Joy Chen displays a beach-themed bat mitzvah invitation in front of her shelves decorated with her work. (Photo by Alexandra Yearly.)

A 70th birthday trip across the world. A Hollywood Walk of Fame bat mitzvah. A girls’ royal wedding brunch. When the planners of those unique events sought invitations that would capture the unique mood, theme and story behind the occasions, they all made appointments at JOYcards.

JOYcards owner Joy Chen designs much more than invitations. Chen will work with clients to design announcements, cards, thank you notes, place cards and more, all made from scratch.

“It’s just a passion I have,” Chen said. “I try to think outside the box and come up with something that no one has ever seen before.”

The options to customize each piece are endless. Customers can choose the paper, ink color, the way it’s printed, and even whether the pieces are two- or three-dimensional.

Chen said her biggest inspiration and greatest joy comes from hearing her clients’ stories. Often, she is able to capture the mood of the event and the personality of her client after learning the story behind an event or occasion.

One special invitation she designed was a three-part series for a 70th birthday, in which the birthday boy, Skip, invited his closest family and friends to join him on a trip to a location that would only be revealed in the third and final invitation.

The first invitation informed his guests that the trip was a gift, and served as a save-the-date card. It came in a flat brown box, which when opened, displayed a mini passport, suitcase and airplane atop a map of the world. The passport signified the guests would be traveling outside of the U.S., and inside listed the travel dates. The suitcase provided a checklist of what they needed to pack—in this case, plenty of warm clothes. The airplane showed the group would be flying.

The following two invitations each provided more clues about the trip, with the third finally revealing the location with a series of paper doll outfits. A gladiator costume that fit Skip’s paper doll showed the guests they’d be traveling to Rome.

In addition to telling a client’s story, Chen also enjoys the engineering component of assembling the pieces of the puzzle.

“I like putting together pieces. I like to create pieces that are interactive, and of course, I like to hear that a piece I’ve created has that wow factor,” Chen said.

Of course, not every invitation or card needs to arrive in three parts, like Skip’s. Chen designed a bejeweled crown cutout invitation for a girls’ royal wedding brunch, and a three-dimensional beach-themed bat mitzvah invitation, complete with an umbrella, seashells and beach backdrop.

“Some of them I like to be a little more subtle at first, but then when you receive it and you look at every single detail, you realize that it all comes together and the pieces tell the story,” Chen said. “The story is a big thing for me.”

Since she opened the business 15 years ago, Chen has designed and created each mini masterpiece at her studio on Chambers Street in Princeton, only this year relocating her studio to the second floor of the same building.

JOYcards is located in Princeton at 20 Nassau St. on the second floor in suite 250SE. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (609) 430-0333. On the Web: joycards.com.