We travelled to Devon to meet with De Winton Paper Co. so we are here with the lovely Harriet for the first video blog of “When La Fête Met… De Winton Paper Co.”
Charlotte Ricard-Quesada: So we are here in Devon today with lovely Harriet for the first vlog of When La Fête Met… De Winton Paper Co. Thank you for having us.
Harriet De Winton: Thank you for coming down.
CRQ [laughing]: It was a long drive, but totally worth it. We’ve just got a few questions to grasp how you entered the industry, how your experience has been.
How did you get started in the industry?
Well I was always in the creative industry of photoshoot styling and I’d been a set designer before then, so I was always working creatively and really enjoying it. I was asked by my step-sister to help create her wedding invitations, to illustrate something for her and I just loved it, I thought it was so much fun. I loved that sense of bringing out the creative personality of the couple in this invitation, which is going to be the first glimpse of what the guests see. It was so wonderful and a friend of mine suggesting sticking to hand painting it. There are so many brilliant graphic designers out there, why not stick to something a little bit different and that’s probably the best bit of advice I was ever given, because my whole brand is based around the fact that I hand paint in watercolour. That brings me so much joy because I get to do that rather than look at a screen too much on a daily basis. So I fell into it by doing it for friends and family, but very quickly realised it was something I loved doing.
What or who has been your biggest inspiration and why?
In terms of what, it’s got to be nature. As a wedding stationer, the presence of flowers and plants and foliage is really strong in my work because that is a lot of what couples love to have, especially putting their own wedding flowers onto the page and having that run throughout; and so that’s my favourite thing here in Devon as I’m surrounded by greenery, so that’s inspiring. I’m also very very lucky to have a great friend named Kirsten Butler who is a wedding stylist from The Little Wedding Helper, and a dear friend even before I got into weddings, and she was a fantastic mentor for my first year, just there to give her opinion and advice. She was the most amazing person to have there at the beginning, I think, just to help make […] fewer mistakes.
If you weren’t doing this as a job, what would you be doing?
I think it would still be pretty close. I was illustrating books, I was doing quite a few craft books […], always dreaming that maybe I’d have my own one day. I think I would still be doing something creative like that.
CRQ: So definitely a creative mind?
HDW: Absolutely, I’m pretty useless at anything else! [Laughs]
Which city or country inspires you the most?
It’s got to be Spain and Seville.
CRQ: Oh really?
HDW: Yes. It was Mexico originally. I love Mexican folk art and embroidery; I think that’s my background of costume design. So I thought to start the business I would take myself to Mexico and sit and paint, then I looked at the price of a ticket and had to rethink, so Seville was the most brilliant alternative. I went for a week a few years ago and sat by myself and painted everything. The hand-painted tiles are amazing.
CRQ: And did you go to the Maria Luisa Park?
HDW: Yes, I went everywhere! It was one of the first times I’d been away completely on my own. It was an amazing experience. And what’s lovely is that at the moment I have two couples that are getting married in that region, so I’m able to paint the most wonderful things that I remember.
CRQ: I’ll have to show you my wedding pictures, Antonio [Charlotte’s husband] is from Seville.
HDW: Yes of course!
CRQ: So you probably know the place where we got married, Casa de Pilatos?
HDW: Yeah! Amazing. […] Just the fact that there are all these beautiful tiles in the most mundane places on windowsills, around drains…
CRQ: Have you ever gone to Seville during Feria?
HDW: No I’ve only been the one time but I need to go back.
CRQ: We need to organise this! […] Back to the actual questions now. [Laughs]
What’s your favourite part of the job?
I think when it boils down to it, the act of sitting and painting is just brilliant, but in the lead up to that, I absolutely love interacting with the couples, especially in the early stages where you are working together to come up with a design. Most of my work is bespoke so we start from scratch with each couple. Some people have very clear ideas, some people have no ideas and it’s always a collaborative process, which is lovely. I tend to work with people who trust me to take the seed of their idea, and use my experience to turn into something really special for them. That’s a lovely part. […] I love to be able to do a face-to-face consultation if I can, […] but it’s important to have adaptability and flexibility. Although [everything] I do is hand-painted, it actually becomes a digital file for [my clients] to look at and [which I can easily alter if needed].
What is the one thing you would have told yourself ten years ago?
Don’t worry! [Laughs] I think to not worry about all of the answers and needing things to be perfect and as a part of that, being able to ask for help from other people. […]
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned professionally and why?
I think to trust your instincts. When I was starting up the brand, and the thought came to me from Kirsten of sticking to hand painted, on one hand I was really limiting myself down, but actually I was really clarifying my product and my brand. […]
Tell me something unexpected about your profession that would surprise people.
That I have a Whatsapp group with 15 other stationers and we’re best mates and share everything. We share a lot of advice and we support each other and it’s really friendly. Lots of different styles [of stationery], I think there’s one or two that paint a little bit in my group, but we’re all generous with each other. […] It’s a real community.
How do you see the future of your industry?
It’s very interesting because paper and print are constantly thought of as under threat. […] But for every movement, there is going to be a reaction and you always find groups of people who desperately want to hold on to a certain skill, so I think stationery in terms of paper and card is here to stay and will always be cherished. I think things like wedding websites are wonderful, [particularly] for environmentally conscious couples who don’t want to be using paper. I’d love to see more environmentally friendly paper stocks and card stocks; I try and recycle as much as I can with the company. As far as acrylic for invitations, I personally don’t go down that route, as I don’t think it’s the most eco-friendly [option]. I’d like there to be more conscience in the wedding industry, for stationers in particular, that yes it’s this one thing, this one invitation, for a moment in time, but actually there are consequences after that too. I [also] think that trends are great but I really don’t follow them and I love when a couple can come to me with an idea that’s unique to them. I’d like to think that that would continue, that people are courageous enough to do something that reflects them and not conform to wedding rules.
CRQ: Well thank you very much and I think you’re going to teach me now to [paint some flowers]! […] But lovely chatting with you and we look forward to [seeing] what you do in the future.
HDW: Thank you so much for coming down.