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America’s Top Paper Artisans

Bernard Maisner Calligraphy & Fine Stationery Bernard Maisner is a fairly modest fellow, but when it comes to calligraphy, he can't help saying in his quiet voice, "I do things with a pen that nobody else can do." For Maisner, who is also a painter and a well-known artist, the thrill is in pushing calligraphy to its aesthetic limits and breaking all the rules. His calligraphy designs come in three levels of complexity: from standard (if stunning) to embellished (completely over-the-top). Maisner's popular holiday cards, perhaps the largest on the market, are so dramatically oversized—7½ by 10½ inches—and employ such a vast range of colors, the artist says, jokingly, "The printing press people love and hate me at the same time." Hand-colored butterflies and dragonflies decorate exquisite wedding-dinner menus, but a more eccentric party-thrower might prefer the set of 10 place cards featuring calligraphy Rorschach tests, all different—a guaranteed icebreaker. By appointment only; 165 W. 66th St.; 212/477-6776; www.bernardmaisner.com.

Massachusetts

Brookfield Paperworks Stationery from Brookfield Paperworks looks as though it was lovingly hand-folded on an old-fashioned tin-topped farm table—and indeed it most likely was; the line was started by four friends in rural Massachusetts, and their methodology remains stubbornly antique. Elisabeth Hyder, a paper artist and decorator, creates the bright hand-blocked stationery with its deliberately rough edges for what one guesses is a rather more bohemian customer. Her husband, Darrell, runs the letterpress and says soberly that he sets type using the same method employed by another printer—Ben Franklin. The result of these vintage ministrations is a line adorned with richly inked designs made from custom-made stamps. Brookfield's signature graphics are bright and bold variations on images from the natural world, including patterns of ginkgo leaves, stepping stones, and even lichen. By appointment only; 23 High St., North Brookfield; 508/867-7274; www.orangeart.com.

California

Julie Holcomb Printers Letterpress printer Julie Holcomb started in the business 25 years ago at a little place on Fillmore Street in San Francisco, in the same building where Santana recorded their albums. These days she collaborates with illustrators such as Patricia Curtan (famous for her linoleum-block prints) and shows her work at museums and design centers worldwide. Holcomb, who prints on paper that has been custom-made for her by other artisans, is excited to see ink shades like violet and cobalt turning up on wedding invitations, when even five years ago more traditional hues were the rule. She's also happy about the resurgence of the personal card, which many of her dyed-in-the-wool San Franciscan clients are ordering hand-edged in unorthodox colors like fuchsia and lime. "It's such a thin line that even a strongly colored edge is never overwhelming," she says reassuringly. Traditionalists, however, can still order their cards with rounded corners, hand-edged in classic gold, just like Gilded Age socialites. 510/654-6416; www.julieholcombprinters.com.

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