Aside from sending cards to nearest and dearest, how many of us have cards stuffed in drawers or pinned onto pin boards, maybe even framed? For artists, illustrators and photographers too, cards are a great way of getting their work out to a wider audience, with their details on the back of the card, you could say they were the perfect marketing tool.
Cards also help to keep small independent shops and galleries in business; there is a brilliant campaign called Just a Card, which aims to encourage people to buy from Designer/Makers and Independent Galleries and Shops by reinforcing the message that all purchases, however small, even ‘just a card’ are so vital to the prosperity and survival of small businesses. The campaign is the brainchild of Artist & Designer Sarah Hamilton, who felt compelled to act after seeing a quote from the owners of a gallery on the closure of their business … “If everyone who’d complimented our beautiful gallery had bought ‘just a card‘ we’d still be open”.
In my day job as a freelance art director, I recently visited the dedicated greeting card trade show PG Live, held at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London, and thought that it would be a great opportunity to write a post about a couple of the smaller exhibitors who specialise in cards featuring dogs. The trade show which has been running for ten years, and takes it name from the trade publication Progressive Greetings is a great way for retailers from around the World to find the perfect cards for their shops. Card publishers, big and small fill the exhibition space and newcomers even have a dedicated area called Springboard, from which to launch their product to prospective card buyers.
One such designer / publisher is Nicole Orsi, from Red Berry Cards. Nicole, a graphic designer, set up her card company seven years ago, after having worked for a number of years as a card designer for a larger publisher.
One of Nicole’s most successful card ranges is her range called “Top Dog”, featuring various dog breeds, which she launched in 2013 with 12 cards. Nicole’s dog illustrations are very clean and simple images reminiscent of silk screen printing, in which close ups of dog faces fill the square cards and are presented without a caption. The range now contains 28 designs, the most popular of which are the Dachshund, Schnauzer, Black Lab, Border Terrier and Westie.
Nicole isn’t surprised by the popularity of the black lab card, having a black lab herself. Although Bailey, wasn’t the inspiration for the range having come into her life just under four years ago; however Nicole explained that she has always been a big dog lover, having grown up with dogs throughout her childhood and has been known to cross the road to say hello to a puppy! Nicole supplies her cards to a variety of gift and card shops, they can even be found at her local vets and a dog groomers!
This was Nicole’s sixth year of exhibiting at PG Live and this year she moved from the Springboard area to Springboard Extra downstairs, which she found to be a much better location for her, providing a greater buzz and more orders than the previous year.
A first time exhibitor at the show was Kathy Webster with her company Dotty Dog Art. Kathy, who had taken a stand within the Springboard section of the show, started her company in 2013 after being made redundant from her job at the Guide Dogs charity. Kathy explained that she hasn’t always been an artist, mainly because art wasn’t considered a ‘proper job’ when she was at school! So instead she journeyed along a varied career path including graphic design, veterinary nursing and Guide Dogs. Interestingly they all had the same two factors running through them, dogs and art. So when Kathy was sadly made redundant from Guide Dogs she decided to set up her own business initially concentrating on dog portrait commissions and then later in 2016 she ventured into the world of cards.
Kathy’s fabulous illustrations now adorn both captioned and non captioned cards. Like her commissioned portraits, the most popular cards feature the Terrier breeds. Dotty Dog Terriers range from the hugely popular Jack Russell Terrier to the less prevalent, but equally as gorgeous Glen of Imaal Terrier!
As for her own four legged friends, Kathy shares her studio with, in her own words, “two unruly poodles… Freya our poodle x springer and Dandy our special rescue miniature poodle”, which she says “keep me company in the Dotty studio… sometimes sleeping, sometimes noisily play-fighting and sometimes destroying something important while I’m not looking!!!!
Kathy’s first experience of PG Live was very positive, she says she will definitely be exhibiting there again next year. She said it was fun to be a part of the show, where there was a very friendly atmosphere but more importantly she gained a number of new stockists and secured her first export order!
As a nation dog ownership is growing, according to a recent survey by the pet food Manufacturers Association 6.6 million households own a dog, 300,000 more than last year! Therefore it should come as no surprise that greeting cards featuring dogs are becoming increasingly prevalent and popular. It is also important not to underestimate the importance of greeting cards, whether it be from the value they serve as a communication tool or the economic part they play in sustaining small independent businesses. As I write this post it is “Just a Card Week”, an initiative by the Just a Card campaign to celebrate their 3rd birthday. So I will leave you with their inspiring words …
“When you buy just a card, just a book, just a gift, just a pin etc. from an artist, maker, independent shop or creative business you’re not buying just a card, you’re supporting passion, skill, creativity, originality and community”.
Here are some useful links for any budding card publishers out there: –
The Greeting Card Association, can provide lots of useful information on how to publish your own greeting cards or how to license your artwork to card publishers.
The Ladder Club is a not for profit organisation helping new publishers get on the greeting card ladder. They hold seminars once a year and provide a community of other fledgling publishers to network with.