Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Your Valentine's Day guide to a few card sellers on Etsy who eschew crudeness and cliches

With Valentine's Day coming up, and as part of my continuing effort to revive the rather forgotten tradition of sending cards in the mail to those you love, I'm offering this guide to a few of my favorite shops that sell cards on Etsy (full disclosure: and mine). You need this if you want to search for any kind of cards on the site, because a generic search for Valentine cards—or even birthday cards!—yields an unpleasant abundance of the crude and cliche'd. While Etsy automatically screens your search results to favor those shops that offer free shipping (usually with an order of $35 or more), you're on your own to filter out anything else.

I made this rather unpleasant discovery recently when doing a test search on the site. I simply searched for "birthday cards" to see what came up. Boy, did I get an eyeful! Nearly the entire first page of results featured crude sexual humor and images. If I were a first-time shopper on Etsy, those results would likely turn me off from using the site at all. I actually worried that I could be losing potential business because people who might like my cards will never get past their first impressions.

An assortment of mild-mannered valentines (made by me) you will not see in your search results on Etsy. To see more like this, just click here.

I looked for a button to filter my results from "adult" content and found nothing. I then looked in the discussion forums and, after several minutes of searching, learned that I wasn't the only one to be dismayed by such results. Someone offered the helpful tip that you can include in your search terms "-mature" to screen the results—except, that only works if the sellers remember to mark their items as "mature," which many of them do not. Plus, that still left me with an abundance of derivative pop-culture cliches, not to mention rampant copyright infringement—a lot of sellers on Etsy don't seem to realize that Disney characters are not theirs for the taking.

With Valentine's Day coming up, a search is even more likely to be problematic for those who don't really care to sift through all that. So I thought I would help you bypass the search process by showing you some shops selling cards that are original, creative, clever, beautiful, and suitable for all audiences.

Of course, I sell cards too, and you can see them in my Etsy shop here. But apart from that plug (and the photo above), this post isn't about my items. Herewith, a highly selective list of Etsy shops with cards that I'm sure will delight you. For each, I selected just one example, and linked the name to the corresponding shop on Etsy.

Wild Roses card by Cindy Lindgren

 Cindy Lindgren is a fellow Minnesota artist who creates illustrations in an arts-and-craft/nouveau style, many of which are iconic images from that era, such as this stylized wild rose. She also sells prints of her illustrations, fabric pieces with her designs printed on them, and several useful items all featuring her artwork.

Letterpress card by Green Bird Press

Green Bird Press is a letterpress shop whose cards are simple and elegant in that way that only letterpress does; yet this artist also serves up subtle geeky humor, sometimes purely through the images.  It's a fun shop to browse, especially for fans of sci-fi, comics, and general randomness.

Tattooed hamster card from Go kittie

Go kittie is the shop of an artist in London, UK, who does whimsical illustrations of animals and prints them on notecards. She seems to especially like pugs, so if you're looking for a card for someone who owns a pug, or if you love pugs, you will be delighted with the selection here. In additions to pugs and this tattooed hamster, you'll find cats, foxes, a badger, a few other breeds of dogs, and other animals. All of them are really cute, but not in a cutesy way, if you know what I mean.

Tandem bike love card by Rachel Inc.

Rachel King Birch is a Philadelphia artist who puts her hand-drawn illustrations on cards, tags, and tea towels under the shop name Rachel Inc. She has several love-themed cards and tags worth checking out. This tandem bicycle is one of my favorites.

It's very hard to choose just one card from Sacred Bee!

Pamela Zagarenski is an award-winning illustrator and author of children's books who sells elaborately illustrated cards with quotes and clever sayings through her business Sacred Bee. Her Etsy shop is under her own name. I ordered a few cards from her last summer and was delighted not only with the cards, but also with the packaging.

Added eco-friendly bonus: Her cello card sleeves are compostable, which she mentions on her site but it's not indicated on the sleeves themselves.

This two-puffins card would be sweet for a wedding.

Kate Broughton is an English artist living in Leeds, UK, who describes her artwork as nature-inspired. Besides a very nice selection of cards, she also makes nail stickers, notebooks, magnets and more, all featuring her lovely artwork.

Here's a tip for getting the most out of your Etsy shopping experience: scroll all the way down from a shop's main page until you get to the "About" section (which used to be easier to find). It is a sure way to identify the true makers from the copiers and resellers, and it's a nice way to get to know the artist a little better.

One of many love cards by Edgar and Suzanne Cabrera

Edgar and Suzanne Cabrera are a husband-and-wife team who make their playful illustrations into cards, posters, garlands and tea towels. There's a bright, simple cheerfulness to all their artwork, and they seem to like raccoons a lot! Their Etsy shop is called An Open Sketchbook.

I'm going to stop here, even though there are more artists selling cards on Etsy that are quite delightful. You are welcome to browse my favorites on the site anytime, and you can search within my favorites to see only cards (or anything else if you want to see my recommendations). To see the public favorites of any Etsy seller whose taste you like, such as those featured above, click on their name in the upper right of their shop's homepage. It's possibly the most effective way to do a filtered search on the site—let an artist be your curator.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

January is the time for seed catalog season to begin

The pretty little mug was made by Judy Anderson, Dragonfly Guild pottery.
The first seed catalog arrived more than a week before Christmas. I was annoyed. Don't they know better than to send it out before the holidays? It's like they broke a cardinal rule of gardeners' etiquette.

It wasn't one of my regular garden supply companies, nor will it become one. It went straight into the recycling.

But now that January is well underway, I have begun to peruse the assortment of catalogs that arrived at more suitable times, all of which I've ordered from before. I'm not at all ready to start planning my garden yet (the garden plans in the photo above are from last year), but I relish this dreamy pre-planning phase, when anything is possible. I mark pages with sticky notes, circle plants I like, jot notes in the margins about where I could grow this or that.

The glass mosaic with orange flowers was made by
Chris Miller, a LoLa artist.
I do this for flowers, vegetables, and herbs, but I'm mostly interested in flowers at this stage. I want them all!

I plan to start some clover seeds soon, to have a nice pot of shamrocks by St. Patrick's Day. (I've written about clover and shamrocks before, such as here.) And I'd like to get an early start on some strawflowers or paper daisies, which seem to need lots of lead time. I started some from seed last year, but got only a couple of the dryable blossoms. I had envisioned making a charming string of them for a sweet botanical garland, like the one I saw in a Remodelista post last fall. But two blossoms does not a garland make!

To get me through the dreariest winter months, I'll splurge on flowers from Seward Co-op, where I buy my groceries each Friday. And begin setting up my seed-starting operation in a sunny south window upstairs (with added lighting). And pore over my seed catalogs, enjoying this easy, dreamy stage, when the garden has no weeds or pests. Just possibility.

"I dwell in possibility," —Emily Dickinson
(For the full poem, visit the Poetry Foundation)

Some seed catalogs I like:

Johnny's Selected Seeds

Select Seeds

John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds

Jung Seed

Renee's Garden Seeds