Behind the Scenes of Elum Designs
April 27, 2012
Ladies and gents, it's time to pull back the curtain on one of our favorite designers for another installment of our Behind the Scenes series. If there is anything we love more than being inspired, it's seeing what inspires others - particularly when they are uber talented. And uber talented doesn't even begin to describe today's highlighted designer -  oh no, we would need a completely new adjective for Elum Designs. They take talent, passion and drive to an entirely new (stylish) level and their space reflects just that. You'll want to cozy up real close to this feature darlings, because there is so much to learn from these talents!

Obviously we love your space, what was the first piece your purchased?
Once I felt like I had finally earned the right to purchase something for my office space, and I mean something that I truly wanted, but didn't necessarily need, was my Eames Management chair in White; mid-century, classic, modern, timeless. The office chair of my dreams. It doesn't get any better than this. I see it every day and remember what it took to get to this place.

What was the main inspiration for your creative space?
The main inspiration for our new design space is the same as it has always been; keep all the furnishings white so that the messes we call our desks, filled with colorful paper and product samples, actually work in our favor. I prefer white because it allows us to always focus on the color trends we are working on. When they are in full display, we become immersed in them. It was a MAJOR decision for me to even put up black & cream & bronze wallpaper. But since black is truly a neutral, I decided it was going to be okay. I then thought I would spray paint these white mid-century inspired lamps in a vibrant yellow (a recent color obsession), but then I chickened out because I just feel like I am too color fickle; excited about a new color every couple of months. I just could not commit to the yellow. I have purchased 6 different colored cans of spray paint and have been obsessing over what color to go with for almost a year now. LOL. I think I'll just stick to changing out the throw pillows, an easy and much less laborious task. Plus, I must admit, I am secretly obsessed with throw pillows. Those little poufs of color can transform a space. My favorite pillow designer is Lauren Saunders. If you haven't seen her loomed bundles of joy, I suggest you google her website. I have them in my office and my home. They are organic and textural, yet modern at the same time. To die for.

My personal office space has this small window and the wall around it was recessed, but cement. I mean, ugh. . . not many options to hang things on a cement wall. So, I decided to create what I now lovingly refer to as my "secret garden." I covered the walls in synthetic wall hedge mats. The result was incredible. Everyone who walks into my office has to walk over and touch the walls, as if they are under some sort of secret garden spell or something. The hedge is fluffy so it makes you feel like something lyes beyond the wall, which is a VERY cool look when you are stuck inside all day.

Our design production space is very open concept; massive sky lights with tons of natural light. But, because we share office space with another company, we had a cubicle wall to contend with, so we opted to do another faux hedge wall. The result, astonishing, cozy and totally artsy. Everyone that walks by stops in their tracks. I then got really inspired to continue this sort of structured modern interpretation of the outdoors by creating this wheat grass work station divider. I had the planters custom made, painted them out white and filled them with faux wheat grass. The look is fresh and clean and fun, and bonus, it serves a valuable purpose for a little perceived privacy.

Then quite serendipitously I had a chandelier that broke and I found myself with 16 of these incredible tear drop shaped glass shades at my fingertips. With a quick modification, and a lot of company team effort to install into our 16 foot ceilings, they now sit above the center work station in our design space and look like abstract rain drops cascading down over us (well, at least to us designer types that is.) It's a very open and soothing space to be in. We try to fill it with our own product offerings to remind us of the wonderful things we have created and inspire us to keep on going.

Other than your studio/office/workspace/couch where do you pull the most inspiration?
Most of my own personal inspiration comes from a split second glance at something totally and completely unrelated to stationery or invitations, or even wedding for that matter. This could be anything from the shape of an interesting light fixture, the paint chipping off of an old vintage desk, the symmetry and simultaneous movement of a Hans Wegner mid-century Shell Chair (ahhhh, so soothing), the warmth and cozy texture of a nubby hand knit garment, the cool vibe of a sexy downtown lounge, and even an unexpected quirky color combination that could be found just about anywhere. If you pay attention, I mean REALLY pay attention and have all of your senses working to intake the these around you, inspiration is always there in some form.

I bought a Curtis Jere brass sculpture on a trip to Palm Springs last year. I became obsessed with the life this thing gives off. Then I found this insanely awesome bowl that had the same vibe. The burst of energy of the form and the shiny reflective quality of the brass seemed to be the perfect concept for a wedding invitation for an evening wedding in the city. We brainstormed who the couple would be that would throw this event; stylish, sophisticated, sexy, gold fixtures and bubbling champagne in a room filled withby candle light that allowed everything to flicker. This would be a lavish event with just the right amount of glitz to keep it tasteful. Then we found these over sized long chandeliers dripping with crystals and it was just what we needed to create "Luxe".

1. Crystal chandelier, Powerlight International / 2. Shattered crystal dress, photo source unknown via Coeurdecaramel / 3. Gold metal sunburst, photo source unknown via Team Sugar / 4. Luxe letterpress wedding invitation, elum / 5. Glitter wedding dress, model Karlie Kloss, photo source unknown via Thunder and Starlight / 6. Gold studded necklace, photo source unknown via The Knotty Bride / 7. Luxe letterpress wedding invitation, elum / 8. Ceiling of light bulbs, photo by Carlos Andres Varela via 100 Layer Cake / 9. Gold chevron striped tray, photo source unknown via The Knotty Bride / 10. Moschino drape front gold dress, Saks Fifth Avenue / 11. Gold glitter and rhinestone cake, Sugar Couture via Brides / 12. White chocolate gold leaf pyramid truffles, Christopher Norman Chocolates via Martha Stewart Weddings / 13. Gold wedding ring truffle favors, Promise Me Chocolate and via Martha Stewart Weddings / 14. Gold sparkle burst, photo source by Dreamstime / 15. Champagne with gold stirrers, photo by Paige Newton Photography via The Sweet Occasion / 16. Luxe letterpress wedding invitation, elum / 17. Christian Louboutin gold crystal suede shoes, photo source unknown via We Heart It / 18. Black and gold table setting, Martha Stewart Weddings / 19. Metallic gold structured dress, photo source unknown via Jet Fete by Bridal Bar / 20. Gold place setting, photo source unknown via The Knotty Bride / 21. Gold glittler Kate Spade clutch, Kate Spade via Elle / 22. Diamond gold cuff links, Vummidi Bangaru Jewellers

Since your sales come through a retail dealer, how do you go about creating new wedding invitation designs?
It's undeniable that trends for weddings fall in line with what is transpiring in the fashion and interior worlds of design. Everything from the cut of a wedding dress to the colors of the table linens is pulled from the fashion world. The decor that is recommended by wedding coordinators is a direct result of what is happening with current interior design trends. We look to incorporate these trends in new and interesting ways, always focusing on how this event could be branded through our design.

When designing a wedding invitation, we always create the fictitious couple in our minds and then create an invitation for that couple. Are they a funny couple who doesn't take themselves too seriously and they want an invitation that breaks the traditional mold? Are they an art lovers who frequent art galleries and want to convey their love of this through their event? Are they a sexy duo who enjoys their night life and wants their wedding to be all about the party, set up as a cool modern lounge? Then we mesh these couples with what we envision their tastes to be and how that fits into current trends or timeless classic style. And off we go.

One of our recent creations, called "Restoration", was inspired by the resurgence of vintage style and the use of reclaimed materials in an urban environment. The concept is modern; Parisian flea market meets urban warehouse loft. A combination of rough edges and soft florals, Restoration has a soothing neutral color palette that fits right in with the weathered woods that are abound right now. Picture raw unbleached linens and warm candle light against shiny modern metal fixtures. This is a wedding I want to go to.

1. Wedding reception, photo by Abby Ross via Style Me Pretty / 2. Happy bride, photo by Abby Ross via Style Me Pretty / 3. Peonies, photo source unknown via Google Images / 4. Vintage pearl necklace, photo by Sedona Bride Photographers via Style Me Pretty / 5. Mint julep cocktail, photo by Laura Flippen via San Francisco Magazine / 6. Restoration letterpress wedding invitation, elum / 7. Groomsmen in tuxes, photo by Abby Ross via Style Me Pretty / 8. Vintage New York license plate, Government Auctions Blog / 9. Wedding cake, Martha Stewart Weddings / 10. Neutral bridesmaid dresses, photo by Abby Ross via Style Me Pretty / 11. Rustic metal letter, photo source unknown / 12. Restoration letterpress wedding invitation, elum / 13. Wedding shoes on rustic metal, photo by Frank Amodo Photography via Style Me Pretty / 14. Engagement Ring, photo by Abby Ross via Style Me Pretty / 15. Flower bouquet favors, photo source by Heavenly Blooms / 16. Sweetheart Forks, BHLDN shop / 17. Kensington Collection, Restoration Hardware / 18. Neutral bridesmaid dresses, photo by Hollye Schumacher Photography via Pretty Little Weddings / 19. Vintage dresser card table, photo by Danielle Capito Photography via Style Me Pretty / 20. Vintage desk and chair, photo source unknown/ 21. Primping the bride, photo by Abby Ross via Style Me Pretty / 22. Restoration letterpress wedding invitation, elum

A new and very popular invitation from our Umi 2 album of affordable invitation suites is called "Woodgrain". The inspiration for this design was undoubtedly from the same name, but it also came from the modernization of traditional rustic items, such as the white painted deer busts and silver leafed horns being used as a clean modern design element. This colorless delight is both sexy and sultry, celebrating the "white space" and allowing the texture of the organic woodgrain to shine with a modern twist. We especially like that this invitation is decidedly masculine, but has this touch of femininity through the sparing use of this sweet little script font with trailing glyphs.

1. Birch log candle holders, photo by Martha Stewart Weddings / 2. Happy winter bride, photo by Sloan Photographers via Style Me Pretty / 3. Hand crafted wood table numbers, photo source unknown via The Perfect Palette / 4. Pine cone, photo source unknown via The Perfect Palette / 5. Woodgrain letterpress wedding invitation, elum / 6. Enchanted winter ceremony, photo by One Love Photo / 7. Silver plated woodgrain table setting, photo by Z Gallerie / 8. Modern woodgrain cake, photo by Gateaux Inc. / 9. Woodgrain letterpress wedding invitation, elum / 10. Winter birches, photo by joscelynb via Flickr / 11. Woodsy boutonniere, photo by Martha Stewart Weddings / 12. White faux deerhead, photo by Duck Duck Moose Design / 13. White furry heels, photo source unknown via Cachic Design / 14. Burlap & baby’s breath chair, photo source unknown via Valdirose / 15. Antler candelabra, photo by Z Gallerie / 16. Morganite engagement ring, by onegarnetgirl via etsy / 17. White gold woodgrain wedding band set, photo by adziasjewelryatelier via etsy / 18. Winter white centerpiece, photo by Aus10 Photoartists via Junkerman Jones Wedding and Event Design / 19. Egg nog shots, photo source unknown via Trendir / 20. Silver aspen bark earrings, photo by Abella Blue

And finally, here is a sneak peek at one of the invitations that is soon being offered in our Elum Couture V3 album called "Sweet Shoppe". We just couldn't resist the need to come out with an invitation in response to the wildly popular trend of infusing confectionary treats at the wedding reception. This couple is all about fun fun fun. We pulled inspiration from antique candy shoppe signage and vintage sweet treat advertisements to create an invitation that gives a nostalgic nod to these dreamy store fronts, but added a modern spin to our graphic interpretation.

Where are you most productive?
I hate to even admit this, but when it comes to just designing, I am most productive at home between the hours of 10pm-2am; alone, quiet, no phone, no employees, and ideas flowing like mad. I actually think a lot of designers would share this same response though. There's something about that time frame that really focuses me. Days at the shop have changed quite a bit since I first launched Elum out of my garage 11 years ago; the day to day management of staff members and their projects means less and less time to allow myself to truly get lost in design. But don't get me wrong, I spend plenty of time geeking out over creative direction and adding my obsessive compulsive strive for perfection to every internal process that takes place.

What does your work day look like? Are you scheduled? Do you like to take each day as it comes?
I come into work every morning with a very lengthy list of things I need to accomplish that day. Then by 2pm, I generally get around to tackling item #1 on the list. I find this profoundly frustrating, but after this many years in business I am inclined to think that things will never change, so I am learning to just go with it. I am not going to sit here and pretend like it's all a dreamy design fantasy. This is a hard core competitive business and it's difficult to become and stay lucrative in the stationery world because what do they say?, "you are only as good as your last design." My daily workload is split between analyzing product sales reports and strategizing new product development, setting up inspiration boards for upcoming invitation and product offerings, directing my creative team in all design projects and overseeing art direction of every single product we produce, selecting new color trends and working with press room to hand mix the new ink colors to perfection, press-checks, press-checks, and more press-checks, estimating new projects, researching, pre-planning and overseeing all design presentations and proposals of all licensed product offerings with Elum patterns, finding cost saving ways to streamline our business processes, our time spent on press, and our design costs, managing a never-ending influx of quality and production issues (it is manufacturing after all), tweaking more art, agonizing over which font, changing my mind about that color, shooting photos for our website, for magazines, for bloggers, doing an interview and pretending like everything is dreamy, researching new papers and performing tests on the letterpress, more press checks, helping a designer select PMS colors, wondering why ink from the same can yesterday looks different today, wondering why that acid free tape yellowed, dealing with customer service escalations, handling production issues with outside vendors, realizing those photos I took now needed to be horizontal shots in order to be considered for magazine cover, reshooting photos, taking my mini wiener dog out to pee, skipping lunch, having another cup of coffee, overseeing our advertising and marketing efforts (which I could really use some help with), writing all the copy for our company website and marketing materials, working on customer service surveys, dealing with our overseas manufacturing production, trying to stay inspired, fresh and different from the rest in our design aesthetic, trying to pretend like I'm not going crazy so that my team can keep the main focus of Elum at the forefront of their daily efforts. It has been my goal from day one to have the Elum brand synonymous with outstanding original design and superb printmaking materials. Although I stress about it every day, it is only because I have a relentless drive to make it the absolute best it can be. We are, as they say, the real deal. We don't just spout it, we really do make ourselves crazy trying to achieve superior quality.

What makes you love what you do?
I first developed a love affair with paper while I worked as a print rep for a boutique print company just a couple of years out of college. I used to get these amazing cotton paper samples, but they were too expensive for commercial use and the graphic designers I worked with at that time were all hung up on glossy varnish this and matte varnish that. It was the late 1990's and everyone was obsessed with chaotic Photoshop'd to the max design. It made me long to put these cottony fiberous papers (that you wouldn't DARE slather varnish on) to use. I soon learned that letterpress was the perfect medium for this.

I also just so happen to be obsessed with typography and pairing fonts together in new and different ways. This is one of the main reasons I connect so deeply with invitation design; they pair pattern design and typography. Fonts can and should be used in invitation design very purposefully. The wrong fonts can absolutely kill the design. The different weights, sizing and spacing create texture and help to delineate the primary information from the tertiary information. The typography we do here at Elum is an integral part of the overall invitation design and helps to define the story our invitation is trying to tell. I think that the most fulfilling aspect of my business is when I set out to create something that sends a specific message and I just hope that everyone can see it, that they understand it. When it is communicated effectively, it feels utterly blissful. When that fictitious couple who we have dreamed up in our minds becomes reality and purchases our invitation design with the message, "it's like it was meant for us", it's extremely rewarding. I spend many nights lying in bed trying to fall asleep but my mind is swirling with new possible color combinations or new patterns I could create. I live for this stuff, it is who I am to the core. Design relaxes me, it excites me and it defines me. I am so honored to be able to touch so many lives by the creation of these wonderful pieces of art.

Thank you SO much Elum Designs for sharing your gorgeous space and your constant inspiration with us! Consider us inspired (to say the least!) xoxo, A. Blaire