Why Order Digital Christmas Cards from a Small Business?

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I often peruse the major photo card and custom card company sites for inspiration, trend-watching, and to admire the competition in order to sharpen and hone my own skills.  There are some beautiful templates made by incredibly talented designers, and I know the norm has become to order from these companies, which also include printing, in order to save time and headaches at the holiday season.  It doesn’t hurt that they offer coupons (got one in the mail last week that I used to order custom return address labels for my own cards!  See?  Hassle free!  Cute design, don’t have to print on labels, save the trouble! I get it!) and discounts that save money at this time, too.  And there are some really great reasons to order from a major online retailer (but that’s not the point of this post, so I’m not going to list them…)

So, why order from a small, online digital card shop like BeanPress? I believe that there are a few reasons to do so…shall I enumerate?  I shall.

1. Complete customization
Traditional photo sites like (dare I name one?) Shutterfly and TinyPrints can offer some customization in your card selection.  They tailor your name, photo, and often even offer two or three color choices per design.  However, when your order from a shop like mine on Etsy, you can customize almost the ENTIRE process–from photo enhancement (cropping, blemish touch-up, change to black and white) to unlimited color options, from text changes to minor layout edits.  The customer and designer work together, and while there are some restraints, the process is much more tailored to your tastes.

2. Home Economics
Purchasing a digital design from an online small business makes the Christmas-card sending process much more affordable than ordering from a major online retailer.  With options to email your design or print from home, it really doesn’t get much more financially prudent (unless you hand write a Christmas greeting on a piece of printer paper and send it out….which is what my husband would have me do, given his druthers).  Small shops on sites like Etsy often offer printing services whose prices rival major retailers, and if not, you can choose one yourself that works within your budget.  Financial control and freedom.  I like that at the most expensive (I mean, wonderful) time of the year.

3. A Personal Touch
This might not be the most compelling reason to order from a small digital design shop (hey, I listed it at #3, not #1), but it is nice to work with an individual whose small business is dependent on customer service.  Call me old-fashioned, but I like communicating with someone who cares about their work, wants me to be happy with my purchase, and enjoys what they do.  That’s how I try to run my little business, and I believe that most others do, as well.  I communicate with my clients promptly and in a friendly manner…and I have made some wonderful connections in the short time that I have been operating my shop.

4. Proof and Proof Again
An additional reason that I like digital design is that it offers the chance to proof and re-proof before printing.  This also affords the opportunity to re-think a photo, a layout, and wording for a card.  With digital cards, the client has the chance to re-proof as much as he or she would like before printing (although with many shops, including BeanPress, an additional fee is incurred after two or three edits, in order to compensate for the designer’s time as changes are made.  Come on, that’s only fair if you’ve changed your mind on the photo three times, right?).

5. A “Green” Option
If you prefer to go paperless this year (for environmental or financial reasons), ordering a digital design gives you a budget-friendly option, as well.  Simply embed your digital design into an email and send out to your loved ones.  Easy, peezy!

Have I convinced you?  Any other reasons you can think of to go digital this year?  Consider it–if not from BeanPress, please think about supporting another small digital design shop this year.  And don’t forget that Saturday, November 30th is American Express’ Small Business Saturday!

The Christmas Rebellion

I am sitting here in my cozy cocoon of an “office” (my kids’ playroom with a desk and bulletin board for me in the corner), inhaling the scent of a Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin candle from Bath & Body Works and editing Christmas cards…and I can’t decide if I’m already in a Christmas frame of mind or if I’m still savoring the sweet, lovely days of Fall and the coming of a snug Thanksgiving weekend.

I refuse to write another rant about the skipping over of Thanksgiving in the commercial frenzy to get to Christmas…there are enough articles and blog posts written to that effect, and I get it.  We live in a culture that moves on to the next thing before the present one has even begun.  However, I just started some Christmas shopping today and I don’t want to be a hypocrite.  On that matter, anyway.

I just wanted to mention that although the stores are already decked out beautifully for Christmas, I do see a lot of “rebellion” this year against rushing ahead to December.  And I kind of like that.  Most of our neighborhood has deliberate harvest or Thanksgiving-themed decor on their doorstep.  My son’s preschool created Thanksgiving artwork for their school fundraiser, rather than Christmas-themed art (see pic below).  I ordered a garden flag with his design because a) I’m a sucker, and b) I like taking some time to decorate for Thanksgiving, too!

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And I’ve noticed a trend on Etsy for shops to offer harvest or Thanksgiving decor and products, with beautiful tones of creams, whites, and pumpkins…I feel so warm and full just thinking about it!  I had my sister create this gorgeous, one-of-a-kind wreath in those very colors because I was so inspired by the artisans in the Etsy marketplace.  Isn’t she talented?

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Although I have had Christmas card designs posted in my shop for quite some time (some people get an early start on things, after all), I have also posted some lovely Thanksgiving greeting cards and dinner invitations, in an effort to remind myself and our culture that it’s worth taking time to savor the moment.  I think America is catching on–we’re excited about Christmas, but we like the Fall, too.

So, I guess this post is inaccurately named.  It’s not really a “Christmas Rebellion” I’m noticing or taking part in–after all, I think most of us love this time of year, and it’s especially significant to those who celebrate the Incarnation.  I guess it’s more of a “Rush Through Everything Without Taking Time to Really Enjoy the Present Rebellion.”  And I’m happy about that.

Thanksgiving “Indian” Garland

I was planning to be productive around the house today (check out the load of laundry I need to fold),

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but after my three-year old threw an incredible, ungodly, humiliating tantrum at the park at the end of his preschool class play-date today, I decided to indulge myself and spend some time creating cards and posting about my latest craft project, instead.  It’s “me time,” folks.  #justgladI’mnotdrinking

My mom recently put her own Etsy business on hold (she makes GORGEOUS, handmade baby bedding) and she had quite a few fabric scraps that she gifted to me.  I loved this line from Sarah Watson for Art Gallery fabrics–it’s called “Indian Summer,” and it plays on some beautiful hues as well as the super-hot trend of woodland and native prints.  I am sadly short on Thanksgiving decor, and thought that this fabric would make a lovely addition to my (very small) collection.

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So yesterday morning, while my baby bean took his (quickly fading away) morning nap, my bean sprout sat with me on the bed while I cut this lovely fabric into bands about one-inch thick.  He desperately wanted to know what the project would be (would it include dripping glue and cutting paper into tiny bits???  Please, oh please, would it?).  Later in the evening, we sat side by side while he cut paper into tiny bits and sloppily glued them to my not-cheap computer paper (but he was having FUUUUUN!) and I completed my Thanksgiving Indian garland.

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Here’s how to do it (all craft projects completed in my home take under an hour and cost very little money, as we have two small children who are eating us out of house and home)

You will need:
5-6 varieties of coordinating fabric (about a half yard each)
a length of jute twine (mine was about 4 feet long, I think)
scissors
a window with ugly blinds that you want to somewhat cover

To do:
cut fabric into strips about one inch wide and six to ten inches long
cut twine to desired length and knot ends (or create loops for hanging)
take 2-3 pieces of the same print fabric, and lay the “wrong” sides together (the patterns should be facing outward)

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tie them in a knot on the twine, then pinch the knot together and slide the fabric toward one end of the jute twine
repeat, until the length of twine is filled
hang garland!

Craft Party

I am OBSESSED with this blog I just discovered…I have been scouring the pages of it for inspiration!  Here, she gives great tips on how to throw a lovely craft party with your girlfriends (bonus: I love the craft idea!)

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http://creaturecomfortsblog.com/

I want to either a) host a party like this or, even better (no set up or clean up) b) be invited to one!  Here’s the Craft Party invitation she inspired:

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It’s Time…

…to start thinking about Christmas cards!  I’ve added some new, super-modern, fun, and festive designs to the shop, so check them out!  Also, I am very excited to now offer printing arrangements through a third-party professional printer.  They do an excellent job for a lower cost than I could do myself, so I am happy to arrange that for folks that would like to do one-stop shopping for their cards.  I will have them ship directly to you!

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Modern Cookie Exchange

Cookie exchange parties are a staple of the holiday season.  I have always loved them–who wouldn’t want to swap two dozen of the same cookie for a heap of interesting varieties?  The only problem with cookie exchanges?  I could never quite find an invitation that set the tone for a sophisticated party.

The hunt for inspiration began, and then I saw this blog entry from Williams-Sonoma…at last!  A lovely exchange party that was modern, elegant, super-chic.  Here’s the invitation it inspired, as well as a link to the great party tips from Williams-Sonoma:

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http://blog.williams-sonoma.com/not-your-moms-cookie-exchange/