Style Court

Eight Years of Textiles, History, Art, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes

9.07.2008

The Martha Years


A few years ago I went through a serious Martha phase. I arrived at bridal showers with fresh blooms on my packages and covered friends' birthday gift boxes with woven grosgrain ribbon. (The matchbox obsession you've already heard about.) One project, however, really stands out in my mind as a truly good thing: custom-designed bookplates and labels.

Bookplates are usually elegant little paper labels that, according to Martha Stewart, add a personal touch to a treasured book and indicate a volume's rightful owner. Like party invitations or personal stationery, bookplates can be quite costly or very inexpensive -- there's a wide range of options available. Some bookplates are engraved while others are made at home with a rubber stamp or a computer printer.

You probably remember that when Mary McDonald hosted a book-themed baby shower, she had custom bookplates made along with the invitations. These were mailed to guests who were asked to bring a book for the new baby and to write a brief personal note on the bookplate.

Above, Charlotte Moss chose to use her beloved pagoda in this design for a personal bookplate. Most any business that produces customized note paper or invitations will make bookplates. Some will have a catalog of motifs from which to choose or you may inquire about bringing in your own non-copyrighted image.

Obviously these days many crafty, resourceful people make their own bookplates by hand (templates are available at Martha's site).

Rubber stamps are great because they allow you to vary your ink and paper colors (white ink on chocolate-brown paper or the reverse depending on mood). One year, for a friend who bakes, I had a stamp made that read "from Julia's kitchen" below an image of a dish. Using my computer, I did the graphic design, printed it out and took it to a business supply shop, Artlite.

In my Christmas gift to Julia I included her personal stamp, ink pads and a stack of blank paper gift tags and recipe cards. The same principle works for bookplates. It's a fun thing to do for the friend who has everything.

BTW: For collectors, bookplates are a miniature art form. To learn more, visit the Bookplate Society. And Cashmere Librarian suggests The Art of the Bookplate.

Credits: images one, two, seven and eight are from Good Things; the Mary McDonald shower pictures are via House Beautiful; and Charlotte Moss' bookplate is from her latest book, A Flair for Living, available through her site.

31 comments:

posh said...

I love reading your blog!
- a devoted fan in Texas

Style Court said...

The editors of Wedding Style Guide just emailed this related link:

http://www.styleguide.com.au/issue7/bookclub.php

Style Court said...

Thanks Posh :) Appreciate it!

Cote de Texas said...

love this idea - the baby book plates. and seeing Charlotte's really makes me want to develop a brand, like a pagoda. don't you want to too?

CashmereLibrarian said...

Two weeks ago I found a treasure of a book at our public library's Book Sale. It's called "The Art of the Bookplate," and it includes hundreds of spectacular plates from the famous (Sigmund Freud, Clare Boothe Luce, etc) as well as examples from the libraries of ordinary people. It's really an elegant touch, especially if you can have it custom-designed!

Mrs. Blandings said...

Courtney - I love this idea. I have given number stamps for house numbers before, with stationary that I made, but I love the idea of custom even better.

For a fortieth birthday a couple of years ago, we asked each guest to drop by a silver charm for the honoree. The hostesses bought the bracelet and had the charms attached to give the birthday girl at her luncheon. Forty charms, all different, and no major outlay for what turned out to be a pretty spectacular bracelet. So much fun when you come up with just the right thing. Or good thing, if you're Martha.

simply seleta said...

Heart flutters on this post. Oh, if I just had 14 hours more in each day!!! I'd be Martha-ized.

Style Court said...

Cashmere Librarian -- that title sounds amazing! Thanks. I'll have to look it up.

Style Court said...

Joni -- I know. Hard for me to decide between pagoda, elephant or something else :)

Style Court said...

Seleta -- wow, a heart fluttering post. Well, it's Martha and her good things I guess.

Style Court said...

Patricia -- that bracelet sounds spectacular!

GrannySmithGreen said...

Note to self: Contact the engraver about custom bookplates.

Well, I'll do that after the 5 gizzillion other things taking priority.

One can dream...

Visual Vamp said...

Ah the Martha Years! I had mine too, slogging it out as one of her slave stylists (only a free lance basis). But the woman taught me mucho.
And book plates! Custom book plates at that! I love love love it!
Thank God we don't own that hideous heartless Kindle thingee. Can you imagine one lonely book plate on that?

pve design said...

I have a rule, never say no to books or book plates, especially "custom" book plates.
Just read "The Alchemist" which my dear sister gave to me and loved it. Now that needs a custom book plate!
Inspiring post... as always.

Ms. Wis. said...

I still give many presents with a fresh flower from my garden on the package. And I stockpile beautiful ribbons. I often use clear cellophane bags with colorful tissue which makes small gifts seem more interesting. My friends would wonder if I was sick if I did the simple thing!

My mom was a Martha type before there was Martha. I think you are either the type who considers every detail or you are not. Martha said it was ok to go over the top and here's how to do it, if that is what you want. There has never been a more gorgeous magazine as far as I'm concerned.

We use cloth napkins every day — prettier, easier, they last forever and they are more eco friendly than paper. So it is snobby to do so or is it sensible? I think there are at least two ways to look at most things but we tend to brand Martha negatively.

Thanks again for a great post.

Pigtown-Design said...

When we were donating tons of my father's books to the Book Thing, I didn't want him to go un-recognized, so I made little book plates with an old English church door photo, which i made into a sepia print, and then his name and under that, "writer, gardener & collector" which were the descriptors in his obit. Then I pasted them into the 100's of books we donated. It was a labour-intensive job, but I wanted his legacy to live on in the donation.

Style Court said...

Meg -- I know you come from a family of book lovers. But wow, what a project and what a tribute to your dad!

Style Court said...

Ms. Wis -- great point about attending to details.

VV -- you must have had some interesting times working for MSL :)

PVE and Granny Smith Green -- as always I appreciate your input. Thanks for stopping by.

The Peak of Chic said...

I bought some great book plates about a year ago. And shame on me b/c I have yet to paste them in my books! (BTW, still love the images of that baby shower!)

domesticated_desk said...

loved loved loved this post. makes me once again wish i lived a martha stewart life! these are great gift ideas!

Style Court said...

jennifer -- I'm sure yours are so elegant. I picture you with a signature pagoda bookplate.

domesticated -- glad you enjoyed this one!

Easy and Elegant Life said...

I'm dying to have some custom book plates done. But, I've stopped loaning books out. They suffer too much. And the thought of pasting in hundreds of them is daunting to say the least!

I may have to reconsider. Time for a policy shift this election year?

Style Court said...

Chris -- I definitely see you as the owner of some distinguished bookplates!

katiedid said...

I still like Martha. I have been getting Living since my Blueprint subscritpion went caput (sp?)and I had forgotten what great ideas that team puts together.

Bookplates....Courtney you have put the lightbulb in my head for this year's gifts for my book group!!!!!!! Thankyou!

Style Court said...

Katie, i'm so glad you might do this for your group!

Engraved Pens said...

your blog is brilliant!
I think rubber stamps are great too, i use them for thank you cards, etc. This is an amazing post! thank you

Cheers,
Haley B.

s. said...

I love love love the idea of custom bookplates. Do you have a favourite source for engraved ones?

(And, may I add, I am just thrilled to come to a design blog that is still focusing on design rather than on election chatter. I always love your blog, but love it even more now that I'm accosted by angry posts at so many other sites.)

Style Court said...

Hi S -- thanks for the positive words. I'll leave political coverage to Judy Woodruff and Charlie Rose :)

I thought Mrs. Strong (mrsstrong.com) had the engraved ones but when I checked recently they were not online. Try a Google search, or if you live near a fine paper shop, that's a good place to start.

Style Court said...

engraved pens -- thanks so much!

HP 2550 toner said...

This is my favorite blog, and I enjoy every minute of it. You have such a great ideas. I would never think for custom book plates as gifts. That’s brilliant!!! Isn’t that difficult to do it? I’m very clumsy with my hands. I can barely write without drop my pan. It’s great to see every time the feedbacks from the comments on this blog. That’s touching. I must go know, but keep bring us a great ideas.

Style Court said...

HP -- What a lovely thing to say! Thank you. I think if you just print out bookplates from your computer it shouldn't require too much hands-on work. Good luck!