Florine Asch, Doyenne of the Bespoke Greeting Card
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Florine Asch, Doyenne of the Bespoke Greeting Card
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Whimsical Christmas scenes of yore come to life in French illustrator Florine Asch’s magical bespoke greeting cards, from Father Christmas pulling up to the Ritz in his curvaceous R-shaped sleigh, gifts spilling as he slams on the reindeer brakes, to a uniformed teddy bear perched atop a gift box beside a roaring log fire. Particularly fun are her designs with a pop up dimension - cut by hand, working with paper engineers - where the eye can explore mini worlds of colourful characters and scenes. Offering a refreshing antidote to today’s technology-obsessed world, it’s an aesthetic that resonates judging by Asch’s coterie of clients that includes Baby Dior and the Opéra Bastille which commissioned the artist to design the gala invitation for Rudolf Noureev’s latest ballet, La Bayadère.

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Florine Asch
Courtesy of Florine Asch
 

Asch, whose career stretches back over 25 years, cites the world of children among her inspirations, with Ronald Searle, Gennady Spirin, and Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel among her illustrator heroes. “For me the best pop up books are by an American, Robert Sabuda, they’re incredible,” says the artist who recently moved from Paris to Brussels, taking over a three-storey 1940s townhouse. “It’s a luxury to have more space,” says Asch, who has two young daughters, Iris and Flora. The local Tintin museum is on her to-do list. “It’s the capital of cartoons.”

Her own childhood in Alsace was pretty idyllic, she says, recalling the beautiful decors that her artsy-bohemian mother would dream up for birthdays and Christmases. “Everything was magic, nothing was normal; I could never have ended up in an office job,” says Asch, who clearly inherited her mother’s creative streak. For her Christmas table this year she’s in the mood for shine. “I picked up some golden fabrics from Toto, a vast discount fabric store in Paris that has everything ranging from tablecloths to precious fabrics.” For table conversation pieces, she’s been eyeing Esensual Living’s silver-dipped fruits and vegetables by Creel and Gow. (Gaia&Gino’s Eye Vase and EL’s range of antique Uzbeki cushions are also on her wish list.) 

With a pot of brushes and watercolour palette ever at hand, Asch’s approach is refreshingly old school. “The contemporary hi-tech world is lost on me, my biggest modernity is an iPad,” laughs the artist, who works with three traditional Paris ateliers: a cutter, printer and gold and silver-leaf engraving specialist. Greeting cards are just one of her specialties, with among past projects transporting watercolour travelogues inspired by adventurers of the 18th and 19th centuries and illustrations for Alain Ducasse’s tome, Dictionnaire Amoureux de la Cuisine.

Her most extravagant greeting card commission to date, meanwhile, was for the lavish nuptials of Vanisha Mittal, the daughter of Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal (aka Taj Mittal); an event that lasted for five days and involved the privatization of the Versailles and Vaux le Vicomte palaces. (Delivered to guests on a silver platter, the invitation came in the form of a 25-page illustrated book.)

Clients appreciate Asch’s attention to detail, with the artist overseeing all the details, down to the personalization of the inside of the envelope. But most of all, they enjoy the emotion that her designs bring, as the first impression of an occasion. “I try to breathe joy and poetry into my designs, they’re always very colourful and good-humoured,” says the artist. “For an event, the first thing we receive is the invitation, so I want it to be joyful.”

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A festive design by Florine Asch
Courtesy of Florine Asch
 

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