The familiar squeak of the turning card rack might just be the soundtrack to my card-seeking life at Carmichael’s.
Squeak. Squeak. Pause. Ah, “What fresh hell is this?” states the card. The blank stare of a little girl, circa 1920s, standing in a wicker cage is only outdone by insect wings jutting from her starched white frock, parting a crimson drape. Checking the back, it’s from “Holy Crap – It’s Art from Erin” and subtitled “Real Art for Real Life.” It’ll take a qualified sense of humor to receive this as a get-well card.
In the bag she went that day with three other cards for celebrations or well-wishing.
But I sent none of them. Nope.
I have this glorious problem. I love paper, photography, art and messages, all of which can be found in greeting cards. I can’t get enough of them ... and I can’t seem to let them go.
In my kitchen, three mellow cows – one, a lop-eared Heifer with fresh grass hanging from her mouth – silently blink at me from their acrylic pasture mounted on the refrigerator. I fell in love with the bovine-sized original by Kentucky artist Debbie Graviss whose work was displayed in Revelry Boutique Gallery at the time – and priced out of my budget. The $3.75 card had its cultural slogan: Send Kind Words & Happy Thoughts.
Words and thoughts? Yes. Send? Can’t.
Sometimes it’s simply the paper that gets me – the beauty and timelessness of the pulp fiber – you know those recycled cards, kind of raw, absorbent, tactile – most of them set by hand on an antique letterpress.
Is my problem financial? Plain selfish? A cry for help? I can’t afford large pieces of original art at galleries and find this is a great way to support the artist or the outlet and still have quality images in my home.
I’m not alone. Am I?
Some of my favorite cards are from Hound Dog Press. At their East Market Street shop, all cards are printed on a 1930 tabletop Craftsmen press, an attic orphan donated by a UofL professor, among other acquired equipment dating from 1892 to 1960.
I met co-owner Nick Baute at the Cherokee Art Fair this past spring. His talk of ink, rollers, blocks and flywheels had me suspended in a romantic time warp while rooting through my purse to buy two more “Coffee: It Makes You Poop” cards.
Then, I ‘fessed my card hoarding issue.
“I rarely find out where our cards go once they leave our shop,” Baute said. “I’ve been told some end up in frames on the wall, and some get mailed all over the country. I’m flattered by both. I’m mainly just happy to be promoting letterpress. Our goal is to keep this process alive and well in this crazy digital world. I love the confused/surprised look on people’s faces when they come in the shop. It never gets old.”
A real business boon would be to manufacture mattes and frames for cards never exchanged. Tape and magnets don’t do them justice.
In the meantime, if I send you a card, I refuse to stoop to sappy verse that I would never utter to your face.
Now, all I have to do is send it. Maybe.