The Art of the Condolence Note

The New York Times published an article, “The Art of Condolence,” about the importance of handwritten sympathy notes in the digital age. Our Creative Director Leo Mascotte offers some of his insight into how to properly craft a thoughtful sympathy note.

There are few pieces of correspondence one wants to write less than those sent to express sympathy, though notes of condolence are likely to be saved and cherished by the recipient. As an essential tool of communication, they allow the sender and recipient simultaneous access and remove, crucial during difficult and often demanding times.

1) Your starting point should be informed by how well you knew the deceased and how well you know the person to whom you write.  Let the note’s opening express your emotional reaction to the news of your recipient’s loss.  This may take many forms, from the shock of reacting to unexpected events, to a sort of relief-tinged sorrow that may accompany the loss that follows a prolonged illness.

2) It is important to offer a description of your own feelings, as they will often mirror those felt by your reader.  Avoid blanket phrases and resist the urge to detach.  Offering a window into your own feelings will help to validate the flood of emotions confronting the grieving.

3) When addressing someone not well known to you, include a line indicating your connection to the deceased.  A note of this type can be thoughtfully composed with your introduction at its core.

4) Writing to those most dear can prove especially difficult.   Write an anecdote about or memory of the deceased into the heart of your note.   Ideally, your story would be new to your addressee.  The most memorable notes are often the most offhand, narratives that draw energy from the everyday and bestow ease with a voice that is familiar.  Perhaps you might recall a favor bestowed, or laughter shared.  Describe a party at which you were a guest, or retell sport, either shared or observed.   Sensory references are especially enriching.  Commend the dapper, highlight a distinctive gait, savor the pleasures of grill or garden.  Allow your telling to become a description of the way you will remember.

Etiquette requires acknowledgement of the receipt of a condolence note by the recipient.  This may take the form of boxed cards or notes, though bespoke options are also available.  Stationery printed to meet these needs traditionally uses white or ecru stock and black ink paired with classic typestyles.

Reply Cards Made Easy

Dempsey & Carroll’s Austin Ackles discusses the many forms that reply cards have taken on as modern wedding etiquette has evolved. We invite you to explore our wedding site to view our inspiration gallery and learn more about our offerings. 

Response cards are a relatively new addition to wedding suites. In the past, those invited would know to respond and would do so on their own engraved stationery.

 

Generally, reply cards come in two varieties.The simplest and most classic reply card might only have “The favor of a reply is requested” engraved along the bottom though most of our clients add a date, resulting in something like “Kindly reply by June 8th.”

 

Next, there are those reply cards that are more form-like with check-offs. Disliked by some, preferred by others who consider them more fail-safe, these cards typically have a minimum of four lines of text: The “M” serves as a prompt for the would-be guest to write her name, a line each to select “Happily accepts” or “Regretfully declines.”The last line usually includes the “reply by” date. reply-card-1

Depending on the arrangement with the caterer, a host may need to have check-offs for meal choices. If there are other events, separate lines may be needed for indicating attendance to those as well. At Dempsey & Carroll, we’ve done reply cards with over a dozen possible selections.

Keep in mind when hosting, the simplest reply card will get you the most novel responses back and they will make wonderful keepsakes. If you have creative friends, all the better!

Now It’s Your Turn To Reply?

Always remember that you’re addressing the host, not the guest of honor.

bermuda-reply-1For example: “Dear Mrs. Wilcox, I deeply regret that we will not be able to attend your daughter’s wedding but will most certainly be toasting from afar. Warmly, Helen Schlegel”

When replying, there are just two essential things you’ll be communicating: who you are and whether you’re coming or not. Consider using a tone that is consistent with the invitation design and wording. While you are obligated to reply, you do not have to give a reason if you cannot attend.

Spotlight on Marcardin Calligraphy

We sat down with Heather Brock of Marcardin Calligraphy to talk about her beginnings as a calligrapher and how she became inspired to start her own company. 

Q: “Marcardin” is such a unique name. Can you please tell us the significance of why you chose that name for your company?

HB: The name Marcardin is very dear to me because it is the name of an old family estate located in Shelbyville, Kentucky that belonged to us for over 150 years. Much like other homes and farms of that era, the estate was named by its builder, Mark Hardin. Fast forward to the early 1990s and my family was faced with the tough decision to sell it [Marcardin Farms] once my Great Aunt passed away. Most of the family memorabilia was kept in the attic; old letters and notes penned by ancestors, including those from my great uncle Mark Hardin, dated back to around 1856. All of the letters feature beautiful pen and ink calligraphy, and as an adult, the penmanship is my favorite thing to exist from that attic. I’m very fortunate to have such richly documented family history to reflect on. Marcardin, which was once known as Marcardin Farms, is now calligraphy for me.

Q: When did you first learn calligraphy and how did you know that you wanted to do it as a career?

HB: I was probably 10 or 11 when I picked up any sort of calligraphy pen for the very first time. I remember mastering (or so I thought I did) any instructional books I could get my hands on, but I moved on with other art mediums as I grew up. In my 20s I decided to pick up a pen again to learn the refined skill of pointed pen calligraphy in hopes to address my own wedding envelopes some day. When I realized how therapeutic it was to put pen to paper, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue for a long time to come.

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An envelope addressed to Marcardin Estate 

Q: How long have you been based in Kentucky? Do you have a wide client base in your area, or does most of your clientele hail from elsewhere? 

HB: I was born and raised (and still reside) in Louisville, Kentucky, so I’ve always stayed put. I am very fortunate to work with some of the absolute best wedding planners and designers in the city and state, so I do get a lot of referrals through them. I also serve nationwide, working with some stationers out of New York City and Los Angeles.

Q: We see that you offer a variety of calligraphy styles for your services. Do you think that there is an even split between interest in more traditional styles versus a more modern look? img_5198

HB: I would say nine times out of ten, my clients choose my Signature style. It’s definitely more modern, but it still gives that flourished feel that can be found in some traditional styles. I’m definitely more of a modern calligrapher; traditional calligraphy, such as Spencerian and Copperplate, can take decades to master. I certainly envy my calligraphy colleagues across the world who have the patience and skill set to achieve those writing principles.

Q: You have done beautiful work on everything from outer and inner envelopes, to escort cards and menus. How do you ensure that your pieces reflect overall aesthetic of the event?
img_0083HB: I love when I’m able to help design an entire invitation suite, so it can be printed or pressed in every which way. I like to start with my bride’s ideas of what she is thinking by getting inspiration photos from her. I’ll go through my series of questions which can turn into a few different pencil sketches before I put ink to paper. I then send my work to my go-to designer to do all the digitizing for me. From there, we meet to make sure everything is set perfectly for print.

 

 

Q: We were thrilled to work with you on pieces for a Dempsey & Carroll wedding recently. How did you first hear about Dempsey & Carroll? 

HB: I was so excited to finally get my chance to calligraph the beautiful paper from Dempsey & Carroll. I’ve seen it [Dempsey & Carroll’s paper] in many areas of the wedding industry, and have always heard great reviews from other calligraphers. The paper is exquisite and I am in love with everything from the texture to the watermark logo– It’s hands down my favorite to write on.

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Heather’s work for a recent Dempsey & Carroll wedding 

Our 2016 John Derian Collections

We have ushered in autumn with the exciting launch of our second collaboration with Designer John Derian. Our five new collections pair classic Dempsey & Carroll motifs with decoupage prints from Derian’s extensive archives. Some of our Dempsey & Carroll team members have offered insight into which lines are their favorites, though it is difficult to choose just one. We invite you to explore our 2016 John Derian collections so that you can discover your favorites as well!

Carolyn: “My favorite is the Fly Fisher. I love the color story, but most of all, I love how it can resonate with a consumer. For me, it reminds me of going fly fishing with my family inhp4-091216-derian-web Colorado and I’m sure it rings true for many other people all over the world!”

 

 

 

Lauren: “My favorite is Earth & Sky.  I love the colors and the round globe motif paired with the round map of the sky. There is a lovely balance between the latitude and longitude lines in the engraved globe and the colorful envelope liner– I love it! I am planning to order a set of 50 personalized.”

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Leo: “Earth & Sky is my pick. The celestial map envelope liner reminds me of a group of vintage prints that I have been collecting for years.  Astronomical maps seem to transcend time; at once modern and vintage.  The globe engraving is wonderfully detailed, a Dempsey & Carroll classic from the archive, and the gray engraving on white paper sets off a fresh mix and match with the envelope liner.”

Megan: “My favorite collection from the new John Derian collaboration is definitely Earth & Sky.  The stunning starry night liner coupled with the beautifully detailed engraved globe motif is a stellar combination to be used for any occasion.  I am already planning on having some on hand while I am traveling this Fall!”

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Evon: “I am most attracted to the John Derian Grand Tour Collection. The liner prints all display an excellent use of typography and color. Additionally, the crops of the liners are dynamic, providing just enough insight into these historic hotels, but yet still leaving much to the imagination.”

 

Ariel: “I really love all of the new John Derian products, but my personal favorite is Blue Coral. I have always loved spending time in Florida at the hp1-090116-derian-webbeach, and the stunning coral artwork brings back amazing memories from my family vacations”

 

 

 

Emma:” It is difficult to choose a favorite, but I am definitely favoring Tea Salon at the moment. I love how it pairs our classic tea cup motif with John Derian’s vintage Frehp1-091216-derian-webnch architecture-inspired patterns for the envelope lining. This collection brings back memories of living abroad in France, where afternoons were often spent studying in baroque-style salons de thé.”

 

 

 

 

Weekend Getaways

Labor Day is seen as the last hurrah of summer before the busyness of fall sets in. Some of the Dempsey & Carroll team shared where they chose to spend their Holiday Weekend and what made their time enjoyable.

Rye, NY 

“I love taking the train up to Westchester for the weekends. It’s so close to the city, but feels like it’s a world away! Heading to Rye Town Beach on Friday nights in the summer is one of my favorite things to do –- Rye Playland does a firework show each Friday night, which is the perfect way to end a night after walking along the shore.”

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Rye Town Beach

Montauk , NY

“It was a great way to escape the heat in the city and have some fun at the beach. There great seafood to be had at The Surf Lodge and Navy Beach!”

 

 

Gateway National Recreation Area, NY

“As my partner and I prepare for a big trip in just a few weeks, we stayed around town over the holiday weekend,  but did spend a great deal of time in the squares and riverside. We also went out to the bird sanctuary on Broad Channel Island which is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. It’s near the Rockaways so you feel these wonderful sea breezes. It was a wonderful time to visit because this is when you see the juveniles.

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A Snowy Egret

A particularly great sighting was of the snowy egret juveniles that are so slight that they almost disappear, and of course the osprey were circling and diving and then soaring off with the catch of the day.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Jersey Shore, NJ 

“Labor Day weekend is bittersweet no matter where you spend it, but at least this sunset helped. I was also really glad the hurricane never came.”

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Sunset on the Jersey Shore

 

The US Open, NY

I spent summer’s last gasp in town. I had a wonderful time on “the middle Saturday” at The Open. The Grandstand court is an instant classic, super intimate, tucked off the
beaten path with the seats sunken below grade. It also has dedicated bars, and shops. I loved finding my friend Bill Draddy’s ‘B.Draddy’ shirts on sale, snagged this Rhys Stripe number.”

 

 

Cold Spring, NY

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Cold Spring

“I went to Cold Spring with my family. It’s a super quaint town and I loved how close knit the community is there and the unique antique shops. The view was also stunning!”

 

 

 

Block Island, RI

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The Southeast Lighthouse

“Spending time on ‘The Block’ is a family tradition and it is refreshing to see that much of the island has remained unchanged. You can rent a bike for a morning ride through town to grab coffee and a pastry from Aldo’s Bakery before heading to Town Beach to relax and swim. When the weather isn’t nice enough for swimming, it makes for a wonderful reason to hike around the Mohegan Bluffs and the Southeast Lighthouse. The 1661 Inn Restaurant is the perfect place to dine for a special occasion as it is tucked away from the main part of town.”

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The Ice Cream Place, Block Island

 

(Save some room for a cone from The Ice Cream Place for dessert!)

The Hendrick’s Gin Cucumber Southside

Summer is not quite over yet! We’re inspired by our new collaboration with Hendrick’s Gin to toast Labor Day Weekend with a refreshing Southside. Follow the recipe below and enjoy!

Hendrick’s Gin Cucumber Southside

Ingredients:Southside picture

1 ½ parts Hendrick’s Gin

¾ parts Fresh lemon juice

¾ parts simple syrup

4 mint leaves

3 English cucumber wheels

 

Method:

Add ice to shaker.  Crush ice and muddle repeatedly.  Add all ingredients, shake well, and strain into a Collins glass with ice. Garnish 1 English cucumber wheel and 1 mint sprig.

 

 

138 Years of Dempsey & Carroll

As we approach our 138th anniversary on August 28th, we look to our heritage and how we have carried on the tradition started by John Dempsey & George Carroll in 1878. From our first location in Union Square, to our current home on the Upper East Side, we have proudly stayed close to our New York City roots as we continue to create the highest quality of hand-engraved paper goods. The past few months have been exciting as we have ushered in new collections.

This spring, we launched our collaboration with FORM Design studio, a firm which “strives to be an arbiter of taste and holistic living, blending the line between what is beautiful and what sustains”. The unique pieces for this line were created with mixed media and inspiration from the Earth’s natural beauty.

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Pieces from our collaboration with FORM

This summer, we launched new lines from our continued partnership with F. Schumacher. It has been an honor to work with this storied brand as we combine our luxurious paper with the iconic designs of Schumacher’s fabrics. The Lansdale and Zanzibar collections have expanded our offerings to include matching journals and coasters to the boxed sets of correspondence cards. We also launched four bespoke lines in addition to the boxed products so that our clients can add new looks to their personal paper wardrobes.

 

We have seen our collaboration with Hendrick’s Gin come to life this month with correspondence cards, coasters, hang tags, and a 2017 calendar. Hendrick’s Gin is produced in the small seaside village of Girvan, Scotland using a blend of spirits from two different antique stills. Our process of engraving paper has remained virtually unchanged since our founding and we continue to use the same equipment as we have since the 1800s. Both of our brands celebrate tradition while forging through the 21st century.

August has also seen the launch of our new lines with John Derian. Fabricated in his New York City Studio, Derian uses decoupage as a unique way to bring life to an assortment of home furnishings. Our new collections pair classic Dempsey & Carroll motifs with extraordinary designs from Derian’s archives.

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John Derian Blue Coral

The excitement of our new collections reminds us to look to our history for inspiration. Dempsey & Carroll has transcended two centuries of incredible changes in the world. We have seen the leaps of technology and the rise of the digital age. As we head into the next 138 years, we look to one of our favorite quotes about why we continue our legacy of facilitating gracious living:

“The love of elegance and exquisite finish in stationery is no new love, but elegance and finish are not in themselves artistic, they are simply the last result of mere mechanical execution. We take especial pleasure, therefore, in calling attention to the work of Messrs. Dempsey & Carroll, who have earned for themselves the honourable designation of “Art Stationers.”

The Home Journal (Town & Country), 1879

We are thankful for our loyal clientele, as well as all of the extraordinary people who have come before us in building this brand. Cheers to 138 years of Dempsey & Carroll!