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!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Stems by Syd

I am tickled to be selling my Petal People cards in Pennsylvania. Thanks to Stems by Syd for becoming my newest wholesale vendor!

Interested in becoming a wholesale vendor of my cards? I make it really easy! I offer a starter pack of my best-selling cards so you can take the guess work out of ordering. Visit my starter pack listing for details. If you place your first order with me before April 30th, you will receive an additional 6 graduate cards for free, just in time for the graduation season.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Millennials and greeting cards

As a greeting card seller who is never sure of the future of my market in this digital age, I was thrilled to stumble onto this Boston Globe article.

Millennials’ strange love affair with greeting cards

By Janelle Nanos GLOBE STAFF JUNE 22, 2016

Like vinyl records and expensive bourbon, paper is making a comeback.

OK, paper never really went away, but e-mail, then texts, then SnapChat made putting pen to paper a lost art. Until now.

Retailers are seeing a surge in day-planner sales among young women. Design-obsessed denizens in Boston are flocking to “Sip and Script” calligraphy classes, where they can perfect their penmanship for envelopes and placecards. And, where the big dollars are, millennials are now buying more greeting cards than baby boomers, reports the industry’s trade association.

“The demographic has really shifted,” said Sarah Turk, a stationery analyst at the research firm IBISWorld. “Instead of it being more of an older consumer that values paper, we’re seeing a lot of millennials also purchasing paper products.

“I think that especially in a digital age,” she adds, “paper now has more value than it ever has.”

It’s practically a law of nature that children rediscover things their parents or grandparents have long discarded (hence the fedoras on hipster heads). While the trend of sharing thoughts with ink will not revive the fortunes of giant paper producers shredded by falling revenue, it has bolstered the spirits of folks who make a living with cards and stationery.

Carlos Llanso, president of the Greeting Card Association, said that cards, in particular, are having a moment, perhaps because posting “Happy Birthday!” on friends’ or family members’ Facebook pages day after day can eventually feel impersonal.

“The product itself is all about connecting people, and maybe that’s one of the reasons that we’re seeing this resurgence,” he said.

A rise in discretionary spending has also made the idea of spending $7 or $8 for a card with luxe details like glitter, sound, or engraving seem less of an extravagance. The numbers add up: Americans of all ages shell out between $7 billion and $8 billion on greeting cards each year, an amount that has remained relatively steady over the past decade.

Kate Kellman and Isabel Bonenfant are the 28- and 26-year-old founders behind Of Note Stationers in Boston and self-described “paper people” who fit the demographic of younger, newfound paper devotees. The duo both had a habit of hoarding the beautiful greeting cards they collected in their travels. Before they started their company 2½ years ago, they spent a year dipping into their stash and mailing them out to their friends for the smallest of occasions. Then, being millennials, they documented all of their correspondence on Instagram.

“There’s an element of connecting with others and mindfulness and it being a slower process," Kellman said. “It’s totally a reaction to how fast-paced everything is.”

The two now print their cards at Repeat Press, a shared letterpress facility in Somerville. And while it’s not yet paying their rent, they are selling their cards on Etsy, a website for handcrafted items, and for $5 each in the local gift shop Black Ink and home goods store West Elm.

Kellman’s and Bonenfant’s model is an example of the shifting retail landscape for paper products. The closing of small stationery stores in the economic crash of 2008, coupled with the merger of major pharmacy brands, has meant distribution channels for the country’s biggest cardmakers, Hallmark and American Greetings, have shriveled up, said Patti Stracher, director of the National Stationery Show, which held its 70th anniversary event at the Javits Center in New York City last month.

“The last place a millennial is going to shop is a Hallmark store; they just won’t,” Stracher said. “They’ll go to a pop-up shop, a street fair, or an independent store, where they have an experience and where they have choice of all kinds of subject matter.” She said Paper Source has been among the most successful retailers, in part because it curates its product lines by selecting stationery from local cardmakers.

While personal sentiments used to be focus of cards, there has now been a bit of a cult of personality within the stationery designers themselves. The witticisms and wry observations of Emily McDowell’s empathy cards have garnered her over 75,000 Instagram followers. (A sample: “Together we can find a cure for the phrase, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ ”) That following has helped her, and artists like her, hone their own brands and sell directly to consumers and independent retailers.

Kate van Geldern, the Boston author of the DomestiKated Life blog, attended the National Stationery show and said some of the most popular brands, like the bright blooms of Rifle Paper Co. or the sophisticated gold-embossed line from Sugar Paper, were so crowded she could not elbow into the booths. “There’s almost a little bit of a fan culture,” she said, noting that people were posing for selfies with the products.

Some even argue that our ever-more-digital existence is helping push the sale of paper goods. The rise of the “Pinterest bride” has overhauled stationery-buying process, said Katie Lacey, chief executive of Crane & Co., the Dalton-based stationer that has engraved correspondence for the likes of patriots Paul Revere and Tom Brady. Lacey said brides used to come into stores and look through books of invitations. Now they come in with a digital pinboard and know exactly what they want. “Now that there’s digital, paper becomes more special and more meaningful,” Lacey said.

Industry insiders say the barrier to entry is low for card makers breaking into the marketplace. “The technology and manufacturing is so different than 10 or 20 years ago,” said Llanso, the greeting card association president, who is also chief executive of Legacy Publishing Group in Canton. “You can print on a $300 printer what you used to have to use a half-million-dollar press to do.”

Card industry executives say the need for sharing sentiments is an innate human trait, and the most successful companies will be the ones that make the experience as personal as possible for all parties involved.

As Daniel Post Senning, of the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vt., said: “In an increasingly casual and information-driven world, the opportunities for distinction are still there. Figuring out a way to make a message special will never go out of fashion.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Not just for your Valentine!

Thanks to "By Your Hands" blog for including my plantable paper seed bombs in their recycled Valentine's Day gift story! But seed bombs are not only for Valentine's Day. Give them as a birthday gift, or for Mother's Day or Father's Day. Slip a few into an Easter basket for a fun spring project after the candy is gone. Give them as a hostess gift, a thank you gift or a teacher gift. Or give them for the best reason ever: no reason at all!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Throwback Thursday

Waaaaaay back in 2011, Etsy Greetings featured one of my Petal People cards for Valentine's Day. It is one of my best-selling cards and there are many in my shop to send to your one and only. I am happy to include your personal message for no extra charge and send directly to your recipient. Just let me know your instructions in the notes to seller when you checkout.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Lost in translation

Sometimes on days when there's not much going on, I take some of the images from my online shop and run them through Google to see where they appear. I have been quite amused when they appear on pages in different countries where I can't read the language and have to use Google translate. Either Google needs to work on their technology or there are some people writing some crazy things out there!

One site had one of my cards that looks like a fairy written up like this:

Which translated to this:
These beautiful fairy-tale-like art is made after the flattened with flowers, very funny strange, English has a word called whimsical, is playful meaning, and my new card has the same purpose. These flowers in the bloom, the delicate life by people in this way to continue the joy. How can we not praise the greatness of art?

I get the general tone of the description, but this one I just don't follow:

This one makes sense:

But this one does not:

And sometimes my products make it to sites that leave me scratching my head:

That's all for now. Happy work week!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Vogue Vows

Thanks to Vogue Vows Celebrancy blog for featuring my plantable paper hearts in their "Top Etsy Picks For Your Ceremony." I appreciate the shout-out. Sorry that I can't ship to Australia, though, because of customs restrictions on shipping live seeds. If you live in the United States, you can get some plantable hearts for yourself. But even if you don't, get my tutorial and make them yourself, no matter where you live!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Yankee swap

And speaking of boxed sets of cards, I got this feedback from one of my customers who bought a bunch:

Just wanted to let you know how much my family loved your cards. They were stolen in the yankee swap twice & my nephew who is an art major ended up winning them. They're so cool! Thank you!

Plus I found these really cool worm-holed boxes to display them. Very happy when something that has been nagging me suddenly comes together easily.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Boxed sets of cards

For about a year, I have had customers tell me that I should sell boxed sets of my cards. My customers have always led me in the right direction. But I knew this fact long before anybody was nudging me to do it. What I didn't explain to them was that I was having a hard time figuring out how to do it. I have so many card lines — more than 30 different ones — and boxes that fit either 6 cards or 10 cards in each box. That's a lot of different combinations of cards, and each unique combo would need a unique insert giving an overview of what was inside. I didn't want to commit the cost and time of designing so many different inserts, printing them and then not having the product sell. So I never did dig in and make boxed sets, much to everyone's disappointment.

One day before Thanksgiving, I was talking to Mike, the guy who prints my cards at a professional printing press, when he mentioned that I should make boxed sets of my cards (ha! never heard that before!) and that he could produce a sticky piece of paper with all the designs and info about the cards that I could simply peel off of a backing and stick onto the back of the package. He didn't know it but he actually solved my problem in a bigger way than he imagined. His idea still presented the same problem: a lot of cost for many different combinations of cards, especially when I want to have even more combinations during different seasons or holidays. But a synapse went off in my brain when he talked about a sticker...

About that same time, I had purchased some price stickers for a craft show I was doing. These are the kind of stickers that come with a code inside the box that you can use to go online and design your own template that can be downloaded and printed onto the stickers. In a bit of procrastination, I had been fooling around with the templates and making all kinds of stickers and price tags and other silly things. But in playing with the templates, I realized I could upload images onto the stickers. I had a lot of fun doing something that seemed like it would never serve a purpose. Then Mike mentioned sticker paper.

I started uploading my designs to the templates and — ta da! — made sheets of tiny stickers that I could use to individualize each box of cards.

I must have spent about 3 hours uploading every design, tweaking the placement of the image, saving each design and printing out sheets of stickers for each of my designs. Now I could easily put together a bunch of whatever cards I chose for a package, grab a sticker for each one and slap it on the box. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. And if a particular combination doesn't sell, the stickers are removable so I can easily peel them off, add new ones and reuse the box.

I managed to get it all done a couple of weeks before Christmas and sold an impressive amount of packs for gift-giving. As they say, the customer is always right.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Washi tape

Be prepared. I am about to get Martha Stewart all over you. I have bought a lot of washi tape (Japanese decorative tape) recently in my new adventures in keeping a bullet journal. But it has come in handy in so many other ways. I was recently poking around my favorite antique store when I found these sweet little berry boxes:

I am always on the lookout for new ways to display my cards and artwork. During the holiday season, I had a lot of my display boxes and baskets tied up at various holiday shows and shops. I need more ways to display my work every year as my list of sellers expands. The berry boxes were perfect for all my new card lines at the perfect price ($5 for a whole stack of them) but they were just a little bit inexpensive looking. I was trying to figure out how to make them look a bit more stylish but still keep their sweet garden feel — oh and not spend a cent to do it — when I remembered all the lovely washi tape I had in my studio. A simple stripe of tape across the front of each and I felt like the tape dressed up each berry box in an understated way without taking away from the product I was displaying and selling.

And after spending about an hour on Pinterest looking at what others have made with washi tape, I am making a trip back to the craft store to get more colors and patterns for other project ideas. If Martha Stewart calls, tell her I'm busy. I am digging around in my drawers looking for the rest of my washi supplies!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New year, new cards

All of my new cards — 13 new lines including the ones shown here plus others — have now been disbursed all over kingdom come. Find them wherever my cards are sold. Thanks to all the loyal followers who have encouraged me to keep making new designs. I am already creating new ones for later this year!

Not local? You can also find them in my Etsy store!