his hammer!

A few days passed and the man sent the shipping company a bill for $10,000.  The accounting department contacted him immediately; they had been told that this man had only spent “a few minutes” fixing the ship “with his hammer and a few other random tools”.  When questioned about why his bill was for $10,000 – did he accidentally put an extra zero on the bill?  The man confidently responded: “In fact, the time was worth $1,000.  The other $9,000 was for the years of experience and the ability to discern the issue as quickly as possible for the company.”

(excerpt from original article  here)

Did you all have an “a-ha” moment?  I do, each and every time I read that story!  I guess it’s this ‘experience’ that I want to encourage my clients, and my clients’ clients to value when attempting to perceive their reality.  This is what I think is really important to get across for my clients, when I design beautiful package and identities for them.  I hope to be able to skew some perceptions and modify some realities and maybe even change a few minds. If my clients let me!

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Definition of Success

My abilities to do actual mathematic equations, sort of suck.  My loving, sweet, adoring husband affectionately refers to this as “art school math“!  I’m prone to exaggeration, just a tiny teeeeeny bit.  One million is likely to actually mean 5.  And as you might expect, sometimes 5  means 1,000,000!  Brad (said loving husband) is better at this real world skill than I am.  Maybe that’s because he lives more in the “real world” than I do!  I like to live in my head a lot, and imagine pretty things, and think about things like “hey, how on earth did they get that piece of paper to look like that?” or “what color should I paint my toenails next week?”.

Why I am I telling you this?  I am asking myself the same question!

Last night Brad and I were planning our trip to New York next month, for The National Stationery Show (uhmm, mecca!) where we will go see what the world of invitation designers, paper purveyors, and other paper-pushers are designing, producing and filling their shelves with.  This show is as good as it gets for me – a collection of the bestest, brightest, most inspirational (and some, too, who I may scoff at, and think “wow, I can do better with my hands tied behind my back!”  Just being honest!)  But just being in the presence of these juicy creatives satisfies a need I have, to ‘be in the know’.  To know what’s going on in my industry.  To open my eyes to all that’s possible.

Working with my extraordinary business coach at the end of last year, I was asked to write my intentions down for 2011.  Her belief is that if you write it down (and refer to it more than once a year!) these intentions are likely to become reality.  I’m with her on this one.  One of the first items on my list (after “clean my office”) was to attend The National Stationery Show this year.  Being that we’re planning the trip, we’ve bought our show tickets, and are about to pull the trigger on flights, I already feel like I have succeeded.  I wanted to do something that is super important to me.  I’m making it happen.  Done.  Right?

Well, Brad (Mr. 5 minutes is actually 5 minutes!) asked me to write a list of goals that would determine how I measured the success of going to the show in New York.  I was baffled.  I explained to him that GOING to the show was the success.  How could he not see this?!  He tried to reason with me (as if that’s possible!) and explain that there had to be some some measure of success if we were going to attend the show – aside from just being there.  Brad is going to the show with me, I should add, because while technically not an employee of 13 Creative, he is definitely crucial to the success of the business; both from a creative perspective and a patience perspective!

For Brad, I think the show needs to prove itself in a real, physical way, in order to feel like a worthwhile experience.  Or, maybe I need to prove myself to him, after going to the show, to make it seem like an important expense.  However, I feel quite to the contrary.  To me, the joy, the success and the reward is just being there.  Being with my colleagues (who might not know I exist) and being surrounded by creativity and color and paper and products with beautiful packages… these are all things that inspire me to do better, push the limits, reach for the sky, what have you.

As with any successful partnership, however, compromises must be made.  So, my compromise with Brad is that I will spend the entire time on the plane to New York identifing goals to achieve at the show, making lists of things to do at the show, and putting down on paper some intentions directly related to the next steps of my new semi-custom invitation business (that I am hoping to launch in the coming months).  All of these lists, and pieces of paper, and questions and answers will hopefully prove, err I mean indicate, how being at the show is equal to the success of my business.  But I think we all know, that just being there, is the only thing that matters to me!

p.s. Here’s what the dictionary has to say about success:

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8 hours. 5 minutes.

There are many things that I am grateful for knowing; I think it’s extremely important to know who the best tailor is.  Who the best waxing lady is.  And, of course, when the next sale at Neiman’s is!

But I am getting a little off topic already. Merde!  (I’ve taken to swearing a lot more in french since the babies started repeating everything I said!)

I will be more specific.  There are many things that I am grateful for knowing, thanks to Art Center (the – dare I say – “Harvard of Art Schools” where I lost days at a time in a sleep-deprived fog, being forced into crushing, demanding, army-style design training).

I know things about tape.  Like, for example, that every kind of tape has a different purpose and application.  And not to mix them up.

I know things about glue.  Like, for example, which ones are acid-free and archival, and are perfect for bookbinding, gluing on rhinestones, or gluing fingers back together after slicing half of them off during late-night production marathons for projects due the next day.

I know things about color.  And the difference between watercolor and gouache.  And dielines  And bleeds.  And also that you should always check the broccoli in the cafeteria to make sure that there are no bugs in it, before you chow down.

But the BEST thing I know from Art Center is the difference between 8 hours & 5 minutes.

Somewhere midway through my schooling, my classmates and I were given an assignment to find a black and white ad (from a magazine) and spend NO LESS than 8 hours duplicating the ad.  It didn’t matter what media we used, or how we replicated the ad… but we had to spend a minimum of 8 hours copying the ad to perfection.  The following week in class, everyone brought in the original ads they chose and put them up next to the 8 hour copy, for critique.  In every case, the copies were amazing and nailed almost every detail from the original ads.  We all felt such pride.

Right before class ended, the teacher announced that there was a second component to the project.  The homework for the following week was to copy the original ad again, but this time… are you ready for this… he wanted us to spend NO MORE than 5 minutes.  Whhhhat?  We were shocked.  How on earth could we do that, seeing as how we’d just spent 8+ hours doing this task only days before?  The teacher assured us that there was a point to this.  So we all left, begrudgingly, to start to next phase of this assignment.

A week later, everyone came in to class and put up the original ad, the 8 hour copy and the new 5 minute copy.  In every instance, the 8 hour copy was far more beautiful, rich and intense.  But also, in every instance, the 5 minute copy communicated all the important, key elements of the original ad.  Just with a little less glamour!

So, like every good children’s story, this tale comes with an important moral… Not every project requires the 8 hour version!  If you can communicate something to your client in 5 minutes, then DO NOT SPEND 8 HOURS trying to do the same thing.  You have to know when a project requires 8 hours, and when it requires 5 minutes.  If you can sketch out an idea quickly, on the back of a napkin, then you can spend the remainder of your alotted time bringing that idea to life in it’s final form.

Now, if only I could shop the next sale at Neiman’s in under 5 minutes, I’d truly have mastered this concept!

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Valentine’s Day (February 13th)

Valentine’s Day may be a great excuse to give gifts to someone else, or even better to receive them from someone else… but this year I’m taking a lesson from a friend of mine who regularly practices the concept of “To: Me. From: Me”!  This year, on February 13th (the day my husband is kind enough to let me call Valentine’s Day, for my total hatred of lame prix fixe menus at overcrowded restaurants and total, absolute, maddening affinity for the number 13) I shall indulge myself and see if I can’t get the hang of this.

While normally I can (a little too easily) justify my way into a new purse, pair of shoes or something else that I really “need”, this year I decided to buy myself something that would make me feel better about myself, make me look better and more put together, and make people look up to me.  No, I didn’t get new boobies, I got myself a real blog!

Several months ago, I met a “tsunami of awesomeness” who boldly called me out for having a fantastic website but a really lousy blog.  She told me that my writing rocked, my design skills kicked butt, that I was the most gorgeous, amazing, most talented person she’d ever had the pleasure of knowing {I think she said that last part, but that might have been the running dialogue in my own head} but that my blog sucked the big one.

Okay, her actual words were something more along the lines of: “Love your site, love the feel of it, love the verbiage, love the storytelling you do in your bio.  And LOVE your work! But when I clicked on your blog — though it was your voice — it became a different experience, and then I couldn’t find a clear way back.”

She was right.

And I’m learning that when amazingly talented, brilliant, creative, strategic people give you a free heads-up, that it’s not smart to ignore them.  So, I (rather immediately) engaged ‘my web gal’ and started down a path to a blog that had a consistent voice with my website – which hopefully has a consistent voice with my work, otherwise I’m in even bigger trouble.

So… Happy Valentine’s Day Jenn.  To: Me.  From: Me.  I hope this little gift reminds you (me) of what you (I) love to do, and that it’s almost as fun to write about your (my) work as it is to create it.

I hope all of you reading my blog find it easier to navigate, easier to read, easier to feel “connected” to the rest of my work (and my website).  And, to me!  And, certainly it would be awesome, too, if this confirmed your previous conclusions – about my being the best, most amazing, talented, witty, cute, clever, designer in the whole world.  Just sayin’…!


(Now I have to go and eat that amazing chocolate I just also bought myself… I mean, I wouldn’t be a very good Valentine to myself if I didn’t also do that!  Geez, what kind of girl do you take me for?!)

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30 Day Challenge

Let me start out by saying that I have 15 minutes to write this blog post.  That is not my 30 Day Challenge specifically, but it’s how I’m going to initiate it.

(Okay, I just failed the first day of my first 30 Day Challenge because my office roommate just lured me away with a massive container of free sushi… I couldn’t help myself!  But I’m back – fresh new 15 minutes starts now!)

Routine creates habit.  Did you know that?

(Crap, I just checked my email… this is harder than I thought!  My to-do list is screaming at me…)

Apparently, say the wise-women who I am lucky enough to know, if you schedule something for 15 minutes on your calendar, every day, for 30 days, it is believed that the routine you create for yourself will eventually become habit.

This theory seems to be a 1st cousin to “fake it until you make it” and maybe a 3rd cousin once removed to “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”.

So this morning, in my bi-monthly business group, we were asked to take a 30 Day Challenge of our own choosing.  We had to identify something in our lives that needed attention, but that we rarely make time for.

Some of the women in my group were quick to determine their answers, knowing that they needed (wanted) to spend 15 minutes every day writing, or furthering their relationships, or getting outside for a walk, or working on their business pipeline.

For me, there were 3 items on my list:
1. Exercise
2. Read design and/or fashion magazines
3. Work on my Semi-Custom invitations (the new business I am hoping to launch later this year).

Exercise is important, and I never have time (nor make time) for it.  And exercise allows you to feel healthy, productive and calm; all which lead to being a better person/designer/mom.

Reading design and fashion magazines feels like a luxury to me, because I NEVER have time for it and the monthly issues of about 12 different periodicals pile up, like wobbly recyclable skyscrapers, in every room of my house.  Plus, reading magazines is a great way to get inspired — I love seeing what other designers have done in the world of architecture, interior design, weddings, organization, packaging, fashion, etc.  I’ll confess, I somehow manage to read US Weekly every time it shows up in my mailbox, but it’s the only one that really isn’t going to inspire me for my work!

Working on my Semi-Custom invites would help me get a head start with this new business that I have the intention of launching later this year.  Starting to identify concepts I want to create, sketch out ideas, pick out color palettes, dream… this is something that I keep pushing off because “I’m too busy with work” but if I continue to be too busy I’ll never launch my semi-custom concept.

While exercise is crucial, it’s just going to have to wait until my next 30 Day Challenge!  For now, I’m going to spend 15 minutes each and every day working on my new line of semi-custom invitations and announcements.  And, wouldn’t you know it… I think I’m going to need some design magazines in order to help me do it!

In a month’s time, I hope to be able to share some wonderful progress and news, but for now my 15 minutes is up and I have to get back to my real to-do list!

If you were going to make one of your routines a habit, what would it be?  And, most importantly, what would making this decision (making this ‘thing’ a habit) do for you?

30 Day Challenge, Day 1.  Check!

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What’s In A Name?

I was born in 1975.  My parents were fairly certain that I was going to be an “Abby Michelle” or “Michelle Abby” but at the last minute, “Jennifer Allison” won out.

I think this must have been happening all around the country because in 1975, it is statistically proven that 99.7% of all baby girls were named Jennifer.*

*That statistic was conveniently procured & created by me, about one minute ago, but my art-school math is solid when it comes to being very exact and scientific about things.  I would like to credit the Pulitzer prize winning, new york times bestselling, smash hit, naming book of 1988 titled “Beyond Jennifer & Jason: The new Englightened Guide To Naming Your Baby” for my bold assessment.  Also, I should just note, that my brother’s name is Jason.  I tell no lies!

At any rate, I was Jennifer Allison White, until I married Brad Topliff, and became Jennifer White Topliff.  Unfortunately my new last name offers it’s own set of challenges (I get mail to Jenn Topliss every day, no matter how many times I say “f as in frank, f as in frank”) but I’m still stuck with Jennifer.  

I’m getting to the point, I promise!

Being that I was not the only Jennifer in my class/grade/school, I was one of those kids who was always referred to by both her first and last name.  I was never just “Jenn” or “Jenny”.  If I called someone and told them it was Jenn or Jenny on the line, they’d likely have to think for 17 minutes about all the Jenns, and Jennys they knew, to figure out which one I was.  So my whole life I was always either “Jenn White” or “Jenny White”.  

When you go to Starbucks, and order a drink, they ask you for your first name to put on the cup.  This is to avoid having to call out “Double Tall Soy 1-Splenda Latte” at the top of their lungs.  Instead, they call out your (likely short) name and you know your drink is ready and the day can proceed!  However, when you are at Starbucks, and someone puts a coffee drink on the bar and calls out “Jenn, your drink is ready” – do you know what happens?  It’s like the running of the bulls in Italy… 1,453 Jenn’s rush the espresso bar and try to pick up the same drink.  I kid you not.  It’s hard to get out of that fight unscathed, and with your espresso drink in tact.

So, my good friend Matt once suggested that I pick “a Starbucks name”.  His criteria for this name was:
a) it had to be easily identifiable 
b) it had to be unique
c) and most importantly, it had to be easy to say & spell for the person taking the drink order

It didn’t take long for me & Matt to agree that “Lincoln” was the perfect Starbucks name for me.
For one, it was my dog’s name (who I love and adore) and if someone called out “Lincoln” I was already used to turning around, assuming they were talking to me.  So I wasn’t going to stand idly by, while the barista at Starbucks called “Lincoln” over and over again, not realizing he was talking to me!  Secondly, the name Lincoln isn’t too common – so running into multiple Lincolns inline for coffee was probably not going to be an issue.  Thirdly, and most importantly, Matt said… “everyone knows how to spell Lincoln because he was the President”.  It was beautiful and logical and from that moment on I became “Lincoln” every time I ordered my coffee, or needed to give a name to a lunch order, takeout meal, etc.

Matt was right about almost everything… the name is awesome, unique and I never have to compete with anyone else for my drinks.  But I always laugh my pants off when someone at Starbucks writes my name as they do below – which SOOOO SADLY happens more frequently that you’d imagine!

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Celebrity Wedding!

How do you keep a monkey in suspense?
I’ll tell you tomorrow.

I’ve been waiting months and months and months to be able to share a little secret.  In fact, nearly a year now.

As some of you know, I *might* have been involved in designing a celebrity wedding invitation, in recent past.

While none of the exquisitely beautiful work (if I do say so myself!) has been documented yet, I thought I’d let the cat out of the bag slowly…

Here a few pics from Australia’s New Idea magazine to get the curiosity ball rolling!

Pics, and blog posts, and fanfare (of my own making!) to follow shortly.

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Best Mail Ever. Seriously, EVER!

It is likely that in a box, in the basement, under the stairs, underneath another box, is a piece of mail that changed my life forever.

In this box, in the basement, under the stairs, underneath another box, is a pile of illustrations, photos and mail that I collected, and coveted, while working at my first ‘real’ job out of school.  I worked for a company called SBG and we designed super big, commercial packaging and branding programs for companies like Starbucks, Nestle, Aquafresh, Nestle and Nestle!  Did I mention Nestle?

Anyway, back in the day (in the late 90’s) we used to get bombarded with direct mail from illustrators and photographers who thought we had the ability to hire them for potential jobs.  Being that we worked for companies like, say… Nestle, we usually weren’t able to do anything too creative, awesome or otherwise – so it was rare that we got to hire a new, fantastic illustrator for a project.  But that didn’t stop the mail from coming.  Every day, envelopes and postcards arrived at my desk, and it was great.  For someone like me, who loves mail so much, this was a real treat!

One day, the most amazing thing happened.  Amidst a pile of glossy postcards with mediocre illustrations, there was a smallish, flat glassine bag with my name on it, sewn shut with red thread.  You could sort of see through the glassine material, enough to see that there was a stack of postcards with beautiful images on them, but I can’t tell you what was on the postcards because I never opened the envelope!

At this point in my life, glassine only meant one thing to me: cookie or candy bags.  In fact, I learned about glassine bags thanks to my very dear friend DB, who redesigned See’s candy packaging for a class in school.  She introduced me to this beautiful, milky white, semi-translucent material that was great for packaging because the wax coating on it ensured that cookies or candies wouldn’t stain it with oil, like they would a paper bag, for example.

Anyway, this glassine bag/envelope sewn shut with red thread was pretty much the most amazing thing I had seriously ever received.  It was SO different from everything else.  It was a quiet powerful.  It was intriguing and engaging.  And I couldn’t bring myself to open it.  I didn’t want to disrupt the beauty of the package.  I put the glassine bag on my wall and stared at it.  Every day.

Lucky for the woman who sent me the bag, she was smart enough to put her name on the outside of the envelope!  In all caps trade gothic (a font) she wrote her name; Leigh Wells.  Who was this woman of mystery?  Who was this woman of mystery who had sent me the first piece of eye-opening, thought-provoking mail I ever received?

As it turns out, Leigh Wells was an incredible illustrator.  She didn’t know me, so she never knew that I pitched her illustrations to my bosses for every single project I worked on!  She didn’t know that her little mail affected me that much, and that I spent months and months designing around her artwork, so that I could HOPEFULLY reciprocate the awesomeness of her mail, and hire her to do a job for me.

Cut to December 2010.  Sitting at my computer, designing some fabulous wedding invitation or something – likely being sent out in some sort of bag, sewn shut with thread (hypothetically speaking) and I get an email from one of my favorite interior design stores in San Francisco.  Notice anything amazing?

What? An opening for Leigh Wells?  What?  On Polk Street?  Around the corner from where I lived for the last 10 years (before moving last year)?  W H A T ?  Within 90 seconds I had a babysitter lined up, and had explained to Brad that I would be MIA on December 2nd, and that he should freeze all my bank accounts for 24 hours surrounding the opening!!
I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but I was a little anxious.  I was going to meet this woman who truly changed my life forever; changed my career path, affected me with her beautiful design and pictures and made me want to send mail that engaged my clients as much as hers inspired me.  I showed up to the opening and saw a trio of people congratulating a lovely blonde woman – who I assumed to be Leigh.  I couldn’t contain myself, and walked over to interrupt the conversation and profess my undying love to her, and her piece of mail from 1999!
Turns out, Leigh’s studio was all of 1.5 blocks from my where I used to live.  Turns out, too, that she’s as lovely in person as she was in my mind!  And even better than that, she told me what she was up to (still mailing out beautiful pieces every now and again) and how her art has evolved over the last 10+ years.  Her work is stunningly beautiful – both her commercial design/illustrations as well as her more fine art pieces.  I enjoyed seeing her work, meeting her, and totally dorking out on being her biggest fan.  
Have any of you ever received a piece of mail that inspired you, or affected you positively?  I’d love to hear about it!
Alright, this blog post must conclude – because I am feeling inspired just talking about my little glassine bag mail and feel a new invitation concept coming on!  Thank you Leigh Wells… thank you.  Some of Leigh’s work is below, but you can also check out her blog for a complete showcase of the pieces I saw last week (and her other more recent work).

*All art published with Leigh Wells’ permisson

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