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Bespoke Card Designers

By Jemi Ekunkunbor

The journey to say “I do”  actually starts with an invitation card. A wedding invitation says a lot about the imminent wedding and gives an insight into what the day will be like. As a result, wedding cards today are well crafted to reflect the personalities of the couple, colour codes for the day and all necessary guidelines.
Ata Ashiru, Damilola Taiwo and Rola Adegboye,  are three women who are into designing of wedding invitations. All three women have left their callings to pursue passion which has turned them into the entrepreneurs they are today.
Crafting bespoke cards using cutting edge technology is what they stand for. Their innovative pieces have put them head and shoulder above the pack.
In this interview, these three beautiful, talented and well-read women talk about their life in the creative world and that aspect of the wedding they love or dislike.

Rola Adegboye – Thriving On Uniqueness


Rola Adegboye is the M.D. and Principal Designer at R’ADE Designs Prints Handcrafts Limited. Obsessed with creativity and inspired by everything from everywhere, her passion for designs and colours grew until she birthed her company. Her cards which are often luxurious are fine pieces of art.  Rola holds a Master’s Degree in Internet and Multimedia Engineering from London South Bank University, UK and a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Technology from Babcock University. She is a mother of two boys.

How has your life in creativity been?
It has been amazing, but there have been the good and bad days. Good, when the creative juice flows without end and days when I am completely stumped. But the good days make up for the bad ones.

What inspires you?
Inspiration is everywhere, nature, people, fashion, culture, architecture, things, animals, places, absolutely everything!

What fascinates you about weddings?
You have got to love weddings. I get fascinated by those little extra details.

How do you make a card create memories?
The first step is always to speak to the client about their expectations. We don’t make that process too formal so we can just pick up off their vibes and,  the picture they’ve got going in their minds. We then get on to the job of making their visions a reality through our creative process.

Nigerians do like exclusivity. How far have clients stretched you in this regard?
We get very excited when we get such clients as it’s always a joy bringing those concepts to life. However, we find that most Nigerians are visual, they’d instead go with something they’ve seen somewhere before, and I must be honest, this stagnates our creativity sometimes but, we always find a way to make each piece unique. That is why we also channel that energy into creating design collections. This will be the third time we’ve launched our annual design collections.

What colours do you like to work with for weddings?
This is a tough one because I am obsessed with colours. Green, however, is my favourite colour, but I hardly ever get requests in Green. So I’d say Ivory, black and gold.

Besides the conventional paper, have you used other materials for your designs?
Yes, we have. We work a lot with acrylic, and we have engraved on wood as well.

Can you foretell the outcome of a wedding from the invitation?
I wouldn’t say that exactly – we are probably not soothsayers. We do know though, and any married couple will tell you, that the wedding planning process can be trying. So, being able to agree on some seemingly minute details will indicate a degree of compromise.

What special effects set a wedding card apart from other types of cards?
Embellishments, layers, textures and a wide variety of print finishes are used to set designs apart from each another.

What impression should a wedding card give?
A wedding card should ideally set the tone for the wedding. If a client has a themed marriage, for instance, it is always advisable to carry the theme along from the very beginning – which is marked with the Invitations.

What is it like doing luxury products?
We like to stand out, and we thrive on that. Even when I get my inspiration from a concept, we aim to make it even better than the original. It’s that little extra detail that makes them more luxe, and as you know, luxe doesn’t come cheap.

What aspect of a wedding impresses you the most?
I would say the Invitations because that’s what we are about!. I also like the special effects and décor. Although I do not get to experience most of these weddings as we are most likely working on another set of Invitations on those days, I see a lot of amazing photos and videos on Instagram.

What aspect of the wedding ceremony don’t you like or enjoy?  
Weddings have now become so much fun and glamorous compared to back when I got married. Events are evolving daily, and a lot of efforts put into the nitty-gritty. I would say I like everything, except of course when the Jollof rice finishes before I have had a chance to taste some – sadly, that happens more often than I would like.

Ata  Ashiru – Shooting For Excellence

Ata  Ashiru
Ata Ashiru

Ata Ashiru holds a degree in International Business from Clark Atlanta University,  Atlanta, Georgia and an MBA in Finance from Keller Graduate School of Management also in Atlanta, Georgia. For about 19 years that she lived and worked in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, she handled her creative side as a side gig. But after her well-crafted 30th birthday card made waves, she shifted her hobby into a business.
On return to Nigeria, the wife of Tunji Ashiru in April 2012, launched Inkhearts Studio.  The company strives to create memorable and unique designs for clientele looking for customised personal service.
With a keen eye for impressive detail and one-of-a-kind creations, Inkhearts Studio has grown to become one of the most-sought-after design studios.  
The mother of twin boys and a girl is the Creative director of Inkheart.

How has your life in creativity been?
In my world, creativity is just life in colour. My creativity is innate, deeply rooted in me in my unique way. As a child, I vividly remember finding creative ways to create fun-filled experiences. I would gather my siblings, cousins and friends and come up with action scenes, and cast and direct plays. Funny enough, I also used to send out handwritten invitations on paper to family members asking them tocome watch our plays in the evening when the adults were back from work.
In secondary school, I veered towards art classes; literature is one of my favourites. Macbeth and The Mayor of Casterbridge are two literature books I must have read a thousand times over. I enjoyed reading and writing so much so that I wrote two fictional books in my senior year at International School Lagos, but I never got to publish. In my adult life, my creative spark continued from hair styling, curating and styling small events to where I am today, a proud stationery designer.

What was unique about your 30th birthday card that opened the business door for you?
Before my creating invitations for my 30th birthday party, I had designed and created invitations for my wedding the year before,  and several other milestone events for friends and family. However, there was something more unique about the invitation suite I created for my milestone birthday. First off, it was a masked theme soiree, and the venue I chose was an absolute dream.  So I knew the invitations I was going to create had to set the tone for my party with character and flair. I created tri-fold invitations using rich hues with thermography print and finished off the look with damask patterned flocked paper. The result got people talking and some asking where I had ordered them. The expressions of disbelief, which quickly followed with delightful accolades and praise after revealing I made them myself, was quite surprising and heartwarming. It gave me just the right amount of validation and motivation I needed to move forward and start my business.

How did you turn your hobby into a business?
When I decided to leap into creating invitations as a business, I was still working full time at Deloitte Consulting in the United States. The first thing I did was to decide on a business name and officially incorporate my business. I also didn’t have a graphic design background: so,  I spent a lot of hours online researching the nuances of the graphic design world and network with a few friends in the industry, to teach me a trick or two. To expand my client base further than just family and friends, I registered with global digital wedding planner sites such as The Knot.  papermill companies, ran a stationery and lifestyle blog and also registered with social media platforms.
I’ll never forget, the first opportunity I got was a large order from my dear family friends, the Onirus. They took a huge chance on me because I had just started getting my feet wet. They ordered 700 wedding invitations, which I designed and assembled all by myself at the time.
Since then, the business has grown organically more than anything else, mainly through a lot of referrals and social media.

How do you make a card create memories?
We have never created an invitation twice. We may create variations of one design, but every invitation we design is always personal and uniquely shaped for each client.
We do not take for granted that clients come to us to create pieces that play a role in celebrating special life events. Therefore, from the inception of a client’s first consultation with us to the execution of an approved design to final delivery of each carefully crafted masterpiece, we strive to create memorable experiences for all clients we come in contact with.

Nigerians do like exclusivity. How far have clients stretched you in this regard?
The clients that come to us expect a certain level of personalised service and sometimes,  dish out deliverables that do not align realistically. I find that the key to handling such scenarios is honest communication with the client. You are more likely to gain new found respect and repeat business from a fussy client if you are an accurate and reliable person in the industry. Thankfully, for the most part, we have been able to match client expectations with our deliverables. We have been privileged to work with very high profile clientele from individuals to global corporations who rate us highly.  Most of our contacts have ended up being repeat clients, and I think that says a lot about the kind of standards and values we uphold.

Besides the conventional paper, have you used other materials for your designs?
Certainly! We have come a long way regarding how we get creative with our designs. For example, gone are the days of traditional and uptight couples. These days, couples want their style and taste to reflect on their special day. Personal style can be reflected from décor down to wedding invitations. We are blessed to have clients who afford us the opportunity to create unique pieces, crafted from materials such as brass, acrylic, plexiglass, suede, wood and much more.

Can you tell the outcome of a wedding from the invitation?
I think not. However, I believe you start to create hype or drab feelings right from the point a guest receives your wedding invitation.

What special effects set a wedding invitation apart from other types of invitations?
The beauty of creating custom designs is that you get to meet with different types of personalities. We’ve worked with clients who are very much so in the limelight but lean towards understated but elegant invitations.  The latter is entirely private in their everyday lives but want the most colourful invitations. Whichever one turns out to be their cup of tea, each design is unique in their interesting way. The more important things to pay attention to are: the quality of materials used and the proper application of the print methods, which in turn sums up to total customer satisfaction.

What impression should a wedding card give?
An invitation should always set the tone for your event. Let your invitations reflect your style be it quirky or suave. Use colour and do not be afraid of it. Afterall, life is living in colour.

What aspect of a wedding impresses you the most?
I’ll have to mention my two favourite parts. The first is the couple reciting their wedding vows. At that moment, even with all the people gathered to witness a beautiful union, only two people matter as they stare into each other’s eyes, holding hands and vowing to love one another forever.
My second fave has got to be the reception. The couple is now done with all formalities and can let their hair down and dance the evening away with loved ones as husband and wife.

What aspect of the wedding ceremony don’t you like or enjoy?
Speeches are an integral part of a wedding reception programme and expected at the bare minimum from the Bestman, Maid of Honour and probably a vote of thanks by the latest couple in town. However, it becomes tedious and overkill if there are too many back- to- back speeches that leave little room for the fun part of the wedding – dance, dance, dance.

Damilola Taiwo – Enamoured With Weddings

Damilola Taiwo
Damilola Taiwo

Damilola Taiwo is the creative director and co-founder of Access Cards NG. The lawyer turned entrepreneur is a graduate of the University of Leicester. In addition to producing cards, she is also the founder of the Gift Fairy NG, a one-stop gift concierge company. She is enamoured with weddings and so helps couples by providing bespoke gift options and invitations to match their dreams of the perfect wedding celebrations.
By dint of hard work, Access, a Proudly Nigerian company now serves most parts of Africa, Europe and America, and deliver worldwide from their operations base in Lagos.

What is a lawyer doing in the creative industry?
The creative industry has space for everyone as long as they have the passion for creating. My law degree provided me with a stable platform that I use to make sound business decisions. One of my favourite quotes is “The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul” by Dieter F. Uchtdorf.  So, I am in the business of creating because I tapped into my passion for conceptualising and building ideas. When I moved back to Nigeria, I worked in a top tier law firm as part of my youth service, while that experience was rewarding, I felt the urge to do something more besides just practising law, and that took me on a journey of self-discovery.
I focused on creative business ideas, and from time to time, invitation card themes would pop into my head, and I’d just written them in my little journal. I started to share them with my partner, and he was just brilliant at strategising on how these ideas could be developed. I finally had what you would call a Eureka moment when a dear friend and blogger extraordinaire, Noble and Chioma Igwe,  reached out to us for their wedding access cards. We got to work on the concepts they wanted, bounced a few ideas off each other and followed through with the development and production of the cards. It was indeed wonderful to see this concept become an instant hit.

How has your life in creativity been?
It has been an exciting journey so far. I find that I’m learning new things all the time and it has given me a new appreciation for discipline and the value of working smart. I like to say I am in the business of designing and producing dreams. Tapping into a well of ideas and being able to communicate with my partner and the clients, always leads to a better product. This is also the approach I have taken with the Gift Fairy Ng, where we create bespoke gift solutions for our clients.

What is it like working in partnership with your husband?
It is so much fun, and I am grateful we get to share this because I believe we complement each other as we bring different attributes to the table. From the beginning, we set clear and distinct roles that we could each concentrate on. He tends to dissuade me from talking about work or clients at weekends (laughs). Working with him has given me a much more profound respect for his professional skills and his ability to bring all my crazy ideas to fruition.

What fascinates you about weddings?
The whole process in its entirety is fascinating. I know it can be a really stressful time trying to plan your version of your fairytale, but my advice to my clients always is,  this is one of the few moments you get in life where you have a big unique event just for you: so it’s important to bask in it, and let every detail along the way count. I love it when the couple can represent who they are as individuals and then as a couple into the wedding celebrations. It is excellent and deeply satisfying on the day to see those dreams become a reality.

How do you make a card create memories?
As I said earlier, I am in the business of designing and producing dreams. From the conception of an idea with any client, we take our time to listen to their story and create a unique design for them. We show them a card that is representative of what they are looking for and what they want their guests to think when they see their access cards, then, we make sure we add that personal touch where they have the cards that they can keep as keepsakes. All these help create lasting memories to cherish.

Nigerians do like exclusivity. How far have clients stretched you in this regard?
We have come to realise that every client wants something different.  As the creative director,  I strive to ensure that every design is different. It’s my job to make sure that every access card is unique to the couple and unique to the theme of the event. For example, we created access cards for a client who is an actress, and the couple loved movies, we brought those elements together and ensured this was incorporated in the wedding invites and this ended up being adopted as the theme for the wedding. Now, there are plenty more ideas where that came from, but I shouldn’t give away my trade secrets, should I? (laughs)

What special effects do you have on your cards?
We are very particular about having a wide variety. From rose gold card with glitters to holographic cards with all the colour spectrum on the rainbow. These effects are designed with uniqueness in mind, that bit that makes you stand out. At Access Cards NG, it is more about different production than primary bulk production.

Besides the conventional paper, have you used any other materials for your designs?
Our cards are plastic. PVC cards to be specific. Just like your bank cards. Embossed like them too with electronic features.

Can you tell the outcome of a wedding from the invitation?
(laughs) Not always but most of the time. Our clients range from people who want classic events with the bells and whistles of a typical. Wedding celebration to the clients (like me with an Alice in Wonderland themed wedding) who are looking to execute outside the box ideas.
So when you have clients who know what they are looking for precisely, I trust they are going to get every other thing right especially,  with the right vendors to bring those ideas to reality. You can also tell from the wedding planners they choose. Each event planner has their strong suit when it comes to skills set and idea generation.

What special effect set a wedding card apart from other types of cards?
We have an electronic security option that gives clients the opportunity to have the data of every guest encoded into each specific card. The card is tapped upon arrival at the venue, and a unique message pops up welcoming the guest and shows them to their allotted seat inside the place. We have used this security option for several high profile weddings, and it has helped manage potential security breaches. So you can see, Access Cards for weddings aren’t just a trend, they have become a necessity, and we can say, gone are the days when guest appeared at weddings uninvited, putting unnecessary pressures on the hosts to cater for guests that not planned for.

What impression should a wedding card give?
A wedding card is a window through which your guest would have an idea of what your celebration is going to be like. I believe it should have that wow effect and be true to the personalities of the couple. Every guest after receiving the wedding invitation should have that feeling of “This is a nice touch and shows the couple have thought of me; therefore I won’t miss this wedding for anything”.

What are your favourite colours for weddings?
Black and gold are classic because wedding invitations look great in those colours.

What aspect of a wedding impresses you the most?
The couples grand entrance is one. I like that several couples and event planners are getting creative with their ideas. Also, I enjoy seeing those tender and intimate moments the couple share on their big day.

What aspect of the wedding ceremony don’t you like or enjoy?
I enjoy all aspects of weddings but,  I cringe at traditional wedding ceremonies when Alagas go overboard with tasking the groom and his friends for money. I think it’s a tad overboard.


Creative Director: Nelly Mesik
Photography: Trans4maz  Fotography
Stylist: Rhoda Ebun for Roses and Thorns
Makeup: Casskoncept
Hair: Tony for BeautyAce
Location: Trish O Luxury Interiors,  Karimu Kotun, V/I.

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