One of my customers, a feline-only veterinary hospital which has ordered from me since 2010 when I began selling animal sympathy cards wholesale, always orders a dozen or two of “Winter Window” to have in their set of sympathy cards available to staff to send to families who’ve lost a kitty. Each time I send out a single or a set of sympathy cards I remember the cat pictured on the front, so glad to have shared my life with them for a while, and glad to be able to share them with those who purchase the card, to find it fitting to send their message, and with the recipient, whoever they may be, that one of my cats in something I’ve created would be comforting to them. The sympathies and memories go hand in hand for me.
This clinic in particular also orders a dozen from the original set of Animal Sympathy Cards, and in each order includes a design or a set that the find fitting to send their message, such as another Feline Art Card, or a Favorite Photo, or a set of My Cats in the Sun or Feline Pencil Sketches note cards, a little smaller than the traditional greeting card, and perhaps more intimate. Above is a selection of all the cards I sorted for a couple of orders a few weeks ago.
These three designs are popular, as I felt they would be when I chose the photos and designed them. Peaches and Moses are obviously older kitties, and this always seems fitting to send to a person who has lost an older cat, and for finding a card that may resemble the cat someone has lost, a gray kitty and a calico are also common and comforting.
I’ve been adding to the set over the past three years as well, designing a card for each of my hospice fosters, and then going back through photos of my cats from the past that seem to be fitting as a sympathetic message. The creative effort has helped me to ease the grief with each loss, and knowing that these rescued cats will not be forgotten as their image helps to send a message and ease the grief of others is about the best tribute I can give them for our short time together.
And when I found the photo of Namir in the garden looking at me with his bedroom eyes, well, he was the reason for the whole original set though he didn’t appear anywhere in it. I guess that was because I hadn’t found the right photo. I’m so happy that the card I designed last year with that special photo has been a popular one with individuals and with animal professionals and wholesale buyers.
How the sympathy cards came to be
I offer a shop full of handmade and printed goods today, but that is relatively new for me. Knowing I have limited space in my home, I held back from creating goods for sale aside from a few small sets of greeting cards and prints that I added to my display when I promoted my commissioned portraits. But I didn’t question the design and printing of the sympathy cards after I lost Namir, or where I’d put them or anything of the sort. Designing and publishing them reopened the door to my joy of taking my merchandise out in the public and sharing it with others. I designed the cards in Summer 2009, had them printed in time for the Cat Writers’ Association conference in November 2009, and in March 2010 I opened my Etsy shop to sell my sympathy cards, other cards, and all the exciting new things I’d begun creating as a result of designing the sympathy cards.
I simply have the observation that every time I’ve lost a cat, I’ve gained something in my life. I’ve made decisions about my career, began working in a new medium and found new friends, all around the time of a loss. And I’ve created new art. Perhaps the trauma of the loss caused me to see things from a new perspective, or to break an old habit and begin reorganizing my life, or just gave me a new perspective on myself so my same old life felt new again. I really think it was a gift from them so I might be distracted from my grief.
It began with love
A few years out of college, at night after work, I chose to pick up a pencil and paper and put them together because I felt the need to start expressing myself in images.
Images of my cats kept appearing in my thoughts as pencil drawings and paintings and I decided to draw what I was envisioning. And while they may have looked like common garden variety cats to everyone else, I thought they were the most beautiful beings to ever walk the earth. I worked faithfully on learning my technique and sharpening my inner vision as I spent years painting my cats. Learning each new medium, technique or style has been based on a vision of one of my household residents before I moved off to another subject, flowers or landscapes, usually. With their guidance, I’ve mastered pencil, ink, chalk pastel, oil pastel, watercolor, acrylic, oil, collage, mixed media and photography.
It continued with loss
I realized with my first loss after beginning to sketch and paint the power of a portrait, and while they had started out as expressions of love, they became also expressions of remembrance, and as I lost that original family of muses that this was the greatest gift of all, giving them a sort of immortality.
Now Stanley watches over my studio in “After Dinner Nap,” Kublai forever rolls on the floor like a goof in “Are You Looking at Me?“, Fawn peeks out from under the dust ruffle waiting for me to walk by in “Waiting for Mom,” and there is also Moses and Sally and Sophie and Namir whose portraits I can smile and look at.
The animal sympathy cards
But there was one other project that had been waiting in the wings all these years, and with the loss of Namir I felt as if I had finally, somehow, come full circle and arrived at the point where I could put my grief in images and design the animal sympathy cards I had always planned to do, but kept putting off until the time was right. I think I wanted to make sure that I had enough experience and perspective so I wouldn’t design something I’d turn my back on later, thinking it was incomplete or immature. You can read more about the design of my set of sympathy cards in Perhaps the Storm is Finally Over.
Of all cats, Namir himself doesn’t appear here except for his pawprints in “I Will Always Walk With You”, based on an actual photo I took of our wet prints on my stone path not long before he died. But two years prior to his loss, in 2006 and 2007, I lost five cats in 18 months, four of my old friends, and Lucy who I lost at 15 months to FIP, months after Stanley, at age 25. I received so many cards, and so many apologies that they weren’t animals-specific, and didn’t really convey the givers’ feelings. I remembered that when I lost Namir and entered into these designs.
The cards are feline-centric because those are the images and ideas I began to work with, but there are several for non-feline losses including a dog I came to adore while working with her person and two that are not specific for species at all. Someday soon I’ll have to work out the rest of my ideas as well.
I am so pleased that six veterinarians or veterinary hospitals now order their own personal mix of sympathy cards from me. Certain cards can be custom printed with a logo or custom sentiment on the inside as well. Information on wholesale ordering is at the end of this post.
The original set
While I am a fine artist, I have actually earned my living as a graphic designer for most of my career. Designing everything from letterhead to websites every day, the task of designing these cards was second nature to me. I was glad, for once, to use my commercial art skills to create something for my offering of animal art, especially since my poor neglected cats could just expire all over my desk before I took my eyes off the computer.
I intentionally chose to use photos rather than paintings for most of the designs. I like the softness and little bit of fiction I can work into a painting, but somehow I felt the realism of a photo was needed when expressing deep and sincere emotions of these cards. I also wanted to offer a variety of cats because we all like to choose a cat similar to the one who has been lost.
And just as important as the image, I wrote the text for the front from my own thoughts before and after losing one of my cats and also from what I’d written to others at their losses. While I am heartbroken to lose a cat, I also celebrate the love and bond we had and all the special things about that cat and I included some words to remind us of happier times.
I’ve found, to my surprise, that these cards are sometimes purchased for the loss of a human, or even a “thinking of you” card for persons who like animals—I never considered this. Using the images of my own cats for these cards, especially ones who had passed, was a little frightening; if one of the designs was not at all popular it could feel like a rejection of that kitty, who I loved so much, but this has not come to be so. I am so glad I waited until my sentiments and designs were more universal, not so personal, to create these cards. Some are more popular than others, but I have reprinted all of them so no one has been left behind.
Each of the cats depicted here was or is one of mine and the dog is Tika, a therapy dog whose guardian, Karen Litzinger, I’d worked with on her pet loss CD and who I’d gotten to know well enough to feel comfortable at using her photo. I live with cats and have lots of material, but more than that I am careful with the images I use, not only that they are easily recognized and representative of our animal companions, but that I know the animal well enough to use its image for this purpose. They are conveying a heavy thought, and I don’t take the relationship with my subject matter lightly.
You can read about each of the designs in my Marketplace under Animal Sympathy Cards and you can also purchase them there, individually or in sets, including your own selection of cards in a set of a half dozen or dozen. You can also find these and more my Etsy shop including new cards designed in remembrance of Lakota and Emeraude.
Other images used for sympathy
And in addition to the intentionally-designed sympathy cards are the blank greeting and note cards I designed portraying a special moment of one of my cats I’ll always remember. Not only do individual customers purchase these for sympathy as well as greeting cards, but the veterinarians who purchase from me do as well. Sometimes the photograph is appropriate, and the sentiment is welcome, but sometimes just the soft image of a painting is best for a message. Even sometimes the smaller card is more appropriate, and even the pencil or ink images convey the feeling you have for the animal and the human recipient.
Feline Greetings Fine Art Cards
I’ve made cards from over a dozen of my paintings through the years and add to the options all the time. The cards have only an image on the front and are blank inside so you can add whatever sentiment you’d like. Below are three of the most popular images used for animal sympathy, but nearly all of them have at one time been used for this.
My Cats in the Sun
This was my first full-color set of cards, made from those first four paintings of Stanley, Moses, Sally and Cookie that changed the course of my art career.
“Bright sunshine on anything will inspire me, especially when it’s illuminating one of my cats…and so I’d like to share that inspiration with other feline fans. These four designs are printed from my original artwork, each of them cats who’ve shared my life past and present.”
These cards are a little smaller, note card sized, 4.5″ x 6.25″ printed in full color on matte-finish cream stock with matching cream satin envelopes. They also have only the art on the front and are blank inside. You can find these cards in my Marketplace, and also as a set in my Etsy shop.
I also have a set of cards made of my “original” feline pencil sketches, my experiments and more finished sketches from years ago.
These are smaller than the other cards as well at 4.25″ x 5.5″, printed in gray ink on cream cotton cover stock. These also feature the art on the outside and are blank inside, and convey a simple quiet message. I have a dozen designs in this set, and below are the three most often used for animal sympathy.
You can find Feline Sketches on my website.
Though these photos may look antique and sepia-toned, they are neither. My cats are perfect models and knew to pose in the bright yellow morning sun in front of my round antique mirror and the narrow casement window with the lace curtain.
I have many images of cats in deep contemplation, and that quiet contemplation is one of my favorite scenes. I designed these cards, manipulating and filtering each of the photos to be consistent, to convey a sense of peace and quiet reverie.
You can find Victoriana Cats in my Etsy shop.
And a few other possibilities
Sophie Keeps an Eye on Things
This card was used as a sympathy card long before I had designed the first set. Forget-me-nots convey the idea of remembrance and the soft light and just the bit of Sophie’s face peeking from between the lace panels conveys a gentle thought.
Two Yellow Cats, without the heart
This card was designed from one of my daily sketches and just lends itself to a variety of themes. I offer it as a Valentine or a “relationship” card, but I’d also designed a card without the heart for friendship, thinking of you and sympathy.
The message inside is simply “…purrrr….purrrrr…purrrrr…” in my own handwriting in an attempt to simulate the kitty purring on my lap at the time.
You can find this card in my Etsy Shop.
We have each other to thank
I may have rescued my cats, but the story doesn’t end there. Animals give us so much in everyday life, but my cats have given me my career.
. . . . . . .
Ordering Single Cards
Often we don’t even think to have sympathy cards ahead of time, and usually we’ll purchase them when the need arises. You can purchase individual cards from my Etsy shop under “Cat Greeting Cards”, and I will generally mail them them out singles the same day in first-class mail, unless I receive the order too late in the day to get to the post office, in a manila envelope so it’s easy to find in your mailbox. Bear in mind that some days I’m out on errands and may not be home if you order later in the afternoon.
Right now custom ordering is done by contacting me directly, but all 5″ x 7″ cards can be mixed and matched for your own custom set. If you’d like a few regular sympathy cards and a few other cards to make your dozen, you can simply list them and send me an email, I’ll return a PayPal invoice. You can choose cards from anywhere on my website or in my Etsy shop.
Wholesale for Animal Professionals
All cards are available for wholesale prices and quantities to animal professionals, some with custom imprints. Please contact me for details.
When Lucy helped me make the bed, another photo from that wonderful morning.
Take a look at other new merchandise and featured artwork.
Once a week on Thursday I feature something new in my “shop”, whether that’s here on The Creative Cat, in my Etsy shop, on my main website or even at one of the bricks and mortar shops that carry my work.
Read about creating custom items
Find out more about creating custom items for your own home using the images you see here. Visit the “Ordering Custom Art” page to see samples and read bout how to order.
Find out about events and festivals where you can find me and my work.
It’s all done under the close and careful supervision of my studio cats!
Read more in Pet Loss on The Creative Cat.
All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
Do you appreciate the stories and images we offer you each day?
© 2016 | www.TheCreativeCat.net | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski
Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!