Festive Dreams Of Togetherness

Autumnal leaves blaze bright in flame colours as nature flares its last hurrah for the year, and thoughts of Christmas tint our thoughts, especially for greeting card and gift retailers for whom it’s an important time for gathering their preverbial ‘nuts and berries’ to stash for the year ahead.

With Autumn Fair (5-8 September) and Top Drawer (12-14 September) just around the corner, and retailers looking to top up on some extra Christmas stock and connect with industry friends and stockists, long-time card trend spotter and promo filmmaker Gale Astley, catches up with a holly decked hall of publishers who illuminate some of the Christmas card motifs which orbit the core theme of this year’s festive season, ‘Togetherness and gratitude’.

Pictured top: Sending festive Hedgehog hugs on a new Ginger Betty design.

Soon enough the festive lights and baubles will be hauled from the attic and Shakey will be crooning in his Christmas jumper. The kids will be hyper from the extra candy and thoughts of Santa, and the nation will be wrapping gifts and posting their cards; nurturing connections and wishing a happy Noel.
And (fingers-crossed) with the reduced effects of the pandemic, there’s a growing glow of hope of the possibility of spending this year’s festive time together with the important people in our lives. Yet, after the loss of so many to the Coronavirus, the holiday season will also be a time of quiet contemplation, thankfulness and building new memories.

Christmas wildlife images (illustrative and photographic) feature in Abacus’ charity pack designs.

It’s the wonder of nature that plays a large part of this gratitude and reflection on this year’s Christmas card designs as the plethora of British flora and fauna motifs that we often spotted on our lockdown walks confirms. Sweet puff ball robins, auburn foxes, grazing woolly sheep, an abundance of perfectly formed fir-cones and crimson berries, stately stags and majestic snow-topped woodland illustrate nature’s beauty and the restorative sense of connection with wildlife.

“In terms of trends for Christmas this year it’s all about a direct influence from the impact of the pandemic that flipped our lives upside down and forced us to retreat”, explains Emma Grant, Senior Designer at Woodmansterne, adding, “In humans retreating nature was allowed to advance. We now have a renewed appreciation for the natural world. Deer began encroaching on some cities and birds reclaimed the skies as their own. Our daily walk became our lifeline and the heightened sound of birds became our therapy.

“A more natural approach to depicting animals will be a big feature for Christmas card designs 2021, to reflect this re-wilding of the world. The artistic techniques will also be reflective of this; less graphic in nature and more hand-painted, using traditional mediums.”

These ideas are echoed in Woodmansterne’s ‘Star Anise’ range, which comprises delicate paintings featuring British winter fauna against a backdrop of deep, rich festive colours and light, chalky pastels. “It is a celebration of the dense, natural world. The designs hope to convey the magic and mystique of Christmas; a sighting of a pheasant in a tree or the flash of a stag running through the woods”, says Emma.

A design from Woodmansterne’s magical Star Anise range.

Doodleicious Art’s Sarah Capper’s exquisitely detailed doodles are also inspired by her natural surroundings, with all the elements hand-drawn with a fine line pen, capturing the tiniest of detail. Living in Cheshire, Sarah recounts, “My Christmas Collection this year is entirely inspired by the flora and fauna right at my door and on local woodland walks during the last 18 months.”

An exquisitely detailed Doodleicious Art Christmas card, inspired by lockdown walks in nature.

A Roger la Borde tri-fold and die-cut Cubs First Christmas card design illustrated by Katie Vernon.

For Roger la Borde, nature is front and centre across the publisher’s Christmas card ranges this year. “Our artists have illustrated striking wintry scenes, filled with elegant foliage and cool blue and green tones. Despite the winter vibes, our cards exude warmth and festive cheer thanks to charming critters and cosy pops of red – whether it be red berries or the gleaming fur of a fox,” shares Helena Maratheftis, Marketing Manager for Roger la Borde.
The publisher’s new festive card range, Cubs First Christmas, presents wonderfully stylish and atmospheric artwork by Katie Vernon and includes laser-cut cards, die-cut tri-fold cards, Advent Calendar Cards, and other matching goodies. “Kate illustrates an exquisite design revealing a bushy-tailed fox cub and its mama striding across snow, with a backdrop of stylised, snow-covered pines,” adds Helena.

Also stirred by nature and signalling a homage to the post Covid reflective and thankful mood, Bug Art’s colour palette for its festive designs this year has been pared down in calm, muted but sumptuous beige, black and dark colours, all gorgeously enriched with gold foil and embossing for that extra but subtle twinkle.

“Our new collection, Christmas Scenics, features magical natural landscapes, with majestic forest animals that can be glimpsed between the frosty woodland trees. Bug Art’s Christmas designs this year are heavily inspired by nature and woodland creatures, especially stags”, reveals Bug Art’s founder, Jane Crowther.

A majestic mountain stag from Bug Art’s new range Christmas Scenics.

Inherently connected to our reawakened appreciation of local wildlife is the increased awareness of the effects of climate change on their habitats. High on the agenda as shocking environmental events destroy vast landscapes and ocean-life, sustainability continues to be a huge focus for card publishers Christmas card designs, and giftwrap companies, and, as well as eco-friendly board, ink and cello, muted earthy tones and simple natural hues are determined by the BBC Planet Earth affect.

Christmas is always wrapped up in a cosy blanket of nostalgia, but this year, possibly more than ever, we have realised how grateful we are for the simple things and the friends and family that we missed and couldn’t hug during Covid confinement, and we are eager to reconnect and build new memories… and that could be as easy as sending the perfect Christmas card for the recipient.

Museum & Galleries’ Christmas range is quite a mixed affair, it’s contemporary designs are as popular as the more heritage and nostalgia side of the festive season. However, some images rise above classification and are just simply timeless Christmas images. “Lucy Grossmith’s winter mouse is one example which everyone who sees it seems to love”, says Ben Dorney, Creative Director for Museums & Galleries. “It’s got the pops of red berries and green, and snow. Lucy’s brilliant style gives the mouse personality whilst not going too cute so it’s still a believable woodland animal. The mouse is alone but not lonely, cosy despite being out in the elements, and festive whilst being secular, so the card feels sendable by and to anyone.”

M&G generally tries to get to the heart of Christmas. Ben believes, “It’s an emotional, nostalgic time and this year – more than ever – hopefully about positivity and giving thanks for simple pleasures rather than surface sparkle. Hopefully this little mouse conveys something of that spirit!”

Lucy Grossmith’s gorgeous Winter Mouse illustration from Museum & Galleries.

Greeting cards embody the spirit of bonding and togetherness, but no more so than at Christmas, a time for reminiscing and thinking of times spent together. And at Paper Rose a huge trend for Christmas 2021 has been noticed – nostalgic Christmas. “I think the last year or so has really made people evaluate what is important to them. Not being able to see close family and friends, especially last Christmas, means people are feeling more sentimental than ever about the perfect festive season”, believes Sarah Tanser-Frain, Studio Creative Manager for the publisher, adding, “Nostalgic Christmas features glowing metallics, explosions of vibrant Christmas colour tones, snowy winters and fun Christmas parties… and to finish it off, sentimental verses.”

All through the pandemic words of supportive expression on card designs have never been so necessary, with sentiments that softly reassure and encourage making that human connection, and Christmas designs this year continue to carry the mantle of caring and kind words.

“There is a bit of sparkle going on this Christmas on designs, but the underlying theme we have spotted this year is a keenness for subtle humour and sentiment – I think people are still feeling the pressure after the last 18 months of turmoil so subtle light-hearted humour cards have been popular, but with underlying messages to remind people how special they are,” believes Jo Wilson, Director of Dandelion Stationery.

Glowing metallic features on a Christmas Artisan design from Paper Rose.

Dandelion Stationery’s design have lots of heartfelt sentiments with a touch of gentle humour; a wintery scene from Fay’s Studio.

And, lastly, of course, what would Christmas be without cute animal characters on cards, such as penguins dressed in woolly knitwear to keep out the chill air and to brighten our smiles? “When are penguins never trending for Christmas?! Especially penguins wearing oversized Christmas jumpers and earmuffs!?”, jokes Kathy Slatter, Co-Founder of Stop the Clock Design.

We’ve a lot of catching up to do over the Christmas season, and it’ll be an occasion to appreciate and be thankful for togetherness and creating more memories together… now that we can.

A penguin in a toasty jumper, a design from Stop The Clock Design’s Make it Merry range; Abacus has added this design back into its charity Christmas range as since lockdown there’s been a considerable number of people acquiring new pets; an adorable Christmas pooch from Deckled Edge’s Eureka Christmas range.

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