Interview by Jessica Burke
Written by Natalie Pompilio
“A wedding invitation sets the tone for the big day, providing guests with a hint of what’s to come.” That’s what designer Alexa Pulitzer tells potential clients, noting that all wedding invitations – even the traditional – portray personal touches. Part of her job is interpreting those and creating a one-of-a-kind and personal design.
“Give me something of you … Let’s dig a little deeper,” Pulitzer tells clients. “I’m very direct. I’ll say, ‘Are you unique? Let’s make this unique.’”
Pulitzer is an internationally-known designer, a classically-trained artist who draws inspiration from music, architecture, art and her native New Orleans. Her detailed drawings, often featuring local flora and fauna, are iconic. Words like whimsical, classic and elegant are often used to describe her work.
Pulitzer’s best-known work may be “King Gator,” which shows the state’s reptile wearing an majestic crown. The king has graced magnificent wedding invitations, sometimes even with a queen, since Pulitzer launched her eponymous company in 1995.
After Hurricane Katrina, Pulitzer donated her time and talent to create a new logo for the Office of Recovery & Development. More recently, Pulitzer was chosen to create a logo for New Orleans’ 300th anniversary celebration in 2018.
Pulitzer has created wedding invitations for people all over the world. Most consultations are by phone, she says, although some brides-to-be meet with her in person in her atelier, sometimes with their mothers in tow. (Future husbands rarely participate in these consultations, Pulitzer says.)
“One of the best things about running my own company is I do not have to ask anyone else’s opinion. I trust my gut,” Pulitzer says.
The artist recommends that couples commence the invitation creation process at least four to six months before their big day. Custom invitations take time – there’s a back and forth proof process many people forget about – as does printing and calligraphy. The goal is to have a memorable invitation and to be a gracious host who allows guests a full six weeks to clear their calendars.
Pulitzer tells her clients to avoid letting social media platforms be their design guide and to trust her to guide them. She doesn’t follow or respond to trends. In fact, she says “I create trends.”
“I don’t look at what anybody else creates,” she says. “I’m a leader. I trust my intuition and have an elevated taste level.”
As 2017 draws to a close, Pulitzer notes that brides-to-be seeking inspiration from big brand wedding magazines or social media were leaning towards foil printing in metallic inks.
While foil printing has a youthful pop, it’s a printing process that Pulitzer strays from. “My art is incredibly detailed, so I prefer to engrave (an old-world printing technique),” she says. When engraved, “metallic ink such as rose-gold or gold are opulent, majestic and exude elegance.”
One of the first things Pulitzer ask couples to keep in mind is their budgets. After hearing a couple’s ideas, she will offer prices and then create two to three options within their price range. (She admits being partial to certain design elements, like printing in a unique blue/gray/green hue called Anthracite.)
“Brides put so much pressure on themselves to create a memorable day that they lose track of what they’re spending on their wedding. I pride myself on explaining the nuances and price points of various printing techniques that I offer and confirm that my art will look wonderful no matter how we print. I’ll make sure of that,” Pulitzer says. “I want people to take pride in what I’ve created for them. I want them to know they’re in trusting, capable hands.”
And while invitations do set the tone for the wedding, not every high-end event needs to be heralded with the thickest card stock with beveled edges and custom envelope liners.
“Invitations that don’t have all those elegant and costly bells and whistles can also have soul and uniqueness that are just as thrilling for the guest,” Pulitzer says.
Many clients want Pulitzer to create a cypher (a two letter monogram) – usually using the first initial of each of the couple’s first names. No two are alike.
“I start with a fresh white page every time I start a project” she says. Once Pulitzer has created a couple’s custom design, she will make unique alterations for every object on which her art will appear. By adding adornment such as wreathes, decorative frames, flowers, and even antlers, the couples cypher will appear different on their wedding invitation than the one featured on their programs and that same design will be slightly different from the cypher on their napkins, place cards and thank you notes; all due to the individual attention Alexa gives to each project she creates. “I actually create every piece,” she says. “It’s very satisfying to finish creative projects on a daily basis.”
In many ways, New Orleans is critical to her work and all of Pulitzer’s branded products are printed locally. She takes great pride is producing her products in New Orleans whereas her competition manufactures in China. While she’s lived and worked for textile companies in Italy and France, she chose to return to her native New Orleans to build her business.
When asked to name her favorite thing about the city, she immediately ticked off a list: Preservation Hall, The Music Box, marching bands in Mardi Gras parades. “My favorite thing about New Orleans is the music and its creative populous,” she eventually decided. “New Orleanians are gregarious, outgoing, spirited and they say hello to everyone – no matter their background. I surround myself with passionate creative types who encourage and nourish my creativity – I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.”