To quote Richard Branson, "the best businesses are born out of frustration." My idea to launch a greeting card line was a product of desperation. I'd given up on "Hallmark," which, by that point was synonymous with tacky and overpriced. I was growing more and more disappointed looking at endless shelves of mediocrity. Sure, once in a while I'd see a funny card I'd want to give one of my girlfriends for her birthday, but typically I'd find myself fleeing the store before some stalker card jumped out at me and started doing a dance I wouldn't be able to unsee. I have enough circus just opening my internet browser. Online selection was equally as depressing: gazillions of somebody else's ideas - or lack thereof - staring back at me from the electronic void. You would think an $8 billion (!) card industry would have something to offer customers other than an eye roll! This situation was unacceptable, and I intended to fix it...eventually.
True, I had been planning on adding cards to my line of print products. I tried (and sold) larger cards at my first CRAFTED Eagleview show in June of 2018. I love the way my artistic interpretation of nature looks on different surfaces such as canvas, metal and paper. Customers respond very well to striking images of landscapes, abstracts and wildlife. But it was just an idea - nothing concrete, and certainly without a date.
That all changed on October 16th 2018 when I received an email from the German Christmas Market on the Main Line inviting me to join their vendor team...for the December 8th-9th fundraiser! They said my holiday calendars and cards would be a big hit...By third week of November, they wanted product photos to put on their website. I was thrilled and terrified. I had calendars but CARDS?! WHAT cards?! They were expecting a product which, up until a click ago, was only a thought... OK - a dream as I'd had a few recurrent ones about launching a card line. Fine - I might have made a few prototypes: oversized frameable flat cards which I had printed at home. Now I had just a few weeks to make my dream a reality!
And so it began. I knew which images would work for Christmas cards. Obviously, cardinals... Blue jays and...more cardinals! Who doesn't love a good cardinal? Icicles (I love macro photography so have plenty of those...BRRR!!)...Winter landscapes (BRRR again!!)...I didn't have snowflakes at the time but I did have a cool macro of Queen Anne's Lace against a black backdrop. It looks like a snowflake and no, not just to me; a few people actually thought it’s a snowflake! Then came the messages and the fonts. And the sizes! Those were fun. Did you know that square cards require extra postage? Neither did I. It's like 15c more. What did the square cards ever do to anybody? Apparently, (ancient) post office sorting machines just don’t like them. But I do, and so do my customers. And so I will keep making them.
I was like a kid in a candy store! No. Make that a dog with a bone! Well, whoever I was, I was up to my eye balls in greeting card design, working non-stop to make my vision of a non-cheesy card come true. Sleep? Ha! Sleep is overrated! Food? I had all the eye-candy I could eat. I remember being on pins and needles awaiting my first card order to arrive. I remember holding my breath as I tore into the package, that incredible high of opening my first, very own Christmas card followed by the terrifying low of realizing I'd ordered the wrong card stock! I learned my first lesson in how wrong paper can ruin an otherwise perfect card.
Conclusion: Never. Order. Matte.
Luckily, I left myself plenty of time for precisely this kind of a “surprise.” I re-ordered the cards in gloss (at no additional cost to me since the vendor conceded that their images of texture were misleading and that nobody in their right mind would ever order matte stock for holiday cards). Second time was a charm! I was holding the magic of the holidays in my hand! My striking red cardinal popped on white backdrop as it glistened on thick, glossy stock. A handsome cardinal wishing you “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” was classic minimalism at its best. I was ecstatic! Even my stoic husband who, with a well-masked horror of a typical Englishman, had been watching DRAMARTFUL take over not just our dinnertime conversations but the entire house, was impressed. Just like he isn't easily scared, this man isn't easily impressed. I'd passed the toughest scrutiny. I was relieved, excited, and exhausted. In a matter of days I created a product I was proud of. It was mine, my precious, and it had my brand on it! The customers loved the bold colors, intricate detail and unique designs which came on thick, glossy stock. I was happy to be able to offer weary card shoppers hope, to revive the magic of hand-written notes which was getting crushed by the wave of lackluster Hallmarks and migraine-inducing e-cards. Most importantly, it felt amazing to be able to send our loved ones my own brand of cards. And just in case you're wondering, our days of subjecting our kids and ourselves to the annual torment of Cheesed Out family holiday card studio photo sessions are over. Our boys are too old, and so are we.
Fast-forward to the beginning of March 2019. I was on the phone with a friend. It was well after midnight, which is normal texting hours for us artsy folk. Her son was getting married at the end of the month, and somewhere between the suits that needed to be tailored and the presents that needed to be picked, was this question of The Card. I just so happened to be editing one of my older images - an elegant white cherry blossom duo - and I asked if she'd gotten her card yet. "No" was followed by a sigh. She’d been looking for a card that’s “beautiful, memorable, and special,” and big retailers kept coming up short. So I sent her a couple of design ideas, and minutes later, she had a customized card with a beautiful line from her favorite poem on the front and her own warm sentiment inside. The look of joy (and relief) on her face when the card arrived was indescribable. Thick metallic stock with pearl finish shimmered in the light. The cherry blossoms looked as though they had melted into one, a perfect canvas for Anne Bradstreet’s “If Ever Two Were One, Then Surely We.” The card oozed elegance and taste. And just like that, I designed my first wedding card.
As you can imagine, this was only the beginning. I was licking my chops at all of the possibilities. I would go to bed and wake up envisioning my flowers, birds, butterflies, autumn leaves, and waterfalls come to life on cards! After receiving a few samples, I narrowed my list of online vendors down to three. Each company meets a unique need, and all of them offer consistent quality, sustainable materials, and reasonable prices (although some retailers may disagree with the last part). The result of all those sleepless nights? Two card racks filled with several dozen bright, fresh cards, featuring the natural beauty of Pennsylvania and beyond. The cards are available at my shows, and my shelf at the Spa Car Wash & Detailing Center of Berwyn ***734 Lancaster Ave.***
Time will tell if the DRAMARTFUL line of cards was the best business idea. So far I'm off to a great start and loving every minute of it. Being able to channel my creative energy through such a meaningful outlet and give someone a card which is both pleasing to the eye and inspiring…I can't ask for much more than that.
Thank you for reading, writing, and your continued support!