Do jingle-bell wishes ring trite? Have you gotten all the merry well-wishing you care to from your mailbox? Do picture holiday cards without personal greetings rustle your hum-buggery?

If so, you may just have the wrong friends and relatives.

Some local holiday card senders scoff at the signatories who breeze through the ritual with address labels and cards in a box.

Laurie Freeman, co-owner of Minuteman Press of Oak Park, helps customers create their own unique cards.

“We’ve got a lot of creative people in the area who like to do something different,” Freeman said. “It’s amazing with Photoshop [computer software] what you can do.”

Every card Minuteman produces is unique, Freeman said. There are no pre-fab styles to choose from.

But customers usually come in with their own ideas or designs that Freeman and partner Gloria Kolbusz make into cards.

Those designs range from the more standard?#34;like a baby with an inflatable globe with the caption, “Peace on Earth,” or the guy who made a snow sculpture nativity scene and used a picture for his cards?#34;to the more bizarre, like the one of a Peanuts figurine with the family’s faces in place of the characters’.

That was one of a long line of creative cards designed by Lori Malinski, who started making her own cards while in college.

A photographer, Malinski’s first card did “something really obnoxious” with her pet hamster, and later cards have touched on “whimsical self-portraits,” “experimental stuff in the darkroom with holiday ornaments,” Glenda the Good Witch, Babe Ruth, Jacqueline Kennedy and, of course, Elvis.

In her day job, Malinski is the business association liaison for Oak Park Development Corporation.

Malinski “doesn’t like technology,” so she does all of her photo tricks the old ways?#34;hand-colorizing, cut-outs, and so on.

Some cards don’t require tricks?#34;photo tricks anyway. In 1989, her husband, Bill Bango, dressed as a nun, “Sister Bill,” for the holiday card.

But since their son, Nicholas Bango, was born in 2001, being creative has been harder. Malinski has turned to Minuteman to help produce the cards, but still feels the pressure every year to outdo herself. Last week she received a card from an aunt who is excited to receive her card in the mail.

When she sends out a boring card, “I do feel like I let my public down,” she said.

Serena Hinckley got into the business by making cards for her friends. Now she has 13 clients.

Some of her creations include a round card with each family member’s picture and update on a wheel. As the wheel is turned, a family member’s picture appears in a window with an update on their life in another window. Another was an accordion, where each fold represented an update from one month of the year.

“I’m already starting to think about next year,” Hinkley said, “but the ideas always seem to come.”

Freeman said Minuteman cards typically cost about $1 each, including envelopes, and that creating them with a digital printer allows for smaller press runs and keeps prices low.

Malinski sends between 60 and 80 of her cards each year. But not everyone on her list gets a creative card.

She sends store-bought cards to her “B list”: people she hasn’t seen for years, “or relatives I don’t want to freak out.”


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