The Work That Matters

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Andrea Liss of Hannah Handmade sent me the below email. I asked if I could share it here and she kindly agreed. The work you do as an artist goes beyond the pretty and impacts people in meaningful ways, often in ways you, as the artist, never even get to see. When we do get to hear about these moments, it's a reminder that art has the power to change lives. There's a story behind your art. You have to tell it. 

The power of a greeting card

I received a call today, the kind of call I get every once in a while. It was from someone who started out by saying that he had received one of my cards from a loved one in the past. In this case it was actually his wife who had received the card back in 1996. She had kept it all these years – the friend that sent it to her had written a heartfelt note and the card had made it through time as a cherished keepsake.

Now the wife has passed away, and the husband was the one calling me. He wondered if I had those cards anymore, and if I could make some for him so he might share them with her friends and family. He knew he could make copies, but it wouldn’t be the same. She was special, and this needed to be special too. I asked him what his wife’s name was and he started to tell me her life story. I listened for a good long time, and yes, I had other things to do, but this was important. I listened some more.

For those of us who have been in business long enough to hear from people from the distant past, to know that our work lives on through the years and is held on to, even after death, is very moving. With all the focus on what is new (the drumbeat never stops on this one as anyone who has been in business for any length of time well knows) there is often the missing question – what is best, what endures, what matters.

In the quest for what is new and different in the world of stationery, fashion and weddings, (and yes, Hannah Handmade is constantly innovating and adding fresh, new and original ideas to the world of cards and invitations), it’s nice to take a breath and ask questions about what is meaningful, what touches people, what lasts.

In this case it was one of the simpler cards I created back in 1996. It actually won a LOUIE Award that year. The husband described it perfectly with measurements, colors, and so on. He said he had looked at that card many times over the years. It was special to his wife and she had read it and reread it. Only today, as the light happened to hit the back of the card just right, did he notice the gold foil signature with my name and phone number on it. He saw that it was handmade in the USA and realized that he could try to contact me and maybe, just maybe, I would still be there.

I’m happy my business is going strong after 24 years. Happy that I was the one that picked up the phone today. Happy that I can make these special cards for him and help ease the moment of losing his wife of over 20 years.

Will this be the job that gets me published in a magazine? No. Will it bring me fame and fortune, which seem to be today’s Holy Grail? No. Will it make someone’s day a little brighter and ease a bit of loss for someone I have never met? I sure hope so.

Longevity, consistency, quality, caring, creating things that endure. These are important in business too.

Originally published December 2013

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