#StationerySundays (1/3/21) – Building Stronger Ties in 2021

Madame Treacle New Year card

Illustration © Madame Treacle

One of the many lessons of 2020 was that finding safe ways to meaningfully connect with others is more important than ever for our mental health, both individually and as a society. While videoconferencing platforms have been popular choices for doing so, people have also been turning to good old-fashioned snail-mail. A December 2, 2020 article in The New York Times reports that the greeting card industry has been experiencing a resurgence due to Covid-related separation from loved ones, particularly around the holidays.

But perhaps the ordeals, pressures, and losses of 2020 left you too depleted to send holiday cards, even though you might have intended otherwise. It can feel overwhelming to come up with a recipient list, shop for cards, and find time and energy to write them when you’re trying to make it from one day to the next.

Now that the holiday season has passed, it’s possible you may finally have had a moment to breathe and reflect on what you’ve been through over the past 10 months. Perhaps as you process all the difficulties, you realize there were at least a few bright spots as well. Maybe someone comes to mind who you wouldn’t necessarily include on an annual holiday card list, but who did one significant thing for you that made a difference, however small. January provides the perfect opportunity to send New Year cards.

New Year cards offer both the sender and recipient the chance for a mental reset. Rather than dwelling on the (unfortunate) year that was, we can make a fresh new beginning, looking ahead to all the positive things that could potentially emerge in the next 12 months.

New Year cards also serve as an ideal conduit for expressing appreciation with a short-but-sweet message along the lines of, for example, “2020 was a tough year, but the great advice you gave me over the summer was something helpful I was able to take away from it. Thanks again for that, and looking forward to staying connected (and eventually seeing you in person again) in 2021! Hope this year treats you and your family well.”

One of the best New Year card offerings I’ve encountered is from design studio Madame Treacle, located in the English countryside. The Art Deco-themed greeting shown in the image above is just one facet of the dazzling retro aesthetic that characterizes this cardmaker’s signature style. According to Madame Treacle’s website, “Designs are created from vintage images and ephemera, inspired by French perfume bottle labels to seed packets, elegant wallpaper to railway posters. Many different elements are reworked and recreated into bright, vibrant contemporary designs, a fusion of the old and the new. An abundance of flora and fauna feature alongside images such as clocks, beehives, and antique maps, all embracing the vast wealth of art and design in this beautiful world past and present.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Madame Treacle crowned owl card
Illustration © Madame Treacle

Having purchased a few cards from Madame Treacle recently, I particularly appreciate the feeling of holding the elements of a miniature art museum in my hands. Each card illustration feels iconic — simultaneously familiar and fresh — and sparks the imagination. For example, the crowned owl card on the left brings to mind Rockefeller, the recently world-famous saw-whet owl found as a stowaway in New York City’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, rescued by a wildlife rehabilitation organization, and released soon thereafter…just one of any number of possible stories behind this intriguing image.

Whether or not you choose to send any New Year cards right now, this is also a natural time to reevaluate your relationships more broadly and make staying in touch with certain people a priority. Who did you miss the most last year? Who was really there for you when the chips were down? Who do you look up to and admire? Who has had an especially tough go of things lately and could use a bit of extra love and support?

If sending a New Year card per se isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps as an alternative, you could make a point of sending a birthday card to some of the folks who may be on your mind. Or, as discussed in my August 9th, 2020 post, a blank card can serve just as well.

Whatever approach you choose to take to staying connected this month (and this year), may your bonds with the people you care about grow stronger, may you and yours be safe and healthy, and may you find as much joy as possible.

Published by clairesterling

Please see my personal website at clairesterling.com for information about me.

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