In early 2016, one of my retailers asked me what I had for Valentine’s Day. Without thinking, I said, “Pigs. And Robots.” There was a beat while I hoped for the best. “Sounds good to me!” said the retailer, and that was that.
Then I went home and started work on Robot Love Tale, because – as everyone knows – nobody is immune to love, not even robots. So here’s one square from the intergalactic tale of romance, between a heartbroken machine and his long lost lady or gentleman love.
My Valentines don’t give any indication about their gender. Same goes for the pigs, flying and otherwise.
Owls were among my early designs. I started with the chap you see on my British Columbia post: a barred owl with markings that bear some resemblance to the actual creature. Since then, I moved into more colourful versions, owls with personalities, professions and tummies made of Christmas pudding.
I made my first Christmas cards for a market in 2015. Unwilling to go with traditional motifs, I created abstract trees and lace patterns. Having made this owl, it was only natural that he should be followed by a Jewish pal, with a dreidel for a tummy. You’ll see both of these owls on the Season-Owl card, where they roost with friends from Sweden, Syria and Japan.
So far, this is my only design with a message inside. I added “happy holidays” at the request of a North Shore retailer.
I’m a huge fan of vegetables. I like to eat them, I love to grow them and a good number of my summer Instagram posts are of my leafy pals.
This radish accompanies a floret of broccoli, a pepper and a carrot – among others – on the card I created for Nourish Market in Lynn Valley Plaza. I love working with small, local businesses. They’ve been such willing guinea pigs, as I hone my salesmanship and learn about the feng shui of presenting my work in public. There’s a lot more to selling cards than the price on the label or what’s in the picture. Where is the carousel or display rack? What is the effect of putting cards next to flowers? How close are they to the door? How high up are they? These are all important questions; the answers have a tremendous impact on the quantity and frequency of card sales.
I’ve also been impressed with the values of todays’ customers. Buyers are more interested than ever in who made the card, where it was printed, whether it’s handmade and what it’s printed on. I am pleased to say that my cards are all designed, created and printed in North Vancouver. I usually collect my orders when I’m already in the neighbourhood on other errands, so regardless of the company’s carbon footprint, my own is very small. It also helps that I work on a small scale; original squares measure only 3.5″ – as a result, my packages of card stock last for many months, which helps to keep my car journeys to a minimum. The post office is walking distance to my house and greeting cards are mailed in plain brown envelopes. All of my packaging can be recycled.
This card was originally designed as a poster for a little girl. Her grandmother, in Calgary, liked my original butterfly designs but encouraged me to make it “gentler.” Starting with my usual, vivid palette, she helped me tone it down to its current, pastel version.
My cards usually carry six images but I love this exception. The squares – if you look carefully – are actually rectangles, but the effect is true and the colours a perfect match for the original card stock.
The flowers you see here are at Queensdale Organic Market, one of my earliest and most loyal retailers, on Lonsdale Avenue (North Vancouver, British Columbia). Restocking my carousel here is always a pleasure.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve developed a knack for the guerrilla art sale. I travel with a box of cards in my trunk and if I find myself in a situation that lends itself to a photo shoot (coffee house? Ferry cafeteria? Departure Lounge? No problem!) or popup shop, I’m in there.
That was the case at a friend’s home in Surrey, in the spring of 2016. It was her daughter’s birthday party, and I knew I’d been seeing her parents and a large number of friends with young kids. I spread my cards out on the table, including the recent prints shown here (Ladies, Monarch Butterflies, Cherry Blossoms, Black Lace, Veggies, Pastel Leaves, Whimsy — I was on fire for a few weeks there!); sure enough, one of the guests ordered 24 items and everyone went home. And very, very full of cake.
This swallowtail butterfly was one of twelve squares on a poster I designed for an eight year-old girl. When I started making cut paper collages, it didn’t occur to me to make greeting cards; all of my designs fitted within the Ikea RIBBA frame (window size 29cm x 39cm). A few months into my new business, I thought of taking my six favourite squares from each poster, and turning them into a separate greeting card.
I regard myself as an artist, rather than a greeting card designer. I make my art because I love the creatures and places I portray, the people I make it for and for the sheer joy of working with scissors and paper. As my nine year-old recently observed, the sound of scissors cutting through paper is very soothing. I loved hearing this because no matter how much I draw and paint, I always come back to the medium of cut paper.
There is something so satisfying about the clean lines and bright colours; the way you draw on the back of the card, and then flip it over to be scanned or framed. Nobody sees the rough scribbles, the mistakes. All the viewer sees is the perfect, unblemished card stock, standing to attention in its 9cm square, right where it belongs. I love the illusion of perfection. It makes me think of the social media which gobble up so much of our lives now: on the surface and through the screen, our lives are set in place with every tiny piece in the right spot. Perfect. And that is exactly how it should be, because even with the glue smears and scruffy marks on our psyches we are still perfect.
Late November 2016 found me up late, night after night, anticipating the start of my next print run. This was when I was also building up my presence on Facebook, at fb.me/niftyscissors. I love working in Facebook; It gives potential buyers a chance to see what I’m working on on a day-to-day basis and chat to me as I go about my business. It’s also a great place for buyers to share their own photos. It’s cosy…
Above: penguins2. I created this piece in a (snow) flurry of activity, much earlier this year. Without any thoughts for the final product, the dimensions did not sit well with the 4×6″ card format. The art left a large white space at the top which, which it suggested the desolate isolation of the frozen tundra, didn’t really work in a festive greeting card…
So I decided – after some conversation with buyers – to add a star at top left. It lends the piece (and the penguins) a sense of direction. To me, the penguins look a little like the Wise Men on their long trek across a similarly inhospitable (but much colder) landscape. And as you can see, the little penguin in the middle at the back is the most observant. The other birds have yet to cotton on to the presence of a heavenly power. I love the notion that this small chap is a leader, an imaginative creature, a spark as bright as the star that has caught his eye, a radiant and compassionate spirit.
Last November, I decided that it was time to get serious about seasonal cards. After being asked why I wasn’t making snowmen and Santas for months, I finally caved 🙂
Knowing how much I love my own pets, I figured I’d have a little fun with a pet’s eye view. After making five dog squares (including Poppy, a friend’s golden retriever, and Daisy, another’s Havanese), I was stuck for a sixth. I posted a photo of the five dogs in Facebook and asked my people to comment with photos of their own pooches.
People really love their dogs, hey? Within twenty four hours I was inundated with photos of heart-meltingly cute pups – far more than I needed for that one card. I finished up with Sophie, my English cousin’s lovely dog, and just watched as photos of Mingus, Coco, another Sophie, Wilson, Zoe and Henry appeared. There may well be more. I forget. Guess I’ll just have to keep going!
This square – which you will also see on my business cards – was designed for a woman paraglider based on Vancouver Island. This is a woman who finds herself distracted on her drive home from work, because the weather is clear and the sun is shining. She gets home a good deal later than expected, having leapt off a cliff and flown a decent way across greater Victoria before dinner.
I was thrilled to receive a commission from this remarkable athlete. I have never flown myself, and I have that in common with almost all of the people who have purchased this card since it came out. All of us, surely, have had dreams of flying. Isn’t it a universal desire?
I once overheard a woman asking about greeting cards in a local store. She was disappointed to hear that the store didn’t sell them, as she didn’t want to buy something mass produced or corny. I approached her, cautiously asking if I might help. As it happened, I still had a trunk full of art after a recent show. She said she would like to see my cards, so I dashed off and came back with a few samples.
It turned out that this woman needed a card for a very particular purpose. She had been dating a man for four months and had recently realized that she was falling in love with him. It was time, she said, to let him know. I suggested my ladybug design because these little creatures are associated with love in some cultures. She liked it but said no, it wasn’t quite right. That’s when we hit on the flying card. What better way to suggest the risk she was about to take, leaping into the unknown, declaring her love for her man?
I think of her every time I sell one of these cards. I was so touched by her willingness to share her story and came away convinced that whoever this fellow is, he is very lucky.