Even before she made her mark on Gwyneth Paltrow’s wedding, Stephanie Fishwick has been ever present on our radar. A not-so-well-kept secret among socialites and the fashion set, Fishwick’s romantic pointed pen calligraphy and surreal, layered collage is beloved by taste makers around the world (and across Instagram, of course).
What started simply from purchasing calligraphy tools at a small shop in Paris led to formal studies with Chief White House Calligrapher, Pat Blair. A true master of her craft, watching her create flourishes with swooping interlocking loops is mesmerizing. The thicks and thins of her letters are packed with personality, matching the level of quirk and hidden details in her collaged frames. Taking inspiration from everything from Victoriana and vanitas still-life paintings to 80s sticker sets and vintage fragrance packaging, her collage work is the right kind of weird.
So it only makes sense that we jumped at the chance to collaborate with the Vogue favorite, making her enchanting designs more accessible to couples everywhere. The collection is just about perfect for 2021 brides, especially now when wedding planning requires the flexibility of digital. From save the dates and shower invitations to online cards for the big day, Stephanie Fishwick’s one-of-a-kind invitations are just as unique as your love story.
Ahead, here’s what Stephanie shared about her inspirations, studio, and her advice for 2021 brides.
Give us a virtual tour of your studio…
Photo by Ashley Florence, Courtesy of Stephanie Fishwick
“I live just outside of Charlottesville with my husband James and our 8-year-old son. I work out of the studio that’s connected to our house built in the early 20s. When we moved in, part of the reason we chose this place was for the old garage. I designed it as my studio with a builder and he finished it out for me last January. It’s actually a really special part of my business because it’s such a personal space. Home is really important to me.
I have a little shop area in the front where I can set up open houses for my personal finds and treasures from antiquing and estate sales. There’s a sewing station, a station where I do collage and paper. I have a whole section with book arts, where I hand make folios, and a space where I do marbling. There are shelves that have all kinds of supplies. I have a huge collection of vintage ribbon, and all my pens and my inks. I also collect books, and they take up the two top shelves. Those are just reference materials, interior design books, specimen books of botanicals, illustration, insects, animals, and a whole section on fashion and interior design. It doesn’t look like it, but I am pretty organized.”
Photo by Ashley Florence, Courtesy of Stephanie Fishwick
What sparked your love of collecting and vintage?
“I always longed to be surrounded by beauty and interesting things because growing up I didn’t have access to a lot of that, to a fabulous world of treasures. It started first with thrifting vintage clothes in high school with friends, in a pre-Ebay era when there were still gems to be found at local stores like Goodwill. That grew from there in college with jewelry, shoes, and a general love of vintage.
To this day I still have a really hard time buying things new because I feel like I can find it somewhere, and it will be something that no one else has. Now, I still do a lot of hunting at estate sales and shops but it’s mostly for books on illustration and decorative arts that come into play with my art.”
Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
“Yes. My father’s mother and my mother’s father were both artists, but my parents married the opposite. Then they had me for a daughter, an artist to the core. Probably hungry for beauty and culture in suburban DC, I would go down to the basement in my parent’s home and rifle through my grandmother’s old portfolios.
She was a really accomplished painter and could paint realistic oils. For fun she enrolled in community courses where it’s often drawing nudes of a random model, just charcoal on newsprint. In the basement, there were tons and tons of these old poster-size nude drawings that she had done. I remember distinctly looking at those and thinking they were so amazing. I always thought of her as being as good as Michelangelo.
When the time came to divide my grandparents’ belongings between the family, it was decided I would get my grandmother’s art bin, filled with ink and pens and nibs. Though it wasn’t until later that I did calligraphy, it’s one of the first memories that I had of feeling like I had real art supplies to work and draw with.”
In a very uninspiring year, what’s inspiring you right now?
“The artist Nell Brinkley, a vintage “Bookhand” calligraphy font specimen that I found in a 70s calligraphy book,Iroshizuku inks, stylized botanical illustrations from different eras. And more color. I’ve been using a lot more color this year which isn’t normal for me. Psychedelic butterflies. Candy. Random stickers from the 80s and the weird characters from scratch and sniffs. Holographics. Actually, my logo on my stationery box this year is a holographic stamp. My personal stationery sets have this little pretend Bambi, a weird like psychedelic smiley face, and a baby fox.
During this year, a lot of my work has been more inspired by fables and fairy tales: predator and prey. I’ve been reading some folklore from Italy, all of Italo Calvino’s fairy tales and they’re dark. Not like Disney. It’s more scary stuff, but there’s a real beauty in that. I’ve been incorporating creatures that I hadn’t used before like a fanged fawn or a venus fly trap. At the beginning when I first started collaging I was using very expected elements, but now I’m trying to find things that are a little bit more weird.”
Fanged Fawn by Stephanie Fishwick for Paperless Post.
Her simple advice for 2021 brides
“Just do what feels right for you and your partner right now. If that means postponement, then do it. If that means doing a small at-home wedding, then do it. There’s already enough pressure on couples in terms of expectations for what their event is going to be like. I really want them to do what’s going to be best for them as a couple.”
What was your own wedding like?
“When I got married, my husband and I didn’t have any money. We were just doing what we could. We got married at the old Episcopal Church in our town and had the reception in the church hall with 200 people. We invited everyone we knew and I’m really happy we did it that way so we could have everyone there. I still love looking at all the pictures and knowing that all those people were there for us that day. I’m kind of a big wedding person, but to each their own. I would never tell anyone how they should live their life because what’s best for me isn’t best for other people.”
Photo by Kris Tripplaar, Courtesy of Stephanie Fishwick
Did you do your own invitations?
“I did! I made them and we printed them at Kinkos. We stayed there until the wee hours of the morning making copies, and then we made these little booklets. At the time I was still doing cut and paste zines so we made small booklets and then tied them with ribbon. We did the same for the programs. This is embarrassing to say, but I also did the calligraphy on the outer envelopes even though I had no idea what I was doing. It wouldn’t be for another three years until I took a formal calligraphy class.”
If you renewed your vows, what would your invitations look like in 2021?
“We actually had a 10 year anniversary party last year at our house. We did it up with a caterer, bartender, and rentals. We invited all of our close friends. I made the invitations using calligraphy and wove into the collage special things about me and James and our story. To send, I used Paperless Post! I sent it out digitally because I had to keep track of the headcount for the caterer, and it was really convenient to be able to track RSVPs.”
For your Paperless Post collection, what are you most excited about?
Photo by Ashley Florence, Courtesy of Stephanie Fishwick. Herbaceous by Stephanie Fishwick for Paperless Post.
“There’s such a demand that I’m not able to meet because it’s just me. We get so many inquiries and I’ve been trying to figure out a way to have my work be more accessible. I have so many ideas and so many fun concepts that I wanted to play with. A lot of digital invitations that I make for my clients end up going through Paperless Post, so I’m excited for people to be able to use these and it’s a great partnership for me to be able to offer. I think it’s something that everyone uses and it just makes perfect sense for this digital age.”
Why do you believe invitations are such an important part of any wedding?
Strawberry Fields by Stephanie Fishwick for Paperless Post, Fruit of Capri by Stephanie Fishwick for Paperless Post, Summer Bouquet by Stephanie Fishwick for Paperless Post.
“It’s a lot to ask someone through the mail to give up a whole weekend or fly somewhere. Especially for me as an introvert and a homebody! You’ve got to communicate not only that they’ll want to be there because you’re getting married, but that it’s going to be a special experience. With any wedding, there’s a lot of detail that needs to be clearly communicated. From where they’re staying, to what they’re eating, to hair and makeup, to airports and trains, and who they can contact if they have questions. You need to convey that it’s going to be super beautiful and fun, but make sure that they know they’ll be taken care of.
There are so many different generations of people that are all coming together, and all these different expectations for how information is given out and communicated. We always make sure that everything is really readable and it’s very clear how everyone can communicate their answers and their preferences.
Also, it’s a tradition! We don’t have that many traditions in our society today like we do with weddings. It’s something you can really count on. There aren’t a lot of things left like that, so there are some rules that you need to follow.”
Cismont by Stephanie Fishwick for Paperless Post, Dreamscape by Stephanie Fishwick for Paperless Post.
Now that you’ve fallen in love with the woman behind the collage, browse the full Stephanie Fishwick collection to find a design that’s just as unique as your love story.