About Katie Davies

My dream has humble beginnings. Juggling a hundred and one things at my desk one Wintry morning in 2006 I wanted to find a greetings card to wish my mother a ‘Happy Birthday’. I didn’t want to buy yet another disposable product that chipped away at the world’s tree supplies and I didn’t want to burn fuel on an unnecessary car-trip to go and get it. What I did want was something fun and fresh, a modern way to say something familiar. The answer was staring me in the face: the internet. An E card seemed like the ideal solution. But it wasn’t long before I got the feeling I was searching for a needle in a haystack. My mother is not 14. She doesn’t like bright, garish colours , annoying music and crude jokes. She has good taste and- what’s more- I wanted her to know that I do too.

Christmas Cottage Ecard

Christmas Cottage Ecard

I waded through one too many tacky, uninspiring sites with birthday e cards, which seemed to be aimed at a less discerning market. In fact, the majority of internet greeting cards were cheeky and cheerful but could only really leave you with the feeling that it was only the thought that counted. It seemed to me that the reason there was no charge for many of the Ecards available, was that they were not of a high enough standard to be considered valuable. I came to the conclusion that I would be prepared to pay a reasonable sum of money for a quality e card, one whose design gave meaning to the message and maximized the animation potential of the internet. And if I felt this way, chances are there would be other people who would share my view. The light bulb flicked on in my head and the seeds for www.katiescards.com were sewn.

Birthday Fireworks Ecard

Birthday Fireworks Ecard

Back in the 1980s, Madonna was telling us all to express ourselves and that’s what I was doing, at Art college in the South of England. School had not allowed me to explore my creative side so, finally free from its constraints I was able to immerse myself in fine art. I immediately felt at home in the environment and blossomed as a result. Encouraged by supportive tutors and surrounded by fellow students who shared my passions, I gained the confidence to develop my own personal style. A successful career in film and television followed, where I created paintings and sculptures for sets. Having my work placed in a wider context helped me to appreciate that I could apply my fine art skills to a variety of media, which turned out to be invaluable training for what lay ahead. I loved the dynamism of the media environment (not to mention earning the money to pay off my student debts) and had lots of fun, but still craved the time to return to my first love, drawing and painting.

Birthday Cake Maker Ecard

Birthday Cake Maker Ecard

Life, in the event, had other plans for me! I met and fell in love with my husband,  a T.V. animator, and we soon were married with two beautiful children, Molly and Joe.  I wallowed in my family role but a little voice wondered how I was going to keep my finger in all my favourite pies. As it happened, spending time at home with my little ones gave me an opportunity to paint and sculpt again and soon I was producing a successful line of printed cards and selling my work to a local gallery. It was good to realize that earning money from the work of my own hand was possible and I might have been happy gently rolling along that path to this day but, thanks to Mum, I now had a new baby to bring into the world. Not only could it embrace my love of fine art and animation but do so in a way that was environmentally responsible, helping to protect our world. Basing myself at home there would be no need for jealousies among my flesh-and-blood offspring either. Seeing that there might be a way to combine the different interests in my life, to create something genuinely new and exciting, was the best realization of all.

A Turkey Breakout Ecard

A Turkey Breakout Ecard

There were challenges ahead gathering the elements to create a set of greeting e-cards to be proud of. I would need to collaborate with a team of people skilled in other creative fields, which would mean sharing some control over my work. With my designs at the heart, though, I felt ready to broaden my horizons. Knowing how vital it was to work with like-minded people, I invited my animator husband to hop on board first, before seeking out a tight team of talented friends, to help me pull the vision together. Just one small problem: getting to grips with a computer. Apparently a background in fine art and television do not necessarily equip you with skills to animate an e-greeting, providing a learning curve steeper than Mount Everest. So confident with brush and canvas, the iMac world felt very unfamiliar to me. The first task for me was to get to grips with a computer program called Flash, which is the number one digital tool for creating web animation. This we easier said than done, and many long hours were spent with my nose buried deep in a manual. The process for creating the cards revealed itself to be a complex, technical and labour-intensive one. As the making of an e-card is akin to the production of a mini film, each e-card takes 4-5 weeks to create, requiring close interaction between the different creative elements, as each new detail takes it closer to completion.

Cupid's Aim Ecard

Cupid’s Aim Ecard

First comes the idea. I can draw inspiration from a number of places for this, from a story remembered from my childhood, to a more abstract visual concept. Once I have a clear outline, storyboards are drawn up, which will illustrate the sequence of the E card in more detail. Next the characters and backgrounds are designed and painted. Finally, animation completes the visuals, over a period of 2-3 weeks. But it’s not over yet. In the final stages, sound and music must be commissioned, to capture the mood of the message, a most vital ingredient if you have ever heard an excerpt of the ‘Pshycho’ shower scene music, matched with a Mother’s Day e-card! Finding the perfect tone can be a frustrating journey. Each time the fit isn’t right it becomes harder to focus, like trying on too many perfumes and losing your sense of smell. But when the right one comes along it is a very satisfying feeling. The French music on my Valentine’s Day card ‘Cats’ was a great example of finding the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle.

Fairies Ecard

Fairies Ecard

Last but not least, we put the finishing touches to the message for each ecard, which will have its own font and presentation format, plus an icon, which the recipient clicks to read their greeting. For some, the simpler the better, but personalized messages are very popular and for those, discretion is our middle name. We started with a core of Birthday and Christmas e cards, then sat down to brainstorm the other celebratory occasions. A short while later we realized we had our work cut out, as there seemed to be barely a holiday-free month. Gradually we added others, from Valentine’s e cards to Hallowe’en e cards and everything in-between, making 21 categories at the last count. The themes for some of the e-cards suggest themselves readily, as with those for July 4th or St. Patrick’s Day, while others allow for more interpretation, such as the holiday ecards. Likewise, within each category there are a number of different styles. Some lean more towards the light-hearted and cartoony, whilst others have a more magical, romantic feel. Learning how to integrate graphic design with traditional painting techniques was an interesting aspect of their creation. Switching between the two sometimes felt like a tall order, as each demands a different mind-set. Working on the Thanksgiving e card ‘Painted Turkey’ was particularly interesting because it is literally an animated card: the turkey picks himself up and walks around the screen!

Painted Turkey Ecard

Painted Turkey Ecard

After many hours spent fiddling around with paintbrushes, computer mice and musical instruments. www.katiescards.com was born one sunny Summer’s day in 2007. A varied collection of original, artistic ecards made with the same, if not more, care and attention as their paper counterparts, its first baby steps were strong.  And with plans to add 24 new cards to the 160 unique e-greetings in the current collection, it continues to thrive. In terms of considering the environment and embracing technology, I am thrilled to learn that moving into the 21st century hasn’t meant having to sacrifice my artistic integrity. It is possible to marry a love of traditional painting with an interest in animation and graphics, without sacrificing quality. Earning an income for my family no longer means I need to leave a part of myself at home because now I can raise my children and do exactly what I enjoy at the same time. My personal challenge was to find a way to make my dream a reality. My creative challenge was to provide an animated e- card in the true sense: a well-designed greeting, literally brought to life and worth savouring. I hope I have achieved both.