What Would They Know? Expert Interview with Elizabeth Kelly of ELK Prints

by | Stationery Wisdom, What Would They Know?, Wisdom


Ms Floral

Elizabeth Kelly of ELK Prints Design & Illustration Studio creates everything from invitation suites through to event decor for wedding days. She’s focussed on telling each couple’s unique story, designing original artwork that reflects individual style and personality. If you’re looking for a stationer who values craftsmanship and doing things beautifully, you’ll want to get to know Elizabeth. Her work is simply stunning (have a scroll and see!) and I’m super excited to be chatting to her today. Read on to find more about her process, what she loves about creating wedding stationery and where she gets her inspiration. She also details why beautiful stationery is so important to a wedding…

Tell us about ELK Prints. How long have you been around?
As a designer I’ve been working in the wider industry for over 10 years. I graduated from a degree in Design at UNSW in 2006 and worked for a studio that specialised in corporate and commercial designs doing a mixture of magazine layouts, branding design, packaging and promotional campaigns.  I established my own freelance business ELK Prints six years ago continuing to work as a print media graphic design specialist whilst developing my illustration skills further. I started focusing on designing wedding invitations around four years ago as I found this to be an area of work that I was really enjoying and an alignment of my various skills.

Why did you decide to become a stationer?
I was keen to do more illustration work as I’ve always loved painting and art and working with brushes and paints instead of always using the computer. Stationery was the perfect choice for me as it allows me to combine my original watercolour artwork with my layout skills and print media knowledge. I get to utilise all those key skills I have developed in one format. I’ve also always really loved beautiful paper, I think your heart can flutter just a little bit at the feel of a nice thick creamy cottony paper imprinted with a beautiful image.

What sets you apart? How would you describe your style?
One of the key differences with my work is that I really take the time to listen to the stories of the couples I work with and let their style infuse my work which makes each piece I do quite different. Some of my designs end up being very rich and detailed with lots of imagery and colour whilst others are more pared back and elegant as I’ve taken that initial inspiration from the style preferences of who I am working with at the time. I only do custom work so each piece is unique and different – I don’t offer any preset designs for people to choose which is a bit different from what a lot of other providers offer. A lot of my work features beautiful botanicals so I’m known mostly for my florals and also for creating watercolour maps with the architectural details of a venue captured in miniature. I am a keen observer and explorer of the world so I tend to reflect those details through my work.

What do you love most about creating wedding invitations?
I love working with beautiful papers, interesting printing techniques and getting to meet a variety of different couples. Weddings are such a positive happy moment in peoples lives so it’s nice to be surrounded by those vibes of love, happiness, family and friendship. Each wedding invitation I design is very different because the couples I work with are all different so I love that each invitation suite is a new and creative challenge.

Are there any trends you’re noticing at the moment?
There’s definitely been a shift away from the traditional stacked invitation suite. Many couples these days are combining everything onto just one or two cards and choosing to convey extra information to guests via a wedding website or taking RSVP’s by email or phone instead of through the post. Trifold and Quadfold invitations are also quite popular at the moment where the story of the wedding day plans can unfold across the individual panels of a one piece design. Couples are also realising that they don’t have to conform to set expectations with their wedding and that they can do things a little differently and reflect their personality a bit more in their design decisions.

What other items do you offer for weddings?
Along with the wedding invitations I also can create pieces for the wedding day. That could be a seating chart, a welcome sign or menus and placecards for the table. If you’ve had a design created for you for your wedding invitations it’s nice to be able to bring those same elements across to the day itself as it creates a sense of unity from invitation to event. Something like a hand-painted and calligraphed placecard also makes a beautiful small take home reminder for your guests to remember your wedding day by.

What is the process of ordering stationery or other items from you?
I start by meeting the couple and chatting about their plans. It’s important to get a sense of what style the wedding will be, what details are important and what might be some design elements that will be significant to them – whether it is establishing a cultural link or reflecting someone’s personality and passions. We’d also discuss the number of guests they are expecting to invite, when they’d like to send the invitations out so we can put together a timeline and if there are any budget constraints to be aware of when designing the invitations. My fee is split into a set design fee and then the printing fees are charged separately. Initially I take a 50% deposit for the artwork fee as an agreement to start work on the actual designs.

Once a couple has worked out the text that they want to include on the invitations and what kind of pieces they’d like produced I will layout the text and sketch up the illustration elements for review. Once the layout is approved I’ll then work on creating the original artwork before scanning in the painting or ink elements and including them in the final layout. Then there’s an opportunity to tweak any wording, choose the papers and finalise the printing quantities. The remaining artwork fee plus the printing fee would then be paid once the artwork is approved prior to sending to the printers. Overall the process usually takes around 1-2 months though some designs can be accomplished quicker or for more complex designs where there is a lot of decision making to be made it can take a little longer.

Do you offer stationery packages?
I don’t offer set packages as I feel that everyone’s requirements are really different and it’s important to be flexible and work to create something that will suit those individuals. Some people will want a full traditional suite with lined envelopes and RSVP cards whilst others will be more concerned about the environmental impact of their wedding and choose to focus on creating a single invitation card but then spend more money in doing it really beautifully with a letterpress and hand-painted finish. In order to make things a little more easier I have kept my artwork fee quite simple by offering just 3 tiered levels depending on the amount of illustration work a couple would like to feature in their invitations.

Do you ever work with wedding stylists on specific weddings?
Yes I’ve worked with a couple of stylists for some of the weddings I’ve created for. A stylist will often have a very clear image of what is required for that wedding and because my work is custom designed I can create exactly what they need to fit that vision. So it works really well.

What’s a typical day at work look like for you?
I usually start by working on the original illustrations for any designs I am currently working on.  That could be an initial pencil draft or it could be painting the final watercolour artwork piece. If I have time left at the end of a day then I’ll spend time answering emails, I tend to be the sort of person who prioritises those clients who have already booked in with me and I’m working with, particularly those who have a set deadline coming up. In the evenings I will usually work on typesetting jobs like putting addressed envelopes together or tasks like lining envelopes that don’t require precious daylight hours to work on.

Why is beautiful stationery so important to a wedding?
Your wedding invitations will be the first thing your guests see – so they really are important as they set the tone for what to expect for the wedding day itself. The vibe and aesthetics of your wedding, whether it is a classic formal event or something more relaxed, are all revealed through what you send out. Beautiful stationery is also a way in which you as a couple can showcase your personality and style. The beauty of a custom designed piece is that you can also incorporate all those little details that are unique and specific to your story.

Where do you find inspiration for new ideas?
Everywhere! I’m a natural explorer of the world around me so I get inspiration from walking around whether it is strolling through a garden, going on a bush walk or observing the architectural details in the buildings of a city. I also read lots of books and magazines and like to keep up to date with with what’s happening in other design fields like fashion, architecture, food, travel, object and interior design. There’s just so much rich inspiration out there wherever you look so it can sometimes be overwhelming trying to work out which idea to pursue.

Favourite wedding invite or decoration you’ve created?
I really loved working with Lulu and Shaun who were married at the end of last year. They came to me with an interesting brief of combining her background in formal menswear and desire to have a Black Tie Affair with his more natural relaxed Margaret River farming background and desire to have a more rustic country wedding. I definitely thrive on the more challenging of creative briefs where I have to find this midpoint between two different people and bring those visions into harmony and unity.

The design created was for a simple elegant invitation with an illustrated monogram of their initials surrounded by a wreath of Western Australian flowers. There is even a nod to the Western Australian Marron with two crayfish included in the design. Lulu then gave me a really interesting challenge to paint her wedding shoes for her. She had the perfect pair in her wardrobe that she wore at her 21st and she wanted to give them the “something blue” touch to match the “something old”. I took one of the design elements of the Geraldton wax flower and painted a design of these in blue onto the shoes.

For this wedding I also worked a lot on the event decor designing the illustrated round menus, table names, seating chart, toilet signs, dessert labels and bar signs. There was even a last minute special request for a portrait of their dog Baker who wasn’t able to attend the wedding so I was able to create for them an illustrated cut out of Baker complete with top hat and bow-tie so that he could attend the wedding in spirit. It’s touches like that which are special and unique and really fulfil me as a creative as well.

What do you like most about working in the wedding industry?
The abundance of creativity – there are so many different aspects to a wedding and each attracts great designers and creatives to create all those elements. There is fashion, flowers, food, photography, styling, all fabulous things that just inspire and spark more creativity so it’s quite a buzz to be working in that kind of atmosphere where you get to design beautiful things.

What are the most challenging parts of your job or something people would be surprised to know about it?
One of the biggest challenges is getting a good scan and reproduction of the original artwork to put into the layout design. Darker designs will scan quite easily but designs with very soft delicate colours are a lot more challenging and weddings most often do usually use this very soft colour palette. In order to get a more accurate capture of the paintwork I often need to use a setting on the scanner which will pick up more details but then you also get the fibres of the paper picked up as well so I need to then carefully go through the scan in photoshop to manually delete out all the little paper marks to get a quality image. That can be quite time-consuming and take almost as long to process than creating the original painting does.

Are you a creative person outside of design and illustration? Do you have other hidden talents?
Absolutely! I think creativity is one of those things that can just spill across the other areas of your life so naturally. I particularly enjoy creating parties for my son Aiden’s birthdays, creating decorations, planning menus that reflect the theme and baking and decorating a cake to suit. I think if I didn’t value my family weekend time so highly I could easily have become a wedding stylist as I really enjoy that kind of creative work as well so for me it’s really fun when I get a chance to be creative outside of my stationery work.

Image: Amelia Soegijono Photography

When you’re not creating amazing designs, where would we find you?
Probably playing LEGO with my son after I pick him up from school. One of the joys about the work I do is that I can balance it nicely with my family commitments so when I’m not working and creating I’m spending time with those I love.

Thank you Elizabeth for sharing your story and your gorgeous work with us. What a treat! Your dedication, talent and creativity is so clear from your words and in your stationery. No wonder couples love working with you in the lead up to their weddings. To find out more about Elizabeth and her stationery, head to the ELK Prints website or look them up on the Polka Dot Directory!

Images: Elizabeth Kelly, ELK Prints

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