Available through Etsy (clockwise from left): "Standoff at Walnut… (Veronica Wilson photo/For…)
It's easy to be cynical about Valentine's Day. Flowers, chocolates and jewelry add up, and picking up a card from the grocery store isn't all that romantic. If you're single, the thought of talking about love is enough to cause nausea.
However, when you live in a city full of talented people, Valentine's Day can be an occasion to say, "I love you" to anyone while also giving back to the local economy, instead of the coffers at major greeting-card companies.
Thanks to Etsy, accessing gifts for any occasion from local artists has never been easier, including getting your hands on some stylish, unique and inexpensive Valentine's Day cards from Chicago-based shops. And for only $4 per card, there's no excuse not to.
It all began when Elizabeth Salvi found herself with a surplus of creativity.
"Working as a designer I still felt the need to be creative when I got home at night," Salvi said. "So I thought, 'what could I be making that I could still share with my friends and family?'"
And so the first Spiffy Salutations card was born. Salvi now finds inspiration for her cards everywhere, from patterns she sees walking down the street to water droplets sitting on a pane of glass.
Though her designs are available to anyone, Salvi's family still has a lot of influence in her shop, as Spiffy was the nickname given to her by her sister and cousin. Though no one remembers why, it has become her brand.
Ms Matilda Designs
Marianne Pearson's inspiration for her love-themed cards often comes from her own quirky take on her relationships.
"I like pulling on maybe like the little things that you say just between the two of you, like the nicknames and playing off of that," Pearson said.
While her designs do include the goofy, she tries to incorporate her signature vintage flair, from the cards to the actual name of her shop, Ms Matilda Designs.
"Matilda is my grandmother's name and my middle name," she said, adding that the older name is a perfect representation of the old-school practice of using paper products combined with the whimsy and charm she puts into her designs.
There's one obvious question when checking out Lauren Stohler's shop: Why pugs?
"I really love funny, and the pug is so malleable," Stohler said. "The features are expressive and the body is chubby and contorting, and you really can do a lot with a pug that you can do with a human too, so they’re very relatable little animals."
With her relatively new shop, Stohler finally is putting her focus on the little cartoons that have always adorned the margins of her notebooks. Though she started InkPug late last year, Stohler and her watercolor pugs already have helped to save real pooches through the sales of prints for charity, a practice she hopes to eventually continue.
The Paper Peony
While letterpress printing has been around for centuries, Jennifer Larkin uses the process to illustrate both beautiful cards and the role of a modern mom as she runs her business from home in order to spend time with her little ones.
The ancient art form has its quirks, but Larkin said those are what make her cards unique.
"It's so time-intensive, which can be so amazing but so frustrating because you're dealing with a piece of machinery that was built a long time ago," she said. "There's no perfection to it with the different pressure points, but that's part of the beauty of the letterpress."
Veronica Wilson is a RedEye special contributor.