Thank You on Paper

From her consultation in our New Bond Street salon to witnessing the traditional printing process at our Wiltshire factory, Susie Lau follows the progress of her very own set of bespoke stationery

Fashion does perversely honour tradition in unexpected ways.  One of the quirks of the industry is the abundance of thank you notes that go back and forth. In just one week, I’ve received three notes in the post and incidentally, they’ve all been printed on Smythson stationery.   I put this down to the industry’s love of print and the tactability of paper, which Smythson have a rich history in providing.   There’s something truly lovely about receiving a handwritten note in the post that is infinitely more intimate than a quickfire email.

That said, it’s taken me up till now to gather up the resources to make up my own correspondence cards.  It could be my insanely illegible handwriting that has stopped me from getting my first proper set of stationery done.  I’ll have to take the chance that people out there will somehow be able to decipher my scribble.  Plus I now have a legitimate excuse to use the insanely cute coloured pens I’ve picked up from my travels to Tokyo to write on these cards.

Smythson’s stationery salon is a quiet haven of rustling cards, tissue paper inlays and lovely die-stamped letters and a bulging catalogue of motifs for you to choose to head up your cards or stamp your envelopes with.  I settled for a grey border, grey tissue lining and pink text and motif combination, clashing the sensible and the frivolous.

I did resist the urge to go for a motif that was ultra literal and slightly cheesy….

Instead, I chose a camera motif, which wasn’t actually in the catalogue but was a never-before used motif from the archive.

I was then lucky enough to visit Smythson’s factory in Wiltshire where decades-old machinery have been printing their stationery for years with the traditional methods of copperplate printing.

A negative image is put through a copper plate etching machine to achieve the final plate that will be used in the printing press, a process that has thankfully been speeded up but would have taken hours to achieve just one plate, when done by hand in the past…

The plate is then loaded into the printing press and once the rollers are inked up, each piece of paper or envelope is individually placed there and stamped with the motif or text.  It’s an eye bogglingly manual process, one that requires a knack of timing and an in-depth knowledge for how the machines are run.

We then moved on to the section where borders and gilding of card edges are done.  It’s another highly skilled manual process that isn’t governed by science but by simply knowing by eye, how the paint or gold/silver leaf will hit the card.

The application of this gold leaf on to the edge of these cards was pretty stunning to watch….

Then I watched my set of cards get their grey borders and was amazed at how evenly spaced the cards were in order to be sprayed with precision…

Even the envelopes were made up by hand with the all over tissue lining being something of a Smythson signature.  I had a go at gluing together a few of them but I don’t think I got the full hang of it.  Hopefully nobody actually receives my duff envelope in their stationery set…

We then went into the finishing room to see some Christmas cards being packaged up ready to go out, which reminds me that I’m woefully late with my own Christmas stationery.

Smythson keeps all their plates archived and never throws them away.  It was pretty special going through the ‘Celebrities’ drawer stuffed full of luminaries’ names…


My Smythson Stationery journey ends with these familiar blue boxes.  I’ve not yet sent one out yet but after my birthday and the Christmas period of December, I’m sure these will be winging their way, complete with my childish scrawl, to some hopefully grateful recipients.


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One Response to “Thank You on Paper”

  1. alifelessdigital Says:

    Susie – you lucky lucky person. I am a stationery nerd and have been dreaming of personalised Smythson paper for years! It is wonderful to see the hand-made element still in existence.

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