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Giving Back this Holiday Season

10 Dec

I love this time of year.  Getting together with friends and loved ones, finding the perfect gifts for everyone on your list and what do I enjoy the most?  Giving back.  Every year at The Stationery Studio we host a coat drive to help those in need.  This year, we were presented an opportunity to help some students who didn’t have any coats at all.  For anyone who’s experienced winter in Chicago, you know that you need a winter coat.  We asked everyone at our office to help out and purchase new coats for these kids.  We were thrilled that so many employees brought in new (and gently used) coats for our coat drive.

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The coats were delivered to the school the week of Thanksgiving and the kids were thrilled to get new coats for the upcoming winter.  We donated almost 200 coats!

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You can see the “sea” of coats behind a few of our employees who posed with them before they were delivered.  I love being a part of a company that not only values their employees but cares about our community as well.  Let me know how you give back during the holidays.  I love hearing stories of how others are inspired to help their communities.

Best,

Jennifer

Happy 21st Anniversary To Us

25 Sep

tss-history-blog-002bIt seems impossible to believe that our website begin 21 years ago.  Can you imagine a world without emails or websites?  It was all new at that time.  Large corporations were just putting email systems in place.  The late 1980’s saw the first authorized use of commercial email on the Internet.  We started as a very small little company in 1994.  At that time, we were completing personalized order forms by hand.  Then we were faxing in orders to factories.  No one emailed in orders.  We were a one-person company with some friends and family volunteers to help from time to time.

tss-history-blog-001Back in the day, we took our product images with a Kodak camera that had a floppy disk.  We inserted the floppy into our first computer and after probably 5 minutes the image appeared on the screen and we loaded it into our back end system.  We were using a store-bought application for our website in the early days.  We had few choices for website graphics, colors, styles and typestyle.

Time passed, we grew slowly and steadily, and we continued to add more and more products like stationery, gift stickers, notepads, and even hand-painted ceramic piggy banks.  We learned through trial and error.  As one of the premier personalized stationery and gift websites on the internet, we had few competitors at the beginning.  We soon grew out of our internet solution as we needed the tools to be more flexible for the types of products we sold.  We hired professional developers to create a custom application for our website, which was a very big deal at the time.  We were growing.  Fast.

We were a trailblazer in this industry and, in many ways, still are.  We still operate by adding products one by one, giving personal care to each item in our selection, providing unique product options for many items, and creating boutiques online to show the items off, just the way we’d like to see them if we were a retail store.  Our staff has grown, too, with many professionals joining our family, and adding their special touches to the look and feel of the website, the product images, the graphics, work flow of the website, the services we provide to our customers, and more. Several of our original staff members are still with our company and are as indispensable as ever.

tss-history-blog-003Starting with a website that boasted 50 products 21 years ago in a corner of our living room, to the present as we feature a comprehensive selection of over 20,000 personalized stationery and gift items, with over 10,000 visitors daily, has truly been a process.  We moved to a nice large modern facility and have a full team supporting the 24/7 business.  However some things never change. Our specialty niche and daily responsibilities are still the same as they were on day one:  to provide excellent service, quality products and competitive pricing.

We treat every order with care, with several customer service team members checking the details as it moves through the process.  We answer customer’s emails very quickly.  We answer our phone and help customers personally.  We have a skilled team of customer service representatives (who also love personalized items, I might add!) and get excited about helping customers create their great orders.  And we go out of our way to assist with special requests.

Creating wonderful personalized products is what we do.  All of the products we offer are made in the USA.  And we keep many factories humming with the volume of orders that we produce.  We love all the repeat customers that return to us time after time.  We enjoy the growth we have experienced and are grateful to our customer base.  It’s been an exciting 21 years and it’s time to celebrate!

Looking forward to what the next twenty years will offer!

Best wishes,

Renee

 

Behind the Scenes with Museware Pottery

4 Aug

One of our favorite lines of pottery is Museware.  It’s a brand we’ve carried for many years and for good reason.  Today, we wanted to take you behind-the-scenes with this wonderful company.

In 1998sheree2, Sheree Burlington walked into a local paint-your-own-pottery studio and became completely obsessed. After three years of owning and operating a trio of studios, she began searching for a more creative direction.  In 2005 Sheree rented studio space in a historic mill in Manchester, New Hampshire. Fifteen hundred square feet of exposed brick walls, ancient & scarred natural wood floors, cool, rusted pulleys mounted to the ceiling.  And No Heat. She showed up with a bunch of paint and some brushes.  Years later, and in a new location, they work daily to create the hand painted, personalized pottery gifts we love, known as Museware Pottery.  Sheree is the designer and owner and refers to herself as “a licensed artist, seeker, writer, storyteller, sporadic blogger, pattern maker, humorist, singer and shameless self promoter.”

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Their unique company offers a wonderfully handmade line of ceramic family plates, platters, photo frames & more.  They are perfect for the many celebrations in life such as a long-awaited reunion, a happy housewarming, milestone birthday, retirement or other special family occasions. Each piece of their pottery is individually hand-painted. No two are exactly alike.

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This production table shot shows a typical wedding season day.

The Wedding Invitation Platter is their most popular personalized wedding gift. Conceived over a cup of hot tea & a Snickers bar, the exact language of an invitation or any text provided  is handwritten, in cursive, in the background on the plate.

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The Sketchbook collection is their newest addition to the line. It’s hand drawn, simple & modern. Plates, platters, vases and photo frames with a smile. Hand-painted and fired in a kiln and a perfect treasured item.  They are a gift that’s fresh, fun and personal. With a focus on the ever popular monogram, each pottery gift features a unique, rendered hand-sketched illustrations.

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Lots of testing goes into new product development. Each time they pulled a test piece from the kiln, they’d say “That’s my favorite!” “We love this 13″ plate with the house design for a housewarming gift – it’s our favorite – next to the monogram, owl, wreath, and flowers!”

aug-museware-002Museware Pottery gifts are entirely handmade. Real human beings handle every step of its creation, from the Italian guys hand pressing, trimming & cleaning the clay to the New Hampshire gal who carefully wraps, packs & ships a finished platter.

aug-museware-003aTheir designs are produced on bisque – unfinished white earthenware clay that is hand pressed & kiln fired to 1900 degrees. The bisque arrives by shipping container, eventually finding its way to their noisy, dusty mill. It arrives by skid and the guy who delivers it knocks on the door in such a distinctive way that they all know who it is. Once unpacked, each piece is carefully inspected for flaws. It’s rare that a piece comes out of the box and onto the shelf without some work. Bumps and other small imperfections are smoothed away with a stilt stone. Irregular bottoms are leveled by rubbing the pottery foot across the abrasive surface of a kiln shelf. It’s a noisy, grindy process and the air around the table gets cloudy with bisque dust.

All of this humanity means that everything about Museware Pottery is imperfect. The shape is imperfect – some slightly misshapen, others embossed with the maker’s finger prints. The painting is imperfect – humidity and temperature plays a role on thickness & viscosity. Since their studio is in an antique mill, if it’s windy outside, it’s windy inside. Even moving air can change the outcome.  The end result is that each piece is truly one of a kind. No two pieces are ever exactly alike, and that’s how they like it.  That’s art – perfectly imperfect.  Perfectly unique.  Try and enjoy Museware Pottery – we think you’ll love it too.