Interview with Crafter and Self-Publisher Nel of 3CraftyKidz
We love to publish all kinds of blog posts on Northern Cards, including topics such as All About The Forest Stewardship Council, The History of the Greeting Card and The Digital Age: Is the Greeting Card Industry Near Death? However, for our new interview series, we are introducing you to various people in the world of greeting cards. We'll be interviewing artists, self-publishers, printers and many more people involved in this industry, so that you can learn more about what they all do.
When and why did you decide to design your own cards?
Crafting, of some sort, has always been a part of my life. It's safe to say I've been crafting for decades. I decided to finally make my own cards primarily at my husband's gentle suggestion as I made pretty much everything else. Why couldn't I make cards too? Well, it started from there. I only recently (as in less than 7 months or so!) started sharing them on my Etsy shop as they are really personal to me. I feel like I am putting something very personal out there for all to see.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
My mind never (and I am being literal!) shuts down. I have all sorts of dies, stamps, inks, and crafting machines that allow creativity to fly. I'm always putting things together and taking them apart. Sometimes it works; sometimes, not so much! I am constantly thinking about design, color, etc. I get inspiration from everywhere... being in a restaurant, watching a child play with a toy, watching flowers bloom and bees fly.
I get inspiration from my kids and what they like, from colors, to music, to styles. Inspiration comes from other designers sharing their techniques. I even dream designs for cards or other crafting ideas for celebrations, etc - weird I know! When that happens I try to quickly write down the idea or sketch it out. Some ideas I haven't even had time to try yet!
Are there any particular publishing companies which inspire you?
Every company has something positive and inspiring to offer. I tend to gravitate more toward Canadian companies for various reasons, like Jacinta Ink, Kenzie Cards, Kim Hunter, Flaunt Cards, Northern Cards, Pacific Paper Greetings, Pictoria, and Yellow Bird and those based in the UK like Nigel Quiney, Kate Guest, Karmuka, DoodleDoo, and The Great British Card Co. I'm drawn to these companies because of their artwork, photography, card messages, visual impact, colors, and sometimes the simplicity of the presentation. I especially like the use of kinetics or 3D, etc. from Noel Tatt and Roses Without Thorns. These are the ones that tend to grab my attention.
What is the typical process you go through when designing a card from scratch?
I typically first think of a special event in my life: past, present or future. I consider the season I'm in. Then I think about what colors represent that event. From there I start to pull various cardstock with different textures, inks, stamps and dies. I decide on a card size and then the fun begins .... die cutting, stamping, inking, water coloring and so on.
I'll put a few designs together and stop. I let my 'samples' sit for a day or two or longer. During this time I ponder, look at the designs, change things around until I'm happy. If I can't find that happiness it goes into the recycling bin.
Do you sell anything other than cards?
Some other items I sell are banners, cupcake toppers and crepe paper flower drink stirrers. I have to admit that the crepe flowers are one of my absolute favorites! The crepe paper is from Italy and is so luxurious! It's wonderful to work with. I also make custom orders. I have customers that contact me to make birthday decorations for their children. They'll tell me what their child likes (or happens to be into at the moment) and then give me design freedom. That is another wonderful thing! I love my customers; they are just such wonderful people (and moms!). I have been very blessed by having the opportunity to work with these wonderful customers. These are customers I've never personally met but continue to come back to my Etsy shop whenever they need something special. I am truly honored and humbled that they remember me. Such a blessing!
Where do you sell your products?
I sell on Etsy exclusively right now.
Do you sell internationally?
Yes, I do, primarily Europe, North America and Australia/New Zealand.
Do you sell wholesale as well as retail?
No, I am currently focusing on retail.
Who is a typical customer of yours?
My typical customers are soon-to-be moms, busy moms and brides.
What do you think makes a card design perfect?
I think a design is perfect when you know you've put your heart into it. If your heart and soul shines through, it's absolutely perfect!
How much do you sell your cards for?
I typically sell a set of cards for about $15 with free shipping. The set includes the cards, envelopes and matching gift tags. I sell gift tags for about $6 including ribbon and free shipping. Card packs make great last-minute gifts too!
How do you actually print your cards? Are they all custom done or do you keep an inventory on hand?
Most of what I do is custom as I love the variety. I've also used preprinted packs but that is something I am currently experimenting with.
Do you send your own cards to friends and family?
Absolutely! This is a tradition I love continuing!! I definitely send my cards in the mail to family and friends.
With a gift, I always include a gift tag plus a card with some heartfelt written wishes. I always add in my own handwritten sentiments.
What is the best card you ever received?
The best cards are those that my kids have made for me over the years because I know they put their heart and thoughts into it. They took the time to show how much they care. I have kept every one of those cards! I use that same philosophy for my cards. I care. And I hope that shines through in the style of cards I choose to make and in everything I offer in my Etsy shop.
Who would you love to send one of your own cards to?
Wow, this is a hard one! I have pondered my answer to this for days!! I would have to say my Aunt Jo. She was the one who always inspired and urged me to start a business. Sadly, the card would have to go to heaven and I haven't been able to find a letter carrier who delivers to that address! If you know a postal carrier please let me know! :0)
What's the most difficult thing you have found when self-publishing?
The most difficult thing is being found in our sea of information. Being able to get information at the drop of a hat is amazing. But it also creates a torrent that flows by so quickly it's hard to get noticed.
What type of things have you tried to increase your exposure?
I think the common thread for most is social media. It's quite challenging. I'm on most of the social media sites. Networking. Donating to local charity events. I think it's safe to say I've tried what most have. My goal this year has been to learn Instagram. I know, I'm probably the last person in the world to join! I've been on Facebook and Twitter but the sites are very 'busy' visually. It seems to be a constant torrent. I prefer a more leisurely SM experience. Many of my customers also give 'shout outs' on their SM sites which is really sweet too. I've tried some collaboration with other Etsy shops too.
What would you say is the best thing about self-publishing?
The best thing is being able to make my own decisions, good or bad. I consider it all my learning path.
Do you have any words of advice for anyone who is contemplating being a self-publisher of greeting cards?
The most important thing is to do your research, understand there will be an investment in your time as well as trade tools. Accept that you will make mistakes. We all do. It's a part of the learning process. I am still learning and loving every minute of the successes and challenges!
Jean-Paul Michael has spent his entire adult life in the greeting card industry. He co-founded Northern Cards when he was 18 years old and over the last 3 decades, he has held many varying positions in the company. Today, he is proud to be Northern Cards' Publisher and a lifelong greeting card geek.