The Gilded Age

These makers of decorative stationery and prints use designs inspired by the past. 

By Michelle Mastro

Photography by Colin Miller/Strauss Peyton


These days when so much is mass produced, unique stationery and prints can be hard to come by. It’s partly why, in 2017, Madeleine Wiering and her dad, Vernon Wiering, decided to co-own and co-found Papillon Press, a maker of distinctive prints, stationery and other goods. They wanted to revive old designs using traditional printmaking techniques. Several of the brand’s items are amazingly informed by designs from the past, approximately the period between 1790 and 1910.

Vernon worked as a historical bookbinder and restoration artist for 25 years, and several of the patterns they use hail from his collection of rare books. “Many of our patterns are inspired by antique endpapers from old books,” says Madeleine. “Sometimes we attempt to revive them by essentially creating historically accurate replicas, and sometimes we use those old designs as loose inspiration and create something that could have been made in a certain time and place but wasn’t.” Aside from book endpapers, these patterns and designs would have also appeared as wallpapers or other material goods people during that time would have used to decorate their spaces.

Both daughter and father love the art and history behind their work, but Madeleine especially loves the tactile nature of the labor. “I had studied and was working in graphic design,” she says, “but decided to make a pivot to something more tactile. Printmaking really fit the bill.” The St. Louis storefront, where they sell their art as well as other stationery items like fountain pens, vintage inkwells and other goodies, is also an open studio. “So, people may be able to see me running our 100-year-old letterpress on certain days, painting prints or carving.”

Her most recent project included carving a large, patterned woodblock used in the printmaking process. It’s long and tedious work for some, but she loves it. “I estimated the process to take about 30 hours and it ended up taking 45.” She adds, “Carving woodblocks is currently my favorite part of being part of Papillon Press. I love how part of my job is to get my hands a little dirty so that other people can have beautiful art in their homes.”

During the winter months of January and February, the pair set aside time for visioning and planning. Even so, they are still creating. “Soon, I'll start carving another woodblock, as well as working on a lot of custom wedding invitation suites during the months after the holiday season, before art fairs resume in the spring.” The pair is always busy at work, reviving patterns and styles otherwise lost to time. Papillon is French for “butterfly,” and like the insect, the pieces they make are revealed to have beautiful colors and patterns all their own.

Find the brand at their storefront in St. Louis at 2214 S. Jefferson Ave or make a custom inquiry at