Monograms & Memories

Monograms go in and out of style. For some it's not a wedding if there isn't a new monogram to celebrate the union. Two-letter. Three-letter. Script or block fonts. On the dance floor. On the cake. Embroidered onto a wedding dress and engraved onto invitations. For others, monograms are the utmost symbol of all that is passé, the polar opposite of what their wedding is all about.

Sometimes, the very existence of a monogram holds a point in time, memorializing it forever.  The two monograms in this photo are precious to me. The first, AGJ, belonged to my mother's mother, my grandmother. She was the original Hannah who changed her name to Anne because it sounded more young and modern. AGJ was her married monogram, and she had it crafted into an Art Deco brooch. We have pictures of her wearing it back in the 1940s.

And indeed, Anne remains forever young—she died of breast cancer at the age of 36, when my mother was just five years old. Her loss was the defining moment of my mother's life, and as I was her first born, I was given the honor of carrying the name forward. I wear it proudly. Sometimes, on special occasions or for an important meeting, I take out the brooch and put it on. It feels good to wear it.

The second brooch in the photo, MFD, belonged to Anne's sister, Mimi. She was my mother's aunt, and the one who raised her. Mimi was the one I knew as my grandmother, the kind-to-her-core, loving and good-hearted woman who scooped up my mother in her loss and grief and made her life as good and whole as she could.

Monograms aren't just pretty graphics to add visual interest—sometimes they hold deeper meaning. Styles come and go, but the stories behind them live on.

On making things.

Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. – Henry Ford

While our work is anything but mass-produced, Henry Ford did have the right idea about some things. Pictured here is an all-women assembly line working together in the high-tech world of radio back in the 1920s. There's something about industrious women making things that makes my heart beat faster.


Women making radios in the 1920s using assembly line techniques developed by Henry Ford.  Photo credit: Library of Congress

Women making radios in the 1920s using assembly line techniques developed by Henry Ford.  Photo credit: Library of Congress

We're all in this together.

As a working artist, people assume that what I'm most proud of is the creativity of my work and the many inspiring invitations on display in my showroom—the front of the house part. And yes, there's truth to all that. The "what" of our work is pretty compelling. 

But in terms of what I'm most proud of, the reality is something less obvious and swims beneath the surface. It's a back of the house kind of thing.

What I find most compelling is the "how"—the cooperation that the work represents. Cooperation permeates everything we do. It's the way we approach each day, how we conduct ourselves, how we work with our clients and with each other.

I think this way of working, this idea of cooperation, is why we have so many long-standing clients and employees. The good energy that cooperation brings shows in our work. You can feel it in your hands.

My circle of cooperation extends to what others might consider competitors. In my mind we're really comrades swimming in the same sea. Our day-to-day working lives are probably more akin to each other than anyone else we know, and we likely have more in common than less.

The power of professional cooperation is potent and, to me, the mark of civilization. It's been many years now, but when my mother-in-law passed away suddenly in Idaho, a full day's travel from our home in Chicago, we had to drop everything and get there to be with family. Most projects were just fine and could be tended to by my staff, but there was one critical job that really needed to be handed over to someone else.

I was grateful that day when I reached out to a so-called competitor and asked if she could take over for me, and she said yes. The feeling of being part of a professional community was comforting. Someone had my back and I would do the same.

Cooperation trumps competition every time.  It opens the door. It makes room. It adds another seat at the table. It brings more color, texture, and nuance to our lives. It makes for a better world. 

There are many fish in the sea, it takes a village, and we're all in this together.

Change is good.

The I Ching, or Book of Changes, is a classic Chinese oracle. At the center is the concept that life is constantly changing, moving, transforming. We participate in the direction the winds of change move by our attitude, thoughts and actions. Glance this way, turn your attention here, adjust a nuance, make a subtle move and all things shift. Change is good. Change is life. And as Bob Dylan said, the times they are a-changin'.

Welcome to our latest change. New website, new photos, new reflections on things that stir. The mantra of "what's new" goes on and on. Every season new colors, patterns, materials come forward as trends. We follow them. We make them. We start them too. But as important as knowing what's new, we like to ask deeper questions. What lasts? What is eternal? What is best?  We're interested in both sides of the coin.

So while we spend our days dreaming up new ideas and creating one-of-a-kind invitations that make a statement, the really important part is how people feel when they receive one. Excited, special, connected, loved – like it matters if they're there.

In the midst of change, some things stay the same.