Thursday, May 18, 2017

Whims & Whatnots

Two new wholesale accounts in 24 hours. Woo hoo! The hard work pays off and sneaks up on you when you least expect it. I am now selling my Petal People cards at Whims & Whatnots in Greenland, NH. Find them on FaceBook or, better yet, visit in person!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Everything's bigger in Texas

"The Women’s Gift Exchange is proud to be a member of the national Federation of Woman’s Exchanges, a consortium of gifts shops initially established to provide an outlet for women to sell their handcrafted goods. The founding of the first Woman’s Exchange in Philadelphia in 1932 marked the beginning of what is the oldest continuously operating woman’s movement in the country." And I am now selling my cards there. Petal People are in Texas!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

What is FSC-certified paper?

Over the many years I have been using and making paper, I continually learn new aspects of about it, and especially about manufactured paper. I print my botanical designs onto creamy smooth Cougar Natural paper but only recently learned that I was using a paper that was FSC-Certified. What does that mean? I actually didn't know. I was looking for a recycled paper for my cards, which typically costs a lot more, when my printer informed me I was already using a FSC-certifed paper containing 10% recycled materials.But some research taught me that FSC — an abbreviation for Forest Stewardship Council — certification ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits.

The Forest Stewardship Council sets standards for forest products, independently certifies that these standards have been met, and bestows labels upon the products that qualify. Certification means products like paper and wood that have been sourced in an environmentally-friendly, socially responsible and economically viable manner.

FSC-certified paper is different from recycled paper, as it's typically composed of virgin tree fibers rather than pre- or post-consumer recycled materials (although recycled paper is sometimes also FSC-certified). But when the wood pulp used to make this paper is sourced from a well-managed forest, it can be just as eco-friendly.

According to the Forest Stewardship Council, the U.S. consumes 100 million tons of paper annually, and recycled paper makes up just 35 percent of that amount. The remainder must come from timber forests. Encouraging paper manufacturers to seek out wood suppliers that work to protect habitat, prevent pollution, plant more trees than are harvested and avoid displacing native peoples and harming wildlife, can make a big difference.

As my business grows, I hope to move into more expensive paper that utilizes 100% of recycled materials. For now, it's a big step for me that my cards proudly display the FSC-certified label.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

How to write a sympathy card

Sympathy cards are difficult to compose. You hope to express meaningful love and support without saying something careless or imposing your own feelings about loss, death or your religious beliefs. Because I sell Petal People sympathy cards as well as plantable sympathy cards, my customers often ask me to add a note and send it directly to the recipient. I have seen many of those messages, both awkward ones but also touching messages that made me cry.

Many people write about how sorry they are for the loss but to remember the happy memories. When I suffered a loss and was the recipient of sympathy cards, I have to admit feeling a little upset by some of them. They were sent with love but their message was unintentionally telling me to get to the good stuff. It discounted grief. So I appreciated the ones that gave me permission to grieve. The best cards recounted a story or memory about my deceased family member, giving me a new memory or perspective when no more could be created. Perhaps the very best card I got actually outlined a grief to-do list! Among the ideas my friend wrote were these:

* Don't forget to tell your loved ones often how much you love them and how appreciative you are of their support.
* If you don't already have one, get a pet. The power of healing in having an animal to hug should NOT be underestimated!
* Find some really good spiritual books and read when you can. A couple of my favorites are "Rebel Buddha", "The Most Direct Means to Eternal Bliss", and "I am That."
* Spend some time outside in the sunlight taking walks in nature every day.
* Don't expect to be able to control when you'll need to cry. Always carry kleenex in all your pockets at all times. Don't leave home without some. A pair of dark sun glasses is handy, too. (This one turned out to be the best piece of advice!)
* Find something/someone that can make you laugh every day. My favorite comedian is Eddie Izzard. "Glorious" is the best of his shows. Russell Petters' "Red, White, and Brown" is pretty hilarious too. Ask everybody for comedy recommendations.
* Do a lot of journaling. When everyone else around you feels saturated by your sadness, your journal will invite you to fill a clean page, and another, and another.
* Remember what you love to do and what brings you joy, and try to do those things as often as you can. Don't worry if they don't instantly make you feel better. You're just looking for ways to plug into a positive body memory to help give your mind a rest.
* You've entered a dimension where "normal" doesn't exist so sleep when you can sleep, and if you can't sleep then get up and don't fret about it. Same with eating and all other so-called daily routines.

I can't tell you how your recipient will feel about what you say or the perfect thing that everyone will find comforting. But here's what one customer wrote in a note to their friend about the loss of a dog. I thought it was utterly sweet:

For the king of all pillows, the catcher of all balls, and the littlest of spoons. May [dog's name] forever know how deeply loved he was by you.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Missouri Botanical Garden

What a perfect pairing: a botanical garden and my botanical notecards. My work is now being sold in the Garden Gate gift shop of the Missouri Botanical Garden. If you are nearby, I hope you will pay a visit. It sounds like an amazing garden and a wonderful gift shop!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Bouquet of flowers

I greedily plucked every petal off of the flowers in my Valentine's Day bouquet. I had managed to take the flowers out of the paper and plastic, put them in a vase and admire them for about five hours. One little pluck wouldn't hurt from one little flower in the back. But once I started, I couldn't stop. I had a vase full of headless stems by the end of the day. My husband didn't even blink. He knew the blooms would make me happiest in my flower presses than sitting in a vase slowly withering.

Winter brings rest for gardens and rest for my hands. I can no longer grow plants so there is no more digging in the dirt or pressing flowers. So when anything living comes my way from a bouquet or during a vacation to a different climate, I am on those botanicals like white on rice.

With the help of that bouquet, along with other botanicals that I already had in my presses, I made this new design:

I cropped the photo in an unfortunate way but her other leg is straight, her foot ready to spring into another jump. Then I kept going and made this one:

Since I took this photo, I changed her right leg so she is walking in stride with him, and I also made his hair fuller. Then I made about 6 more designs, too. They are already in the hands of the printing press, getting scanned and prepared for my next new release of products. Then I'll get back to digging in the dirt and planting this year's flower garden for my next crop of cards!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Spring gardening

The recent warm weather has me thinking about my garden, and planning for spring. My garden is a source of relaxation, inspiration and personal pleasure but it has been an important supply store for my art. This year, for the first time, I am changing the way I garden by planning and planting specific flowers for new ideas I have for my Petal People cards. It reminds me of the following very old blog post. It's time to start a new chapter.

I never thought of my garden in this way, but when I read this quote, it made me smile. My garden truly is my autobiography. My fingerprints are in the soil, my design aesthetic is in the shape and color of the plants. But more than that, the origin of many of the plants are the main chapters of my autobiography.

When we first moved into our house many years ago, I knew the basics of gardening. But this scrubby little garden that I had inherited intimidated me. The front of the house was lined with ugly, forgotten evergreen bushes that needed aggressive pruning. An unhappy Holly bush — brown and dull instead of glossy — slouched beneath a steady roof drip during every rainstorm. Lily of the Valley choked out all other plants but still managed to look patchy and irritated. Behind the house lived two overgrown Privet, leggy and filled with suckers. A weedy lawn covered firmly-packed clay soil that wouldn't allow roots to breathe. And a run of chain link fence was supporting some kind of vine with huge, sharp thorns. Thorns is too nice a word. Long, unruly spikes of death.

I stared at this sad little garden and yard for a year or two before I got the courage to attack it. For some reason, I thought I had to re-plant the whole area into a beautiful, mature garden in one fell swoop, and this overwhelmed me into paralysis. (To be honest, I was also spending most of my energy and money on renovating the inside of the house.)

Something drove me over the edge one spring. On a beautiful day that called to me to dig, I tore out the Holly bush and transplanted an area of the Lily of the Valley. By the end of the summer, I had torn out all the straggly evergreens and transplanted the rest of the Lily of the Valley. (The best way to transplant Lily of the Valley? Cluster three plants together, tie the tap roots together and replant.) I also tore down the chain link fence and planted some lovely perennials.

At the same time, the extensive mature gardens that my parents had tended for several decades at my childhood home called to me. Whenever my folks divided their Irises, I took a basket full of bulbs and planted them along the base of my new wooden fence. When they bloomed, I expected a garden full of purple Irises but was surprised to see a yellow one here and there. My parents (who are only the fourth family to live in their 200+-year-old house) explained that those yellow flowers had a history. They were planted by the last generation of the family who built the house. I couldn't bear to pluck them out, knowing that they not only came from my childhood home, but from the families who had come before my own.

Next came the bee balm, angrily pulled out by my parents when these red flowers became too aggressive, choked out other plants spread too far. I had the perfect place for such a greedy plant, in an area against a sidewalk where I wouldn't mind if they tried to take over. I surrounded a shallow-rooted maple tree with a ring of Vinca, copying how my mom had done so decades earlier. Today, she enjoys thick rings that have grown out and joined together with nearby rings, creating a beautiful carpet of shiny green leaves. Next, I purchased a crabapple tree from a local nursery. I wrangled it into the ground to remind me of the one outside the kitchen window at my childhood home. Nothing makes me happier than to see it bursting in spring with deep burgundy blossoms every spring, signaling the warm summer days to come. One of the loveliest smells of my youth was the fragrance of lilacs, wafting into my bedroom through my open window, commingled with the sound of whippoorwills. (The thought of this memory makes my shoulders relax even now.) A graft from that lilac bush easily took in my own yard and has spread into a lovely bush.

I hope the stories behind all of these blooms translate into my art and my notecards, and customers feel the history and the love. I could tell you more: about the full round mops of Hydrangea; about the Scilla - with the sweet cobalt blue flower - that come soon after the snow departs; about the plant that my folks call "elephant ears" (but that I learned is actually a Mayapple) that love shade and moisture. They have happily stretched out all over the area where an unhappy Holly bush once hunched like a frown.

There's more to say, but instead, I think you should buy the book!