A card to call my own

[Mieke ten Have] As with many considered-obsolete paper relics, I have a certain preoccupation with calling cards. Calling cards of society’s past necessitated only the bearer’s name, as though all contact information was decidedly already known to the card’s recipient. Receiving or leaving one must have felt like being in some sort of an exclusive club — a Victorian notion I find intriguing for its mystery and strangeness.

I can’t help but think of Chopin’s The Awakening — each calling card that Edna Pontellier receives seems to hammer another nail into her proverbial coffin. All morbid literary associations aside, I do find calling cards so very chic: I went quite nuts for Alyson Kuhn’s vintage French post on the subject just recently. I treasure several stacks of my great grandparents’ and great grandmother’s calling cards, my favorite set being this one, below:

I love the neo-medieval aesthetic in print, so when I decided to have my own version of calling cards made for my blog, I found a gentleman in Brooklyn who had nearly that exact same gothic font in his studio (though the comparative gluttony of text in mine made the final product quite opposite from its original inspiration). Patrick Barrett, of Lucky Duck Press, inherited his turn of the century press from his great grandfather.

It seemed predestined by the paper deities above that Mr. Barrett should be emulating my great grandmother’s calling cards on his great grandfather’s letterpress; I delighted in paying a visit to his studio and watching him press each card by hand. I’d actually never seen the letterpress process in action before (I know, I know, me with the paper blog — blasphemy!) and after a recent conversation with Nancy Sharon Collins, who informed me that only 5% of stationers set type by hand, I felt it was surely my time to see this vestigial tradition for myself.

I was impressed by how precise the printer must be; as he explained, the human eye is so attuned to the slightest irregularity that any letters or lines the smallest fraction of an inch off center read as quite crooked. It was a soothing process to watch for its rhythmic movements, but I can assure you, it is far from an easy task to pay such consummate attention to the minutest of details.

It was with great patience that Mr. Barrett aided me as I deliberated over the right amount of “modernity” to imbue my blog calling cards with; I wanted the gothic print, but I decided to enlarge the scale to give it some daring. I also thought that an aquamarine blue would give the heavy font some levity and make the characters a bit more dynamic.

I love the way they came out. But they’re still not as chic as great grammy’s (who is pictured below, spectacles, fur and all). I am sure it has to do with the singular sparseness and statement that just a name invokes, as opposed to the tangible banality of phone numbers, e-mail addresses and websites. Madonna and Prince definitely had the right idea with one-name infamy. Perhaps I’ll be so bold with my next set.

We think Mieke ten Have’s new calling cards strike the perfect balance between modernity and neo-medieval, and we hope she will indulge us with samples. Mieke has also written for Felt & Wire about panoramic and trompe-l’oeil wallpaper and 19th century books. Highly recommended for all aficianados of the paper arts is Mieke’s blog, The Paper Trail. Mieke was recently named associate style editor for Elle Decor.

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Comments (2)

  1. Posted by Allyson on 01.4.11 at 9:55 am

    I love the idea that you would know someone so well that all you have to do is leave your name and they will take care of the rest. Thanks for another great post Mieke!

  2. Posted by Paperlover on 01.4.11 at 6:04 pm

    LOVED this post. How sweet to think about your grandmother traveling around town leaving and receiving cards. Sort of the Edwardian version of Facebook “likes”.

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