Personal correspondence is an art, and paper its best vehicle. Jessica Clark combines traditions of paper correspondence and etiquette through her stationery and invitation shop, Ink Nashville. In preserving these traditions, Jessica provides invitations for an assortment of occasions, ranging from galas to garden parties. Jessica reminds us that the invitation is the first indication to the guests of the type of celebration they will be attending. With Jessica in your corner, you can wow your guests early on. A mother, a business owner and a lover of all things paper, Jessica Clark is today’s FACE of Nashville!
Tell us about yourself and your company.
One of my favorite quotes is, “I wasn’t born in the South, but I got here as quickly as I could.” I am not originally from the South; sometimes I think that piqued my interest in paper and etiquette. It’s not that people aren’t mannerly in Ohio, but stationery was not a big deal (at least where I lived). I grew up in Fairfield, Ohio, a tiny suburb of Cincinnati. I went to the University of Tennessee, which is where I met my husband, Chip. Minus a year spent in Connecticut, we have been in Nashville since we graduated from UT-K, and I am grateful for that. We have two daughters, Browning (17) and Miller (14).
Years ago, I worked at another Nashville stationer. It was such a fun job. I was able to meet and work with amazing people during very special times in their lives. I took time off to raise our two daughters. I didn’t start this business. And I wasn’t really looking for a business or to return to work in a formal way. However, a friend, Beth Alexander, posted on Facebook that a friend of hers was selling a stationery business. My daughters were largely self-sufficient, and my love of paper took over. I went from a stay-at-home mom (with a husband who travels constantly) to owning my own business within in a matter of months. It is crazy to think about how it all happened!
What services do you offer, and who is your typical client?
If it involves paper, we generally do it! Ink offers both custom invitations printed in-house and locally, or we have a large variety of vendors from which to order higher-end
invitations and stationery (Crane, Bella Figura, Vera Wang, William Arthur, Smock to name a few). We often go local for save the dates and smaller party invitations as it tends to be more cost-effective. I like to have control over the paper used and to know that the color is printing the way we think it should. I do press checks for almost every item we print locally. If I ever get tired of paper, I seem to be well situated to go into the tattoo and piercing business. I guess it is the Ink Nashville name. You would be amazed at the number of tattoo inquiries I receive. My husband tells me I should consider diversifying.
You dedicate time and energy for invitations for local nonprofits. What are a few nonprofits you have worked with?
Retailers are constantly asked to donate. In the beginning, I tried to support anyone who asked, but I realized quickly that was not feasible. I decided that I would support (1) the causes about which I am most passionate, and (2) loyal customers and friends. When one of my dearest friends and biggest cheerleaders was asked to be one of the Frist Gala chairs, I was there to support her. It was fun to work through ideas with the event chairs and review images from the British Museum, and then figure out how to bring our vision to paper. I loved how the invitation turned out, and I think they are happy too!
Another dear friend just chaired the Harpeth Hall Parent Fundraiser. That was an easy one to support since our daughters attend Harpeth Hall. Ink has worked with a lot of different nonprofits through the years but I really enjoy working with the Eve of Janus, Bal d’Hiver, Vanderbilt and so many others. I have also been involved with the Junior League of Nashville (JLN) since we first moved to Nashville. I credit the League with so many of my closest friendships, and I always love supporting JLN when asked.
It seems etiquette of paper is quickly being forgotten. What are a few common mistakes people make?
The first is that no one spells stationery correctly! When you use stationEry you need a pEn. When working with a bride, I tell her the traditional thing to do, so she is prepared for the snobby aunt who might call her out. What she does with the knowledge is up to her, but at least she is armed!
There are several things that seem to be happening more and more that I don’t love. Perhaps my biggest pet peeve is the “married monogram” (a monogram that is made by combining the bride’s first initial, the married last initial and the groom’s first initial). I remind customers that a monogram starts with “mono” and that means “one” or “single.” A monogram is for one person.
I don’t care for the word “past” on an invitation (for example, “half past six”). It is correct to say “after,” and I personally, think it sounds more elegant. The word “and” can be a problem, too. First, the word “and” should not be used in the year; there is no decimal in “two thousand eighteen.” Second, if the bride’s parents are divorced but are sending the wedding invitation together, they should not include the word “and” between the two names. Correctly, the bride’s mother should be on the first line and the bride’s father on the second line, with no “and” between the names (unless they are married and the mother kept her maiden name). This rule also goes when addressing envelopes. If you have an unmarried couple living together, the woman’s name should be on the first line, with the man’s name on the second line.
Another pet peeve is when addressing a married couple, the woman’s name (not the man’s name) should be listed first. You should never separate a man from his given last name. Or think, ladies first. It should be Jessica and Chip Clark, not Chip and Jessica Clark. There are a lot of rules that apply (when to use honour of your presence versus pleasure of your company), and that is why working with someone who is knowledgeable is important! Also, if you want to look up rules of etiquette we always recommend finding an older version of the Cranes Blue Book of Stationery. When looking for paper etiquette that is truly the only resource to use!
What advice do you offer brides choosing their invitations?
I am amazed (and a little hurt) at the number of brides who tell me, “I don’t care anything about the invitations; they just get thrown in the trash.” I remind them that there are two permanent items from the wedding: the pictures and the invitation. The invitation is the first indication to the guests of the type of celebration they will be attending. Many brides and grooms will receive a gift of a framed invitation. If you stay “classic” or “timeless,” I don’t think you will look back and regret your choice. For brides who want a little extra pizzazz, I encourage them to use an envelope liner or a wrap — but keep the invitation traditional.
Is there a current project you are working on that you are particularly excited about?
Perhaps I’m selfish, but my favorite projects are my own and, specifically, my Christmas card each year. I usually start planning a year in advance. Over the years, my plans have required taking a Christmas tree to the beach, building a snowman out of sand on the beach, negotiating my way on the football field at Neyland Stadium, vacationing to specific destinations. All reasons that my husband would tell you that the Christmas card is, unequivocally, his least favorite part of what I do. I also love working with brides, particularly those who want something specific or challenging. It is so fun to give them a final product that they love during such a special time in their lives. That is very rewarding.
Where can we find you when you aren’t working?
There is a good chance at a soccer or lacrosse field (cheering on my youngest daughter), doing a college tour (with my oldest) or at an estate sale. I love a treasure hunt!
What is the best piece of advice you have received, and from whom?
It is simple: be kind. My mom always preached, “Remember the Golden Rule.”
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
My glasses, fresh flowers and Sonic-type ice!
Thank you, Jessica, for continuing and celebrating these traditions! A special thanks to Ashley Hylbert for today’s gorgeous photos!
Regina Bartlett began her nursing career back in 1978. Now, nearly 40 years later, she’s at the helm of TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center. Get to know this woman, who is both warm and dynamic, and find out what inspires her work and the secret to work-life balance. Click here to meet our newest FACE of TriStar!