Hey, it's me, Deb :)
I'm really glad that you cared enough to find out more about the maker behind these crazy cards before you considered purchasing one. I mean, who knows what's going on here and what this so-called artist's motivations are, am I right?
In a nutshell, I'm a one woman show from Cleveland, forced into the card-making industry by friends & family who will accept nothing but the most ridiculous greeting cards. I couldn't find these at the drugstore, so I had to make them myself.
Oh, you want details? Sheesh, you opened up a can a worms, now didn't ya? You know I kinda fancy myself an amatuer short story writer, so put on your reading glasses. Nothing is short with me, except my height.
It all began in 2012 when I opened my Etsy shop, but before I get into the rags to riches story (and by riches, I mean, I can pay my bills. On time. And get a latte once a week if I'm feeling extra fancy.) I should probably tell you that although I doodled and drew and painted and wanted to be an artist (and comedian and singer and performer and be a permanent cast member on SNL) since I was a teeny tiny Deb, I actually hadn't drawn anything in YEATS. Wait, that was supposed to say YEARS. Sorry. Why isn't my autocorrect working, damnit?
I studied art at Kent State University because you know what they say: Can't read? Can't write? But you can kinda sorta draw stuff? KENT STATE! Yeah! I'm not kidding- Google that shiznat.
Oh, but I don't have a degree from there. My drawing prof wouldn't give me anything past a C. So my future was looking not very artisty.
I decided to never touch a pencil or paper again!!!! I mean, unless I really needed to for other stuff, like leaving a post it note with a very important message on it, like “I’ll be back at 6”, “We’re out of milk, the non dairy kind, you jerk” or “Remember how I said I’d never use pencil and paper again? That starts NOW!”
None of that is true. Pretend you never read that last bit. (if you want to take the long and winding road of how I got to the next paragraph, scroll down to it and then come back to the short version)
The Semi Short Version:
The real story is, I let that artist dream go for about oh….I dunno, 17 YEARS. It was a stupid long time. But in 2013 I put my first cards out there and was nervous as hell-o kitty to see how people would react to them. I’d had some Valentine’s Day card ideas and I decided to doodle them up but I was rusty. Faster than I expected, it all came back to me and I got my pencil and paper groove on. One of the very first designs I ever made was a card with Hall & Oates on it that said “Your kiss is on my list”. I made about 8 other designs (most were cringeworthy), but that one was an instant hit on Etsy- meaning it was pretty much the only design that sold. I’d been selling my handmade jewelry and vintage things on there, but never thought I was “good enough” to sell something I drew. I couldn’t believe people were buying them! Then, like something out of a dream, Glamour featured it on their website with a list of other “alternative” Valentine cards- WHAT?! I had only listed these cards at the start of February (which was way too late to start selling valentines things, by the way) and I was blown away that I sold 18. EIGHTEEN, YOU GUYS!!! Hey, for someone that took 4 months to sell 10 things, this was a big deal! John looked at me while I was all giddy and grinning every time my phone cha-chinged and said, “Maybe you should be selling more of this type of stuff”. Truth be told, when I first put them out there, his reaction was “Someone’s gonna buy that? A greeting card, online?” I thought it was a little far fetched, too, since you could just pop into the drug store and buy one now, instead of waiting for me to ship it to you. But like me, I guess there were a lot of people that demanded weirder, offbeat humor with perhaps a little more honesty to the greeting card sentiments that were in the big box stores. I always tweaked the cards that I bought, adding words or scribbling a doodle. It was time to make my own brand. Little did I know that I’d make a career out of it.
The Long and Winding Road:
I just worked as a barista, but we didn’t call them baristas in the 90’s we just called it “I work in a coffee shop making coffee drinks that are ahead of your time” It was awesome. I can home from work everyday smelling like espresso and muffins. Then I moved to Connecticut, like you do when you have nothing to lose. I worked in my aunt’s little coffee shop because I had the coffee knowledge and the coffee skills. But she closed it down eventually because even my awesome coffee skills weren’t enough to pay the bills. The good news is, while working for my aunt, I met John, who would eventually get suckered into marrying me. Meanwhile I got a new job with no coffee and no paper or pencils. I worked at Jenny Craig. I know what you’re thinking, “And that’s what inspired you to get into the greeting card industry!” But you’d be wrong. Dead wrong. Although I helped many women lose that last 10 lbs so they could look super fly for their class reunion, Jenny Craig shut down the location I worked at. I later found out that the two coffee shops I worked at in Cleveland shut down after I moved. Obviously, they couldn’t make it without me. Also, Starbucks ran them both out of business. But still, I was starting to feel like a bad luck charm, an omen, a cursed employee that would force you to close down and fire me.
I dragged my new husband back to Cleveland with me in need of yet another job. He needed a job, too. But at least he didn’t have a job-curse attached to his aura. We moved in with my parents (it was an *interesting* six months) As the job hunt began I felt like I needed a fresh start. What business should I get into that would never shut down no matter what? School! I could become a teacher! But before I dove back into college, I wanted to test the waters by working in a daycare center as a preschool teacher. I liked it, a lot. But not enough to go into big kid teaching. So I decided to go back to…Jenny Craig. An open Jenny Craig, that is. I worked back in a familiar job and I hated it. I hated it so much that I decided to get as fat as possible in a passive aggressive attempt to get fired. But they didn’t take the bait. They knew I was just pregnant. But after I had Jack, I totally quit that joint! I stayed home with our new baby and loved it so much I never wanted to leave his little baby side and get a job outside the house. I started selling on eBay. I made a point to take the best photos I could and write interesting descriptions and things sold well! It wasn’t the biggest money maker in the world, but I was pretty good at it. Not Nasty Gal good, but I was good! I really honed in my online selling skills in the early 2000s. Plus I kicked so much tush at customer service. I grew up in my parents’ shoe store and it was there that I learned how to treat customers like solid gold- and also how to handle the occasional weirdo.
But then John and I decided it was time to up the parenting game and had ourselves some twins. Charlie and Amelia were a round the clock job along with taking care of Jack. But at least he was starting kindergarten. Once the twins started school, I was very eager to start doing something besides full-time momming. I decided to get back into eBay, but I also been making jewelry and didn’t think eBay was really the right place to sell something I made. People weren’t looking for nice handmade things on eBay. They’re shopping for vintage and collectibles and gnarly weirdo things. I came across this website called Etsy when I googled “best way to sell handmade jewelry”. I had never heard of it, but two hours later I had gotten lost down a wormhole of amazing artists and designers.
Unlike eBay, where people post photos of a vintage tshirt handing in a laundry room next to the litter box and think nothing of it, everyone on Etsy took pride in their photos. I was already doing that! So why not give this other avenue a shot? I felt like I had landed on an alien planet made of makers that, although completely foreign to me, felt like it was exactly where I belonged. Me and all the makers against the world! Or for the world! Either way!
About 3 months later, I sold a handful of my handmade jewelry and vintage things, but I had really been itchy to draw again and having some ideas for Valentine’s Day greeting cards. I didn't think card designing was necessarily a promising career. I mean, there's Hallmark. Why would someone buy a card from Deb in Cleveland? I guess it was my way to put my drawing skills and quirky humor into one place.
And this is the part where I tell you that you need to read The Semi Short Version for the rest of the story.