Dec. 15th, 2014

madshutterbug: (c)2009 by Myself (Houdini&I)
One of the projects I've worked up over the past year (about as fast as either glacial advancement or melting... ) is creating Greeting Cards from some of our photographic art. The initial thought is getting something into an affordable price range which is also attractive and could bring more sales. After all, there are two means (as it were) to making 'The Nut' which is a shorthand term for Booth Fee, Expenses, and then we can look at Income. One is to sell a Big Price Ticket item, a framed print. This doesn't happen often. The other is to sell a larger quantity of Lower Price Ticket Items. That's where we're trying to go with this concept, add those smaller items that will be attractive.

It's not an original idea with or from me. I am frankly stealing the idea and filing off the serial numbers, though yes I'm putting our artwork out there as the subjects. Said another way, I've seen a lot of artists at the weekend festivals selling Greeting Cards. Go for it.

This project involves then three parts. Part the first, develop the Art. (Since we're talking Photography here, Pun Intended.) Part the second, design the Card. Part the third, actual production which involves acquire materials (Cost of Goods Sold on the Schedule C for Uncle Irs) and then presentation.

So. Part the First you've seen as we go along in these State of the Artist postings. Still, related to this project my start-up last year involved images done up as Holiday Cards (sold a few, eh) yet not necessarily the images of which I sell prints fairly regularly. The cards sold last year included a couple images of mine and one of Herself's. I'd also printed a few which are scenic or site specific for the North Central Baja Jorja area here, those didn't sell as well. Total inventory at that startup, around a dozen cards which included the card, an envelop, and a transparent sleeve/bag holding both.

Then we sort of sat on the concept for a while, taking that small amount of stock to the other weekend Art Fair shows after the 2013 Holidays and putting them out. Not majorly, basically on a small table, and very, very low key presentation. Coming up on the 2014 Holidays we revisited, decided to print some more, and work up at least a small display that will handle an inventory around a score of cards.

Did some research now, looking at sales records over the past looking for which images sold. One of those is titled 'Peek-a-Boo' of a Tom Turkey at nearby Dudley Farm State Historical Site (a very cool park which is a Florida Cracker farm, maintained in a manner around the Turn of the Century 19th - 20th time). Another is my rather abstract and Sci-Fi/Fantasy image, Naiad. Didn't get that one printed up yet as a Greeting Card, did print up 'Peek-a-Boo'. Also looked at some of the Critter Cards we've discussed and printed up some of those.

So that's the Make the Art side so far.

Now, here's another aspect of the project that I'm going to taught. The software to develop both the art and the product (greeting cards) is Open Source Software, free to a good home. That I use Gimp for the art work, photographic post-production I've mentioned before. For producing the cards, we need a document layout application, perhaps more familiar to you as a Desktop Publishing program. Ahem.

So the 'State of the Art' here is still probably an Adobe product called Pagemaker®. Got several hundreds of dollars? Go buy it. A good alternative that I've used in the past is Microsoft Publisher® which for a time included some features that Pagemaker didn't. It's actually one of the few Micro-Shaft products I recommend. Discovered earlier this year, that's probably because Micro-Shaft purchased the application from the company that developed it, as in not an in-house initial product. Ah.

However, earlier this year while researching this whole Open Source Software movement, I came across Scribus®. The version I acquired is 1.4.3 and available through their web site http://www.scribus.net and as mentioned, being Open Source is free. It may not have all the features of even Publisher but so far, it's meeting my now-a-days much less extensive need for a desktop publisher document layout application.

These desktop publishers shine by taking already written text (use a word processor for that, eh), then importing that into a 'Text Frame'. In a larger publication (a Newsletter, a Magazine) these text frames may be linked together and a story then continued over several pages. The application also provides Image Frames, for placing artwork, or small charts (spreadsheets or graphs) and et cetera.

For the Greeting Cards, I developed two 'template' files, one for the image on the card to be in Landscape orientation, one for Portrait orientation.

This is the Landscape:
Landscape Half-Fold Template )

This is the Portrait:
Portrait Half-Fold Template )

When I'm working up a new card design then, I first work up the image and get a 'print ready' copy at the size I need for a card. Hmm. Back up a wee bit.

So these cards I'm showing the templates for are called 'Half-Fold' because they work to a standard size sheet of paper or card stock (8.5x11 in the US, A7 elsewhere) and will fold in half. Another size is called a 'Quarter-Fold' because it could take that standard sheet, fold it in half and then half again (quarters) for a smaller card. What we do is first cut the standard sheet in half, then fold those halves for the smaller cards.

So I've got a 'print ready' image for a Half-Fold card, it's about a 5x7 photograph. Being print ready, I can print a 5x7 and then do the Mat & Sleeve thing for a matted piece to sell, or mat and frame it for a framed piece, and for a card I'm importing that 5x7 file into the Image Frame. This is usually the front of the card. Sometimes the cards will have an Inside as well; usually just another Image Frame on a Page Two in the template file.

In the Landscape template above you see an upside-down Text Frame. This will be right-side up after the fold. Another nice feature about Desktop Publishing programs is one can create the Text Frame, set it to be 'upside-down' and then when importing text into it (or, for the cards, I often type the minimal amount of text into it straight up) and approving the overall look, will be upside down as needed.
It's all right-side up on the Portrait card.

Once the card is ready to go in Scribus, I do a 'Save As' and name the card. For printing, in Scribus I simply export the card to a PDF file. The application will send direct to a printer, but that part of it sends it to an EPS which is Encapsulated Post-Script and which is a very professional printing house kind of machine. Some of the HP laser printers will talk EPS, so will quite a few ink-jet printers and it's a lot more involved either way. Saving the file as a PDF is simple. Then just open it up in Adobe Acrobat Reader (also free software, because hey, Adobe wants the Whole World to us PDF eh so make it easily readable to everyone) and send it to ones printer.

I mentioned 'Peek-a-Boo' above. Here is what he looks like as a print-ready Half-Fold card:
Peek-a-Boo )

The Quarter-Fold cards may also be known as a Two-Up because there will be two layouts on the template. Miss Truffles Pig provided the images for one of these (she's also available in a Half-Fold) last year as one of the Holiday cards because the markings on her nose remind us a bit of a Christmas Tree:
Truffles: Happy Holinose (Two-Up) )

I did mention other Critter Cards, and here's Houdini Border Collie Bro. Border Collies are Working Dogs, and there are many in the Dog World that consider Border Collies to be the Type A Workaholics of the Working Dogs. Always ready and able to help, eh! So one evening I slid my headband type of battery torch onto his head. Surprise, he liked it. Also, with the text in this one I'm looking for all the Ursula Vernon fans out there (and doing a wee bit of fan art as well):
Houdini: Remember Tunnel 17 )

Finally, because I do call them Art Greeting Cards and because the particular subject is one of my personal artistic passions, my dear friend and muse Marjai from the Red Hat series (warning, gratuitous nudity behind the cut)
Red Hat #4 )

We aren't done once the printing is over. The rest of the production work involves folding the Half-Folds, cutting and folding the Quarter-Folds, then pairing them with an appropriate size envelope, then placing all within a clear transparent sleeve/bag. Now we may add them to Inventory, store them in the Transport Tote (I'm using Really Useful Boxes® these days more and more, but that's another State of the Artist post).

For Presentation at the Festivals, now, this is the next step. Since we're keeping total inventory on hand for these down to about a score of cards or so the display is small. There are a ton of display options out there, most of them marketed for Brick Stores and all of those rather expensive. We need something that will fold down/collapse and pack quickly and yet be very sturdy. It's a rough life out there on the road and that's only partially a joke. So the bigger display/presentation is still under development. For right now, Herself found a small wire rack which is sold as a lid holder for kitchen pots. Works very well for the Landscape orientation cards, not so well for the Portrait orientation. I tried an acrylic one this past weekend we had about the Ranch (things like this just sometimes come to us... it's a bit of a story in itself) and that worked... except not quite well enough. So I'm still on a search for the Portrait display pieces. Still, this is what the Cards looked like at this past weekend Blue Oven Kitchens Winter Gift Fair:
The Art Greeting Card Display at Blue Oven Kitchens Winter Gift Fair )

Summary, or Tell 'em What You Told 'em

About a year ago we decided to expand our 'product line' to include Art Greeting Cards. Our goal is to offer another affordable bit of art, one which is usable as a greeting card, or yanno, be greedy and keep it yourself. Startup plans included keep expenses down, so we expanded on using our free Open Source Software applications. After trying to do this using Open Office components, we found, downloaded and installed Scribus, a publishing application and found it works great for this type of product. We're printing using an Epson Artisan 50® printer which while I didn't mention above I purchased specifically for this project. Pretty happy with the printer too. Sales are OK so far, good enough to justify continuing to build this part of the Studio 318 Product Line.

Shameless Self Promotion

So if you are interested in some nice Art Greeting Cards, drop me a line. If you've got my e-mail use that directly, otherwise leave a comment here and we'll work something out. No, don't have a place I'm selling on-line otherwise, but trust me, we can work something out.

September 2015

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