“If I wanted to start a card-making thing…”

A college friend of mine wrote the above phrase to me today. I’ve been asked this question by a few other people as well.  So, with that question, I launched into an answer to my friend that seemed worthy enough for a blog post.  I have been busy with gardening and other social activities so not much time to post anything this month of June.  But here is the response to what may have been an innocent enough question.  She got the full tilt answer whether she was expecting it or not. She already is sending me a collection of cards in the mail, that might be easier for her in the long run.

“If I wanted to start a card making thing here how would I go about that? Or should I collect cards and send them to you?”

My answer: “I have learned much about card-making and there is so much more to learn, believe me.  For now, I know this that if you put energy into Christmas cards, people won’t necessarily buy them.  If they send out every December, they are used to buying a packet of 20 cards in a box for $5 or sending out photos or their own Christmas letters. However, the cards I will send over to Kazakhstan will be those very cards that are so pretty here and that the international women will hopefully want to buy at the annual international bazaar.  I hope there will be a booth at each bazaar in Almaty and Astana where the cards will be displayed with the idea of selling them to westerners.  If the Kazakhs like them, that is a bonus.

Sooooo….you may receive a plethora of cards from people because they are pretty and should be recycled. I know people want to donate or give in some way to help victims in the human trafficking shelters.  However, you must be careful to not accept 1960s or older cards because people might save and store their cards in damp places.  Result, you get a mildewy smell which permeates throughout all the other cardstock. I’ve also received some cards that have the smell of smoke from cigarettes, household smells do cling. I learned the hard way when one of my customers reported back this feedback.
Consequently, I have had to toss some of what people have mailed or given me.  The old cards are interesting to look at because the artwork is different from what Hallmark produces.  Sadly, because of the smell, some cards cannot be used.  Maybe I have to figure out a way to give off a light fragrance in our card packets. I’ve considered having a cedar smell included in the Christmas cards, but I’ve only “thought” about it.
In any case, you have to accept everything that is donated to you, they don’t have to know you purged some of them…the givers do mean well.  They are parting with memories of what the original card givers meant when they initially sent the cards even if that was 50 years ago.

I’ve learned something about volunteers, as well.  It is very difficult to find people who are qualified to do the kind of work needed or you have to be super organized and have projects ready for those who are NOT gifted in the arts.  Let me put it bluntly, there are those adults who are normal people who hold down normal jobs who are all thumbs when it comes to craftsy work.  Some don’t know how to cut a straight edge, others are messy with glue.  Oh, what I have learned about volunteers…some don’t show up when they said they would.  But some are shy and want to help yet will only do what they are told.  Others, however, are naturally gifted and take off and do extraordinary things with cards.

However, now I know there is a huge difference between card makers and scrapbookers.  I have a friend who does both artfully well and I save ALL her homemade cards because they are a work of art!! Scrapbookers pile on lots of do-dads and embellish which takes lots of time for just ONE card.  With our “Card-Again” enterprise, we are trying to make money and so efforts that are put into one card that will only sell for about $1 or $2 is not a good use of time and energy.

There are those who have all the Stampin’ Up stamps and they do a great job with putting cards together but I haven’t nailed those talented people down on a regular basis because my schedule has been so erratic.  There is one neighbor lady who really got me started on this and she has been a consistent help to me.  She knows what I am looking for and she has organized 1,000s of cards that I have received into different categories.  You want to organize in the main five or six categories: 1) birthday 2) get well 3) congrats 4) sympathy and 5) thank you.  The last two are the most important for this area where there are lots of funerals and those of the older generation are used to sending thank yous as well.

What I have learned about younger people is they love the gift bags we made. It is so easy to put a present in them and then give rather than wrapping presents which takes time with cutting paper, tape and bows.  Also, the younger generation is not used to getting snail mail so they are not as apt to buy cards unless special.  Specialized cards like “Happy birthday Sister-in-law” or “Happy Divorce” is too specific. Those greetings should be cut out while the graphics can still be used.  You would not believe some of the cards I have seen, like “sympathy for loss of pet.”  Oh my.

So, if you are to market these cards, what we found instead of having one of each size in different zip lock type plastic coverings is to put them in a plastic packet of 6 cards of various shapes and messages to sell for $10.  If only 3 cards in a packet priced at $5.  What was not a good use of space was to lay out all the cards for people to think about which several cards they liked best.  The important thing to recognize is that you are selling a product where your buyers are giving to a cause. They get the cards as a kind of side benefit.  The people who buy our “Card-Again” cards are giving towards shelters for victims of human trafficking.  We have donated several thousand dollars to the Not For Sale organization in Minnesota.

The reason I like doing cards is because every time I give a talk on human trafficking to a group of people, then I hear more sad stories from them.  I feel balanced when I am being creative with making “Card-Again” cards. After sorting fronts and backs, I like putting the back of cards together with different cards. BTW, I use the back of cards and cover up writing only if the backs have an interesting color or design.  So the main thing you need to buy and use is an Exacto paper cutter and put the envelopes together with the size you have.  The easiest size is from an 8 1/2 by 11 inch piece that is halved.  So you have the fold or scoring of 4 1/4 by 5 1/2.  You might want to find the envelopes first to figure out what different color envelope goes with your card stock.  That’s what I do because you would NOT BELIEVE HOW MANY SIZES OF ENVELOPES are out in the world.  Nothing is sacred with envelopes, they are NOT standardized size-wise.

I have learned about embossing and glitter, I’ve learned other volunteers like to use bows or lace.  Others are creative with buttons and hole punches. How you glue cards together has a certain technique as well.  You don’t want to use the expensive kind of sticky tape on both sides unless pressed to do so.  I use a big bottle of glue that looks like a ketchup bottle and press each card under heavy, heavy Stampin’ Up catalogs.

I actually think my husband will give over to me a small shop used for other purposes so I don’t have to spread out on our dining room table and then take down again in a couple of days.  It is nice to get back to the “creative mess” when I have huge junks of time.  Finally, I would hope that you would pursue this project of making cards because it is a fun way to have people over and to experiment with different things.”

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