We have a New Year's tradition here at Palex: for ten years now we’ve been sending paper postcards out to our clients and colleagues around the world. Some of them are people we work with every day, without ever having seen them in the flesh. A card we've made ourselves, actually printed on paper, sent by parcel post with our warmest wishes – it's a beautiful way to say thank you.
The process begins in November – that's when we come up with the concept for this year's illustrations. We set the type, execute the drawings, and assemble the list of recipients. When that’s all been done, it takes a few more days for us all to sign those heavy stacks of cards: some are going to former and present colleagues who work remotely, others are marked for clients. And there are more than six hundred of those, all over the globe!
This year, the Palex staff designed and produced the postcards personally. Olga Dyuzhenko, Ekaterina Potapova, Natasha Novikova and Ekaterina Pushnikova drew the festive, wintry illustrations, Alexander Kuznetsov prepared them for printing, and Julia Rozina recorded a holiday video greeting. Let us tell you all about how to shoot video with a tripod made from a coat hanger, and why paper postcards are so much better than e-mails.
Paper postcards are a far warmer, more personal form of greeting than just sending out e-mails. Everyone here can add their own wishes to the card. It can be just a couple of personal words, of course, but I think everyone who gets these cards is going to see just how many people here wanted to sign their cards. You can't do that with e-mails!
A postcard is like a note to a friend from a whole group, from real live people, and not from some abstract team somewhere. It’s obvious that people have put time and effort into sending something personal and genuine – it’s not just one person, say, a particular staff member put in charge of the mailing, writing out one and the same message to hundreds of people on autopilot.
The process of putting these postcards together at Palex involves quite a bit of happy, bustling chaos. Drawing the illustrations was pretty quick, taking only two or three days; arriving at the concept, though, took longer. We also put time and thought into selecting just the right paper: it had to be heavy stock, so it would survive its travels intact, flying to the far corners of the Earth. And it had to look right, too, matching the style of the illustrations. Which is why we special-printed test cards to see which looked better.
Our clients and contractors send us cards, too, which is such a lovely thing – you work with people over the course of a year, often without ever seeing their faces, and then suddenly you get a letter from them, a warm, personal message.
It’s an amazing feeling, to be part of something that reaches out and pulls all the world together. That’s the magic of paper postcards – you hold it here in your hands, and then suddenly it's in Germany, or Belarus, or America, or Taiwan.
I had such a magical sense of being close to people in hundreds of different countries, of being able to say something to each of them personally. And then you get to spend January with a smile as you read one ecstatic “you made my day” after another!
It was such an incredibly cool idea – to send out these paper postcards made by our staff here. But what was even cooler was to be a part of making them. To create a little piece of the holiday, to share it with other people – that was the real honor.
I've never drawn cards before, so this was my first time doing it. And not, I hope, the last! The first thing I decided was that I was going to use magic markers for the cards and then work in the details in black liner – a special kind of fine-tipped pen. That was exactly the style I wanted for the postcards. We had a whole pile of ideas, and ultimately I decided to go with frosted, decorated New Year's cakes – they were so festive, and yummy, and everyone got the message immediately.
Making the video card turned out to be exciting! First we shot the footage in the field, using a tripod made from a coat hanger. Then we bound a telephone to a table lamp with scotch tape. Then it all collapsed.
For our main characters, were used felt toys made by Olga Trifonova, our DTP expert. We made the video using stop-motion photography: first we shot a pile of photographs, moving the objects a little for each shot, and then we built our video out of the photographs. We made up the story as we went along: one of the toys had an acorn necklace that moved, another was a moose whose horns moved, and there was a moth with moving wings and bunnies with hats that came off.
We made the scenery from whatever we found lying around – we took some branches of mountain ash in the woods near the office and found a cotton plant branch someone in the office had. For a backdrop we found a knitted scarf.
The canvas bag Olga brought the toys in also made the big time: the toys all climbed out of it at the beginning, and vanished back into it at the end. Then we decided that all the characters and scenery would be wrapped up in the scarf that served as the background for the action.
When we'd shot more than half of it, the telephone fell down, the lighting and the whole composition were ruined, and we had to start all over again. We took a more serious approach to our second attempt: this time we put the phone on a selfie-stick and tied it to the steps leading from one floor of our building to another, and set up the scene under the stairs by a window. The whole construction is impossible to describe. It was an unforgettable creative process!
Despite all the difficult technical circumstances we had to overcome, shooting the film was a pure pleasure – and first and foremost because of my beloved colleagues. It was also a lot of fun to watch the adorable image we had made up come to life. I always love this kind of activities and I’m always up for creative experiments – just so long as my colleagues are at my side!
Have a look at the characters we brought to life here