Today’s guest post comes from Bella Figura designer Kamal – our featured designer during the month of October. Kamal recently spent a month in India, where she rang in the New Year, enjoyed festive wedding celebrations for her niece, and took in many of the beautiful sites and sounds. Today we’re sharing the first part of her journey – we’ll be sharing more later this month!
India, my beloved country, is known to the world as a land full of culture, tradition, vibrant breathtaking colors, awe inspiring textiles, a mecca of spices, warm hearted hospitality, overwhelming maternal patriotism, and a pool of forward thinking youth determined to make their mark in the world. To me, however, India simply is and forever will be the land of my father. After all, I grew up on endless nights of story telling from him, everything from his favorite sweets to his spiciest food experiments; his childhood friends to his mothers lullabies; his immense struggles to his groundbreaking achievements. It’s the motherland that nurtured his youth, prospered his adult years, influenced his thinking and has forever imprinted its love in his heart and mind. And Mine.
Traveling to India has been a part of my life since I was young, visiting my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Each year was the usual ritual: 2 weeks in Mumbai followed by a week in Gujarat, hence my 2nd dialect, Gujarati. The state of Gujarat is my father’s “home” where many of our family members still live and where my father’s most vivid memories still carry on. Needless to say, I was heavily influenced by the colors and joy of India from a tender age. So when after 13 years, I had the opportunity to travel to India, I was truly overjoyed. The most exciting part was the fact that I was traveling with my parents and my brother – just the four of us, together – like I was 16 again.
Being that my father was raised in the state of Gujarat, located in the Western part of India, its no surprise that his absolute favorite holiday was a festival called Uttarayan, The International Kite Festival – the pride of the “Jewel of the West”. The festival marks the day when winter begins to turn into summer, according to the Indian calendar. It is the sign for farmers that the sun is back and that the harvest season is approaching. Vast cities in Gujarat delve into organizing kite competitions, where kite flying starts as early as 5am and goes on until late night with as many as 8-10 million people indulging in the festival.
The awe-inspiring brilliant colors, grainy textures and leisurely way of life were noteworthy on this special day. It was like “roof-top-party-hopping”. Music was blaring in the air. People were climbing up and down each other’s roofs, drinking King Fishers, leaping and flying their kites, heads up everywhere. The entire state succumbed to a serene yet enticing buzz. It was like nothing that I have ever seen before!
We saw kite markets set up alongside food stalls, children prancing around with their vibrant kites. The Uttarayan kites are made of lightweight paper (AKA tissue paper) and bamboo, and are mostly rhombus shaped with a central spine and a single bow. Many of them are the same size and solid colors but then again, you do see a variety of massive ones, foiled ones, and of course color-blocked ones.
The kites we flew were called ‘Patangs’, fighter kites. The object was simple: try to slash each other’s string in the sky so that your kite is the only one up! May the best kite win! The strings were dyed a gorgeous pink, but were quite deceiving. They were covered with mixtures of glue and ground glass, so when dried, rolled up, and attached to the end of the kite could easily cut your fingers. Sharp and deep, like a paper cut. As we took turns, we realized the difficulty of this sport, concluding that my dad truly was a master, his passion was like riding a bike – he picked up right where he left off.
As the night came to an end, I did a 360 on a neighbor’s rooftop and saw the moon on one end being the perfect segway to the sun setting on another. I took it all in then. The sky transformed from blues and greens to a radiant pink with a breathtaking circle of orange. Just then, as the flecks of strings start disappearing, illuminated kites filled with lights and candles known as tukals or tukkals were launched creating a spectacle in the inky sky mixed with fireworks. The breath-taking sunset was only to be surpassed by the beauty of the thousands of flickering lights emerging into the sky. Moments like these are why I am who I am, as a woman, a mother, a daughter and as a designer.
I can still hear the music in the wind and clamor around me, people still dancing around with excitement. Etched in me is the memory of my dad and the thrill of his childhood, the smile on his face the twinkle in his eye. And Mine.
Today we’re back with another post from Courtney Jentzen, our September Designer of the Month. Courtney’s taking us on a tour of her neighborhood in Brooklyn — take a look!
We’re love calling Brooklyn our home. It’s tough to imagine Swiss Cottage Designs being anywhere else. Our studio is located in Carroll Gardens, a little neighborhood that’s nestled between Cobble Hill, Gowanus, and Red Hook. It’s not tough to find a beautiful block to walk down – the neighborhood is known for its tree lined streets and historic brownstones – or a great new restaurant or shop to check out. While we do love to explore the neighborhood, we also have our tried and true spots that it’s tough to beat.
Smith Canteen is a great little coffee shop with awesome baked goods, sandwiches, and the best lemonade around in my humble lemonade loving opinion.
I highly recommend popping into Black Gold…just know that you’ll be in there awhile. Despite the window reading “records”, Black Gold is more of an infinitely intriguing curiosity cabinet, full of vintage taxidermy, jewelry, art, and yes, records. Plus, they serve coffee! Definitely one of my favorite neighborhood spots.
Ted & Honey is a cute little cafe that serves both breakfast and lunch. It’s right on the corner of a tiny but beautiful park, so grabbing something to go is never a bad option.
The Farmacy is an old school soda fountain, complete with egg creams and employees in those little paper hats. Their ice cream floats are not for the feint of heart. If I don’t think I can conquer one mid-day, I usually go for a blueberry soda.
Mazzola might be our favorite of all (but don’t tell the others) The ladies behind the counter are always so sweet. You really can’t go wrong with iced tea and a few mini muffins…and maybe some crumb cake, a croissant, bear claw, and a cinnamon bun, just in case. We’ve tried them all.
We don’t trust our Swiss Cottage shipments to just anyone. When it comes to shipping, Omar, at Cobble Hill Variety, is our guy. We pay him a visit just about every day – sometimes twice a day during our big production pushes. Even though he’s a few blocks down the street, he’s a very important part of the Swiss Cottage team. I don’t know what we’d do without him.
And lastly, let’s not forget about one of New York’s weird treasures, bodega cats. Mars is one of my favorite bodega cats, not just in the neighborhood but in all of Brooklyn- that is kind of a big deal. You can usually spot him sleeping behind the plants at Martinez Grocery on Court Street. If you don’t see him at first, look closer! He’ll usually come out from hiding to say hello and ask for a few ear scratches.
Thanks for taking a journey around around our little hood! If you’re ever in the area, be sure to drop us a line to say hello!
We’re back with another round of our designer travels series. This week Bella Figura calligrapher Sarah Hanna is sharing her photos and stories from a recent, impromptu trip to Marrakech, Morocco. We’ll let Sarah take it from here!
Hand-made lanterns in Morocco One of the great things about Europe is how easy it is to country-hop. In the US, you might treat yourself to a weekend trip to New York, or tailgate two states over. Similarly, if you are in France, you could hop over to Marrakech, Morocco for the weekend. A carry-on and an hour and a half later, you could be strolling through a spice market….
….or watching artisans make leather bags, or carve stone in the traditional way that has been passed down for generations. Patterns abound. And the calligraphic influence in the stonework is something to behold.
Scenes from the streets of Marrakech.
Coffee break at the YSL gardens in Morocco The gardens of Yves Saint Laurent are in Marrakech. A perfect rest from the bustle of the city and place to be inspired by nature and YSL’s own artwork.
We’re back with more of Sarah Hanna’s travel adventures today! Sarah is an incredibly talented calligrapher who is currently splitting her time between California and the beautiful village of Cassis, France. This week we’re taking a look at French cuisine as part of Sarah’s day-to-day in Cassis.
The weekly market Every Wednesday and Friday is a farmer’s market in the center of town. You can buy everything from produce to flowers to bikinis….life’s essentials.
Absinthe Restaurant in Paris There is another form of art in France – food. I was a very happy girl at Absinthe Restaurant in central Paris. Petits raviolis in a langoustine cream sauce? Oui, s’il vous plait!
A message to the chef It was all so delicious, I had to write a message to the chef in what was left of the langoustine sauce!
Eating at home – French style But you don’t have to eat out to dine elegantly. It’s true – the French are worshipful about their plates. Here are two examples of what ‘eating at home’ looks like in France. Food is art in France.
The children’s cooking school at La Tête à Toto boutique The owner Marie said that if I was going to take photos, I had to be a student the class. Twist my arm! We are making potato croquettes and home-made nutella….which was so delicious that I can never buy nutella again.
Many thanks to Sarah for sharing another glimpse of her life in France! Next week we’ll share Sarah’s travels to Morocco!
Our Designer of the Month for July is Chelsea Petaja! Chelsea joined the Bella Figura family this year and has 5 new designs for 2014 – and they’re all on sale this month! Chelsea’s style is modern yet sweet and has a hand-crafted look. Several of her new designs are on the rustic side and would be perfect for a fall wedding! Chelsea gave us a little peek into her home – where she lives and works with her husband Tec Petaja.
Living, working, loving and entertaining out of one place ain’t no joke. My husband and I recently moved into the same studio space (a reclaimed garage in our backyard) which makes our living quarters just a little tighter… and a little more revealing about our individual working habits. (Like my humming and Tec’s lack of an internal monologue. Ha!) But when setting up our space, I ran across this quote by William Morris that helps me to be honest in my design aesthetic: “If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” For me, white and bright with pops of color and pattern are beautiful. My computer is useful. My drafting table and desk are both. I’m surrounded by artwork and photographs and sketches that are meaningful, but when they become mundane, I switch them up so that this is a space of creativity and inspiration–a space where imagination can wander and emails can be sent.
Take a look at some of Chelsea’s designs below – her entire collection (including invitations, save the dates, social notes, and more!) is on sale for 10% off during the month of July (and you can save an additional 10% if you order 6 printed pieces or more!). Have questions about this promotion? Please, be in touch!
The fine print: this offer is exclusive to designs by Chelsea Petaja and does not apply towards the purchase of other designs. Orders must be placed by 11:59pm Eastern on July 31, 2014 in order to receive this offer.
Asking “What styles can you calligraph?” is like asking a chef, “How many ways can you cook chicken?” If you understand your craft, you know that there are endless variations. And the more you learn, the more there is to learn. Understanding letter forms is the start to taking any font and adapting it for hand-lettered script. Today, Bella Figura calligrapher Sarah Hanna is sharing her favorite calligraphy trends — from the most popular styles and ink colors to the different ways people are using calligraphy to add an extra special touch to life’s most important events.
Trending now: without question, Victoria. I think that is because it is traditional with a personality. Generally, I match the script from the invitation – if that is my calligraphy, excellent. I can match almost any script, though. Black ink is and always will be the most classic, formal ink for addressing wedding invitations. I do, however, custom-mix a lot of gold, amethyst, and pewter.
Classic Victoria hand calligraphed envelope
Classic Victoria hand calligraphed envelope
Embellished Victoria hand calligraphed envelope – Sarah Hanna’s most lively style
Classic Callaway – the up-and-comer (Callaway is the new kid, but she is bound to be the next homecoming queen!)
Classic Callaway hand calligraphed envelope
Unique uses for hand calligraphy: I get a lot of interesting requests. I was recently asked to be part of a truly elaborate beach engagement! My client commissioned me to hand-paint their song on 4 canvas banners. She also had me calligraph promises on 30 different cards to be tied with ribbon to a tree over the candlelight picnic. Her girlfriend is a wedding photographer, and my client made up an alias email and hired her to photograph this special engagement…..but when she arrived to photograph the engagement, she realized it was for her! She said, yes, yes, yes!!
The promise cards for the engagement was a really meaningful one. Wedding toasts and vows mixed with custom painting is a favorite. Right now, I love doing the custom nursery rhymes. And of course, every Christmas, the Santa letters are fabulous! And I am REALLY excited about my new line of Artful Correspondence - hand-illustrated correspondence card sets.
Favorite calligraphy trends: Art that has staying power always gets my vote. A symbol or monogram that can be used after your wedding (which look fantastic on dance floors!), the bride’s married name custom-designed so she can put it on letterpressed stationery and more is an excellent gift. I love these trends, especially the ‘avere’ ‘tenere’ chairs….mais bien sur!
How did you get your start as a calligrapher? My mother Kaye Hanna is an incredible artist, master calligrapher, and my instructor. So, I am turning into my mother! Truthfully, if I end up with a fraction of her talent, I will be a lucky girl.
Blue Danube hand calligraphed envelope
London script – perfect for your thank you note to Her Majesty. Or your wedding at Ascot.
Honoured Guest hand calligraphed envelope
Embellished Honoured Guest – a fuller version of Honoured Guest
Bella Figura calligrapher Sarah Hanna has been sharing photos and stories from her adventures in France, where she’s currently spending time in the gorgeous village of Cassis. Today we’re sharing a few of the projects that Sarah has been working on in France – starting with La Tête à Toto boutique in Cassis, where Sarah calligraphed all over the walls!
Bella Figura calligrapher Sarah Hanna is always on the move doing the most amazing things. Lately, she’s been splitting her time between Sonoma, California and the beautiful village of Cassis, France. Sarah was kind enough to take us on a virtual tour of her day-to-day in France – take a look!
Port of Cassis When I am in France, I live in the ancient fishing village of Cassis. It is a gorgeous town that sits on the French Riviera. This is the port of Cassis. My art studio is on the other side of these buildings.
Many thanks to Sarah for giving us a peek inside her life in France! We’ll be back next week with more photos from Sarah’s travels!
Today we’re getting to know Bella Figura designer Maura Gauthier a little better! Maura is our May Designer of the Month, so all of her designs are on sale through May 31. She’s based in Denver, Colorado and in addition to creating Bella Figura designs, she also offers custom invitation design through her shop, The Paper Guppy. Come behind the scenes with us to check out Maura’s inspiration, her favorite music and how she got her start as an invitation designer.
A little background: I’ve been a graphic designer for 14 years. After working for 5 or 6 years in the corporate world, I branched off to start doing wedding invitations. It started as working with friends on invitations and reception items, and then it branched off to doing friends of friends and then total strangers!
How she got started: In high school I chose to forgo all other electives and I took the studio art program for 4 years. After high school, I knew I wanted to do something with art but I also wanted to combine it with business. After bouncing around between the business and communications school at Syracuse University I ended up majoring in visual communications at the communications school.
Maura’s style: In addition to designing for Bella Figura I also work on custom invitations so everything that I do is different! I work on weddings that are classic and traditional, rustic and elegant, as well as modern and contemporary so I bounce around a little style wise. I do a lot of my own illustrations and I love to focus on typography. Finding the perfect combination of fonts is such a fun challenge!
What inspires her: It’s so cliche, but inspiration is everywhere! Years ago I started a sketchbook with magazine clippings and it’s filled with patterns, illustrations, color combinations etc. that I’ve spotted along the way. Kind of a like a hard copy of Pinterest!
Where she creates: I typically work from a shared office space just outside of downtown Denver. I share it with several other graphic designers. I’m the only one who focuses on weddings but it’s nice to be around people who are doing something similar.
5 things she can’t live without: Number one would be my family and friends! They have supported me along every step of the way as I left the corporate world and took the risk to start my own business. I couldn’t have done it without them! #2 my macbook pro. I work between home and a shared office space so I always have my laptop with me #3 micron pens. I love the fine tip for illustrating. #4 fizzy water – known as seltzer water to most =) I have at least one fizzy water a day – my favorite is orange vanilla from Polar. #5 my iPad. Since my laptop is all business I use my iPad just for fun – I intentionally didn’t set the email up on it! I use it to catch up on blogs, check in on Pinterest and read the news every night before bed!
Maura’s favorite music: This is a question I always find interesting! I listen to a little bit of everything, but I have to admit that I listen to a lot of 90’s hip hop. It’s upbeat and keeps me going throughout the day. My husband says most people left hip hop behind in high school, but I still love it. Totally across the spectrum I also listen to a lot of Yo-Yo Ma – the soothing repetitive quality of the cello keeps me focused on my work.
Many thanks to Maura for giving us a peek inside her life! Be sure to shop her collection and save up to 20% all month long.