Valentines cards with Katie Leamon

These days it seems like the true meaning of Valentine’s Day has been somewhat forgotten amongst all the commercial hype. With the day of love fast approaching, we explore the celebration's fascinating history and ask stationery designer Katie Leamon what she thinks Valentine's should really be about…

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and shop windows are exploding with red ribbon frills, heart balloons and rose petals. Florists across the country are working to meet all their orders and boxes of chocolates are flying off the shelves.

Despite this, we’re hearing that more and more couples are choosing to ignore the annual event. Many people are starting to feel like it’s all become a bit too commercial. It was only a few months ago that we were giving our loved ones Christmas presents, then we had to survive Dry January, and now we’re back to splurging on champagne, fine food and gifts again.

Back to its roots

What if we went back to focusing on the core meaning behind Valentine’s Day? Contrary to the perception that it is nothing but a big, modern, commercialised blow out, the celebration can be traced as far back to the 6th century BC. It’s actually an older tradition than Christmas, with a fascinating history.  

In ancient Rome, Valentine’s Day was originally a pagan festival called Lupercalia, which was celebrated every year on February 15th. Completely unrecognisable to today’s practices, thousands of years ago the bizarre yet popular festivities involved animal sacrifices, priests feigning laughter and a ceremony where men pretended to ‘whip’ the women of the city with strips of goatskin, which was believed to make them fertile. It was such an ancient custom that by the time records started mentioning the event, none of the participants even knew why they were doing it – it was just a tradition that they did every year.

While that all seems a little extreme, it’s believed that with the rise of Christianity they reinvented Lupercalia to make it less pagan. It was transformed into a righteous and holy day that celebrated the devout Saint Valentine, the patron saint of lovers.

The first Valentine’s card

The story goes that Saint Valentine was a temple priest, who went against the anti-Christian Emperor Claudius II by helping Roman soldiers to marry their sweethearts in secret. He was arrested, but miraculously healed a blind jailer’s daughter he met while in prison. The night before his execution on the 15th, he left her a note signed ‘From Your Valentine’. It’s likely that the story is based on the actions of more than one man named Valentine, but over time the identity has merged into one iconic, romantic saint.

For hundreds of years, married couples and partners have been leaving notes of affection to their loved ones, and the tradition continues to this day. The oldest Valentine note in existence is a poem written by the Duke of Orleans to his wife in 1415 while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Couples are not the only ones who get to participate, however. Valentine’s Day is also a time for secret admirers to post letters to the ones they hold hidden affection for, bravely revealing their true feelings and laying their cards on the table, so to speak.

If Valentine’s Day is really about the thoughtful act of expressing your feelings to those who are important to you then it’s still worth celebrating. You can keep it conventional and meaningful by simply sending a beautiful card with a heartfelt, hand-written message.

Beautiful cards with meaningful messages

No other nation sends cards in the way that we do in Britain; it’s an important part of our culture and we buy more cards per person than any other nation. The digital age is upon us and common items like bank statements, newspapers, CD’s and books have been replaced with electronic counterparts. Yet we still love real, printed cards. According to the Greeting Card Association, we spent £1.7 billion on cards in 2017 with the majority still being bought in shops rather than online.

‘I think in a modern world where technology is at our fingertips, people savour the warmth and tangible emotion they get in sending and receiving cards’ explains Katie Leamon, founder of luxury card and stationery brand Katie Leamon. ‘Everyone, children and adults alike, love getting a nice card in the post, and it demonstrates someone has gone that extra mile when email and text is so readily available. I think the rise of technology has actually led to people making a conscious choice to revert back to a hand-written card and made it more sacred.’ 

Katie Leamon is best known for making beautiful hand-printed greeting cards, made using individual polymer rubber stamps. Katie’s designs are modern, sophisticated and minimalist, usually including geometric prints, slanted fonts and marbled colour.

She also designs pencils, notebooks and wrapping paper, and launched her debut leather collection in 2018. Luxury stores like Selfridges, Anthropologie, Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and John Lewis stock her ranges, as well as independent concept stores, boutiques and bookshops.

Similar business values

With a design studio based in the heart of London and a family-run production studio in the Essex countryside, we noticed a lot of similarities between our two brands, from her commitment to producing outstanding products to her dedication to running a sustainable business.

“I try to keep my designs simple, clean and emotive. I want someone to want to reach out to touch it. To notice the little details in both the card and the envelopes and cherish the whole process.” – Katie Leamon

Katie believes in creating original paper products that evoke a sense of nostalgia and warmth through outstanding quality and a beautiful aesthetic. Her elegant and iconic designs reflect her love of typography, stationery and vintage curiosities.

‘I began in 2010 by applying my illustrations to a range of products including cards and notebooks. I lovingly hand printed each card, and sewed each notebook hoping to build a tangible connection to each product that our customers could then enjoy. Eight years on we still aim for that exact same feeling in all the products we make.’ – Katie Leamon

Similar to our own environmental policy, Katie clearly upholds the importance of producing sustainable, eco-friendly products. Looking at every aspect of their business, the company has pledged to go completely plastic-free by 2020. All their cards and stationery are responsibly made with incredible care and attention at every stage of their journey and are made from FSC certified paper.

‘For me, Valentine’s Day can be a bit overdone and commercial, but I am always in favour of celebrating love with those held dear to you,’ Katie explains.  

‘Whether that be a partner, child, family member or friend. A simple hand-written card can go a long way to show someone you care, or that you are thinking of them. I think it’s simply about saying; friendship, love and kindness go a long way in this mad world and having a day to stop and let people know they are loved is well worth celebrating.’  

Take a look at www.katieleamon.com to shop her outstanding range of cards and stationery products. In addition to individual items, a monthly subscription parcel is also available to order and creative workshops are also available to book.