As a self-proclaimed paper-lover, my heart has grown to love each and every one of the wedding invitation designers in our Little Black Book. And I’ll take any chance I can get to wave around my SMP privileges to steal a peek into the process behind the pretty. My dears, meet two of the sweetest ladies I know, Jill & Leora of Copper Willow. Best friends, fellow paper-lovers and matchmakers of ink and love.
SMP: Tell us, how did Copper Willow Paper Studio come to life?
Jill: I had a stationery business in mind ever since working in the stationery retail market while I was getting my MFA in San Francisco. After I moved to Los Angeles, I started working in calligraphy and became friends with Leora through our husbands, who are best friends. Together, we decided to pursue our shared interest in paper to create Copper Willow Paper Studio.
Leora: We set up shop in my garage. It is important to us that our whole process from inception to design, proofing to production is done in-house. As we got busier, the machinery multiplied and we had to take the business out of home. Today we own 5 letterpresses, a hot foil machine, a floor model digital printer, and several pre- and post-production machines that are active in our street front studio in the Culver City arts district.
SMP: How did you discover your passion for paper goods?
Jill: The true passion in our work falls in the custom work. We both enjoy the creation process, from the initial idea. The possibilities are nearly endless. We rarely create the same design or paper construction twice and that’s exciting. Our client meetings are always filled with giddy chatter as we wade through the concept creation. And nothing is more satisfying than seeing that concept come to life in print. We have the finest papers and print resources in house and we’re privileged to watch the designs take on their final appearance. We’re creating treasures for our clients. Papers they will probably save for the rest of their lives.
Leora: I had a drawer full of stationery sets by the time I turned 10, and meticulously type-set every essay from 4th grade through college. My paper toolbox includes work in book-binding, origami, architectural renderings and woodworking. The first time I worked with genuine stationery was during the creation of my own wedding invitations, which Jill designed and illustrated about a year before we started Copper Willow. Jill asks great questions and leads you through the haze of a thousand ideas to crystallize the vision for your event in a single, incredible piece of paper art. I try to re-create that experience for my clients.
SMP: Tell us a bit about letterpress printing. Aside from the completely gorgeous result, why do you love it so much?
Jill: Letterpress is an experience, from the print process to the final textural finish. Every piece is printed by hand and the surface of the paper is literally embedded with our artwork. There’s no print method like it and with so much history. The machines we own are nearly 100 years old and to watch them move is mesmerizing. We can use so many types of paper in letterpress. There’s no weight limitation like with a digital or offset machine. And as a letterpress printer, the process is therapeutic. The rhythm of the machine. The zen of setting up a print and perfecting it’s impression. The thrill and pride of pulling off a perfect print. We’re delighted to do that for our own designs and to print for other designers as well. Letterpress truly takes design and print to another level.“
Leora: Letterpress also allows us to have total control over our environment while maintaining a commitment to The Environment. The machines are a minimum of 60 years old and they’re built to run forever with proper maintenance so we don’t have to reinvest in new equipment that taxes our precious resources. The simple technology designed in the late 18th century uses minimal ink and cleaning agents, and that simplicity allows us to choose air-friendly soy- and linseed-oil inks and non-VOC grease and solvent.
SMP: Can you describe a little bit about your process?
Jill: All of our projects start with an appointment with our client. We want to make sure our attention and our studio space is 100% theirs. All of our clients review our boxes of past work. We do not have books of designs to choose from. Every invitation is different, so they look at past work to see possibilities, papers, inks, typestyles, etc. Together with their designer, we talk about their event, the location, coloring, design style…and we eventually talk about them as individuals and as couples. We want to make sure their invitations are an expression of their event but also themselves, their style and personality. We love stumbling across a tidbit about their lives or hobbies that we can pull into their papers. We’ll sketch ideas with our clients and narrow down their vision as best as we can in person. Our consult is followed with a details design and cost proposal and their approval sets the designs in motion. We work hand in hand with our clients to design papers that are exactly as they want them. The process is truly a team experience. We will throw in our opinions and they’ll request changes, all until the pieces are created to their liking. Clients don’t visit us for a “Copper Willow invitation”. Clients come to us for the collaboration.
Leora: During the designer-client collaboration, the studio is busy researching and sourcing papers, twine, ribbon, embellishments and envelopes — especially envelopes! When the design is approved, the buying, organizing, paper-cutting, printing, and finishing begins. Sometimes our clients are surprised that our turnaround time is 3 weeks, but we really do work on each project for hours each day.
SMP: What inspires your designs?
Jill & Leora: Our clients inspire our designs. We enjoy being able to present designs to our clients that show we really got to know them. Nothing feels better than understanding the vision for an event and creating the perfect papers to represent that special time.
SMP: What other services do you offer besides printing?
Jill & Leora: We offer full graphic design, hand calligraphy, hand drawn artwork, digital addressing, production services, and oodles of printed materials. Their production goes beyond printing to die cutting, color edging, cutting and scoring, hand deckling, hole drilling, padding, and full assembly. Our retail shop is stocked with greeting cards, packaged printed goods, napkins, coasters, art prints, etc., all made in our Culver City studio.