Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Power of a Personal Note

Try this at home some time.

You come home from work and on your way into the house, you open the mailbox. Inside is a U-shaped bunch of paper which you already know isn’t worth your time other than to deposit in the recycling box.

But there in the middle of the soon-to-be post-consumer content is something that catches your eye. It stands out visually and commands your immediate attention. (1)

Then it stands out palpably, as you take it out of the box and admire its feel and appearance. (2)

Into the house you go, shrugging off your jacket and putting aside all the accoutrements of a day’s work. You pick it up and give it a closer inspection. (3)

Then it’s off to find an appropriate implement to open it because you know there’s something special inside. (4)

You open it, much like you would a gift, and read. (5) Then you place it in a careful spot.

There’s lots to be done this evening, just like any other evening in your busy life. But it draws you back. Maybe you’re having a glass of wine; maybe you’ve finally got dinner in the oven. It’s still there, right where you put it. You read it again. (6)

I wrote you that note. It took me only a few minutes.

In the span of perhaps an hour, I’ve brought your life to a screeching halt six times. And during those moments, you’ve done nothing but think about me.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Eye Candy

It's hard to believe that the National Stationery Show is only a few weeks away. Hundreds of Crane stationers from around the world tour the Crane booth and place orders for the coming year. While the sales and marketing staff is busy with customers, Ms. Bliss and I annually host several dozen members of the national media who come to see the latest trends in fine stationery and personal correspondence.

Crane's May introductions are always eagerly anticipated, and this year is no exception. There's even one blockbuster that I can't tell you about yet, but Ms. Bliss and I will be blogging in real time from the show, so make sure to visit the Crane Insider every day from May 17-21 for all the latest.
This week's Friday Eye Candy gives you a sneak peek at four of the new stationery collections from Crane's May introductions that will debut at the show.

The Palazzo Collection adds a touch of European flair to a new line of cards, notes, thank-yous, imprintables and place cards.

Vintage maps and motifs adorn the Cartography Collection.

Bugs are big! Bug notes feature hand-engraved images of a butterfly, lady bug, grasshopper and dragongfly.

And finally, Crane's Dog Notes have been immensely popular for years. This year, you'll see a Golden Retriever, Scotty and a very proud Beagle!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Choosing Your “Green” Paper

Now that the annual green blitz from Earth Day has subsided, it’s time to get to work on the other 364 days Earth Days (actually 365 this year).

Since I’m a paper guy, let’s take a look at selecting an environmentally responsible paper. I’ve been at this a long time, and have learned that there is no single solution. All paper production, all paper use, has an impact on the environment. And despite protestations to the contrary from proponents of various options, there is no “best” paper. Yes, some are better than others, but attempts to quantify environmental impact through any form of lifecycle analysis fall far short of definitive.

I prefer a more personal approach by making a personal statement on every piece of paper we use. Now I know that’s not completely practical because I’m not going to write on that sticky note in front of me:

“I have no idea what this paper's made of or how it’s made and I could care less”

But that’s what I’m saying to myself and everyone else by using this paper that I know nothing about.

Let the medium be the message. Take the example of letterhead and business cards, two papers that project your personal and professional image. Think about what you would print at the bottom:

"I have no idea what this paper's made of or how it’s made and I could care less”

"Proudly printed on 100% cotton tree-free paper"

"Proudly printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper"

These few words printed on your most visible papers speak volumes about you and your business. You’ve done your homework. You’ve decided what’s important to you. You’ve decided to incorporate and communicate a message of environmental responsibility. And you’re proud to do so.

Take a look at your personal and professional papers.

What’s the message?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

21st-Century Wedding Etiquette

So many questions; so little time.

I get questions all the time about the “proper” etiquette of correspondence. And many of those inquiries center around weddings. Some questions are relatively easy to answer; others are much more complicated.

“Proper” etiquette is a moving target. In Victorian times and well into the 20th century, there were hard-and-fast rules that defined proper etiquette for wedding correspondence. Though strict, these rules brought with them a level of comfort. This is how it’s done, now let’s deal with the cake.

As society evolves, so does etiquette. The fact that people are marrying later, the emergence of intercultural and interfaith marriages, second and third weddings, and alternative ceremonies are all contributing factors to the changing rules of etiquette. Many of the rules of etiquette were made (and continue to be made) to deal with changing social situations. Some of the etiquette deemed proper today would have been unthinkable a generation ago. And, surely, a generation from now many of the current guidelines will seem archaic and obsolete.
To assist today’s brides, and to help me with all those wedding etiquette questions, Crane has released its newest edition of the Wedding Blue Book.

This new edition continues to offer definitive rules relating to traditional correspondence and guidance for implementing a more contemporary approach to everything from save-the-date cards to thank-you notes.

The Blue Book features an easy-to-use format with more sample designs and examples of wording and an extensive selection of traditional and contemporary typestyles. The Blue Book has been expanded to address current and emerging trends in save-the-date cards, commitment ceremonies, wedding programs as well as religious and cultural considerations.

Here’s what my new BFF Letitia Baldridge, the nation’s leading etiquette authority, has to say about the new Wedding Blue Book:

“Greatly needed? Crane’s Wedding Blue Book, that’s what’s needed. Today’s world is in such a state of befuddlement regarding the dos and don’ts of behavior, it’s a joy to see the old traditional rules honored, but updated to make things work better. Thankfully, there’s a new elasticity in invitational language that is based on efficiency without sacrificing kindness.”

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Friday Eye Candy

Whew, it's been a big day. This happens to me every year, the first really nice day here in Pownal, Vermont, and I've got to get everthing done, in addition to the day job.

Let's see, I bought seeds for my plot in the Community Garden. I started raking a spot of lawn. I bought a new lawnmower. I filled up my propane tank. And Sunday will be my first round of golf after a long winter layoff.

Anyway, I'm feeling very springy, and thought I would share with you some springy stationery for this week's Friday Eye Candy.

Enjoy your weekend!

Top row, from left, Spring Garden Thank-You Notes, Engraved Hummingbird Notes and Letterpress Woodcut Floral Wedding Invitations. Bottom row, from left, Wasabi Personalized Calling Card, Adirondack Chair Bar Harbor Notes, and kate spade butterfly place cards.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Letters Katie Kept

We're right in the middle of the Letters You Keep contest, so I have had the opportunity to share in people's love, joy and sadness as expressed in their letters. Reading these letters and the stories that accompany them is an intensely emotional experience; I've found myself having to stop reading and take a walk because I feel the need to re-establish some emotional equilibrium.

Earlier this morning, a colleague sent me a clip from Newsweek's website because there is a mention of Crane stationery. Little did I know when I opened that page that I would find myself on another emotional rollercoaster. I've said enough. Here's the article.

I've got to take a walk.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Name The Model - Win a Prize!

As Crane's historian, I get to see all kinds of cool stuff from the past. At the urging of a certain someone, I leafed through a portfolio of advertisements in national magazines from the 1960s in search of her photograph. It took me a while, but I found the ad in question.

If you think you can identify this model, please send me an e-mail. From all the correct responses, assuming any of you can figure out who this is, I'll put your names in a hat to win a box of Crane's Initial Notes or Cards. Deadline is April 30. There will be three designs to chose from:

I hope to hear from you, and good luck! I'll let you all know who this is after the 30th.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday Eye Candy

A bit of a twist on this week's edition of Friday Eye Candy.

Back in October, having just returned from the annual meeting of the Friends of Dard Hunter in Washington, DC, I knew there was a problem. There were cracks in the walls and the outside door to my office wouldn't open.

When the contractor arrived, we pulled up a piece of floor in my office. He reached down to check the condition of the sill, and came up with a handful of stuff that looked more like compost than wood. Construction, or rather destruction, began the next day. So, for the last six months, I've been operating out of a walk-in closet upstairs.

Until this week.

The first photo is hardly eye candy, but the context is useful.

That gaping hole is where my office was. That's Dave Thomas, my contractor, on the right. I wish I had pictures of my office before it decided to implode, but there was no real good reason to have any. It was just a place to work. Now you can understand why I'm loving where I work.

My work station

My "photo studio"

The warmer-upper

Blog Central

The view from Blog Central

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Crane’s Celebrity A-List

Oh, you thought I was going to list all those famous celebrities who use Crane stationery? Sorry, but I’m not going there.

But as a historian, I have my own Crane’s Celebrity A-List.

Back in 1770 – that’s two years after Boston was invaded by the British – Daniel Vose, a shipping magnate; a man by the name of Lewis, whom we know nothing about; and 23-year-old papermaker Stephen Crane took over what had been the first paper mill in Massachusetts in the Boston suburb of Milton. You might guess their political leanings, as they named their business The Liberty Paper Mill.

It was here that paper was made for the newspapers and broadsides espousing the cause of American freedom. It was here that cartridge paper was made first for the Minute Men, then the Revolutionary Army. And it was here that Crane’s first currency paper was made to help finance the Revolution.

The most treasured artifact in the Crane Museum of Papermaking is the ledger book from The Liberty Paper Mill, from 1770 to 1793. Entries read like a who’s who of area printers, publishers, merchants and patriots. More than a dozen members of the Boston Tea Party, including cousin John Crane, purchased paper from the Liberty Paper Mill. I can go on and on, and someday, I’ll be able to do the research necessary to tell the whole story, but for now, here are a few members of the A-List:

Paul Revere is best known for his Midnight Ride. He was also a silversmith, and due to his engraving skills was commissioned in 1776 by The State of the Massachusetts Bay to engrave currency now known to collectors as “Sword in Hand Notes.” The paper was picked up at the Liberty Paper Mill under armed guard and delivered to Revere for his artistic touch.

Isaiah Thomas was only 21 when he began publishing The Massachusetts Spy, which strongly supported the cause of independence. The British considered Thomas so dangerous that he later recalled "he had the honor of being included with John Hancock and Samuel Adams in a list of twelve persons who were to be summarily executed when taken." In 1775, he was forced to move his press out west to Worcester, and was able to continue publishing with paper from The Liberty Paper Mill.

Henry Knox was a Boston bookseller as the American Revolution approached. In 1775, General George Washington inspected a rampart at Roxbury designed by Knox and was instantly taken with the young man's abilities. Knox soon became Washington's Chief of Artillery, and earned a place in history in the winter of 1776 by carting 60 tons of captured cannon from Fort Ticonderoga in New York to Dorchester Heights, driving the British from Boston Harbor.

And to close, here’s one of my favorites. Want to guess where Paul Revere kept his horses?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Judge Letitia

Late last week, I was enjoying cocktail hour with my wife and my mom and, of course, the phone rings. It was after formal business hours, but I do business with folks on the West Coast, so it was OK.

“Hello Peter, this is Letitia Baldrige. How are you this evening?”

I just about jumped out of my shoes! I do quite a few public speaking gigs, as well as some radio and television, but I found myself stammering into the phone. I mean, this lady is a legend. Shouldn’t I be speaking with someone from her staff?

Granted, I had sent Ms. Baldrige a fax to show her the copy we were planning to use for her bio as a judge for The Letters You Keep contest, but still…..

We had a lovely chat and then it really hit me. That was Letitia Baldrige! Letitia Baldrige is going to read and judge letters with Samara O’Shea and me. I’m definitely not worthy.

In case you don’t know who I’m talking about, Letitia Baldrige received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Vassar, did graduate work at l'Université de Genève, and is the recipient of four honorary degrees. She spent a decade in the United States Foreign Service, serving as a special assistant to Ambassadors David Bruce in Paris and Clare Boothe Luce in Rome. She entered the private sector as the first senior woman executive of Tiffany & Co. in New York in 1956.

She served as Social Secretary to the White House and Chief of Staff for Jacqueline Kennedy in 1960 and continued to serve as a pro bono advisor to subsequent First Ladies and therefore continued to have, as she phrased it, “a catbird seat overlooking the march of history.” She opened her consulting business in 1964, and pioneered as a woman director of several major corporations.

She has published 25 books on the subjects of entertaining, design and manners. She is a professional lecturer in the United States and abroad, and appears regularly on network television. She has been a front-row observer since 1948 of American political events, but she has also survived making major gaffes in elevated places during those years.
“The secret to almost everything,” Ms. Baldrige says, “is to keep your sense of humor, and if you don't have one, for heaven's sake, go get one!”

So, for those who might be on the fence about sending in your most treasured letters for consideration in Crane’s contest, just think about this: Your letter will be read by Letitia Baldrige!
How cool is that?

Friday, April 4, 2008

Friday Eye Candy

Today's edition of Friday Eye Candy focuses on selections from the kate spade by Crane holiday collection of boxed stationery. I know, it's only April and last year's holidays are closer than this year's, but these bright and whimsical designs should give you a chuckle no matter what time of year. The kate spade collection is large and varied, and you can see it all here.

But this is a sneak peek. You're the first to see them!

The message on this large Flame Red card is foil-stamped and gives off a neon-like effect.

A critter parade on their way to a "Reindeer Games" party!

Three French Hens. I love this card!

Poor Santa; too much eggnog?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

How Do They Do That?

There's a lot that goes on between the time you place your order for personalized stationery and when it arrives at the store, beautifully adorned with engraving or thermography. Every time I have the opportunity to take visitors on a tour of Crane's Personal Design Services, where all this happens, I marvel at the craftsmanship, attention to detail and personal care each order receives. Plus, I love to watch other people work.

Since I can't take each of you on a personal tour of Crane, here is a look at engraving and thermography on fine cotton paper.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Letters You Keep 2008

Today kicks off National Card and Letter Writing Month, and for the second consecutive year, Crane & Co. is hosting The Letters You Keep contest. I would venture to guess that all of us have at least one letter we’ve saved – for a year, a lifetime or generations – a letter that has special meaning that transcends the passing of time. So dust off that family album or untie the ribbon on that shoebox where your most treasured written mementos are stored, and tell us about that one very special letter.

If you’re judged to be the winner, you’ll receive $500 worth of Crane stationery. You can get all the details here.

I am honored to be one of the judges again this year, and will be joined by Samara O’Shea, author of For the Love of Letters, a modern guide to letter-writing. A third judge will be announced very shortly and I can’t wait (but I must) to tell you about her.

I remember vividly reading hundreds of letters last year, tackling them by the dozen or so in the evening. Reading these wonderful letters, written from the heart, from all over the country, spanning centuries of time, proved to be an intensely moving experience for me.

Out of all those letters, one jumped off the page. It came from Elizabeth Donohoe of Newburyport, Mass.

Elizabeth’s letter was penned by her great-grandmother more than 120 years ago when she was a young child who dearly missed her father, Captain J. R. Bryan.

Captain Bryan, posted in Alabama far from a young daughter and loving wife in Virginia, received his daughter’s note while serving in the United States Army. As Elizabeth recounts, Captain Bryan treasured the letter and brought it with him when he returned home, making it a family heirloom for years and generations to come.

The letter itself is beautiful in its simplicity and candor. On a small piece of paper, now faded to an antique yellow, the little girl wrote in careful cursive,

My Dear Father:

When Mother was taking her bath this morning I slid in behind her and cut this beautiful curl. I send it to you because it’s a part of Mother I want to keep so dreadfully bad myself. But all the same, I send it to my dear Father.

Mother is better this morning, breakfast is ready.

Your loving child,

I can’t wait to read your letters.