Kamal’s Journey through India: Part I – Gujarat, “The Jewel of the West”

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.

Bella Figura designer Kamal with her father in India

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.

Kites from Gujarat for the Uttarayan International Kite Festival

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.

Scenes from Gujarat, India

Kites from Gujarat for the Uttarayan International Kite 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!

Scenes from the Uttarayan International Kite Festival in Gujarat, IndiaA colorful kite flying in the sky during the Uttarayan International Kite Festival Scenes from the Uttarayan International Kite Festival in Gujarat, India

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.

Scenes from a kite market during the Uttarayan International Kite Festival in Gujarat, India

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.

Scenes from the Uttarayan International Kite Festival in Gujarat, India

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.

Lanterns and kites floating into the sky during the Uttarayan International Kite Festival in Gujarat, IndiaLanterns floating into the sky during the Uttarayan International Kite Festival in Gujarat, IndiaNight scenes from the Uttarayan International Kite Festival in Gujarat, India

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.

A stroll through Carroll Gardens with Courtney Jentzen of Swiss Cottage Designs

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 - Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn tour with Swiss Cottage Designs

Smith Canteen is a great little coffee shop with awesome baked goods, sandwiches, and the best lemonade around in my humble lemonade loving opinion.

Smith Canteen - Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn tour with Swiss Cottage Designs

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.

Black Gold - Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn tour with Swiss Cottage Designs

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.

Ted & Honey Cafe | Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn tour with Swiss Cottage Designs

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.

Farmacy | Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn tour with Swiss Cottage Designs

Farmacy - Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn tour with Swiss Cottage Designs

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.

Mazolla Bakery | Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn tour with Swiss Cottage Designs

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.

Cobble Hill Variety in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn tour with Swiss Cottage Designs

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.

Bodega cat | Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn tour with Swiss Cottage Designs

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!

Meet the Designer: Courtney Jentzen of Swiss Cottage Designs

We love any chance we can get to take a peek at the lives of our designers and calligraphers, so today we’re thrilled to have Courtney Jentzen (our September Designer of the Month) give us a tour of her studio! We’ll let Courtney take it from here!
Bella Figura designer Courtney Jentzen of Swiss Cottage Designs
Hello from Brooklyn! I’m Courtney from Swiss Cottage Designs and I’m so excited to be a part of the Bella Figura family. I love the unique styles and print methods Bella Figura offers to their brides. I am certainly looking forward to the 2015 release, it’s going to be a good one full of new treats (especially from us!) Thanks for having us on the blog!
Swiss Cottage Designs studio tour
This blog post is a peek into our life here in Brooklyn. I founded Swiss Cottage Designs in 2009 after working in the design industry for 4 years. While those years were filled with amazing professional experiences, I always knew I wanted to work for myself. Thus, SCD was born! We specialize in illustration, invitations and custom branding. In the last 5 years we’ve had the pleasure of working with brands such as Warby Parker, Crown Publishing, and of course, Bella Figura! As well as many, many wonderful couples and planners. I feel so lucky to be in such an amazing and inspiring industry.
Custom illustrations by Courtney Jentzen of Swiss Cottage Designs
We’re located in Carroll Gardens, a Brooklyn neighborhood of tree lined streets, historic brownstones and about a million places to grab tasty treats (it’s kind of a problem, really.) We have a home studio which means the neighborhood becomes sort of like a co-worker. We have two huge windows in our office that look out onto the street. I love glancing over to watch the neighborhood pass by our windows. I see the seasons change all from the comfort of my little desk. While the space is small, we’ve made it work for us with clever organization and about $800.00 worth of IKEA storage boxes. I love the freedom that working out of my home provides, and while it’s not for everyone, it certainly works for me.
Swiss Cottage Designs studio in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
Swiss Cottage Designs studio in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
I have tried to make the space a place where I feel calm and really want to spend time in. Because, if I’m being honest, I’m in here a lot! I have a large inspiration board above my desk that I’m constantly tinkering with; adding and subtracting new bits and pieces. I’ve reached capacity on wall space as each open spot is filled with pieces of art to inspire me throughout the day.
Swiss Cottage Designs studio tour
A day typical day (if there is such a thing) around the studio consists of lots and lots of emails, drawing, scanning, painting, designing, packaging, eagerly awaiting shipments from the printer, opening said shipments with bated breath, more emails, drawing, packaging and of course illicit amounts of coffee and tea. Running a business is the most incredible experience yet can be just as equally frustrating! There are days when the printer jams all your envelopes, a FedEx package goes missing and a press run comes back wrong and you just want to phone it in. Then you have days that are better than anything you could have imagined. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Swiss Cottage Designs studio tour

Sarah Hanna Travels – Adventures in Morocco

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!

Moroccan lanters seen during Bella Figura calligrapher Sarah Hanna's travels to Marrakech

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…. Artisans and patterns abound in Marrakech, Morocco | Bella Figura designer travels with Sarah Hanna

….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.

On the streets of Marrakech, Morocco | Bella Figura designer travels with Sarah Hanna

Scenes from the streets of Marrakech. 

Cafe inside the gardens of Yves Saint Laurent

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.  At the Gardens of Yves Saint Laurent | Bella Figura designer travels with Sarah Hanna In the Gardens of Yves Saint Laurent | Bella Figura designer travels with Sarah Hanna

Henna artist in Marrakech | Bella Figura designer travels with Sarah Hanna
Henna artist in Marrakech I definitely did not ask this henna tattoo artist in the square to paint a bracelet on my wrist. But she worked so quickly, she was done before I could say ‘no thank you.’ Instead, I thought, “Wow. I wish I could work that quickly to fill my Bella orders. Then it wouldn’t matter from WHICH time zone I was working.” 
Little sorority girl tip: Nail polish remover can take anything off. 
Bella Figura calligrapher Sarah Hanna hiking in Marrakech, Morocco
Climbing a waterfall…in flip flops. The trip was a surprise. I did not know where we were going until we arrived at the airport. I packed for Italy. Oops. C’est la vie!
Waterfall in Marrakech, Morocco | Bella Figura designer travels with Sarah Hanna
Natural fridge in Marrakech, Morocco - the waterfall pours cold water over the bottles to keep everything cool
A brilliant natural fridge The waterfall pours cold water over the bottles and keeps everything cool. This is at one of the many cafes built into the mountain on the climb up the waterfall.
A restaurant built into a mountain in Marrakech | Bella Figura designer travels with Sarah Hanna
A restaurant built into a mountain in Marrakech grilled meats and vegetables at a rooftop lunch in Marrakech + Coke bottles with Arabic calligraphy
Rooftop lunch in Marrakech – grilled meats and vegetables. Tap water is not a great idea, but a coke with beautiful Arabic calligraphy is!

Sarah Hanna Travels – Adventures in France, Part III

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.

Bella Figura calligrapher Sarah Hanna in Cassis, France

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.

Sarah Hanna travels: fresh produce is available every week at the Cassis, France farmer's market
Sarah Hanna travels: Market day in Cassis France

Left: the window of a local patisserie. Right: market day in the center of Cassis, France.
Bella Figura designer travels with Sarah Hanna - at Absinthe Restaurant in Paris

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!

Bella Figura designer travels with Sarah Hanna - at Absinthe Restaurant in Paris

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!

Bella Figura designer travels with Sarah Hanna - eating at home, French style

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.

Bella Figura designer travels with Sarah Hanna - eating at home, French style

Sarah Hanna at the children's cooking school in 'La tête à toto' boutique in Cassis, 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.

The children's cooking school at la tete at toto boutique in Cassis, France

The children's cooking school at La tête à toto' boutique in Cassis, France

Many thanks to Sarah for sharing another glimpse of her life in France! Next week we’ll share Sarah’s travels to Morocco!

Meet Designer Chelsea Petaja – our July Designer of the Month

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.

Bella Figura designer Chelsea 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.

Bella Figura designer Chelsea Petaja's workspace

Bella Figura designer Chelsea Petaja's workspaceBella Figura designer Chelsea Petaja's workspace

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!

Designs by Chelsea Petaja are on sale through the month of July 2014!

Harvest by Chelsea Petaja for Bella Figura is on sale through the month of July 2014!

Wreath Crest by Chelsea Petaja for Bella Figura is on sale through the month of July 2014!

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.


Hand Calligraphy Trends with Sarah Hanna

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.

Calligraphed envelopes from Bella Figura calligrapher Sarah Hanna, featuring Victoria, her most popular style

Classic Victoria hand calligraphed envelope

Calligraphed envelopes from Bella Figura calligrapher Sarah Hanna, featuring Victoria, her most popular style

Classic Victoria hand calligraphed envelope

Calligraphed envelopes from Bella Figura calligrapher Sarah Hanna, featuring her Embellished Victoria hand

Embellished Victoria hand calligraphed envelope – Sarah Hanna’s most lively style 

Callaway styled hand calligraphed envelopes by Bella Figura calligrapher Sarah Hanna

Classic Callaway – the up-and-comer (Callaway is the new kid, but she is bound to be the next homecoming queen!)

Callaway styled hand calligraphed envelopes by Bella Figura calligrapher Sarah Hanna

Classic Callaway hand calligraphed envelope 

A hand calligraphed note by Sarah Hanna, written on a Bella Figura Lace social note
The hand-written note is making a come-back! Just ask the New York Times. Emotion comes alive in a way that electronic communication simply cannot. I am often commissioned to calligraph a toast or a quote or something special to be framed. It doesn’t have to be long or fancy (or written by you)…just intentional. In the words of that brilliant booze-hound Don Draper, “Make it simple, but significant.”

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!!

A client recently commissioned Sarah Hanna to create hand calligraphed promise cards for an elaborate proposal

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!

A custom dance floor monogram penned by Bella Figura calligrapher Sarah Hanna

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 style hand calligraphed envelopes by Bella Figura calligrapher Sarah Hanna

Blue Danube hand calligraphed envelope 

London Script hand calligraphed envelopes by Bella Figura calligrapher Sarah Hanna

London script – perfect for your thank you note to Her Majesty. Or your wedding at Ascot.

Honoured Guest hand calligraphed envelopes by Sarah Hanna

Honoured Guest hand calligraphed envelope

Embellished Honoured Guest hand calligraphed envelopes by Sarah Hanna

Embellished Honoured Guest – a fuller version of Honoured Guest

 

Sarah Hanna Travels – Adventures in France, Part II

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!

La Tête à Toto boutique in Cassis, France
La Tête à Toto boutique in Cassis A children’s shop owner in France (who happens to also be a chef featured in Vogue Europe) asked me to help with décor for her new venture. She was transforming the back space into a children’s cooking and art school, and she wanted me to letter on the walls. Cooking? Art? French? Where do I sign???
La Tête à Toto boutique cooking school for children in Cassis, France
Children’s cooking school (before)
Sarah Hanna calligraphs the walls of La tête à toto' boutique in Cassis, France
Hand-lettering at Tête à Toto It was great fun and a solid French lesson (thanks to Google translate). Up until now, I do most of my French vocabulary training at the grocery store….or when I get home from the grocery store and say, “Oh. I thought that was chicken.”  
La Tête à Toto boutique in Cassis, France - cooking school for children
The finished product

Sarah Hanna hand calligraphed the walls of Tete a Toto, a children's boutique + cooking school in Cassis, France

Fashion meets function under the sink 
La Tête à Toto boutique + cooking school for children in Cassis, France
The cooking school (after) 
Sarah Hanna recently began offering hand-painted social notes
Hand-illustrated correspondence cards In keeping with the ‘fait à la main’ style, this year, I am launching boxed sets of hand-painted correspondence cards. The paper I am using is Fabriano. It is the oldest paper mill in Europe and a favorite of Michaelangelo. Ooh la la! 
Custom lullaby with hand calligraphy and artwork by Sarah Hanna
Customized children’s lullaby I have a sweet spot for all things classic and creative for bébé. I have started to take lullabies and customize the words to fit the new family (for example: ‘If that Crimson Tide won’t roll, Mama’s gonna buy you a fishing pole’ for an Alabama grad mom and a dad who loves to fish). I ask a few questions about the couple and word-smith the poem myself. Then I hand-calligraph and illustrate the piece for the nursery. It’s a perfect gift.
Baby shower + lullaby photographs courtesy of Lauren Louise Photography.

by Erica Henriksen on June 25th, 2014. Category: Our Designers | 1 comment

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Sarah Hanna Travels – Adventures in France, Part I

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!

Bella Figura designer travels: calligrapher Sarah Hanna is currently splitting her time between California and the beautiful village of Cassis, France

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.

 Bella Figura designer travels with Sarah Hanna. A view of Cap Canaille, the highest sea cliff in France
Cap Canaille, the highest sea cliff in France The ocean is just 100 yards from my studio. Every day, I stop working in the afternoon to walk out on the rocks and watch the sunset. Then I pick up a baguette from the local boulangerie and head back to the studio. It is surprisingly easier to work 6 hours ahead of New York than 3 hours behind (in California). I’m not going to lie…both locations are fantastique! In Cassis, my favorite restaurant is La Villa Madie – spectacular food and pinch-me views of the Côte d’Azur. Just a quick 20 minute drive (or motorcycle ride if you are feeling Euro), and you can be at the Relais Magdeleine – which is possibly the most charming hotel and restaurant on the planet.
Sarah Hanna Travels - morning boat rides on the French Riviera
Morning boat rides on the Riviera
Bella Figura calligrapher Sarah Hanna in Les Calanques
Daily walks to Les Calanques On morning walks, I head to Les Calanques, the stunning rock formations in Cassis. Fun fact: the stone base of the Statue of Liberty comes from Cassis. Merci beaucoup, France!
Bella Figura designer travels with Sarah Hanna. Fisherman's statue next to the lighthouse in Cassis
Fisherman’s statue next to the lighthouse in Cassis
Bella Figura designer travels with Sarah Hanna. A classic, old world street in the village of Cassis, France.
A classic, old world street in the village.
Bella Figura designer travels with Sarah Hanna. A gorgeous hand-lettered sign outside of a restaurant in France.
Hand-lettered sign outside of a restaurant ‘Fait à la main’ (English translation: ‘made by hand’) is an integral part of European craftsmanship. Whether it is perfectly-balanced sauce or a gorgeous pair of shoes, things that are made by hand hold value. Many of the menus and store signs are hand-painted or hand-lettered.
Bella Figura designer travels with Sarah Hanna - at the Guerlain flagship boutique in Paris.
The Guerlain flagship boutique in Paris The world is can be a very small place. From California, I work with the amazingly talented Lucas Somoza. He is an elegant-in-every-way American stylist and event designer who splits his time between Paris and New York. Lucas had a Bella Figura client getting married at the Four Seasons George V in Paris. We met at the newly-renovated flagship Guerlain boutique on the Champs Élysées to exchange Bella Figura menu wraps. It was haute couture week in Paris, and Lucas was able to meet between attending the Elie Saab show and a style shoot at Guerlain. I am STILL giddy with excitement over it all! Look at the Guerlain sign. NOT a font. Don’t you just love France?
A calligraphed note from Sarah Hanna
Lucas Somoza is just. so. delightful.
Bella Figura designer travels with Sarah Hanna - at Sennelier Atelier
Sennelier atelier in Paris Just across from the Louvre is the Sennelier atelier. This fine art supply store is a Paris staple and an artist’s dream. Sennelier has created custom pigments for the likes of Picasso and Cezanne (unknown artists at the time)…so I feel as though my new museum-quality watercolor pencils must have a little magic in them.
Bella Figura designer travels with Sarah Hanna - at Sennelier Atelier in Paris
Bella Figura designer travels with Sarah Hanna - at Sennelier Atelier in Paris

Bella Figura designer travels with Sarah Hanna - at Sennelier Atelier in Paris

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!

by Erica Henriksen on June 18th, 2014. Category: Our Designers | No comments

Meet Bella Figura Designer Maura Gauthier

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.

Meet Bella Figura designer Maura Gauthier

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!

Custom illustrations by Bella Figura designer Maura Gauthier

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.

Watercolor artwork by Bella Figura designer Maura Gauthier
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.

Inside Bella Figura designer Maura Gauthier's studio

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.

by Erica Henriksen on May 14th, 2014. Category: Our Designers | No comments

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