Flat Lay Wisdom from Plume Calligraphy

We have been fans of Plume Calligraphy’s Aileen Fretz for quite some time. We love her neutral, natural aesthetic and are excited to showcase some of her beautiful invitation designs as well as her valuable words of wisdom on wedding styling.

Tell us a little bit about how you started your invitation business, was this something you always wanted to do?

I went to college for graphic design and always dreamed of running a small, boutique style stationery company! My husband and I ran a corporate graphic design company together for a number of years. We started taking product and headshot photos for a few of our clients, which inspired us to transition into a wedding photography business which we ran for 8 years. When we decided to close the doors on that business I still wanted to work in the wedding industry, so I went back to my graphic design roots and my dream of being a boutique stationer. I began to teach myself calligraphy and post my progress on Instagram. It’s taken years of learning and growth, but overall it’s been such a dream come true, I couldn’t be happier!

How do you describe your style?

I would describe my style as both romantic & minimal with an organic, handmade aesthetic!

“ Styling blocks  are also a must, they help add layers, shadow and depth to a flat-lay.”

Styling blocks are also a must, they help add layers, shadow and depth to a flat-lay.”

Do you photograph your own work? What are your favorite styling tools to use?

I take most of the photos of my work with my iPhone, it’s quick and allows me to document my most recent work as I’m creating! My go to photographer when I need professional photos is my friend Reid Lambshead, who is amazingly talented and took all the photos for my website!

The most important styling tool for me is the surface that I’m using to set the stage for a styled layout. A neutral toned styling board allows the elements of the suite to dictate the color scheme, while a coloured styling board with a neutral palette suite leaves room for the backdrop to dictate the color scheme! The same suite can look completely different in this way by playing with the tone of the surface.

Styling blocks are also a must, they help add layers, shadow and depth to a flat-lay. I also love incorporating elements that would present if an invitation were opened by a guest, things like stamps, vellum wraps, silk ribbon, wax seals are some of my favorites!

“A flat-lay doesn’t have to include every piece in one photo, framing key elements can help create an interesting and dynamic photo or series of photos.”

“A flat-lay doesn’t have to include every piece in one photo, framing key elements can help create an interesting and dynamic photo or series of photos.”

Are there any compositional rules that you use when you style your own paper goods? How do you begin, and what steps do you take? How do you know when you're done?

I tend to place the invitation first, making it central to the frame and then add the smaller pieces until the overall aesthetic feels right. I’m not sure I have set rules, I tend to adjust and move pieces until it feels balanced and well rounded, each piece drawing the eye to the next. I like to create layers and balance the weight of the pieces included in the flat-lay. For example, if I have a large botanical print as a color accent, I like to balance it with a set of vintage stamps that pull colors from the illustration, creating an interesting relationship between pieces.

What do you wish photographers could do differently when they photograph your work?

I love when a photographer takes pieces from a suite and showcases them individually, creating a flat-lay focused on just the invitation for example. A flat-lay doesn’t have to include every piece in one photo, framing key elements can help create an interesting and dynamic photo or series of photos.

Overexposure is something that I see a lot when photographers are working with stationery. Stationery, being such a flat surface can be reflective and difficult to capture in a way that shows both texture and the written elements.

One little pet peeve I have is crooked layouts! This is me being super particular, but when an element gets bumped out of place it seems to draw the eye, when the eye should be moving easily across the suite able to focus on the design elements. This is how I judge my own work for sure, I love a nice neat flat-lay! It’s either all straight or all askew!

What type of styling props and tools should photographers consider bringing to their weddings? Is there an ideal kit they should have?

Great question! Portability is probably the most important thing for a wedding day, keeping items small, but intentional. Styling blocks are a great, lightweight item to have to give depth to styled paper goods, vintage stamps, ribbon and a styling surface that can be carried in a protective bag or can be rolled and carried is helpful. When my husband and I would photograph weddings, I loved using foraged flowers or greenery for on the go additions to a flat-lay!

Do you have any advice on how photographers and stylists can differentiate their flat lay style from each other?

Establishing a unique collection of styling tools and surfaces will help your flat-lay style become identifiably yours. Using key elements from your collection frequently will help your audience begin to recognize your work apart from others, small handmade bowls, a vintage ring box, consistent colour schemes, etc.

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To see more of Aileen’s work, visit PlumeCalligraphy.com. Photographs by Reid Lambshead.

Jen Huang