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Beyond sentimental

Photo by: Christine Walsh

Don Chambers liked greeting cards but he didn’t like their disposable nature.

“It always seemed like a waste of money,” the rural Urbana resident said. “I just thought that if it were in the form of a wallet you would be able to get a use out of it instead of throwing it away or stuffing it in a drawer. The idea was that every time they used it, they could think about the person that sent it to them.”

So Chambers, who has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and design and a master of science in agriculture, created just that – a fashion wallet greeting/invitation business called My Meadow Greetings – a nod to having grown up on a farm near Atwood.

Chambers always had an interest in cartoons and art. For over 20 years, Chambers has drawn a somewhat autobiographical comic strip called Mannequins for a newspaper in Arthur. “It’s just fun to do,” he said. “It’s a nice outlet.”

Chambers was inspired by the Beetle Bailey and Peanuts comic strips. Through his membership in National Cartoonists Society, he had the opportunity to meet and become friends with the creators of both, Mort Walker and Charles Schulz, respectively. Walker wrote the introduction to one of Chambers’ books featuring his Mannequins strip and later posed with soybeans for Chambers’  “Recipes from the Soybean Farm” book. “Every time I asked him, Mort would just say, ‘Sure, how can I help?’” Chambers said.

Chambers licensed the Beetle Bailey characters from King Features Syndicate to use in his wallet greeting business. Walker passed away earlier this year. “I think Mort would have really been pleased with his characters living on even after he has passed,” Chambers said. “The thought of people carrying and enjoying your characters on a daily basis is a form of immortality for your thoughts and creations.”

Chambers’ father was in the Army during the Korean War, and Chambers’ goal is to get the wallets into the hands of as many veterans as possible. “I know how great it makes him feel when a stranger walks up and says, ‘Thank you for your service,’” Chambers said. “I want others to have that feeling and a physical reminder of it to carry with them.”

Chambers’ own art is also featured on many of the My Meadow wallets. “We can create any art our clients need,” he said. “We can even sketch you or one of your friends or family members, as a comic book-style character.”

Chambers did just that for Los Angeles-based cosmetics business Aubrey Cosmetics. The owner wanted her image to be featured on a vegan-leather clutch My Meadow created for the company.

Martha Stewart Weddings and Honeymoons magazine requested a “Bon Voyage”-themed unique fashion wallet to hold a passport, which was featured in the magazine’s summer 2018 issue.

My Meadow is also starting to work with animation studios, including United Kingdom-based Aardman Animations, the creators of the “Shawn the Sheep” and “Wallace and Gromit” cartoons. “We’re thrilled that they want to work with us,” Chambers said. “Their agent said it was unusual that they would work with a startup company.”

My Meadow is helping rock group Jackknife Stiletto, from Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records label, to design a wallet/cell cover product to promote the band. “We also see a large market for wallets featuring lyrics from popular songs,” Chambers said. “As nearly everyone has a favorite tune, there are possibilities for partnerships with hundreds of singers and bands.”

For wedding or party invitations, My Meadow is able to emboss any wording the hosts want into the leather, even in their own handwriting. Any artwork they or others create can be included, too. The leather is available in a variety of colors that can be coordinated with the event theme. Small wallets can also be used as table tents or reception gifts. “This makes the invitation into a physical product that their guests are able to continue to use and enjoy for years after the celebration has passed,” Chambers said. “By sending an invitation that also serves a practical purpose, couples feel as though they’re giving their guests a gift, instead of simply expecting something from them.”

Chambers holds four patents for the greetings, three of which he wrote and illustrated without any outside assistance. The patents help in marketing and sales, as they provide a form of legally enforceable monopoly on the unique greetings.

My Meadow is working with graphene researchers and near-field communication experts to convert the wallets into contactless payment systems, similar to those used in credit cards or mobile phones. “People will always enjoy the look and feel of high-quality leather and the way it makes them feel to hold and carry it with them,” Chambers said. “That is one thing technology will not change.”

Chambers hopes to be able to work with other local businesses that might have products that would fit inside of the wallets.

In addition to the leather version, My Meadow is now offering a greeting made of marble and a coin. There’s even a version with a chocolate coin; Chambers would like to collaborate with a local chocolate maker on that one.

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