Not long after Mark and I bought our first home — a cozy, two-story, far too in need of TLC condo in South Austin — I decided it was time for grownup girl personalized stationery. Apart from pre-printed cards with my initials, I had held off on anything more elaborate or containing my address, because of our nomadic habit of moving from one apartment to the next. At the time, I was working at the Austin American-Statesman newspaper and was fortunate to count the amazing Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Ben Sargent among my colleagues and friends. Ben happens to own and run a circa 1905 Chandler & Price "Old Series" platen job press. The printing trade and the press was was passed down by his father, Joe Sargent and is currently in operation in Ben’s small shop in South Austin (Learn more about Sargent Brothers Printing here). When I asked Ben to help design and print my stationery suite, not only did he say yes, but he also offered to show me how to mix the ink and run the press. It was a delight to my stationery-loving little heart and one of the highlights of my time in Austin. I still use the note cards and letter sheets to this day. The social cards we printed however are few and far between, especially since our move to New Orleans.
Yes, I use social cards; or as some might know them, visiting cards or calling cards. No, I do not leave them with the servants of friends to announce my arrival when I drop by their homes, but if they had staff beyond the occasional visit by a housekeeper, I would consider it, as a beginning to my swift march toward becoming an eccentric. Traditional visiting cards were a tool of the aristocracy in the 18th century, but can be traced back to 15th Century China. It was a way, as mentioned above, to announce your arrival to someone’s home, to introduce yourself or advance a friendship and for other means of correspondence. It also came with elaborate collection of etiquette and rules, which you can read about here.
Years ago when Ben and I created my stationery suite, I included social cards, not because I am a luddite, but as an elegant alternative to scribbling my contact information on whatever piece of paper happened to be handy in the moment. Also, in a business setting, naturally I offer up my business card, but during a friend’s party or some other social situation, it seems too impersonal to me. Not to mention that I prefer keeping separate my work phone and email and personal versions. The social cards are a perfect solution. Finally, truth be told, it also was a convenient way to further nurture my love of all things paper.
Nearing the end of my supply of the beautiful, monogrammed letterpress social cards from Sargent Brother’s, and beginning a new chapter in New Orleans, I began to brainstorm new designs. I wanted to incorporate a sense of place; as well as stay in keeping with my “less is more” minimalist aesthetic. For the new cards, I opted for ultra thick 400-pound, matte paper stock and a repeated fleur de lis element on front and back. My name and email address are on the front and New Orleans, Louisiana is on the back. My phone number is purposefully omitted, because I find that in meeting new people, I’m more comfortable offering up only my email address. There is plenty of space however to jot my number on it, if the mood strikes me.
As Mark and I navigate our way through getting to know our wonderful new city, I relish the opportunity to make new friends and hand off a fresh, simply designed little social card. Incidentally, if like me you are a secret (or not-so-secret introvert), social cards are social in more than one way — they are a great conversation piece.