NY NOW Podcast

The Paper Plane Cocktail Hour: PAPER PRIDE

June 10, 2021 NY NOW Season 1 Episode 42
NY NOW Podcast
The Paper Plane Cocktail Hour: PAPER PRIDE
Show Notes Transcript

Happy Pride Month! To celebrate, we wanted to embrace Paper Pride, AKA the special role stationery and greeting cards can play to make room for every lifestyle at the table. Makers who recognize and support the LGBTQIA community help facilitate and normalize conversations happening all around us as they help every customer feel seen. Our guest today, Ashleigh Pritchard of CharmCat Creative, uses her vibrant watercolor range to advocate for several underserved communities and has built inclusion into her very brand. From her welcome policy to her charity pledge, she is one of many makers making a concerted effort to run her company with 21st-century compassion and grace.       

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Amy Loewenberg:

Hi, everyone, and welcome to the paper plane cocktail hour. I'm one of your hosts Amy lowenberg relations and partnership development manager at New York now, I treasure the relationships I've established and I relish in the new ones that I make every day sharing information, and introducing our amazing community of retailers, buyers, artists and makers through my spotlight podcast at New York now and my store tours on Instagram.

Sarah Schwartz:

And I'm your host Sarah, you may know me as the founding editor and editor in chief of stationary trends magazine, my site, the paper nerd or possibly my other podcast, the paper fold. I've been covering the stationery and gift industry since 1997. But never did I imagine that I'd one day be covering the markets here in the virtual space.

Amy Loewenberg:

And so throughout 2021 we'll be raising our glasses alongside our pencils as we share stories, compare notes and celebrate three of our all time favorite topics, stationery connections, and cocktails. Cheers.

Sarah Schwartz:

For those of you who may not be aware, June is gay pride month. So we felt paper pride would be a fitting theme at their heart stationery and greeting cards are about connecting others authentically. So those makers who are also part of the LGBTQ community play an extra important role as they help facilitate difficult conversations happening all around us. There are so many wonderful artists doing the heavy lifting for people who are feeling isolated right now and our guest today is just one of them. Ashley Pritchard is a professional watercolor artist and the owner of charm cat creative after earning her bachelor's degree in studio art from McDaniel College and a master's in creative writing and literature from Stony Brook University. She worked as a graphic designer for a few years before deciding that corporate life wasn't for her.

Amy Loewenberg:

Right so Ashley started Charmcat in 2013. Starting out as a wedding invitation designer and since has expanded into all things paper. Tom Cat has a full greeting card line, custom stationery art prints, and she can work with you on both art Commission's and licensing. She resides in Martinsville, Virginia with her paleontologist husband and two spoiled cats

Sarah Schwartz:

I first met Ashley had noted in 2019 in Brooklyn. At that time, she had just introduced a range of cards with pins attached to them for brides and grooms to give to those who they wish to be their attendance. In addition to the usual Will you be my maid of honor, there also designs reading Will you be my brides person? Will you be my best person? Will you be my best woman all to suit today's personal designations, then the attendant wears that pin the day of the wedding. So everything is crystal clear to anyone who can read until until I saw them. I didn't realize there was a need for them. But of course there is. So obviously Ashley's approach is distinctive, and I want to learn more. So enough of me rattling on. Let's get Ashley on already.

Amy Loewenberg:

Hi, Ashley, thank you so much for joining us for the paper playing cocktail hour podcast. So I've sat in on a couple of committees with you like the Louise and thinking of you week. But I'm I'm really happy to be talking with you in person today about your business. charm cat is just lovely. And we now know because we've heard about you that you've been an artist your entire life. I'm not sure if everybody knows that you're a steward of sustainability. And that when you got married, you fell in love with the world of wedding invitations. Flash forward, you've created your own wedding invitation boutique. So my first question is one that I think we can assume that we all have some sort of idea about but I'm guessing that wedding invitations were pretty quiet in 2020 how's it going in 2021

Ashleigh Pritchard:

weddings are definitely back. I am busier than I was pre pandemic with wedding invitations. I think a lot of people are, you know, ready to jump in ready to, you know, take advantage of the pandemic coming, you know, tapering off, and they're also just more invested in doing more interesting and fun things and their invitations now.

Amy Loewenberg:

Oh wow. Well, I know Sarah is gonna ask a couple of questions about that are definitely interested in hearing As a segue, I'll just say as our theme topic for this month's podcast is paper pride in alignment with pride month, we appreciate how thorough your product development and offering is. For those in the industry who have been doing weddings for decades before same sex marriages were legalized. Maybe for those who haven't expanded their range yet. For many, this could be a generational issue, or they just need to educate themselves a bit or don't have the right vocabulary to do so. What should they know for these nuptials? What can you share regarding how creating invitations for same sex weddings may differ from a heterosexual wedding? If If anything,

Ashleigh Pritchard:

I think the the main difference is making sure that your language is inclusive. And that means things like on your website, finding where you say, bride and groom, bride and groom and using different language, I usually refer to my clients as couples or simply clients. On my contract, I have a line for client one and client two, you know, just little tweaks that make people feel not excluded is really important. And you can also be explicit about it. I have a section on my website, called a welcome policy, where I say specifically, you know, you're welcome here. And I'm also honest about you know, I don't know everything, but I'm trying if I make a mistake, correct me. And I think just showing that willingness is very important.

Amy Loewenberg:

Yeah, just being completely transparent. And I'm going through this process, and I'm going through it with you. Yeah, yeah.

Sarah Schwartz:

I mean, I feel like in the industry, like a lot of Stationers have, you know, been doing weddings for 20 years, 30, maybe even 30 years, maybe 40 years, you know, they want to obviously enlarge and speak to their audience, but it's just hard because they've been doing it the same way for so long. And then there's also like this funny sort of etiquette intersection where, you know, there's a lot of like, this is the way things are done. And it seems like, maybe some of that is being left behind as people just create modern traditions, you know, just celebrate their wedding.

Ashleigh Pritchard:

Definitely. And my approach towards traditions and etiquette is that it's a good starting place, if you're not sure what you want to do. But there are not hard and fast rules, and you can throw them out the window if you want to, and I'm ready to throw them out with you. So when people come to me, and they, they've never done wedding invitations before 99% of them, and they don't know what to do, and I'm serving as their guide, I will say. So traditionally, things have been done this way. But I've also seen it done this way. And you could do it another way. It's up to you. These are your invitations. It's your wedding day should be your personality and your you know, you too, as a couple distilled into a piece of paper.

Amy Loewenberg:

Yeah. And I think that's a really important role that you play in helping these invitations be a reflection of who the couple are. Yeah,

Sarah Schwartz:

yeah. And I think, you know, when you say that, you know, these kind of post pandemic wedding invitations, people are just, you know, going all out. I mean, maybe it sort of bypassing etiquette just sort of is connected to this, like we save hand, we survived pandemic, I'm getting married, I'm doing it how I want. And, you know, that's a beautiful thing. I mean, and that's very interesting for the industry that people feel so you know, open to do what, how they want.

Ashleigh Pritchard:

Yeah, and I'm finding people are a lot more willing to go out there more with their invitation designs, doing more interesting custom artwork on them more interesting formats, and really, trying to make their budget do more fun things, especially for couples who are doing a smaller guestlist than they would have. They have more wiggle room to do some bells and whistles and extras on their invitations. Yeah,

Amy Loewenberg:

that's really interesting. I mean, I think we're probably going to see a whole bunch of new trends evolve over the next few months.

Sarah Schwartz:

I'm just going to press with our summer issue of stationary trends and we have a lot of wedding coverage and that is exactly what I am so glad it agrees with what I what I heard in my reporting, which is with a smaller guestlist you can you know, dedicate your budget to custom envelope liners to you know, whatever it is that you want to you know, take it over the top that maybe might have been out of reach with a you know, 200 Guest count, you know, It's now like a little accessible. So um, you know, stationery that speaks to what I'm going to refer to as overlooked communities is a hallmark of your range. Whether it's LGBTQ T, AIA or black lives matter. You have merchandise for it all, including free protest posters, which are so awesome. Yeah. And you make it really clear on your site, via your guiding principles, what you advocate for, and you're welcome policy, as you mentioned, that everyone is welcome under your paper roof. It's right there in black and white charm cat will never discriminate against anyone's race, age, nationality, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or gender identity. It's wonderful that you put your values and beliefs out there like that. And it was a little when I first saw it, I was like, Wow, I've never really seen that on a stationary website. Do you see other makers starting to do the same? And in your opinion, should they,

Ashleigh Pritchard:

you know, how you run your business and what the personality of your business is a personal decision. You know, we're small makers. For many of us, our business is who we are. And so for me, that that's who I am. And I feel very driven to, to advocate for my beliefs through my business. And I am inspired by some other makers that I've seen who do, you know, they have pride things, or they've done Black Lives Matter products. And seeing them do, it makes me feel more empowered to do it as well. My guiding principles on my website, I felt like I needed to put those up there more for me than for other people. They serve as sort of a reminder to myself as I'm doing product development, going through my business development, that this is what I want my business to be. That's so cool. It's like your little Manifesto. Exactly.

Sarah Schwartz:

What do you hear from your customers? Like, what have you have your clients commented on it? And if so, what what do those comments tend to be?

Ashleigh Pritchard:

So far, they've been mostly positive, can't think of any particular negative feedback I've gotten. I have noticed sometimes on like Instagram posts, I'll have a spike in unfollows. And by See you later,

Sarah Schwartz:

there's not the card right, this is just not for you find something else?

Ashleigh Pritchard:

Yeah. You know, I am actually very encouraged by let you know, I've gotten a lot of good feedback on on my products. And yeah, that makes me you know, feel good. That's what I want. Absolutely, absolutely.

Sarah Schwartz:

So when you do sort of create merchandise for these underserved communities, for lack of a better term, how do you how do you approach it? How does that creative process work? Is it different than what might be done for more sort of, for lack of a better term, more like, products that speak to the masses?

Ashleigh Pritchard:

Yeah, I mean, I usually try to, you know, talk about it with friends, um, and, you know, do a little bit of market research, before I finalize a design or a product for the community that I may not be a part of. And otherwise, it's fairly similar. I get a lot of my ideas through interactions with friends and family. And a lot of my cards, I try to speak to a more specific audience. Even you know, like a nerdy cards, I have some cards that might open most people wouldn't get the joke. And but then the people who do get the joke are so excited to see that joke on a card. And so I think my best sellers would be pretty surprising to some people. I love

Amy Loewenberg:

that it's these little cultural threads that you're, you know, weaving into your work that's so subtle that you know, the masses don't pick up on it, but the ones that do I mean, you just are building your audience. That's great.

Sarah Schwartz:

That's awesome. I love the idea. They're like, almost like little easter eggs, you know for Yeah, exactly. Lovely. Yes. So when we were when we were preparing, you know, these questions I I reviewed, I was reviewing just looking through your range on the brand wise platform and I you know, your fuck your thoughts and prayers, card, stickers and buttons, like really, really jumped out on me. I saw it. I took in your calligraphy and presentation and I was just like, Whoa, yes. I don't talk about it too much. I've started talking about a little more lately, and we did lose a member of my extended family in Parkland. On February 14 2018. Alec Schachter was 14, he was in ninth grade. It's actually the same year my daughter is this year, and he was sitting in his English class when he was murdered. There have been many times since that horrible day that I mentioned this socially and felt sort of like, sort of regretted doing so because I felt like I was sort of brushed off or talked down to and I totally understand that it's a pretty grisly subject. And people don't really know what to say. But you know, it's, it's my life. It's my family's life. And, you know, we all have very strong feelings about it. So, when I'm bringing it up, I guess I'm really just looking for validation. So I think that there's just such a big value in putting this kind of merchandise out there. Seeing it just seems to say, Yes, what you were feeling is completely okay, and makes me feel like I'm expressing myself in a sharp, stylish matter, that sort of hard to do, because I'm still pretty emotional about this. So I would love to hear your thoughts on the inherent value of expressing these ideas beautifully and cohesively on your product and what, what sort of value you think that imparts on them?

Ashleigh Pritchard:

Yeah, I mean, I haven't had a struggle, you know, an emotional hit like that. I've had some of my own stuff that I've dealt with. And it's hard when you're on the other side of it, and you don't know what to say. And it's hard when you're the one feeling it, and people give you a rote answer that doesn't have any meaning anymore. And in some cases, like the the thoughts and prayers in response to shootings is, at this point, it's brushing you off. And it's dismissive, and no one deserves to have their feelings dismissed. Everyone's feelings are valid, what you feel is real, because what you experience is real. And I think, especially I think it's become more pression, as we've all been dealing with the collective trauma of a pandemic, to be able to say, you know, what you feel is is valid and what you feel is real, and you shouldn't be ashamed to feel it. And so when I, when I designed that card, I was at kind of a setup point. Now tired of hearing thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers, and thoughts and prayers are fine, but do something because you also can do something. And that was that was one of those designs where I was like, I need to say this, and I need to make this one. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Sarah Schwartz:

And so I guess I'm curious, do you get feedback from your customers, where they're like, Oh, my gosh, I love this. I feel seen. I feel like you should if you're not.

Ashleigh Pritchard:

I do. You know, I do. And, but that feedback is honestly the the main driver of my business.

Amy Loewenberg:

It's, it's authentic. It's, it's real. So, you know, congratulations. But I just want to say, or I just like to add that by you creating that is enabling other people to say the words that they haven't been able to. So it's, it is a win, win. And, yeah, get out and do something by putting on that pin by putting on that that sticker is an action that someone can take and who knows what conversations sparked from that, and you're the driver of that. So?

Ashleigh Pritchard:

Yeah, I'm definitely a believer in you know, you may not be able to make the one big change that you want to but even small changes, you never know what can happen.

Amy Loewenberg:

100% small steps can take you a far far away. So let me ask you a question that we ask all of our guests at the end of our podcasts. We are curious if this past year has had any impact on the way you see stationery and like to ask what you see as being maybe some of the things we might see in the future for stationery.

Ashleigh Pritchard:

I definitely think this past year has been a big year for stationery a lot of people rediscovered the magic of a greeting card and the the magic Mail. You know, there's nothing like going out to the mailbox and pulling out that wad of paper and go through it junk junk junk, what's this? That, you know that that's a little change you can make in a person's life, that you never know what kind of impact that's going to have. And so I think there's definitely going to be a continued revival of greeting cards. And I think there's also a big push for more more affirmative and positive approaches to mental health not not saying that you should feel good all the time and understanding that it's okay, at some point, you know, sometimes you're going to be upset, or you're going to be, you know, exhausted, or you're going to be anxious, and it's okay to feel those feelings. And it's nice to see that approach kind of work its way into the mainstream. I think greeting cards are definitely on the forefront of a lot of social movements, greeting card designer survey responses. They are they are

Amy Loewenberg:

agreed, agreed. Well, Sara, and I would like to thank you profusely for joining us for the paper playing cocktail hour podcast, we've enjoyed talking with you and hearing your perspectives. And I know that we would just love to thank you for the work that you do. And the ease that you enable your clients to move through life events, be them happy or with aggression. So thank you.

Ashleigh Pritchard:

Thank you so much for having me on. It's always a pleasure to talk with you.

Sarah Schwartz:

Thank you, this was a real treat to get to get a chance to see a little bit into your process. And I can't wait to see you and your range in person. Yes,

Ashleigh Pritchard:

I will be assuming it go. It happens at New York now in the newly reimagined GCA village. Nice. I am very excited to to be there. And I can't wait. I'm gonna have all new, shiny printed catalogs ready to go.

Amy Loewenberg:

We are so excited to have you there. And I know Sarah and I will be running by the CEOs to this weekend

Sarah Schwartz:

talking about trade shows that's like music to my ears. So people get excited about the Nordstrom twice a year. I don't care. I see some new stationery.

Amy Loewenberg:

Well, it's exciting. You know, everything has its path. And everything has led you to this place right now. And I think you will find the same energy and a lot of the same faces in the newly imagined stationery and gift we are 100% focused on celebrating the community of stationery and paper that is so vital and so important to us. And we thank you for being a part of that and a part of our journey. So thank you.

Ashleigh Pritchard:

Yeah, I'm excited to see how how things progress. And you know, definitely the booth placement for the GCA village is fantastic. So

Amy Loewenberg:

Well, there you go. So thank you, and we will see you soon. Yeah, I look forward to it. Bye. Bye.

Sarah Schwartz:

Well, that was really amazing. Thank you again, Ashley for joining us for chat and cocktails on this really, really important and timely topic.

Amy Loewenberg:

Yeah, extremely important and timely, she really does bring a voice to people in a stationary community that may need a little help stepping into the role that they want to play in the stationary community or in the buying community. I really appreciate all that she shared with us as as much as I want to appreciate what you have shared with us to Sarah, I want to acknowledge that and just say thank you that I can't imagine what it's like to be in your shoes. But I do appreciate you using your voice to share something like that. And using our platform, I think was just I just I'm very appreciative that you opened up to us. So thank you.

Sarah Schwartz:

Thank you so much, Amy. Somehow all this thoughts and prayers nonsense makes it harder for those who really want to genuinely express how much they are also hurting from all this. So there's just a lot of levels of frustration, anger and sadness. But I'd be really remiss not to mention all the work that Alex's dad max Schachter has done since February of 2018. He started Safe Schools for Alex you can find that at Save schools for alex.org. It is the first statewide dashboard to reduce violence in the schools. More information about Max is at max Schachter calm. It's spelled ma x s c h a CHTR. He has devoted his life to school safety. He has met with two presidents now To that end and has just tirelessly advocated for school safety. He calls his journey one from anguish to advocacy, and for that reason, he's just a huge personal inspiration of mine. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't still post on Instagram pics of your paper plane using the hashtags, the paper plane podcast and paper plane cocktail hour. Amy, where can our listeners find you in the meantime? Well, you

Amy Loewenberg:

guys can connect with me on [email protected] ny and o-w LinkedIn or email me at work. I always want to highlight our amazing community on my spotlight podcast and feature on my Instagram store tours and I am getting out now which is truly exciting. I'm able to help connect you to new and needed resources and answer any of your New York now market or digital market questions. And Sarah Why don't you share how we can connect with you.

Sarah Schwartz:

Probably the best place to connect with me is at the paper nerd comm you can see more fabulous stationery coverage check out my podcast the paper fold and access stationary trends, the industry's award winning design driven trade quarterly as well. It's always a pleasure to learn more about makers and spotlight their work, whether it's in public publication, blog, or podcast form. If you want to connect, I'd love to hear from you.

Amy Loewenberg:

So please don't hesitate to reach out to either of us with comments questions, feedback suggestions for guests or just to say hi and introduce yourself. Thank you again for joining Sarah and I for the paper playing cocktail hour. We will be sharing new episodes the second Thursday of every month at 5pm. Eastern Standard Time. So until then, cheers