An Impossible Story, Epilogue... or is it just the beginning

July 30, 2014 7 Comments

I’m just not ready to let go. I don’t think you are either. 

let’s talk more about this. 

Really though, the more i think about the impossible story the more i see it like a spider web that is woven through every aspect of my life. It’s events are still unfurling, going forward into today, into this very moment and back into the deep recesses of my history. Where does anyone’s story stop and start? life is a tapestry! Every story is connected! 

I started Inslee By Design in 2006 and didn’t fully realize it until 2010.

For real. I remember calling my parents in 2010 late one night, while sitting in my bed in my town house in Georgetown, laptop strewn across my lap as I spiraled with realization and excitement. I’d spent the last 24 months wringing my hands and staying up nights worrying about why I didn’t have a “real” job like my other fellow recent college graduates. I’d had no idea what a gold mine I was sitting on top of. What a gold mine I had created actually. Until that moment. I called home and blurted out enthusiastically, 


and my parents were like, 

“…..umm yeah. We know” 

Similarly, it is not until just now that I realized how clever I am with this impossible story. There is an intrinsically important story line to add to the mix that just happens to need to be discussed RIGHT. NOW.




Just before the impossible story broke, I was in a full on battle with the polar vortex. I do not like being cold, to put it mildly. The polar vortex drove people to wild speculations about the end of the world and/or global warming. Similarly, it drove me to purchase a Vera Wang navy blue fur trimmed parka with leather sleeves and a detachable black fur vest lining that cost more than some mid-size sedans.  

Owning a piece of clothing this exquisite made me think I was the king of Spain. And then later only made the impossible story that much more humbling and degrading to live through. How could such tragedy befall the owner of a Vera Wang parka? 

Pride comes before the fall. And what a fall it was. 

At one point during the purging of Bed Bug contamination, I threw out our vacuum cleaner and ordered a new one called The Shark. So epic.  

And of course it arrived in a box the size of a canoe, shipped to my studio, and I’d have to figure out how to get it from the studio to the apartment in 13 degree weather and with the upper body strength of a muskrat with a torn disc. 

I unpacked the vacuum and decided it would be easier to carry it without it’s box. I headed out into the night carrying the vacuum like a double-handed great sword. I looked ridiculous but I felt like Scarlett O’Hara. Carrying The Shark home, donned in Vera Wang was the NYC Bed Bug equivalent to Scarlett scraping carrots from the rocky soil to save herself from starvation with memories of balls and suitors and paradise lost floating like vapor on the crimson Georgian sunset. 

Only it was a glacial blue New York sunset and it was fast approaching at 4:59pm.

Bizarre survival scenarios like this one had me fully distracted and wrapped up in self-pitty when I should have instead been focusing on creating my wedding invitation. 

The impossible story struck right when I should have been most focused on the wedding and the wedding invitation specifically. My attention was completely splintered by the impossible events. When I finally did manage to direct my focus to the invitation design we were gravely behind schedule which meant the dreaded word: COMPROMISE. In order to speed up this aspect of wedding planning, corners might need to be cut. 

But I was not ready to compromise on this aspect of wedding planning. The paper mattered more to me than almost anything else. And this thing I cared most about simply could not be marginalized. 

I began a frantic, chicken-with-head-cut-off search for the perfect wedding paper. I needed a very specific paper texture, paper weight, paper color, printing technique, envelope with a pointed flap at a very particular degree of pointedness that had a corresponding inner envelope with customizable lining and I needed a suite that had both wedding invitation, reception invitation and response cards all in complimenting styles. 

I had serious paper-tunnel-vision. If you had asked me at this point if the wedding could go on without an inner and outer envelope on the invitation, I probably would have told you NO, with a straight face. 

The design I had in mind was a tall order. And no one could accommodate it. The cocktail of ingredients I wanted seemingly couldn’t be mixed. And no one could do it fast enough. I’d find a beautiful textured weave but it only would come in ecru, or I’d find a perfect milky natural white paper that couldn’t be made with a deckled edge. Or I’d find a perfect empire sized envelope that didn’t have a corresponding inner envelope or that had a flat edged flap (shudder)… 

I continued to search and search, coming up empty handed at every turn. 

Until I found Dempsey & Carroll.

On particularly frigid afternoon I stepped into their beautiful show room on Lexington Avenue, out of the arctic wind, and found myself in the most accommodating mecca of paper possibilities.  

Remo, the wedding specialist, greeted me with the most debonair Italian accent you’ve ever heard as he said the magic words “Anything you want is possible. We will make it. We will make it right now. Time is no issue” 

With this over-arching benediction of willingness to make anything I wanted and to make it fast, Remo and I entered into a beautiful, conspiratorial, money-burning friendship. It was not unlike the bond between Annie and Frank in Father of the Bride. Nothing was too good for us. 

When I told Remo that I’d spoken to another vendor who told me that modern brides were no longer using inner and outer envelopes for their invites, he shuddered as if I’d just told him I had a venereal disease. 

“Please. It is out of the question. You have to have two envelopes” he told me with complete confidence. I knew we would be life-long confidants. 

At this point the How-Much-Is-All-This-Costing-Me conversation came up with my father.  And the stars aligned to answer this question. 

You see, during a particularly passionate, free-flowing idea session, Remo and my mother had arrived at the genius idea of using my botanical watercolors on a repeat as a floral lining to our vitally important inner envelope which led to a bigger conversation. 

A conversation about Inslee By Design and Dempsey & Carroll as business partners. 

Remo and his team had now seen and liked my art and I had clearly seen and liked what Remo and his team were capable of - which was giving me anything, everything, and the moon. We suspected it just might be a perfect match for a professional partnership. 

How could my dad, a worshiper at the alter of Entrepreneurial Spirit, say no to my wedding suite when it was merely the precursor to the start of a great business partnership? Working with D&C on our wedding suite was the act of good faith, the first step, the bottle of champagne crashing on the helm of our beautiful new virgin stationery vessel. I had him at hello. 

With my parents both on board, and with Remo steering the ship with his flair for the finer things in life, went into production on the wedding suite, and into more serious conversations about how we could partner our brands. We felt confident that combining their rich history in the bespoke paper industry with my whimsically illustrated vantage point would blend into a truly unique product.

And so, as my elegant, empire sized, 6-ply natural white invite with celery green, hand painted beveled edges and blue-black engraved custom calligraphed wedding cards came off the press, we turned our attention to Inslee By Design business.  

Doesn’t this just make the impossible story that much better? While I was laundering my entire life in loads of giant black trash bags and spraying pesticide all over my old apartment and dealing with jelly-donut spinal injuries and negotiating the lease on a new apartment, I was also in meetings with the design team of one of New York City’s finest stationers about creating some seriously fancy paper. 

Our branding session concluded in this - we would begin our brand partnership with the production of the 2015 calendar. 

The calendar is my most favorite thing to create each year. I spend months dedicated to it’s design. I think about each sketch very carefully, creating a story with the flow of images. I clear my commission schedule and let myself become completely wrapped up in painting this product. I was planning to devote the months of June and July to painting the calendar when I returned from my honeymoon. 

But here’s the kicker - in order for us to speed production on the calendar, which would be much more labor intensive than the way I’d produced it in the past, I’d need to get the art done much, much sooner. 

So while I was enduring epidural injections and moving apartments and watching the days tick closer and closer to my wedding day, I also painted the entire 2015 calendar.

I did the entire thing in roughly 2 weeks. 

I didn’t know it could be done. But turns out, bridal glory brought out the best in me and I rose to the occasion. 

The 2015 calendar is amazing. Just wait until you see it. 

But you don’t have to! 

It is READY! 

It will be unveiled any day now. After a long hot summer of design and research, we’ve created the most perfectly curated little product you can imagine. It is singing with the combined artistic taste and finesse of Remo and me. And it can’t wait to go home with you. 

I’ll be launching it next week most likely so stay tuned and have your credit card at the ready. These puppies are going to go faster than a neon nude with roller skates on.

Posted in an impossible story, NYC



7 Responses

August 10, 2014

love this, and can’t wait to see the calendar!

Jana Bek
Jana Bek

August 09, 2014

There is a reason for everything! Love how life works out for talented people who work so hard! Congrats on an amazing collaboration, now off to check out the calendar! Xx jana

the nancy bennett
the nancy bennett

August 01, 2014

King of Spain in your VW parka…..yes, it reminds me of reading you the King of Spain chapter in Betsy-Tacy-Tibb! xxo

Rose Angel
Rose Angel

July 31, 2014

What a story! So glad it had a happy ending….big congratulations, Inslee!! Can’t wait to get my hands on your 2015 calendar!


July 31, 2014

Ah!! Congratulations!! There really is a reason for everything! So exciting!! I can’t wait to see the calendar!

Kimberly / Kimberly Lewis Home
Kimberly / Kimberly Lewis Home

July 31, 2014

The most amazing epilogue to quite a story! So proud of you and can’t wait for the unveiling! xo


July 30, 2014

Wow!! Congratulations Inslee!
I want my calendar ASAP!

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