So you’re not into counting up birthday salutations on Facebook (so slapdash) or text-ing on anniversaries (too impersonal). The alternative of putting pen to paper can be as rewarding for the sender as the recipient. A host of card shops takes the experience beyond the ordinary, with old-world designs produced on antique letterpresses and handmade messages that pop. Here’s where to go.
You will be transported to Dickensian London when you step inside Jonathan Wright and Company (7404 Beverly Blvd., L.A., 323-931-1710 or jonathanwright.com). Behind a glass door at the back of the shop are three hand-operated printing presses that turn out note cards as well as custom stationery. The collection includes botanical and animal prints, ornate scrollwork, and visual puns. Check out the finely rendered baby greetings from Snow & Graham, the clever cards from Hello!Lucky, and the contemporary die cuts from Egg Press.
At Urbanic Paper Boutique (1644 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, 310-401-0427 or urbanicpaper.com), owner Audrey Woollen’s enthusiasm for all things paper is contagious. Feminine, retro-inspired looks fill the bright, tiny space. Among the L.A.-area letterpress standouts are Dee&Lala (animal motifs in vibrant hues), the Social Type (lettering in pastel shades accented with silver or gold foil), and Fugu Fugu Press (woodblock style). In a nook called the Bridal Lounge, Woollen offers consultations on custom wedding invitations.
Aficionados of Pulp (452 S. La Brea Ave., L.A., 323-937-3505) know the store as a source for gag gifts, wrapping paper, and cards for any event. The last are organized by inventive categories such as “Hee Hee Hee Hee,” “Unashamedly Blank,” and “You Are Going to Kill Me” (belated birthday). Look for the cards reprinted with New Yorker cartoons or the artists’ collages of paint, beads, feathers, and wire from New York-based Constance Kay. Nontraditional themes include pet sympathy and gay anniversary.
Among the stationery sets, albums, journals, and pens at Arts & Letters on Main (2665 Main St., Ste. C, Santa Monica, 310-392-9076 or artsandlettersonmain.com), wedding guests and last-minute Romeos will find a carefully edited array of cards—“no raunchy humor,” says Linda Oppenheim, who’s owned the 25-year-old establishment for the past 8 years. In addition to bar and bat mitzvah and birthday standards, she stocks work from local artisans: Curmudgeon Cards (adorned with postage stamps and vintage fabrics), Felittle People (line drawings of children and animals), and Biellafiore (decorated with pressed flowers).
The tone is sophisticated at Sugar Paper (1749 Ensley Ave., Century City, 310-277-7804; Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th St., No. 27, Santa Monica, 310-451-7870; or sugarpaper.com). In the tradition of Soolip on Melrose, graphic designers and cofounders Chelsea Shukov and Jamie Grobecker bring a quiet elegance to their letterpress cards and custom stationery. Southern California lines range from the mash notes of Irvine’s Wiley Valentine to the birthday wishes of San Diego’s Elum Designs, which experiment with geometric forms.
The gift boutique Lula Mae (100 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, 626-304-9996 or lulamae.com) offers more than 400 card lines. Popular picks include the Beverly Hills-based Red Cap, with its bug-eyed figures that seem to crawl off the page, and Maginating, whose anthropomorphic characters are created by a former animator. Nearby at the bookstore Vroman’s (695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 626-449-5320 or vromansbookstore.com), the second floor houses a vast card selection, many from Papyrus. In the small “Local Artists” section, you’ll discover one-of-a-kind pieces, like those bearing snarky sentiments from Studio City-based Hard Cards.
Photograph by Lucas Zarebinski