Bespoke Invitations With Cutture

Director Helen Sharland on the company's intricate laser-cut designs

Lambskin notebooks in cheerful hues, elegant thank you cards in hand made tissue-lined envelopes and elaborate 3D-invitations with embossed motifs – it’s easy to see the appeal of luxury stationery.

It may the digital age, but that hasn’t dampened our enthusiasm for paper. In fact, old-school writing materials are firmly back in vogue. In 2011, John Lewis reported a 177 per cent rise in sales of premium stationery, while over 17million Moleskin notebooks were purchased last year.

Helen Sharland isn’t surprised. Creative retailers have upped their game, says the co-founder and director of Cutture, one of London’s leading bespoke stationery companies.

“Stationery and letter writing is having a massive revival. America has raised the bar with invitations and now it’s happening here in the UK. There’s a real desire for beautiful craftsmanship and paper goods for special occasions, although I think receiving even a handwritten note or a postcard from a friend is wonderful.”

Along with her husband and co-director Dominic, Sharland and her talented team create exquisite invitations for both corporate clients, including Watches of Switzerland, Deloitte, Harrods and Pandora, and private events.

“Many of our products go out to MPs and celebrities, so they really need to stand out. Our clients often tell us that our invitations get people going to their events.” 

Anyhoepark Cutture

Anyhoe Park

Anyhoepark Cutture Detail

Creations for birthdays, weddings and bar mitzvahs are equally impressive. Here, however, the approach is more personal. “For weddings, we’ll usually tell an illustrative story about the couple, while we might focus on a favourite pastime for a birthday party. Recently, we made a 3D invitation in the shape of a film reel for a movie buff and for a client who was into music, we produced laser-etched gold acrylic invitations in a wallet that replicated vinyl.”

Cutture isn’t Helen and Dominic’s first professional venture. The dynamic couple ran an interior architecture and graphic design practice before establishing a separate business making models for architects. It was the purchase of a laser cutter for the company that gave them the idea to explore the world of stationery.

“We were playing around with the machine and thought, ‘This is really cool’,” says Sharland. "At the time – around 2006 – laser-cut stationery wasn’t big at all. We started to do a few invitations for friends’ weddings. One friend had lived and travelled abroad, so we sketched skylines of all the places she’d visited and added illustrations of the couple based on their engagement photos, then laser cut everything. We began taking on more commissions and it grew from there.” 

Tatiana Birthday Invitations

Tatiana Invitation Detail

And boy, has it grown. In 2013, Cutture moved into a 2,700sq ft design studio in West London, where each invitation is lovingly made and finished by hand, and a second workshop has just opened for business in Bedfordshire. Favourable comparisons are frequently made to the illustrious artist Rob Ryan, whose intricate designs are credited with putting laser-cutting on the map.

But Sharland insists Cutture is no trend follower. “We see our machine as a tool within design. You don’t have to laser-cut absolutely everything, which is what the shops are doing. It’s about very simple, design-led cutting. Everything we do has a concept.”

So, what’s the key to the perfect invitation then? “It has to have personality, rather than simply matching whichever theme you’ve chosen for your party. For us, it’s about getting the recipient to have an emotional response.” How you convey essential information is also crucial,"  says Sharland. “It’s a real shame when details about the event, such as venue, etc, are shoved onto a separate A4 page. Everything should be included as one piece. You could hide these details in a paper wallet, for example, or sometimes, we’ll create invitations that are boxes with info cards slotted inside. Everything should be considered and part of the design. It makes a nice keepsake for guests.”

Despite her evident passion for her craft, Sharland insists she’s no Luddite. In fact, the company includes e-vites in its offerings. “Stationery is undoubtedly booming and people have that desire to hold a pencil again. But it’s about moving forwards as well as staying traditional. Digital invites like Paperless Post are fantastic because they’re design led. And where appropriate, it’s great to incorporate technology. We occasionally use video within our invitations.” It may have killed the radio star, but it looks like technology isn’t replacing paper anytime soon.

Golden Birthday Invitation Cutture

Neon Tablenumbers Cutture

Plate Centrepiece Kate Nielen Photography

Cuttures design service starts at £360 and invitations from £20 each, cutture.comCutture Snowflake

Storyboard Invitations Cutture


Posted in Spotlight

by Alix O'Neill
on on 07 October 2016

  invitations, laser-cut stationery, stationery

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