Brent Ellis Fraim is an architect of excitement … the feeling that bubbles up when a thick, weighty envelope arrives. Its insides a cascade of layers and edges; colors and textures; dates and addresses. The warmth when not one but four holiday cards arrive in one day, and for a moment, it feels like we are holding treasured friendship in our hands.
Brent Ellis Fraim is the founder of boutique creative paper studio Dear Elouise and print shop Buckhead Printery. Atlanteans and savvy party planners everywhere call on Brent for weddings, events, life milestones, personal snail mail, and many other party trimmings.
After her undergraduate years at UVA, Brent worked in advertising for a few years before being accepted at Atlanta’s (what was then called) Portfolio Center to study design. This was in her 20s while all her friends were getting married, and they all sought her help designing invitations. The proverbial grapevine generated so much buzz that she took the plunge and made her side hustle her main one: Dear Elouise was born in 2015.
Her second business, Buckhead Printery, is under the same roof as Dear Elouise. Using antique techniques — engraving, letterpress, embossing, and thermography — a team of skilled printers creates magic for Dear Elouise clients and other paper designers across the country. Be mesmerized by this video of Buckhead Printery at work:
When Brent’s trusted Atlanta print shop announced they were shutting down for good, she got a call. “The older man who ran it told me he was trying to sell the machines, but no one was biting. He was going to scrap them, and I just couldn’t let that happen,” Brent says. “I made him an offer the next day, and I officially (re)opened the shop and renamed it Buckhead Printery in 2018.” Now Brent tactfully controls the creative process from start to finish — no outsourcing to faraway printers!
The time factor is misunderstood when it comes to custom paper work. It’s expensive because it’s laborious. Just creating each original metal plate is a complicated process, and that’s before the printing begins. “You’re not just clicking print on your computer. Every single piece is made by hand, and it takes a lot of time and talent to perfect this craft,” says Brent, who just hired a woman to run Buckhead Printery and is watching her meticulous master engraving — the trickiest piece of the printing puzzle.
Staying current and “modern” while sticking to a traditional, elegant vibe has proved important for Brent as younger brides and modern hosts are beginning to ask for custom imagery and funkier elements that set their visuals apart. “I am trying to reinvigorate and refresh traditional design,” she says. “For me, that’s through things like vibrant color and interesting edging.”
Aside from invites, Dear Elouise also designs napkins, matchboxes, drink stirrers, and other custom party products for an all-encompassing motif. Brent is a self-proclaimed entertainer, so I could not help but ask for her best tips and tricks when she throws parties, grand or intimate.
“Always have a signature drink — premade, so it’s easy. I always have a theme, not necessarily 70s. But, if it’s a casual dinner, it may be chili night. I love a theme,” Brent adds. Clearly! She throws an annual party called the Bourbon Ball, where she makes hundreds of spherical ice balls. Lastly, she always has her go-to caterer. “Or I stop by one of my five go-to entrée pickup places, and then I do a salad. You won’t see me pulling out a roasted chicken from my oven at a party,” she laughs.
I asked Brent about any etiquette tips for guests. “The number one thing my clients and I laugh about is the reply card,” she says. “You would not believe some of the things we get back. People will check their entrée box but not put their name on the card! It’s crazy.” So double-check it and reply right when you get it. “Don’t stick it in your sock drawer,” Brent says.
Back in the day, Brent reminds me, the reply card was completely blank. Before that, YOU got out a piece of YOUR OWN STATIONERY and wrote a reply to the wedding. This millennial’s mind is blown. Thank goodness we have the printing professionals like Brent to lead us through the process now.
We cannot thank you enough, Brent, for the laughs and the look into your feel-good (touch-wise and hear-wise) business. Get completely lost in Dear Elouise’s Instagram and head to DearElouise.com if you have an idea for Brent. She’s ready for it. “My favorite projects are when someone comes to me with a theme, and we can truly go all out with it.”
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