I consider myself a modern woman in many ways but my love for stationary might seem old-fashioned to some, as we live in the world where increasingly people are more likely to exchange e-mails than write hand-written notes or thank you cards.
When I was born, my paternal grandparents were living and working in Rome, so my grandfather has been sending me cute cards weekly, until the time came for him to come to Moscow and meet me in person. And when I moved to London in my teens with my parents, as my father worked in the City, both my grandfather and grandmother wrote touching & detailed weekly letters, describing their life to me and asking me a million questions about mine-I still have them and they mean a great deal to me. It is actually one of the reasons while I prefer sending handwritten cards, thank you notes, Christmas or birthday cards-they are personal and meaningful. When I was recently approached by Honey Tree Publishing, who create illustrated and personalised stationary, I found it hard to contain my delight, because their online shop seemed like the treasure chest brimming with wonderfully exciting products.
Honey Tree Bespoke was founded in 2008 by Lizbeth Holstein & Sebastian Galbraith-Helps. The idea came about out of Lizbeth’s own frustration at finding personal thank you cards-not just plain correspondence cards or the ones where art was generated by the computer. Lizbeth started doing illustrations on plain cards for friends and colleagues and eventually the concept came into focus, backed up by the constantly expanding portfolio of Lizbeth’s own illustrations that a customer can choose from, on any type of stationary. The company retains ‘recommended illustrations’ in order not to overwhelm you with the choice-but take my word for it, you will feel very spoilt, like a child who all of sudden found himself in a candy store with noone to stop him from grabbing what he likes .) The company personally prints all orders in order to control 100% of business and you can choose artworks for 30 stationary products that Honey Tree Bespoke currently offers.
The customer base of Honey Tree Bespoke Stationers is quite variable-from babies ( when their proud parents order birth announcement cards ) to children ( when their mothers order birthday party invitations or play-date invites ) to young men and women ready to announce their entrance into the professional field ( with business cards ) or into a serious relationship with engagement/marriage announcements, to personalised stationary or household labels and gift tags.
The products that Honey Tree Bespoke Stationers offer can be divided into the following groups:
–Personalised Stationary ( business/correspondence cards, change of address, personalised invitations, premium writing paper or thank you cards etc )
–Invitations & Announcements ( you can have bespoke solutions to invitations and anniversaries, as well as baby shower invites, corporate invitations, christenings, RSVP cards or commissioned artwork etc )
–Christmas ( perfect for this time of the year, so do check the current offers and dates for Christmas correspondence cards, gift labels & tags or New Year party invitations ). At the moment you can have a 10% on your order of Christmas or New Year cards, as well as free postage and packing. There is something so charming to be able to use the design that you actually like and to have a personal message inscribed inside, not just the general wording that you get from store bought ones! Another incentive is that £1 from every pack sold is donated by Honey Tree to Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres, really helping to fight this terrible disease that affects so many people, irrespective of their age.
The cards are available as a set or individually and include matching envelopes.
–Wedding Boutique ( bespoke studio, wedding invitations-including a free sample, order of service with ribbon & printed insert, save the date cards, hen party/stag do, name place tags etc. )
–Young Honey Tree ( 18/21 birthday announcements/party invites, party bag stickers, party invitations, gift labels & tags-indispensable for mothers who pay attention to details .) play date cards & ‘this belongs to’ labels-a must as soon as your child starts school or nursery )
–Gift Ideas (for Easter or Father’s Day for example, personalised smart phone or tablet cases, writing paper & sticker sets etc. )
–Labels & Tags ( including address labels, ‘book belongs to’ ( not that I don’t like to share, but sometimes I feel frustrated when I lend a book that I like to someone and then never see it again ), bottle labels, kitchen tags, from the kitchen of labels ( perfect if you make your own jams for example and give them as gifts ) etc. ).
–Art Gallery (offering original artwork for sale or limited edition prints, as well as commissioned art ).
The site itself is not only the joy to look at, if you like beautiful visuals and attention to detail, but it is very easy to navigate. You can click to chat online if you need advice or leave a message, to which you generally get a reply within 24 hours, as well as request a free sample pack ( mine had a Christmas card and envelope, a mock up Christmas Drinks party invitation, as well as a Xmas gift tag with ribbon-just placing it in my hand felt like a very luxurious experience, as well as three ‘with love from’ labels in different designs ).
Placing an order takes five easy steps:
-you choose the items/ type stationary that you want, which will be printed on premium card and paper of your choice ( it is formatted on either 400gsm heavy card or on 160 gsm luxury writing paper which comes from a sustainable source ),
-you choose the illustration from a wide choice of hand drawn and exclusive to Honey Tree Bespoke artworks,
-you edit the text ( you can format & preview your bespoke stationary ‘live’, as well as send yourself proofs ),
-you choose the quantity needed,
-you check out
And fairly shortly receive a confirmation of you order.
When I placed my order, my only trouble was to make up my mind, as there were so many beautiful illustrations, I didn’t know where to start, but as soon as I have gathered myself, the process went as smoothly as the butter melts in the hot frying pan.
Every order is printed in the studios in Somerset and nothing is outsourced. As the company is run like short run printers, they don’t hold any excess stock and their prices reflect it without any compromise on quality of the final product or the level of service that you receive. Each gift box is also custom made with bespoke charcoal base and the lid with black gloss foil inlaid logo and the exterior shells for paper and card ensure against travel damage and make your drawer look stylish and tidy, plus you receive free gift wrap service on all stationary.
When my order arrived and I saw the beautiful black box, tied with thin white ribbon, I smiled even before I opened the box and saw my personalised thank you cards, which were printed on square edged, white card and writing on them is so smooth and easy-my pen just flows like a small wave on the sea surface.
You can say that UK already has a well-known stationer in the face of Smythson and while I love that brand dearly, having experienced the service and the products of Honey Tree Bespoke Stationers, in the privacy of my own home and at the time of my own choosing, without having to wait to be served or attended to, I am inclined to say that I truly love and respect what they stand for. Smythson is expensive ( if you order bespoke some of the prices make your eyes water and your bank manager tap his pen on the table in annoyance ) and the more well-known it becomes, the higher the prices rise, after all, where there is demand, there is profit to be made. Honey Tree have reasonable prices ( birth announcement cards from £38 for 25, business cards from £69 for 100, personalised Christmas cards £30 for 12…) and I feel now like I am on to something special & unique. After all, it’s nice to stand out from the crowd and use something that is innovative and beautiful and might not be on everyone’s radar just yet-mind you, it won’t remain a private secret for long, as Red magazine team already raved about them in their December issue.
Honey Tree Bespoke Stationers have an etiquette consultant on their team ( Emma Rooney helps them to be up-to-date with current standards and changes ), as well as several artists who offer exclusive illustrations. I very much love Lizbeth’s illustrations, which are strong visually, yet leave a heart-warming imprint on me, as well as Kate Anniss ( who works as children’s book illustrator ), Debbie Bellaby ( who works with bold acrylics, as well as creates quick-fire pen sketches ), Gordon Barker ( whose paintings are held in corporate and private collections around the world ), Matt Keightley ( who runs a landscape designing company & whose art designs remind me of old-fashioned rural landscapes and lush countryside ) and Lily Helps ( who is still at school, yet her work strikes you with its child-like maturity ). If you need help in how to best search artwork, you can check out the link below, which I found not only enjoyable but helpful too.
Another thing that speaks volumes about how responsibly this business is run by its founders ( very indicative of their ethos ) is that they have an environmental policy manifesto, that includes card stock coming from a sustainable source, printers with sleep function to help save energy, ‘proofing’ the orders on the back of previously used card that needed to be edited, the print and admin team being local, only setting up a print run once the order has been confirmed, with no piling of the stock, hand-made boxes made locally in Cornwall using recycled card and all ink cartridges donated to MacMillan Cancer Support ‘think ink’ initiative.
Having my own stationary or cards makes me put my own stamp on things, show my individuality and choice, as well as make the effort with people who I care about or with whom I work. Firing an e-mail or sending a text is second nature to most of us now, but humans thrive on contact and warmth and to me receiving a hand-written card or note has always been and will always remain priceless-a person sitting down to express emotions and sharing them with the other person is a blessing and a very luxurious gift. So why don’t you try it and let me know if you feel different compared to just texting someone….