Gold Leaves

Here's a set we did which shows off new technique. (Well, new to this blog … the technique itself is hundreds of years old.) Overall, it's sort of a modified combination of elements from Whirl and Vignette, with a custom, gold-foil-stamped art element. This set included an RSVP card with printed return address envelopes, and — as a nice additional piece — corresponding note cards for the couple's thank you notes.

The custom art motif was inspired by an architectural detail from the wedding venue: a brass inset from a handrail, depicting a golden tumble of leaves, stems and vines. Pretty sweet likeness, huh? The artwork is a perfect re-creation, but to really connect it to the brass original — to make it pop and shine — foil stamping was used throughout the set.

Foil stamping goes back to European Monks in the Middle Ages, but it was possibly inspired by the gold leafing techniques of ancient Egypt. It's a heat-transfer process: an impression is made, pressing metallic foil to the paper surface, and foil is left behind in the impressed design or bits of type. It's a separate process from letterpress (which doesn't apply heat, just pressure and usually pigment), and it creates a look you can't get with ink.

Below is a closer look, showing how the foil reflects light.

Of course, there are pros and cons to foil stamping, so it's best to use the process thoughtfully. As we've mentioned, it gives a shiny, mirrored look. (Yes, metallic ink is an option — but it usually looks only just slightly metallic when printed on cotton paper.) And because stamped foil is opaque, it can be printed on dark backgrounds; it will appear high in contrast, instead of taking on some of the paper's tone and blending in, as ink would to some degree.

Onto the (yes, inevitable) disadvantages: first, it's more expensive than ink. Not all letterpress printers do foil stamping themselves, so it has to be sent out, which can extend the turnaround time. And from a technical standpoint, the edges don't print as crisply as using the regular letterpress-and-ink process — so fine detail work isn't as clean.

For this job, however, it was the perfect solution. Above, see how the lovely details of the set are carried throughout: from the custom double border used on the invitation and the thank you card, to the gold foil-stamping used for the the  "to" and leaf dingbat, to the leaf motif used with the return address on the envelope flap. (Note the gold ink selected to match the the color of the gold foil accents.)

Letterpress printing with foil stamping, as it's used here, really is something special. And despite the the fact the processes have been around for centuries, most people have probably never seen both techniques used together — nor held in their hands something printed this way. Bits of shiny gold next to crisp, black text on a heavy pearl paper stock: this invitation sets the stage for an elegant, formal wedding.

Photos by Sarah McCarty Arneson

Drawing Inspiration: Art, Cultural Traditions, Local Pride

From a creative professional's perspective, Sneha and Dylan were dream clients. The did research, they "shopped local," and they visited the studio — both to talk with Travis, and to see (and feel) letterpress samples in person. Most importantly, they had a solid design vision and provided concrete inspiration and references.

Parklife Press did custom designs for both the save the date card and the invitation set. For the former, Sneha and Dylan said they wanted "whimsical ... like the opening scenes of a Wes Anderson film." (For a graphic designer and film buff to hear this? He knows it's the start of a fun job.)

The list of inspirations for the invitation set was longer, but no less interesting to fit together. To start with, it was to be "a bit more formal" than the save the date cards.

For the couple, it was tiny details that made this set distinctive and personal. They wanted to incorporate "flower garlands from traditional Indian weddings." To do this, Travis used a blind deboss impression — thereby lending texture to the background and creating a subtle, striped effect which was in keeping with the design's formal tone. Sneha and Dylan chose the green and gold colors they "often see in the beautiful forests here," colors which they used in the wedding and reception. (The heavy-weight cards were edged in gold, setting off the deep green of the text.) And finally, they wanted to "give a nod to our new home in Durham by featuring a romanticized bull." That bull, extending a single rose, appears on both the save the date card and on the invitation's envelope flap return address.

Commissioning custom designs, especially when the turnaround time is short, can be nerve-wracking for clients. But it was a positive experience for Sneha, who said, "Travis was so easy to work with and incredibly quick to respond to our edits." And the resulting product really set the tone for their big day: "We have received more compliments on the invites than we could have ever imagined," she said. "He helped two very time-constrained and design-naive individuals make absolutely beautiful invitations we will treasure forever."

Photos by Sarah McCarty Arneson