When Woodstock-based photographer Jeffrey Milstein started Paper House Productions 30 years ago this January, there wasn’t really anything comparable on the market. The blank greeting cards and stickers that he designed were strikingly unique, both in the way that the expertly die-cut edges lifted the image out of any context or background, and in the clarity of the photographic images that allowed the object pictured to take on an arresting “realness” that hadn’t been seen in stationery products before.
Although Milstein sold the company in 2000, and is no longer involved with Paper House Productions, the current design team based in Saugerties continues to carry out the same style for which the company was always known while adding dimension to it: literally, as the 3-D greeting cards, stickers and magnets using dimensional elements are currently the top sellers for the company, says Sarah Ardila, vice president of marketing for Paper House and involved in product development as well.
The appeal of the company’s style, as originated by Milstein, says Ardila, is in the way that the images never go out of style. “We have a red rose image, for example, and it’s just the most iconic, perfect representation of a red rose. One of the first images Milstein did was a black Labrador, and you look at it and say, ‘That looks exactly like my dog.’ He created this timeless look: a unique perspective capturing something exactly as it is.”
The current design team works to keep that original vision, says Ardila, while evolving the line to include new elements. “We didn’t get rid of anything,” she says, “just evolved a little bit to go in another direction and deepen our assortment. It all works with the original vision.” The current focus in their thinking, she says, is to present the iconic imagery “as a verb,” meaning that the image isn’t about a particular flower but about the feeling of giving or picking flowers, evoking a feeling of an action.
Die-cut images are still important to Paper House, even figuring into the puzzles that the company produces, which not only have die-cut edges adding to the challenge of putting them together, but also have small die-cut pieces inside the puzzle relating to the primary image. A puzzle depicting a pair of lovebirds has die-cut heart shapes hidden within and a die-cut baseball glove has baseball bat- and diamond-shaped pieces.
The company employs about 30 people locally at its Malden Turnpike offices in Saugerties. Ardila is one of only two in the company who live out of state, she says, with most living in Saugerties or nearby areas, including company president Don Guidi. “It’s a good pool of talent from the area, with four designers, production people, finance, accounting, warehouse and operations there. They’re the ones really making it happen. The company is proud to do 85 percent of its manufacturing in the US, Ardila says, with only 15 percent done overseas.
Paper House Productions founder Jeffrey Milstein has shown his photography widely since selling the company in 2000. In November of 2011, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC exhibited Milstein’s “AirCraft: The Jet as Art,” featuring 33 super-sized, high-resolution images of aircraft presented in his trademark style of pristine clarity of image.
Paper House Productions’ cards, magnets, notebooks and puzzles are available at national and local retailers, such as Manny’s in downtown New Paltz; (845) 246-7261, www.paperhouseproductions.com.