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Vol. LXV, No. 43
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

Prudential Fox and Roach, Realtors

Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate

Henderson Sotheby's International Realty

N.T. Callaway Princeton Office

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Weichert, Realtors

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It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton

CREATIVE DESIGN: “I like putting things together in a unique way. Instead of just 2-dimensional cards, I like to create something to delight the client. Each piece should reflect their personality. The collaboration with the customers has been wonderful.” Joy Chen, owner of JOYcards, is shown next to a display case filled with her design samples.

JOYcards Offers Rare, Innovative Designs At New Studio Location, 20 Nassau Street

The success of Hallmarks Cards notwithstanding, when you really “care enough to send the very best”, JOYcards is the place to go.

Joy Chen has been providing custom design cards, invitations, announcements, and personal stationery since 1997 when she opened her shop at 20 Nassau Street (the corner of Chambers Street). Last June, she moved upstairs to a private studio, where she could concentrate exclusively on her design work.

“The custom work is important to me, and I wanted to focus on that,” explains Ms. Chen. “This is the perfect location. People know how to get here, and I have a lot of regular customers.”

Creating art has always been a pleasure for Ms. Chen, who began drawing as a child. She later began to design cards and create calligraphy for her personal use and for friends as a hobby. Once she decided to open her business, there was no problem getting clients. As the business grew, the customer base included many regulars and also new clients who had received one of her invitations. While the Princeton area is a major focus of her work, Ms. Chen also has clients in New York, California, Paris, and Canada.

Design Sensibility

The essence of JOYcards is their individuality and imagination, and Ms. Chen believes that each client’s personality and each occasion should be uniquely expressed in the design. She also sees the process as a collaborative effort.

As she explains on her website: “To perfectly express the spirit of an occasion, whether it be a formal wedding, a backyard barbecue, an author’s book reading, a ‘new puppy’ shower, or a pastry demonstration and tasting, we bring together the client’s ideas and personality with our design sensibility. From there, we have at our disposal hundreds of designs from artists around the globe, ranging from the timeless and elegant to the quirky and offbeat. If the exact fit cannot be found, we will work with the client to inspire a custom paper creation that is the perfect social expression for the occasion and will become a cherished keepsake in the years to come.

“I feel the purpose of cards, stationery, invitations, and announcements is fundamentally social — to share life’s celebrations and challenges and bring us all closer as a community. Each client who comes to JOYcards has a story to tell. These personal stories are the source of my creative energy, and helping to tell these stories has been the most rewarding aspect of my work.”

The actual creative process can be intense and time-consuming. For weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs, she has sometimes made more than 100 individually-designed invitations. “I share ideas with the clients, and they tell me their stories and about the occasion. Then, when I get the idea for a theme for the card, I have to figure out a way to execute it. I like the client to be involved.”

Ms. Chen’s completed projects, many of which are displayed in cases in the studio, range from birthday cards and party invitations to thank you’s to showers, weddings, baby announcements, and anniversaries to bar/bat mitzvahs and baptisms to logos, menus, personal stationery and holiday cards.

Invitations can be novel in format, including boxes, little books, and pop-ups.

Surprise Destination

“I think my specialty is really everything,” points out Ms. Chen. “Whether it’s a pop-up invitation for a sleep-over party for 10 girls or an elaborate bat mitzvah, I am creating something unique. This past summer there were a lot of bar/bat mitzvahs. In one case, the girl is very creative, and I made a pop-up card for the invitation, which included some of her own artwork, and we made it look like a miniature art gallery.”

Another project for a client’s 70th birthday celebration was especially challenging — and fun. “This client likes to take a group of friends to a surprise destination for his birthday, and we need something special,” says Ms. Chen.

She came up with a design, including miniature map, passport, airplane, and suitcase. Guests, who had earlier received a Save the Date announcement, didn’t know the destination — Rome — until the moment the invitation arrived. For the same client’s 75th birthday, she designed a similarly inventive invitation — this time for a New York City destination.

Ms. Chen also brings her design talents to commercial projects, such as creating menus for the Yankee Doodle Tap Room, a logo for Tuscan Hills, a logo for McCaffrey’s Cancer Day event, and other projects for the store, as well as designing posters for Princeton’s annual Pi Day.


Holiday cards are another focus, and she will soon be busy with those. “For holiday cards I specialize in incorporating photos — a tree, snowman, family shot, etc. — and printing it on beautiful 100 percent cotton paper.”

Thank you/condolence cards are also part of her work, and in fact, there is really no occasion for which Ms. Chen cannot create a memorable one-of-a-kind card. She often uses specialty papers, such as bamboo, which is sustainable.

As she says, “A wedding, a milestone birthday, a graduation, an anniversary, a baby’s birth — all celebrations to share with family and friends. Your themes, ideas, and passions are combined with our artistry and skill to create social missives that reflect your style, capture your spirit, and tantalize your recipients.

“And, I enjoy meeting the people so much. That is my inspiration. I believe that when you are part of a collaboration, you get so much back.

“Another deeply rewarding aspect of my work is being part of the growing community of women business owners in Princeton. When I was younger, I never thought I would start and run my own business. Even after attending business school, I thought I would simply get a job. After I had my first child, my mother gave me a piece of advice that motivates me to this day. She told me to create something for myself that will make my children proud.”

JOYcards is open by appointment (609) 430-0333, Website:

— Jean Stratton

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