JK Designs: Distinctive Cards That Connect

In the News

07/11/2005
Creating lasting impression is their business
By ANNE M. FINN , Middletown Press Correspondent

CROMWELL -- There are choices for those who prefer sending handwritten notes to mark special moments in life. Jean Dunning and Karen Gumkowski of JK Designs design hand-crafted cards. These are the kind you keep for a while. The women, who met while volunteering for the Boy Scouts, began their collaboration as a way to promote tactile communication between people. The overwhelming popularity and ease of sending electronic messages oftentimes replaces human contact and sentiment.

"I feel there still is a need for cards so people can connect on a more personal level," Dunning said. "E-mail gets deleted the same day and quickly forgotten."

Dunning graduated from the University of Vermont with a major in clothing and textile design. She raised her family, ran a children's clothing business from home, and volunteered with the Boy Scouts. Gumkowski graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology with a major in fire protection and safety engineering. She also raised her family, was a coach, got involved in project graduation, and volunteered in Boy Scouts.

"I like creating something beautiful that someone else will enjoy. The cards are better because we are working together," Dunning said.

"Both of us work at developing a card," Gumkowski said. "As we work together, the changes we put into each design make a better card."

"We started scrap booking and making cards for fun," Gumkowski continues. "People told us, 'hey, you can sell this.' We made invitations for annual holiday cookie swaps with friends, and decided this could be a business if we approach this the right way."

JK Designs has been in business over one year. It is a home-based enterprise founded in the basements of their Cromwell homes. Dunning does the marketing and phone calling.

Gumkowski does all business on the computer. "We can bounce ideas off each other and work with each others' strengths and weaknesses," she explains. "We were through enough give and take together."

"Paul Hughes from the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce is our biggest fan. He is a great resource and has given us many contacts," says Dunning. The mentoring Hughes gave the business women has been so valuable, they decided to become members of the Chamber of Commerce.

"Through Paul, we got the design job for a reception at the Capitol with the Connecticut State Legislature sponsored by CEDF & UCONN/CSBDC. They asked if we could make 350 invitations. I asked, 'in what time frame?' We designed some samples and went from there. We were also selected as a featured micro enterprise for this event," said Gumkowski.

JK Designs creates a wide variety of cards. The shower invitations, baby announcements and graduation announcements are popular and require a minimum order of 20. Larger orders are discounted. Also popular are sympathy cards, birthday cards, all-occasion cards, place cards, and gift tags. They design standard first-class-size cards and envelopes. The cards are carefully designed so they are not too heavy or too square, which means more postage. Designs are changed seasonally, and new cards will be added for Christmas.

JK Designs use a variety of materials and techniques to create three-dimensional mixed-media designs. Buttons, cork, copper, fabric and fibers are among the materials used. The women make their own stamps. They also dry their own ferns and Johnny Jump Ups. The Johnny Jump Ups are very similar to violets. All of these bright and softly colored materials are added to imported handmade papers and vellum to create the unique hand-crafted cards, invitations and tags. Envelopes are also embellished with custom designs.

One of the designs they came up with is a Valentine card showing a denim pocket overflowing with red paper hearts with the message, "sending you a Valentine filled with love." A special all-occasion card features floating flowers. When the receiver opens the yellow card, the purple flowers float. A Thanksgiving card features a shimmering pumpkin made of copper sheeting surrounded by colorful autumn leaves.

Those who love to read would enjoy a birthday card with a bookmark. The blue and white card sports a cheerful red balloon with bookmark attached. "We also have a special card for readers called the Thoreau card," Dunning said. "Our Thoreau card is printed in antique pink and has the definition of friendship on the card. A perforated edge defines where to detach the bookmark. The bookmark contains a Thoreau quote on friendship."

"Custom designs are an option," Gumkowski explains. "Customers can also bring their own ideas to JK Designs for a custom order. We keep many supplies in stock because our work is designed and printed at home. Customers will pay more for the design fee. There is no design fee if customers order from our book, because we already have a set-up prepared. We will find the supplies. We do custom designs for any occasions including housewarmings."

Cards by JK Designs are available at The Connecticut Store in Waterbury, which specializes in locally made products, Heart of the Country in Old Wethersfield, Sweet Smelling Savour Chocolates in Cromwell, Tapestry Rose in Rocky Hill, Puritan & Genesta in Mystic, and Wrap It Up in Kensington.

To find out more, e-mail: cardsbyjkdesigns@sbcglobal.net or call 635-1451.

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Contact Us: info@cardsbyjkdesigns.com