If You Want to Be a Greeting Card Designer Sarah Hamilton’s ‘House of Cards’ is a Great Place to Start.

 Today we’re talking ‘House of Cards’, a wonderful book all about greeting cards by the super talented, and super hard working Sarah Hamilton.

Not just an artist, a company owner or a campaign founder (Just a Card Campaign founder), Sarah is also the author of ‘House of Cards’ a book which I have been meaning to share with you for an embarrassingly long time. Seriously, I just checked my records and I’ve been meaning to share this with you for about 18 months! I’m so sorry Sarah, Jehane, Jessica, Lynn and Gabriela who all gave time to help this happen; hopefully I’ll learn from this! 

So without any more delays let’s take a closer look at House of Cards… 

So as we’ve established, a very, very long time ago I was gifted a copy of the House of Cards book by one of its contributors Jehane Boden Spiers (more on Jehane later!). Week after week I told myself to take a break and read the book, but this good & simple idea was time and time again swatted away by work and life (isn’t it always the way?!).

House of Cards meanwhile sat patiently on my desk waiting and waiting.

And now I know exactly how much of a mistake that was!

While I’ve picked up the book many times, taking a casual look and browsing the beautiful imagery. It wasn’t till this week however that I ran away from all distractions and took time to really look at the book.

To be honest, what I found surprised me.

I’d been suffering from the misconception that House of Cards was a book of craft projects. A handful of guides focused on creating handmade cards. Indeed the front cover states “step-by-step projects for beautiful handmade greeting cards”… but what I found was so much more.

Yes, there is a wonderful array of projects, which if followed will help readers create a variety of card designs, but this is just one element.

In reality, the book is a great introduction to the greeting card industry and a world of creativity.

It shows readers how to get started in greeting card design. The books covers inspiration and the journey of developing a creative process and then goes on to the history of the industry, the points you need to consider if you want to sell greeting cards and even how to commercialise your work via representing yourself or licensing your designs.

It’s not exhaustive in its approach but it delivers a thoughtful and approachable introduction to the world of greeting cards.

10 Reasons House of Cards is Essential Reading for Greeting Card Beginners

1. Created with Care

There’s no doubt that House of Cards has been created with care. Sarah’s passion for greeting cards, artists, handmade products, independents and the creative process shines through on every page. This enthusiasm for the subject is an ideal way to inspire people starting their journey into the world of greeting cards. 

2. Highlights the Importance of Greeting Cards

The book keenly understands and highlights the importance of greeting cards. First, there is the commercial impact of the product. Sarah knows all to well that even a small purchase such as a birthday card can have a great impact on independent shops.

Secondly, the House of Cards book appreciates the emotional meaning of greeting cards. Providing a connection between people when a card is sent to a friend or family member. As one of the book’s contributors Gabriela Szulman shared with me…

To receive a card that someone has chosen and written with care just for us is a special treat in this harried world. For me personally, digital greetings and downloads will never replace the real thing: the unique feel and look of paper, the thrill of opening an envelope or the enjoyment that comes from turning the pages of a book. I’m always buying greeting cards as I can’t resist them – they all go in a special drawer and then when I need one for a special occasion I know I will find something which is just right for that person in my ever-growing stash. Unsurprisingly, my preference is for cards by other artists rather than those produced en masse and sold by the big chain stores.

The book’s section on Charity Cards by British artist and actor David Oakes even clarifies how the financial and emotional benefits of greeting cards can be combined. Not only is the revenue generated from Charity Cards vital to keeping many charities running, but the practice of choosing a charity card pack also builds an emotional connection between the buyer and a charity’s goals.

3. Gives Historical Context

The book starts with a brief history of the greeting card by Jakki Brown, co-owner and Editor of trade publication Progressive Greetings Worldwide. More than just a nostalgic history lesson however, the history delivers insight into the commercial world of greeting cards; providing a great lesson for anyone wishing to get started in greeting card design.

4. Delivers Inspiration

In the section “A Journey of Discovery” Sarah provides valuable tips on finding inspiration for your own greeting card designs as well as how you can build a process for your creativity.

In a design-led industry like the world of greetings cards, creativity is vital. In House of Cards, Sarah shows readers how they can be creative; using methods such as collecting and drawing to spark creativity.

These tips help build a creative habit; something that will be invaluable if you want to create your own card collection.

5. Helps You Get Started Selling Greeting Cards

In the selling cards section, Sarah highlights key considerations for selling your greeting cards.

House of Cards includes tips that are often overlooked but are in reality essential when it comes to selling your greeting cards. Tips cover considerations such as the importance of cohesion in a greeting card collection and the role of packaging and branding to attract buyers.

Vital knowledge that will help kickstart the process of selling your card designs.

6. Introduces You to the World of Licensing

For those not wanting to sell cards themselves licensing is a great option. In House of Cards the Licensing section of the book is written by Jehane Boden Spiers.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure to come across her work, Jehane is a textile designer, artists’ agent and mentor with over 15 years experience as an art licensing agent and 25 years exhibiting and licensing her own designs. As well as being a thoroughly lovely person Jehane is a treasure trove of info when it comes to licensing.

In her section of the House of Cards book, Jehane breaks down what can be a complicated topic into an easy to understand introduction. Providing an ideal way for readers to discover an alternative income stream greeting card design can offer.

7. Shows You How it’s Done by Real Designers

Throughout the book, there are numerous stories and tips from real-life greeting card designers; including a section written by Jessica Hogarth on how you can sell your greeting cards directly by representing yourself.

When you’re learning about a new subject or a new industry these real-life moments often have the biggest impact. Giving you a path you may follow and proving that it has been done before.

8. It Works for All Cards, Not Just Handmade 

Although the majority of House of Cards’ focus is on handmade cards it doesn’t overlook the digital side of the industry.

In her project ‘Beach Huts’ designer Jessica Hogarth shows an example of how to create a digital illustration from an original paper and pencil sketch. Jessica commented…

“I really enjoyed putting my project together. It was a little challenging; it’s one thing designing a card yourself but actually really thinking about the process and breaking it down in to step by step instructions was more difficult. Since I colour all of my artwork on Adobe Illustrator, there are lots of little steps that go in to getting the drawing in to the program to colouring it and then formatting it for print. It took me a little while to get the instructions as clear and concise as possible.”

Similarly, Lynn Giunta who created the book’s Decoupage project told me…

“I found doing the step by step stages for the project to be an excellent challenge. I’ve taught plenty of classes but I had never broken down my process into such precise, clear steps that someone could follow and have success without having me in the same room. I did it many times over to ensure that it made sense”.

It is this clear and concise method that both Jessica and Lynn capture so perfectly that makes their project, and indeed all of the projects featured so valuable.

This House of Cards project is not intended to be, nor can it be, a definitive guide to digital illustration (that would need several more volumes) but I love that the book does have this quick look beyond handmade cards. House of Cards shows the variety to be found in greeting card design and inspires you to try things out.

9. Takes You Behind the Scenes

Each of the artists featured in House of Cards shares their inspiration as well as tools and techniques associated with the project they’ve developed and their style of greeting card creation. 

Delivering more than just creative craft projects, these behind the scenes moments really enhance the book adding to Sarah’s voice and giving alternate perspectives on the creative process; this is hugely valuable for showing that everyone has their own brand of creativity that can be cherished and developed to create something truly unique. 

10. It Speaks to the Creative Soul

My 10th and final reason why House of Cards is a must-have for greeting card beginners (and indeed any creatively-inclined folks) focuses on the tone of the book.

House of Cards has been written for creatives by creatives. Any writer could take a few months, research the industry and the design process and compile a book on greeting cards; but when it comes from a creative person that has lived and breathed the world there is something much more authentic at play. 

House of Cards tells real stories, shows real people and carries an authenticity that speaks to and inspires the creative soul; so it really does feel like an ideal introduction to the greeting card industry. 

A Look at the People Behind the Greeting Card Projects

By now I’ve hopefully given you a good idea of what can be found within the pages of House of Cards but I couldn’t finish without a quick look at all the artists that have contributed to the title. 

The book features 10 craft projects that help readers create different handmade cards. Each teaches a unique skill that once learnt can be applied to your own designs, inspiring your very own greeting card collection. 

Alongside the step-by-step instructions, each project provides tips on tools and techniques as well as notes on where each artist finds inspiration; invaluable information for every budding greeting card designer. 

So without further ado, let’s take a look at the artists involved with House of Cards. 

Project One: Silkscreen Printing with Sarah Hamilton

Sarah Hamilton is a London-based artist with a passion for colour and drawing. She makes cards, prints, woodblocks and homewares from her studio in her mid-century modern home. Views over the woods towards the city beyond inspire her designs, which all begin as sketchbook drawings. After studying at Central St Martins, Sarah began her creative career by making cards that sold successfully in many design-led stores, this enabled her to develop her studio and broaden the commissions undertook.

Project 2: Decoupage with Lynn Giunta

Lynn Giunta grew up in a family where making things was always encouraged – she has many happy memories of rooting through drawers of sequins and beads, sewing and glueing and spending hours imagining what she could create. Lynn went on to take a class in college that introduced her to hand lettering, which led to a degree in graphic design. As an artist in the visual studios at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City Missouri she spends each and every day creating with talented and inspiring people.

Project 3: Papercutting with Sarah Morpeth

Sarah Morpeth is an artist living and working in the heart of the wild and beautiful Northumberland National Park; a place she feels grounded in and which inspires much of her work. Sarah spent 10 years working as a solicitor in London before making a complete change to her life and embarking on an embroidery degree at Manchester Metropolitan University where she became interested in bookbinding and papercutting.

Project 4: Linocut Printing with Sam Marshall

Sam Marshall has been printmaking for over 15 years. Training at the Slade School of Fine Art, she then completed an MA in Drawing at the Royal Drawing School. Today Sam divides her time between teaching at the Royal Drawing School and printmaking at her own print studio in rural Northamptonshire.

Project 5: Found objects with Kirsty Elson

Kirsty Elson is a mixed-media artist living in Cornwall who is lucky enough to earn a living by creating work from driftwood and other stuff that’s free! Despite studying illustration and printmaking at art school, Kirsty realised her passion lay with found objects, and the freedom they provide to break boundaries and follow her creativity with no limits.

Project 6: Collage with Gabriela Szulman

Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Gabriela Szulman has lived in South London since graduating from Camberwell College of Arts. Coming from a background in ceramics and printmaking, her work has always featured layered images, combined with bright colours and surface decoration.

Project 7: Handstitch Art with Lucy Featherstone

Lucy Featherstone recently graduated from Nottingham Trent University and although her background is in graphic design she found her passion in illustration. Her work often features a range of techniques including painting, papercutting and stitching.

Project 8: Digital Illustration with Jessica Hogarth.

Jessica Hogarth is a surface pattern design with a degree in printed textiles and surface pattern design. She runs her own company, splitting her time between illustrating for commercial clients and designing and selling her own product range.

Project 9: Textile Foiling with Anna Jackson

Anna Jackson grew up in Australia where she studied printmaking at the University of Southern Queensland. She now lives in London, where she has transitioned from working on paper to printing on fabric. Enjoying the textural element and creative potential of printed fabric, Anna creates unique handprinted art and accessories through her company Black Cactus.

Project 10: Letterpress Printing with Kathryn Hunter

Kathryn Hunter was trained as a printmaker and has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in printmaking from Montana State University and a Masters of Fine Arts in printmaking from Louisiana State University. Today she continues to make fine art alongside designing and printmaking for her company, Blackbird Letterpress.

Where to Buy Your Copy of House of Cards

House of Cards retails at £14.99 and is available to buy online here and from all good book shops. You can also find out more about Sarah and the book at the Pavilion Books website.

& for artists seeking an agency or mentoring you can find out more about Jehane Boden Spiers and “making art work” at Jehane’s website.

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