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Custom Watercolor Wedding Stationery From Public House Co.

May 13, 2019

by Sharon Steel

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

In our weekly Featured Shop series, we shine a light on a standout shop from Etsy’s talented seller community, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at their process and story.

It’s the tiny details that get Public House Co. founder Samantha Sullentrup excited about an illustration: the small statues outside a church, the print on a new baby’s blanket, or the vase of flowers perched on a windowsill inside a reception hall. And as a result, Samantha’s custom watercolors—which take the form of wedding invites, save-the-dates, and giftable family portraits perfect for brides- and grooms-to-be—radiate authenticity and warmth. “I’m a romantic, and while I work, I like to think about how a couple is going to start their life,” Samantha explains. “I want the visuals for their big day to be as personal as possible.”

Explore the Public House Co. collection

After teaching art for nearly a decade, Samantha launched Public House Co. two years ago, and found an immediate customer fan base. Today, she works out of her cozy home studio in Kansas City, Missouri, in a light-filled room where her children play and make art beside her. As she grows her business, Samantha remains committed to treating each of her clients with care as she brings their one-of-a-kind visions to life on paper. “I have so many brides who say, ‘I trust you, do your thing,’” Samantha says. “When they give me free rein, it’s amazing. It feels less like a job, and more like a lifestyle.”

Read on to discover some of Samantha’s most memorable commissions, and shop the Public House Co. collection.

Portrait of Samantha in her home studio

How did you get started creating custom illustrated wedding stationery?

I’ve always been drawn to architecture, interiors, and design. When I started staying home with my two youngest girls, I needed to fill that void a little bit, so I did a few portraits for friends and family, and they were really encouraging. After that, I decided to make some practice portraits of houses and sell them on Etsy. I made 15 sales that first month, which just blew me away. It was organic in the sense that I wasn’t pushing toward something—it was coming to me.

Today, your entire line is custom. How did you come to focus on personalization?

So many people wanted custom couple portraits for a wedding gift, or a family portrait with their new baby. So I focused on that, which is how I started doing wedding venues, too—a client saw my house portrait and wanted me to paint their venue as a welcome sign for their wedding. In terms of stationery, when you do someone’s save-the-date and they are pleased, the same client will come back asking for invitations. It just spiraled.

Samantha's desk set-up in her home studio
Samantha uses pen to add details to her watercolors

How would you describe your creative approach?

I try really hard to incorporate a fresh, warm feeling in my designs. I know a lot of watercolorists who are very precise in their technique, but that’s not necessarily me. I want you to sense the artist in the work. For me, it’s more about conveying the vibe of the space and the feeling of the day, as well as the people.

Can you walk us through the process of how you create a custom illustrated wedding suite?

Before I get started, I like to get a visual of what the whole day is going to look like, so I’ll ask the customer to send me links to the wedding venue and their Pinterest board, which is especially helpful if we’re doing custom florals mixed in.

Once I have a sense of the vibe, I sketch everything out in pencil and paint, and then I pen over it to add the little details. Next, I photograph the work, pull it onto my computer, and touch it up a bit. I always send digital sketches, but if a client wants to keep the original artwork of their venue or portrait, I’m happy to send it their way for a little keepsake. I think it’s a great way to remember the day.

Close-up of Samantha's watercolor paints
Close-up shot of Samantha at work with watercolor
Samantha's studio, as seen from behind her desk

Can you tell us about a particularly memorable order?

One couple I worked with, Alison and Ryan, first asked me to do their save-the-date. They had this gorgeous venue, which was built out of limestone in the early 1800s. I painted it and it turned out beautifully, so they came back for a wedding suite.

They had a joint wedding email address, and as we were sending files back and forth, Ryan kept chiming in to say, “I’m just so excited about this, it looks great!” I was thrilled, because grooms don’t always have as much to say about this stuff. For this particular suite, I did custom florals, and they really trusted and challenged me. Theirs is one of the most romantic, whimsical wedding suites that I’ve ever done.

Pivoting to presents, what’s the most popular item in your shop that people give as a gift?

The house portrait is not only my most popular listing, but also one of my personal favorites. Last Christmas, a client ordered a house portrait as a gift. Years ago, her sister had lost a son, and the family always thought of him as a red bird. For this house portrait, the client requested that a red bird be pictured flying around the house. For her sister, the gift was more than just a house portrait—her son was in the painting.

A paint-splattered white apron hangs in Samantha's studio
Samantha in her studio with her three children

Your pieces also make great gifts for weddings. Is that something you see a lot of?

Yes! Lots of customers will purchase wedding portraits as gifts for the bride and groom, with their first home pictured behind the couple. That’s a very common request. Some will say, “established” and whatever day they got married or moved in together, which is another way to customize a portrait and make it even more personal.

In terms of that process, it’s the same: They’ll send photos of the couple and the house and I tie it all together. Once I send it off, my job is done, but I get a lot of lovely follow-up emails from customers. People will reach out and say, “It was the most talked-about gift at the shower, everyone thought it was the cutest thing ever!” I love hearing that.

So, what’s next for Public House Co.?

One of my goals for this year is to create more interior scenes and illustrate different kinds of spaces. I’m putting it out in the world, and it will grow the way it’s supposed to grow—I feel like my clients will lead me where I’m supposed to be going.

Follow Public House Co. on Instagram and Pinterest.

Studio and process photographs courtesy of Public House Co. Invitation photographs by Veraly & Company.

Shop Public House Co.

28 comments

  • TreasuredMemoryLane

    Sujata from TreasuredMemoryLane said 11 days ago

    What a nice way to give personal touch to the invitations! Beautiful work! Congratulations on the feature!

  • thewildplum

    Christina from TheWildPlum said 11 days ago

    Art that holds, reveals and beats with love. How beautifully endearing. ❤️ I enjoyed reading the entire feature but I admit, when I read this: "Last Christmas, a client ordered a house portrait as a gift. Years ago, her sister had lost a son, and the family always thought of him as a red bird. For this house portrait, the client requested that a red bird be pictured flying around the house. For her sister, the gift was more than just a house portrait—her son was in the painting." I had to wipe the salty, warm tears away. Samantha, what a wonderful way to infuse tenderness and joy in this world. Congratulations. Keep sharing your gifts. ❤️

  • xyzmrb5b

    Elena from BusyToysShop said 11 days ago

    This is a very wonderful and unusual approach to creating a wedding invitation that will help preserve pleasant memories of this important day. Each invitation is made with the warmth and love that the master puts into his works.

  • TropicalGarden

    TropicalGarden from TropicalGarden said 10 days ago

    Wonderful behind-the-scenes story! What a personal and special way to preserve important big days in life! Congratulations on the feature!

  • wxzov3hm

    Darya from BijouPuzzle said 10 days ago

    Very beautiful pictures! And very interesting text! I would like to see more wedding decorations for the bride and groom!)

  • qjkovuzo

    Natalia from AirToysDesign said 10 days ago

    This is amazing. Very beautiful work. I wish you success in your work!

  • 4qekqufl

    Tata from TatiJewelryDesigns said 10 days ago

    Very pleased when tell you: "I trust you, do your thing",and then It feels less like a job, it‘s the joy of life.

  • s76tlrrd

    Inessa from LuminessaAccessories said 10 days ago

    Good job! It's so cute, wonderful portraits))

  • qhraxj5x

    Alexandra Mityukova from AmeraldStore said 10 days ago

    Oh, all these pictures are so sweet and soulful. I really like this drawing style. I think you are not in vain got such popularity, this is really what our world needs now

  • bwpo3djd

    Джамамедова Алефтина from Djamalya said 10 days ago

    I'm like a creative person also love to draw, looking at the works of Samantha, I regret that I did not study to paint in watercolor specifically

  • hpsv4tv1

    Alina from KuklaMechti said 10 days ago

    Very airy and delicate watercolors! I like when art objects are used in life) And it's so great when an artist creates something for you personally! He tries to convey the emotions, experiences and individuality of the customer! I wish the author success and inspiration!

  • gilliannorthcott

    Gillian Northcott from esanivintage said 10 days ago

    Nice to see something a little different.

  • twzcdho5

    Darya from GuruAmiToys said 10 days ago

    Watercolor invitations - they are beautiful. These invitations will add zest to every wedding. Beautiful and tender illustrations will be a wonderful gift for a friend, loved one or family.

  • kjnd3i2q

    Tatyana from MOMsBirdie said 10 days ago

    Samantha has very cozy studio! It's so cool!

  • souhxmel

    Liza from eEssenceOrganics said 10 days ago

    Very inspiring story indeed. Enjoyed reading it.

  • pillowlink

    Rosita from pillowlink said 10 days ago

    Very cute works, creative process. Fresh spaces around and lovely kids! Wish you a lot of success here around on Etsy.

  • daizovdj

    Julia from FavoriteToysShop said 9 days ago

    I wish I could draw... The idea is just super!

  • e4o5aube

    Marina from MyHobbyTimeTMN said 9 days ago

    Beautiful and stylish invitations. Immediately you can see your unique style!

  • vrwlwcja

    Lu Lu from Vol4iwa said 8 days ago

    Wonderful history. Happy mother found the small hobby and joy from favourite business, and children nearby. Fairy tale!

  • PetroBean

    Oriaku Onuoha-Bean from JewelryByOri said 8 days ago

    My kind of quirky. Beautiful designs just in time for bridal season!

  • hcv2k0tu

    Ekaterina from DLfamilyWorkshop said 8 days ago

    So cozy and warmth illustrations! Even palette looking wonderful :)

  • YearsAfter

    Sharon from YearsAfter said 8 days ago

    Beautiful illustrated personal touch to cherish forever!

  • SovaHM

    Kate Cherkasova from CherkasovaStudio said 8 days ago

    Very popular theme on Etsy. How do You think, can I made something to be used at wedding?

  • LadyInPurple

    Jennifer Tyson from LadyInPurpleBoutique said 7 days ago

    Such a beautiful feature, congrats Samantha! It brought tears to my eyes when I read the part about the red bird. Wishing you many blessings for a prosperous year!

  • jt3vlxxm

    Anna Sypalo from XstitchbyAnna said 7 days ago

    Cute portrait's style!

  • 8x6fqorg

    Vera from ArtnCraftbyVera said 6 days ago

    What a nice story! And I was really inspired by these beautiful works!

  • PokutniaAnna

    Anna from FairyToysWorld said 4 days ago

    These invitations are the best I've ever seen! Bright and beautiful! You are so talented!

  • izpbvh2q

    Molly from MollyKissDesign said 51 minutes ago

    Wonderful!

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