It’s that time of year when holiday greeting cards start showing up in mailboxes.
But which mailbox should you check this year — the one stuck on a pole at the end of driveway or the one associated with your email account?
An informal survey suggests the regular old mailbox is still the place to look. Card sellers, senders and industry experts alike agree that traditional greeting cards are holding their own in the hi-tech world.
According to the Greeting Card Association, the U.S. trade association serving the greeting card and social expression industry, the growing use of E-cards, has had little impact on the sale of traditional paper greeting cards. The association expects Americans to purchase approximately 1.6 billion Christmas cards this year.
Figures from the United States Postal Service’s study on household mail volume trends tell a similar story. In 2010, the number of holiday greeting cards sent through the mail actually increased by 114 million pieces from the year before.
Theresa Crane, owner of TCards, a local greeting card company that’s been in business for eight years, conceded that the electronic age has had an effect on how people celebrate, but said there is still a demand for greeting cards.
“With [the] ease of electronic greetings, social media, email, texting, people tend to do what’s easiest, what’s most convenient, and the quickest. With that said, I do find that women in their 40s and older still send traditional greeting cards. I sell most of my cards to this age group,” she said in an email.
Crane sells her cards online and also at Sow’s Ear Studio and Gallery and the Katbird Shop, both in Schenectady.
Sending greetings the old fashioned way is still definitely in style, according to Lynn Soave, owner of Soave Faire, an art supply store in Saratoga Springs. She sees plenty of customers who take it a step beyond signing a card and sticking on a stamp. Soave’s shop sells all of the supplies necessary to make greeting cards, and she’s got holiday card-makers coming through the door starting in September.
“They’re getting their ideas and starting to get their supplies. By November, a lot are really into it, and you get some people flying in the door in December,” she said.
Many people turn card-making into a family affair.
“They’ll have the kids help out and make different designs,” she said.
Soave Faire stocks handmade papers, silk screening kits, block printing supplies, and everything needed to craft a flashy card, including gold and silver leaf, and encaustics — special waxes that are melted into the paper.
The latest trend in card-making is the mixing of materials, Soave observed. People dress up their greetings with embellishments like leaves, glitter and straw.
Claudia Gregoire of Scotia has been making her own greeting cards since 1973. When she first started, she would make about 20 for family and close friends. As the number grew, she began to create a black-and-white design for her greeting.
“I had a friend who was a printer, so for a good bottle of whiskey, he would print the cards for me,” she said with a laugh.
An avid photographer, in recent years, she’s chosen a shot she’s taken of a wintery scene or a Nativity to grace the front of her cards. She has them printed up by an online photo service and pastes them onto card stock. It takes her about eight hours to make 90 cards, she estimated.
“It would be much easier just to buy pre-made ones. I just like to do something a little different,” she said.
Pre-printed photo greeting cards are becoming increasingly popular with busy families who want to share photos of the kids. They come ready to mail — no pasting or folding required — and name-signing is optional too, since they can be ordered with pre-printed greetings.
Lauren Cleworth of Schenectady sends out copies of a photo collage she creates herself, in lieu of traditional Christmas cards. She reproduces them on 81⁄2- by 11-inch sheets of paper.
“On the back I summarize the photos. Then I write a personal message. A picture is worth a 1,000 words so I guess I get a bit 'wordy’ at the holidays without making you read lots of words,” she said, in a response posted on Facebook.
Although many people keep tabs on Cleworth and her family via that social networking site, she likes to send holiday greetings through the mail because they are tangible.
“It costs me money, but it is my gift to you, to catch you up on the happenings of the Cleworths for that year,” she said. “My in-laws have the collage pages magneted one atop the other on their refrigerator and it is fun to take them all down and take a walk down memory lane.”