There’s nothing better than forming lasting relationships with vendors-turned-amazing-friends, so today, it’s our pleasure to introduce you to our sweet friend Jessica Stalnaker of Empress Stationery! A one-woman show, Jessica does it all – from invitation design to stationery to custom monograms and more. Hot on the heels of launching her 2017 Wedding Collection (SWOON), Jessica is still welcoming 2017 brides with open arms. Are you looking for an invitation design contact? We know a girl.
What’s the story behind Empress Stationery?
Our story…oh my goodness! It’s a long one! I graduated from Auburn in 2007, and got a job in the magazine industry. I had some coworkers and friends ask me to design personal stationery, shower invitations and birthday invitations for them. It was just something fun for me to do in my spare time.
About a year later, a coworker asked me to design her wedding suite. I was SO nervous. Y’all. I knew nothing. I called so many printers and started learning about printing processes and paper choices. I also started reading wedding blogs EVERY single morning. I fell head-over-heels for what was starting to happen in the wedding industry. This was 2007/2008, when people were becoming more personal in telling their story with their wedding details, and weddings were becoming less generic. I designed wedding invitations for two more coworkers, and then an editor I worked with sent my name to some east coast wedding planners.
The next thing I knew, my work was being published in Martha Stewart Weddings, Unveiled and more. I had inquiries coming in left and right from all over. And I officially had two full-time jobs. I made the decision to leave my art director job in 2013 and haven’t looked back! Here we are four years later. Both of my sisters have joined the team, and we have our AWESOME assistant Sarah on board. We moved the business out of my home two years ago, and I enjoy heading to the studio every morning to dive in!
What types of products and/or services do you offer clients?
We offer everything our clients need from engagement to coming home after the honeymoon. We built the company on the idea of creating custom designs for our clients, meaning we design from scratch based on the vision of the client. We are getting ready to change that up a bit by introducing our collection (woop woop!). When clients get in touch with us, we let them know we offer both, and explain the differences. Custom means we work closely, one-on-one and listen to the ideas and visions for the wedding day. We then design several options and mock-ups based on what we talk about. This includes watercolors of florals, custom monograms, drawings and maps, and more! By the end of the process, we have a one-of-a-kind suite.
How would you describe the style of your stationery products?
Collection pieces are thoughtfully designed and curated suites that are pre-designed and personalized for each client. They have the option of customizing color and even adding custom monograms. It’s a much more streamlined process that we are so excited about, and we hope our clients will love it as well! These options just became available on our website this month!
I think over time, we have developed a recognizable style without really meaning to! I would describe it as classically Southern for the blushing bride. We tend to do a lot of watercolor and monograms, and EVERY piece is type-driven. I’m a typography addict, and I spend hours typesetting our couples’ invitations. It’s a pretty detailed process, but I think it’s one of the reasons people decide to work with us.
You’re mostly a one-woman show. How do you stay motivated and inspired to keep doing what you’re doing?
I am a mostly one-woman show, but I get by with a little help from my family and my assistant Sarah. I stay motivated by keeping up with wedding inspo (a good day of blog reading really puts fuel in my tank), being around other creatives, and to be honest, sharing a studio with my business bestie Emily Wells Design REALLY makes a huge difference! I love coming to the studio every day ready to design something new, and be able to bounce ideas off of Emily, who is also a graphic designer and runs her own business. Creative cohabitation has changed the game for me.
Can you break down the different elements of a perfect wedding suite?
The perfect wedding suite can look different from client to client. But the majority of my clients’ orders look like this:
- A Save the Date (usually with an envelope but sometimes a postcard)
- An Invitation (offered in a few sizes)
- Response card with envelope OR postcard response
- A Details card with travel and accommodation information
- Rehearsal dinner invitations
- Wedding programs
- Thank-you notes
Most clients also request custom artwork like monograms or watercolor to carry throughout their suite, all the way to wedding programs and thank-you notes. We offer three different printing processes: Digital (flat), Letterpress and Foil. All three can be printed on normal invitation weight paper, or upgrade to double thick. There are also lots of bells and whistles our custom clients can add on like ribbon, liners, maps and more. We also LOVE wedding day paper, so favor tags, stickers, itineraries, welcome notes and more…we can do it!
What type of experience can your clients expect to receive when working with Empress?
Our goal is to provide an experience, and the paper is the tangible part of that. We want to ease any feelings of being overwhelmed (that happens easily with paper options) and be able to be a guide for the client. I love listening to the overall vision, and then being able to steer the ship in the right direction. We strive to provide paper that makes the idea of the wedding “real.” My favorite part of my job is getting an email from my client after she opens her box of invites. It means the world to receive affirmation and praise from the people I serve.
What advice would you give a bride who still feels unsettled on the look-and-feel of her wedding suite?
The majority of our clients come to us without a clear idea of what the paper should look like. My job is to listen and begin the process of piecing together the look of the suite. We have to remember that this is the first time for most of our clients to go through the wedding planning process. We go through it every day! I’m here to take even the smallest ideas, key words and color palettes, and advise based on that. I actually love the clients that give me the freedom to pick up on these things and run with it! And we don’t stop tweaking our designs until our client is 100% happy with the outcome.
Is she amazing or what?! Thank you, Jessica, for giving us a taste of your gorgeous work. We’re pumped about Empress Stationery’s 2017 Wedding Collection and can’t wait for our brides to explore all of your fabulous designs.