As I approach year 4, I found myself reminiscing on a year ago...just a few weeks before launching a rebrand and finalizing all the nitty-gritty details that come along with that. As with all of the best things in life...with growth came change. When I started this business about three years ago as With Two Hands Creative, I had a vision for where it would go and what I wanted that name to encompass. Then...through two years of learning and growing, the paradigm began to shift. With each new client who became a friend...each piece with a story to tell...each up and down of learning to run a business...I saw the evolution of what I wanted my brand to encompass. Most importantly...how I wanted it to make people feel.
That's when the seed of Grace Paper Collective began to grow...before I even knew that's what it would be called. I started to marinate on what I wanted this business to be an avenue to for people. Then one day, I was doodling out ideas of what words would encompass that goal, and Grace Paper Collective was born. I'm so excited to share with you more about the why behind GPC...
- the name -
Each respective part of the name Grace Paper Collective came with intention...
each word holding thought and weight...
This one may seem obvious as Grace is my given name. Anyone could draw the parallel there to its significance in naming this endeavor. However - much more than I intended it to be a signature - the true meaning of the word within the context of this brand is the grace that it has given me. Or moreover, the grace it has forced me to learn to give myself. Starting a business at 23 is a jump for anyone...especially someone with as much ADHD and little skill in math as me 😂 - so there's no secret it has come with its road bumps. Some on uphill travels..some on down...some that felt like those skinny highways on the side of a cliff face with no guard rail...and others the limitless country roads that run as far as the eye can see....waiting for you to get lost on them. The kind of lost that's so lovely you don't want to be found.
No matter the journey...learning to focus on grace towards myself at the center of the equation has, quite literally, been the key to keeping me in business when anxiety and challenges have come my way - as there have been plenty. And lastly, when it came to the story of my own name...its origin and my parent's thoughtfulness in its use...the focus was on its definition as "God's gift". It only felt fitting to incorporate that derivative in this business journey as that is precisely what the talents I feel so blessed to have been born with are...a gift I am truly honored to be able to share through the journey of GPC.
Paper...it is the literal aspect of what I do and primary medium of that which I create...paint on paper...print on paper...calligraphy on paper...you name it. It's hard to pinpoint exactly where my fascination and obsession with paper came from. Perhaps it was my earliest memory of it as a simple, blank canvas for the expression of all of my innermost dreams and aspirations - through written word or drawn creation. Maybe it's the folder of wedding programs, invitations, and paper paraphernalia stored so thoughtfully in my mother's office or the dedicated closet for gift wrap that lives in her guestroom - piles and rolls of inspiration surrounding me for the entirety of my life.
There are no doubts the obsession is inhereted in its birth but I believe it's the years of saved cards, notebooks brimming with memories, and envelopes from loved ones in far off lands that solidified my fondness for paper and all that adorns it. Accompanied by the most heartful sensation of the freshly pressed pages of a new book and daydreams of years of old when letters traveled on horseback to deliver poems of requited love and announcements of all of life's lovely milestones. Easy to keep...often small to store...light to carry but heavy with sentiment...paper is and always will be my favorite vessel and tool on which to bring so many special works to life.
The great William Wordsworth expressed it best when he said "Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart". And so I will attempt to do each day Grace Paper Collective lives and breaths it's mission to embody an all-inclusive avenue for the creation of tangible memories. To memorialize people, places, and passions, celebrate the truly momentous occasions, and hold dear that the greatest gift is the presence of such moments of shared, intrinsic beauty worth feeling forever...
Of all the idioms that made up this new name, "collective" was the key to the equation. When you start a business - and brand it in tandem - we're taught to evaluate what it is the company stands for and correlate that with its visual presence. What is the imagery of its mission...the palette of its essence...the voice of its copy? Upon my first journey through branding - when I launched as With Two Hands - I was very focused on what I wanted to do and bring to the table...what I wanted to offer...the causes I wanted to support and the types of work I wanted to create.
I loved to paint architecture, amongst so much else, and envisioned people commissioning me to capture it for use in logos or on personal stationery. However, as I operated through the first two years of business...the inquiries rolled in and the thoughtfulness of others succeeded my expectations. Friends commissioned me to capture beloved grandparent's homes that had to be sold and were to be demolished, customers hired me to paint every house their parents had lived in together as sentimental wedding gifts, brides called me to paint their venue as wedding guestbooks and forever my work will live beside the well wishes of their friends and family to be cherished for the rest of time. All of the above will then be passed down through generations of families as the illustrated accompaniment to tales of the best of times...from the big moments of matrimony to the small but most special days at Maw Maw and Paws.
Quickly the goals of my business went from being about me to the effortless embrace that the core of it is about you...the friends...the "clients"...the cherished memories and moments brought to life through art. It's about the making but it's more about the memories.
And so the final verbiage of GPC was placed like the last piece of a long-labored puzzle. The goal is now and will always be to be a collection...by me but FOR us. A collective collaboration of moments and memories...painted and drawn souvenirs of the things worth remembering and the tales to be told...
- the mark -
With so much intention behind the name Grace Paper Collective...the task of creating a logo image that would compliment it was a journey with much trial and error. I knew, above all, I wanted something that illustrated and symbolized memory as I have strived to capture throughout all of my custom work - from paintings to invitations and everything in between...
- Inspiration -
Keeping within the theme of a collection of work...of memories and magic...I was heavily inspired by antique "ex-librīs", or bookplate, designs when laying the foundation of my main mark and brand identity. A bookplate was a printed or decorative label pasted, stamped, or embossed into a book to indicate ownership which felt like an effortless correlation to the purpose of a brand and an image that would live on my pieces as a similar signature. I was drawn to the delicacy and personality of each ex-librīs and embarked on a mission to incorporate my own into the logo of GPC.
- Iconography -
Though composition and typography took some time to distinguish...the cardinal and sprig of forget-me-nots found in my logowere two things I was sure about from the get-go....
Forget me nots are seeped in history - with nearly every culture claiming a tie to their name and lore - but throughout nearly all, they are presented as a symbol of love, fidelity, and connection. All virtues that I find to encompass and hopefully exude from the work of Grace Paper Collective. It was significant to me to include a floral aspect within the brand as bouquets are my spoken love language in everyday life and I strive for every piece I create to bring the amount of joy to its recipient as an unexpected flurry of foliage brings to me.
And last but certainly never least...the cardinal. This one is a two-fold truth. It is well-known amongst the community of those who have lost loved ones that the cardinal is a universal symbol of messages from those who have moved on in spirit. Symbolic signs appear in many forms, but the red cardinal has long been embraced as the most notable spiritual messenger being sent by our loved ones in Heaven to watch over us. As the years passed and so many pieces were commissioned to either honor or gift families upon their first holidays without loved ones...or just as general, joyful reminders of people or places lost...it only felt right to include the cardinal in the iconography of GPC.
But the main inspiration and definition of the cardinal seen in the mark is in honor of my sweet dad who left us too soon 4 years - to the day - before I opened my business. I'm sure it can definitely seem peculiar that I launched a business on the anniversary of his passing but quite truthfully...that was the whole point.
Every year prior on February 9th, you’d have found me a little quieter than usual. But 2018 (when I originally opened as With Two Hands Creative) felt different. That year, I woke up on his birthday (ironically New Years’ Day) and suddenly realized I was tired of how every day that was meant to celebrate him and who he was has felt like a day we now must mourn. There is no question that this anniversary, his birthday, Father’s Day, etc. make me sad but I woke up on January 1, 2018, and realized we’d been doing so much crying on days he’d want us to dance. He’d have hated that we were sulking on days meant to remember who he was and what he stood for.
So that year, I made a promise to myself that on those days that he felt extra gone - I’d just have to draw him extra near...remember his legacy and make each of those days a day to do something that would have made him proud. From the age of 6 - he and my mom constantly pushed me to pursue art. He may have been a banker by trade but there’s no question my free spirit came from him. He, nor my mama, so much as flinched when I decided I wanted to pursue a degree in the arts and they both pushed me to constantly seek ways to grow creatively. I owe the artist I am today to him and my mom and so I decided to take the anniversary of the hardest day of my life and turn the tide. I wanted to also make it a happy anniversary.
And there I was, 4 years after he left us, deciding to blast this endeavor out into the world like a rocket to the moon...hoping I'd land somewhere amongst the universe of talented people who make this world a better, more vibrant place with the gift of being creative. My greatest hope was that I could create things that make us all feel the way he did. Happy and warm and joyful for getting to walk each day hand in hand with a world that inspires us. It's a goal that I feel so blessed to chase after and fulfill in a different way each day that Grace Paper Collective lives to dream another dream and make your artistic ones a reality...
until the next entry....
Sincerely in Artistry,
- Iterations and Acknowledgements -
With as much pride as I take in the final presentation of the Grace Paper Collective brand...it was surely a long and winding road through different variants until I reached what came to be the final mark...as it always seems to be when working on a branding project. Below is a peek at the early stages and I couldn't complete this entry without a massive bill of thanks to my dear friends, Drake of Studio Bou, Graphic Design Ryan, and Mary Catherine at Mary Catherine Studio for their patience, love, support and critique along the way! It takes a village y'all...even when your baby is a brand 😂