This is the final installment of my creative process series. First, I discussed how I come up with the phrasing or my cards and how I sketch them. Next I talked about how I refine and ink the drawings, and then scan them into the computer to have letterpress plates made. Last post, I discussed how I create my cards on a letterpress printing machine, and today I will be talking about how that card goes from my press to a small friendship-time-capsule that you can send in the mail to your bestie.
Once I have printed several cards of one or more designs on my press I get ready to package them. Today I am going to share with you a few tips and tricks that I have learned from packaging hundreds if not thousands of cards.
When I buy a card at the store I don’t really think about everything that went into putting it together. I think it’s easy to forget that these aren’t put together by a machine and that an actual human created that card and placed each and every one into a package and placed a label on the outside.
When I stop to think about the care that goes into just that small act of placing a product that was lovingly created into it’s packaging to keep it clean and safe–it makes the card feel more precious to me. I recognize that I am about to send the maker’s baby out into the world to a friend that will receive joy. Not in just the act of receiving the letter but also joy in the additional personalizing that the sender adds before putting it in the post.
My cards come to me pre-scored. That means that the fold line is already in them and all I need to do is to fold them in half. But what you may know, if you have ever tried to fold a piece of paper in half by hand, is that sometimes the paper does not fold evenly and you get a weird bump or an unevenly folded card.
Any card that I package has to meet my high quality standards and an unevenly folded card automatically goes into the recycle or print testing pile. (The print testing papers are cards I use to set up the plates on my press. I test them on these recycled cards so I don’t waste paper when I am getting everything set up for printing.)
We had to make countless brochure mock-ups and the tool that we used to create the clean folds is called a bone folder. A bone folder is a stick that is traditionally made out of bone and it is tapered at the end in a manner so that it glides across the folded paper pressing it down along the score line making for a clean even fold.
The one problem with bone folders is that they can be fragile. If you drop them on the ground the tapered sides chip and if you try to use it again it will scratch your paper. I am definitely the clumsy sort and I was always breaking my bone folders when I was in school (they aren’t cheap to replace).
When I started my company and I found myself folding a lot of cards, I knew I had to find a better tool to do the same job as a bone folder but it had to be something that would be more durable. I tried rulers but the edges were too sharp, I tried the side of pencils, and the tapered edge on the back of a watercolor paint brush but nothing really seemed to work as well as a new bone folder.
That was until I tried the handle of a metal spoon from my cutlery drawer. This has turned out to be the best folding tool I have found!
I hold the spoon backwards in my hand, and I use the rounded and tapered edge of the handle to fold the cards. Since it is rounded, it doesn’t scratch or crease the paper weird. It is the perfect replacement for my old fragile bone folder. I know spoons come in all shapes and sizes but if you can find a handle that has a nice rounded smooth edge then that will work perfectly to create the perfect fold time and again.
I start to fold the card and let the crease lead the way as I touch the corner to one another, I run the back of the handle along the crease and it smooths it down the paper and makes the fold tight. When I put the card in the plastic packaging, it won’t pop back open.
After I fold all the cards it’s time to get the envelopes ready. For my new line I decided I wanted to add value and a solid block of color to add more interest to the white card and kraft envelope to my line by using envelope liners so I designed and had custom liners printed.
Since I am a small company I need to get creative in some ways to keep my costs down. I decided to have the liners printed and cut out as a square instead of having them all die cut to the right shape with the tapered ends and having a score added so it folds easier.
Making the liners ready for my products is something that I do by hand in-house at the moment. I will probably do it this way until it doesn't make sense anymore and the quantities that I have to order will drive my costs down. At some point it will actually cost me less to have someone else do this part but that time is not now, haha.
I cut the tapered sides of the liner on my industrial 1940’s hardcore, heavy duty, 400 pound, paper cutter. I can cut about 150-200 liners at a time.After I cut the taper, it’s time to add the score.
I hand score my liners one at a time on a device called a Scor-it-All. I set up the scoring table so that every time I put a liner in it face down it sits in the same place. I then use the handheld scoring tool that is attached to the table and I run it along a metal bar track that runs down the middle of the table. When the paper is flat over the bar and I run the scoring tool over it, it creates a score or a crease in the paper.
When it is time to put the liner in the envelope this crease helps me to line up the liner and also creates a clean straight fold that looks crisp and clean when the envelope opens and closes.
Next, I insert the liner into the envelope and fold it down along the score. Then, I add a piece of double stick tape using an ATG tape applicator and close the envelope flap. When I open it back up again the liner is adhered and in perfect position.
I then fold the flap back on itself exposing the liner so you can see it when it is all packaged up.
After the card is folded and the envelope is prepared I place the envelope in the card and wrap the envelope flap with the liner facing out over the back of the card. This way you can see the color on the back of the packaging.
I then place the card in an open flap plastic sleeve and put a label on the back. The label talks about how the card was made.
I then repeat this process for as many cards as I need to package. I do these steps in assembly line fashion. I have found that doing it this way makes it go a lot faster and I can do it in stages if I need to.
When I receive an order I gather all the cards that are going into it and I wrap them in blue tissue. I like to try to make the tissue look like an envelope if I can (I am still working on perfecting my process on this) to try to bring the giftable mail experience to my clients. I seal the tissue with a custom made sticker.
Depending on how large the order is I will pick the proper packaging; whether it is a hard envelope, a bubble mailer or a box. I place the wrapped cards in the package, include a handwritten note to the buyer thanking them for their purchase.
Every order means so much to me. I love making my products but when you buy them you are telling me that you love them too and that makes my heart swell. When I think about you sending them to your friends I get as excited as I I would if I was going to be getting that magic in my mail too.
This week I am sending a letter to one of my sisters who has been on my mind. Send a letter to someone in your family who you have been thinking about lately, let them know they have been in your thoughts and share with them a special memory you have about a time you spent together.