styling: practice makes… better! styling tips from a newbie

Last week photographer Lissa Gotwals came to my studio to help me photograph three new invitation suites. And this time, I decided to try my hand at styling the images by myself.

While watching stylist Michelle Smith at my first photo shoot, I realized how important a background is to creating an interesting layered image. Michelle did not start each image by laying down my cards. Instead, she played with fabrics, textures, painted boards, etc until she was satisfied with the “canvas.” Sometimes props would be laid in before the cards, too. I have been practicing this and find it hugely helpful, because my inclination to lay out all the cards first and style around them was making my images flat and boring. Not to say that all styled images need a busy or layered background (we used some simple set-ups, too), but I liked how it created and mood and set off my cards. Not to mention that trying to fix your background once the props and cards are set is not easy.

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 12.54.50 PM

My first step in styling the images was to make private Pinterest boards for each, with screen shots of the design files, style, and prop inspiration. That’s “Lima’s” board above. It helped me clarify the look I was going for and edit out images that didn’t fit with the others. Once I had my themes, I set out looking for props and backgrounds, referencing my Pinterest boards regularly to make sure I stayed on track.

Of the three new designs, I had the most fun gathering materials for Lima. I purchased a yard of beautiful (and expensive) blue-gray silk and stapled it to a big piece of cardboard to make a background (see image below), but in the end, the cheap dark gray foam core I already owned was a more dramatic background. Figures. I raided friends houses for props. I had way more shells, dried plants, seeds, books, and old wood than I could possibly need. Having a ton of props to choose from is so helpful… you never know what will be the right thing until you play around a bit. Once I had my props gathered, the styling came together pretty quickly. You can watch a time lapse video of me styling in real time at the top of this post.

Here’s the blue versus gray background:

hello tenfold rustic wedding invitations

hello tenfold neutral rustic wedding invitations

For me, looking at the set-up through a camera lens is key. I don’t know why everything seems so much clearer that way, but it really does. After watching the video, I realized the book needed to be open. But otherwise, I was pretty happy with it, and on photo shoot day we recreated this exact set-up.

Lissa is working on the photos she took, and this suite and the two others will be in the shop SOON. Follow me on instagram for more videos and new design peeks!


a new!


In May I made a last minute decision to fly to New York to walk the National Stationery Show. Once I got there, though, I spent more time wandering around New York, and less time actually walking the show. I especially loved walking Surtex, the surface design trade show that always happens alongside NSS. I got to meet/see some stationery friends — always a blast — and I spent hours and hours at The Met, a whole evening browsing design books at The Strand (carrying a heavy and expensive bag of books all through the NY subway late at night, not recommended), and a few hours in the Garment District. Needless to say, it was a hugely inspirational trip. I came home excited about work and ready to dig in. Practically as soon as I walked through my door back home, I started redesigning my website.

Sometimes running a small business feels like treading water. There are always so many things on the to-do list, a million things I know I could be doing better, and so little time. It wasn’t that long ago that I spruced up the website, but I knew it needed a complete overhaul. Some early business advice — “have everything available to purchase directly online” has always stuck with me (even though it’s not exactly industry standard, and I’ve been so resistant). I spent a lot of time on my trip thinking about my customers and the questions I get asked over and over. I thought about the ways I was unintentionally making things complicated, or confusing, for my customers and myself, and how I could fix that. I’ve struggled with the amount of precious time I spend sending quotes, when I’m sure my customers would prefer to have that information at their fingertips. The last straw was when I visited my website on my phone and realized it was all broken and buggy (even though it worked just fine on my desktop).


The new site was a bigger project that I meant to bite off, taking hours of every day (and nights. and weekends.) for 6 weeks. Finally I found some much needed part-time help and we wrapped that baby up. And you guys, it’s live!!! I’m so proud of it. I took a ton of new photos, so that you can see Flora’s menus now, for example, as well as Wildflower’s table numbers, and Nora’s mini cards, and Gatsby’s place cards… you get the idea. Everything. (Except the ones I haven’t finished yet, but let’s not talk about those.) That means there are hundreds of products (oh the hours).


You can also find most of the pricing information for each suite in three printing methods, unless you want something completely different, in which case you can email me and I am so happy to help. But you can get a ballpark idea, and you can play with adding something to your cart and then deleting it to get your total to the right amount.

There are also printables in the shop! Perfect for crafty couples, or couples who are working within a tighter budget or short time frame, printables allow for the same one-on-one design time I give to all projects, but without the costs of printing (learn more). You can print your customized PDFs at home or with the digital printing company of your choice. I love printables!

The new site has information on etiquette, card wording ideas, a wedding stationery timeline, and even explains what all those different wedding cards are so you can decide what you need, and maybe what you don’t.


There are case studies, design archives, a gallery, and a whole section with possible customizations you can add to your suite. Ordering samples? So easy.

As with all business projects, there’s more to do; my wishlist is long. But for now I’m basking in the glow of a functioning, mobile-friendly website, which I hope you’ll find easy to use and perfectly informative.


Thanks as always for reading, and visiting! (And for giving me a head’s up if you visit and find a bug. I’m grateful for every pair of eyes I can get.)


meet “Harbor”


Transitioning into parenthood is difficult for almost everyone. It’s not that hard to anticipate the challenges themselves, but it is hard to understand how they’ll affect you, and how hard it will be to navigate all those new changes with your partner. This summer, soon after our daughter turned one, I placed a teary phone call to Brendan. I was feeling frustrated with how hard it was to be the parent with the “flexible schedule,” which basically meant that it was my job to do all the parenting that needed to happen between 8:30 and 6:30 while still running my own business. I love being a mom, but I also really love my job. A lot. And I did not anticipate how hard it would be to be the main caretaker. I also knew I should feel lucky to have a flexible schedule, to be the one spending so much time with our daughter, and to have a husband so dedicated to doing his best at work while being a bang-up parent when he was off work.

About 30 seconds after that teary phone call, Brendan called back and excitedly told me he’d come up with The Solution to all of our problems. He’d quit his job, and we’d start a company together. And then in the movie version of my life I cried tears of joy.

Brendan and I talked about his job transition a lot throughout August. We wrote down dreams of what our life could be like, down to a daily schedule, and brainstormed the logistics of working abroad with a toddler in tow (that side-dream is for 2015 or beyond). We made lists of all the things that could be great about it, and all the things that could be really bad. We did some budgeting that involves cash envelopes and prayers. In September Brendan gave notice and he had his last day in November. We invited some friends over for a brainstorming session and decided to name our new venture “Harbor.” My studio-mate and I moved around some furniture to make room for an extra desk, and as I type this, I can see Brendan just over my shoulder. It’s a dream come true. We are scared but we are happy.

Now, we take turns with the morning routine. One day a week I’ll head into the studio early to get working, and Brendan will stay home with our daughter until it’s time for daycare. The next day we switch. We both leave work in the late afternoon to pick her up and spend a few hours together before her bedtime. To make up for the afternoons, we often work from home at night, or one of us will head back out to the studio. On Monday mornings, we sit down over coffee to talk about our schedules and needs for the upcoming week, and to pick each others’ brains on our projects.

I am still busy with my stationery company Hello Tenfold, but I am helping with Harbor part time and Brendan is helping with Hello Tenfold part time, too. For Harbor, I do some project management, and occasionally design, and Brendan helps me with business decisions and some design input for Hello Tenfold. 

Through Harbor, we are taking on projects including branding, logo design, web design, advertising campaigns, copywriting, and social media communiciations/management/advertising, and have a team of other freelancers we’re working with as needed. We have launched a temporary website, as well as a facebook page, twitter account, and instagram. Please give us a like and a follow! We’ll need your help making this dream stick!


embrace the failure

Oh, what a treat you’re in for! The above video is about 7 and a half minutes long, but it’s full of things you’ll want to write down and mull over for a long time. Milton Glaser is the graphic designer most well known for his “I Heart New York” campaign, and in the above video he talks about the fear of failure.

An excerpt:

“The thing that we most fear in regard to failure is our own self acknowledgement that we really don’t exactly know what we’re doing. There’s only one solution… you must embrace failure. You must admit what is. You must find out what you’re capable of doing and what you’re not capable of doing. That is the only way to deal with the issue of success and failure, because otherwise you will simply never subject yourself to the possibility that you’re not as good as you want to be, hope to be, or as others think you are. But that is of course delusional. So my advice finally about fear of failure, which is a kind of romantic idea… there’s only one way out. embrace the failure.”

And the thing I, myself, keep mulling over? “The model for personal development is antithetical to the model for professional success.” Watch it.

via The Wall Breakers by way of Elijah Leed


howdy do it: tips for new business owners

Last week I wrote a guest post for Just Lovely Things on 6 tips I know now that I wish I new then (tips for new business owners). Hop over to check it out, and if you have tips to add, I’d love to hear them!

see past Howdy Do It posts here & here
image: pope saint victor