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VALLEY AND VENTURA COUNTY | VENTURA COUNTY REVIEW /
LEO SMITH

Ventura Card Makers Hope Their Names Are in the Envelope

April 21, 1998|LEO SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

People all over the world recognize the significance of winning an Oscar. Winning a Louie, on the other hand, might not strike quite the same chord of recognition.

But for Terrie Floyd and her husband and business partner, Richard Floyd, a jade crystal Louie would look pretty good on the mantel. And it just might help their Ventura-based Laughing Moon Productions company make a name for itself in the greeting card business.

Louie Awards, named after German lithographer Louis Prang, who is credited with launching the greeting card industry in the United States more than 100 years ago, are the Greeting Card Assn.'s way of annually honoring the world's top card makers.

In this year's 10th annual competition, Laughing Moon Productions is one of three finalists for cards not related to a specific occasion that retail for more than $2.

Specifically, the company is being recognized for its Jumping Jack cards, a line of oversize greeting cards with a clown, frog, bear or other figure on the front. The characters' arms and legs move with the pull of a string.

Louie Award winners will be announced May 17 in New York in conjunction with the International Stationery Show.

"This is a darling card they entered, one of the more elaborate I've seen," said Mila Albertson, coordinator of the Louie Awards.

The competition received entries from 178 companies in the United States and abroad. The entries were analyzed by 25 judges representing both the marketing and creative sides of the card industry, from small firms to large companies including Hallmark and American Greetings.

Judging was based on imagination, artistry, emotional impact, likelihood the card will be purchased and sent for its intended purpose, and the blend of visual content with verse.

"It takes a lot of talent to create a card that people are actually going to buy and send," Albertson said.

For Laughing Moon Productions, selling a greeting card, much less winning an award for one, wasn't even a remote possibility until about a year ago.

"We're the accidental card makers," Terrie Floyd said. "We really didn't start out to make cards. What we've been doing for almost 30 years is Jumping Jacks out of wood, hand-painted pieces in galleries and a lot of art shows."

It was a combination of making the Jumping Jacks more affordable--they sell for $18 to $36 in their wooden form--and the niche the Floyds thought they could fill in the card market that gave them the impetus to begin marketing their designer cards.

"It was the need we saw in the market for a different kind of card that really has an action to it," Terrie Floyd said. "There are some kinds of those, but they are very commercial, they don't really do a whole lot and you throw the things away. We wanted people to be able to keep our cards."

For now, though, the Floyds would be happy if people would just purchase them. So far, sales have been sluggish, something Terrie Floyd hopes a Louie will change.

"We're trying to get people to look for a card that's different," she said. "We're working on creating a demand for it. People don't really know what it is. They're afraid of it--they want to wait for it be like the Beanie Babies."

The more modest, paper version of the Laughing Moon Jumping Jack cards, retailing at $6.99, have sold at several stores in Ventura and at the Ventura County Museum of History & Art. But Terrie Floyd said it has been difficult trying to get many local shops to take a chance on them.

Response, however, has been better in other parts of the country.

"The cards are a little bit more well-received back East," she said. "We have a pretty good account base in New England, and Florida seems to be really starting to catch the bug for our type of card."

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