There's a merry little world of flying rabbits, dancing chicks and galloping turtles sequestered in the back room of a Charles Village rowhouse.
There, post card publisher Sandy Waters hand colors a pastel kingdom where every day is a holiday occasion.
This table-top entrepreneur will never challenge Hallmark or American Greeting or Ambassador, but her work is sought by serious collectors, especially those who delight in beautiful cards printed some 90 years ago.
Her story begins with a flying rabbit on a post card sent to Brussels on April 12, 1903.
Waters found this cardboard greeting, actually an Easter card ("Joyeuses Paques"), at a New York post card show in May 1992. The rabbit had wings and held a basket of colorful eggs as she flew over a European village.
It proved to be an inspiration for her.
"I have been disappointed in the post cards of today and have so much respect for the earlier printing techniques. I wanted to make some contribution to the hobby I so love," she said.
Waters also needed a name for her small business. She looked at that Easter card and said, "Flying rabbit. Why Not?"
At her business, Flying Rabbit Post Cards, located in the second-floor back room of her St. Paul Street rowhouse, Waters colors and tints editions of 300 to 500 cards
The scenes are the commissioned artwork of Baltimore artists Samantha Carol Smith, C.R. Hazard, and Ferebe Streett.
The artists' master drawings are reduced and reproduced in black and white on acid-free paper at a Charles Street printer.
.' Waters adds the acrylic water-
based color by hand. Her trade marked cards are about $3 apiece.
"After dinner, my husband likes to go in the living room and turn on sports on the television. I go upstairs and start a Welsh or Celtic folk music CD and drift into a world of fantasy. I bring out my paints and get busy. I am a high energy person and this is a good time of the day for me," she said.
By day, Waters is the director of activities at the Melchor Nursing Home at Charles and 24th streets. By night, she sets up her brushes and paint box and enters the magic kingdom of the greeting card.
In this enchanted world, rabbits do fly and dress in silken waist coats. Billy goats dance. Puppy dogs polka. Santa flies on a sleigh pulled along by Canadian geese. Halloween pumpkins duel like Samurai warriors.
Many of her new cards are influenced by ones published in what collectors call the golden age of 1898-1918. This was the time when post cards were an essential means of communication.
"The telephone killed all this," Waters said.
Her studio window faces east, overlooking a Johns Hopkins University frat house and Hargrove Alley garages.
Today she was to fly to a post card exhibition in Chicago. There are others across the county linked to a well-established network of post card collectors and enthusiasts.
"People still don't understand why a hand-colored card costs $3 when a photo card is 35 cents," Waters said.
Most seasoned post card collectors seek cards from a specific period and category, such as Halloween greetings, or shots of rural Michigan post offices.
"I grew up in New York, and after school I'd go to stores that sold nice post cards from European publishers. Then one day, my father took me to the Frick Collection of paintings. The guard said I was too young to go in and implied I wouldn't know what I was looking at," Waters recalled.
"I asked to go to the desk where they sold post cards and began telling them which card was a Frans Hals or a Rembrandt or Jan Vermeer. Then they said, 'Mr. Brandt, your daughter can go in,' " she said.
A childhood in the New York of the 1940s (her father, the late Mortimer Brandt, was a fine art dealer) also brought her afternoons on the double-decker Fifth Avenue buses.
She'd take the bus to various Woolworths and other variety stores to look at the inventories and, of course, study the post cards.
She even loved the fanciful color labels on cigar boxes.
Ever the true New Yorker, she still collects the penny-apiece scenes of Coney Island, Luna Park and Central Park.
But it's in the cool mornings and greenery of Baltimore's WymaPark Dell that she gets some of her best daydreaming done as she walks her pair of Shetland sheep dogs, Lucie and Pip.
"The first daffodils, the migrating birds, the sunlight. Fantasy -- it's a little world I live in. I know about the horrors and destruction of the real world, but I escape into the world of post card fantasy," she said.