The Art of Invitation: Ellen Weldon Design
By Koun Bae
May 13, 2013
This past week, we teamed up with Ellen Weldon Design, a company that might not be a household name but has worked with everyone from Cartier to Oprah Winfrey to your next door neighbor and his Bar Mitzvah. Despite being strictly a custom stationery and invitation company for the past three decades, Ellen and her wonderful team created a floral card set to be sold on exclusively on Plum Alley–their first time ever on an e-commerce site.
Ellen Weldon started teaching herself calligraphy after a trying middle school experience. “I failed handwriting in 6th grade,” she said, “It was the only F I ever got, and I decided, ‘I can beat this!’ and I started practicing.” She then went on to design programs for school plays and studied studio art in college and before long, she had a stint designing invitations and stationery for Cartier. Today, the Ellen Weldon client roster reads like a “Who’s Who” list of New York and the companies that hold it together, but Ellen still takes the time to teach calligraphy at local schools, as well as taking the time to talk to us about her illustrious career and the beauty behind a handwritten note.
PLUM ALLEY: So how did you get into designing cards and stationery?
ELLEN WELDON: Well, my first part-time job after college was painting murals at Hebrew Home For The Aged in Riverdale, New York. After I had finished those murals, I made an appointment–I was very gutsy–I picked up the phone and made an appointment with the head of the design department at Tiffany’s: a Mr. John Brown. I worked on that portfolio for four months, and when the day of the interview came, it took Mr. Brown approximately two minutes to look at my portfolio and say, “These are not our style. Thank you very much.”
PA: Oh no!
ELLEN: And I was so angry that he could dismiss me after so much work that I walked six blocks down to Cartier and I walked into the stationery department, and I grabbed the first person I saw and said, “You’ve got to look at this portfolio! These designs are great!” And the guy looked at me up an down, and said, “Calm down.” It turned out he was the manager of the department, and he bought two of my card designs and offered me a part-time job. I seized the moment, as they say! And while I was at Cartier one day, that’s how I met Mrs. Estée Lauder. She walked in and saw what I was doing, and she asked me to go to her office that afternoon at two o’clock. So I started working for Mrs. Lauder; she was like my first real client. Through her, I met Evelyn Lauder, her daughter-in-law, and I started working for the company. And as people left Estée Lauder and went to work for other cosmetic companies, I started working for Lancôme, L’Oréal, Elizabeth Arden, Chanel…
PA: So you must’ve met so many amazing women during your career! How do you think being a woman influences your work?
ELLEN: I love working with women! My office is filled with talented women. I believe in the power of creative women–just like your company! I think the wonderful part is finding women that have the same kind of spirit and individuality and creativity.
PA: This is the first time you’ve created cards that aren’t commissioned!
ELLEN: Creating a line of Ellen Weldon stationery cards was something that I always thought I’d get around to doing, so when your company approached us, I was like, “Yes! This feels right.” You’re a company that encourages women; you’re very pro-creativity, and your whole approach towards women in business really resonated with us.
PA: So do you write a lot of handwritten notes?
ELLEN: All the time! Every day! If I’m sending a quick note to somebody, I, of course, send an email, but if I really want to tell someone how I feel about something, I’ll write them a handwritten note. When I teach calligraphy at my elementary school, I tell them that there is no substitution for a beautiful, handwritten note, especially when you go to job interviews, and things like that. It’s really important. Handmade stationery or gorgeous engraved stationery is always a plus. I know when I wrote handwritten notes for people, sometimes I got thank you notes for the thank-you notes!
PA: So what’s the next step for Ellen Weldon Design?
ELLEN: We would love to continue making stationery cards like what we just created for Plum Alley, and take it to the next level! We just finished the most amazing invitation with an Art Deco, Great Gatsby kind of look, and we’re thinking about a line of notecards with more of an Art Deco theme. We’re also working on two beautiful weddings and a space themed birthday party which we’re creating a universe pop-up book invitation for with real light up stars.
Scroll down for more images of Ellen’s amazing designs, and see her exclusive card set for Plum Alley here.