When I was a kid I loved making art. Sometimes I would even try to sell it to the neighbours. Ah yes, a market vendor in the making. This past year, after a long hiatus, I rediscovered my fondness for painting and developed my own style while creating greeting cards. I had some ideas in mind before putting pencil to paper, and after a bit of sketching I was able to come up with some simple designs that are pretty versatile.
After having a baby, I soon realized that so many baby toys, books and fabrics feature animals that a child is unlikely to see here in Victoria or in North America for that matter. So instead of drawing giraffes, monkeys, elephants and zebras, I opted for creatures that one might stumble across on an outing. My fab four are an owl, a squirrel, a fox and a deer. It turns out that these work really well with some great puns, and they can easily be altered to suit any occasion – Christmas, Valentines, Easter, you name it.
When I first started making cards, I had to measure each piece of card stock with a ruler and then cut it by hand with scissors. After the first couple of batches, I decided that the operation could be made much more efficient by investing in a paper cutter. This machine changed. my. life. If you are thinking about making cards or invitations or anything that requires cutting a lot of paper, you could definitely benefit from picking up a paper cutter.
Part of the uniqueness of my cards is that they are each drawn and painted individually. I start by roughly drawing each one in pencil. If I make any major mistakes, I can erase and have another go. At this point I’m very familiar with my designs, so the next step, inking with a Sharpie, goes pretty quickly. I ink the same lines twice with a fairly free flowing style – if the lines don’t match up perfectly, it only adds to the design. Once I have inked each card, I erase the pencil markings, making sure to wait until the ink has dried before erasing. I use Windsor & Newton watercolours for my cards because they have a good sustainability mandate and they offer compact watercolour sets that are easy to pack up and take anywhere (like a coffee shop! mmm). Some of their sustainability efforts include using a rainwater collection system to reduce the use of fresh water in their production process, filtering and reusing water within their plant, removing cadmium (a heavy metal that can have damaging effects on humans and animals) from some of their ranges and launching programs to develop cadmium alternatives. They also offer a range of water mixable oil colours that can be cleaned up using water instead of solvents. Pretty darn good, I’d say.
I’ve experimented with colours for each card and I’ve found some hues that I’m able to recreate consistently. I started with much lighter saturation, but once I became more comfortable with my designs I opted for more vibrant colours. The vibrant colours also work well when printed. I had many standoffs with my old printer before deciding that it was time for a new one. After at least 10 years of service, my old one just wasn’t cutting it, and my new printer was definitely worth the change. Although I really like the unique touch of individually painted cards, I wanted to offer an affordable option for Valentine’s Day. By creating mini versions of my cards and printing them as valentines, I can offer a pack of 10 for five bucks. Not too shabby for locally made valentines. They come in French, too!
I really enjoy selling my cards at the market and making custom cards by request. I get to talk to market goers about the creative process and they seem to really like buying a card from the person who made it. I leave some cards blank on the outside just in case someone likes a design, but would prefer their own message. All of my cards are blank on the inside, but I do offer to write custom messages. Each card, of course, comes with an envelope and I have since learned not to attach them with a paperclip. After being stacked together over a period of time, the paperclip leaves a mark. Fortunately, the mark can be easily removed with an eraser, but it’s still not ideal to have a blemishes on freshly painted cards. I’ve since opted not to attach the cards to envelopes and simply place them together when purchased.
With one market under my belt so far this year, I’ve got a couple of months to prepare for the next one. The Esquimalt Farmers Market is running a pop-up series of markets every third Thursday of each month at the Esquimalt Recreation Centre. Unfortunately, I will be away during the next one. In Edmonton. In February. Yeah. Until then, all of my cards, valentines and crochet are available on my Etsy shop or by requesting a custom order by email.