What A Card!
While greeting cards date back to ancient Chinese and Egyptian cultures, the practice of exchanging them became common in Europe and the United States in the mid- to late-1800s as stationery companies began mass producing cards that combine images and words, according to Greeting Card Association, a more than 75-year-old industry organization. The preprinted designs and messages in part replaced handwritten individual notes to congratulate, express sympathy, offer well wishes of the season and other sentiments.
A popular trend now combines the manufactured look and feel with a personal touch as hobbyists make greeting cards customized to the crafter’s artistic taste and choice of wording. Such cards were the focus of a session May 5 at the Scott Candler Library, where Melisandre Browning showed participants how to use craft supplies and equipment to make cards for all occasions.
Although the cards are handmade, they bear no resemblance to the crayon-and-construction-paper creations preschoolers make for parents. These are more akin to the high-end cards with sophisticated die cuts, fancy papers and intricate detailing found in specialty shops.
At the library event, the nine participants received card-weight paper, beverage napkins, glue and other supplies. Similar to the procedure in paint-and-sip art sessions, the instructor presented a model for students to work from and talked the participants through their projects step by step. As in the art sessions, participants were encouraged to individualize their work with custom details. “You have freedom of choice in this class,” Browning said. “Pick the images you like best and layer them in a way that looks good to you.” Some images are glued flat to the card, while others can be raised to make them “pop” with a three-dimensional effect, she explained.
Following Browning’s instructions, participants peeled away the white layers of three-ply beverage napkins then carefully cut artwork from the colored layer. “Use enough glue around the edges,” she cautioned, “you don’t want any sides curling up.”
While some may think of handmade cards as a less expensive alternative to store cards, the start-up cost of the hobby can be high. “You need a paper trimmer to give you perfect edges,” she explained, adding that other items are needed for a professional look. Embossing folders and pressing machines stamp the paper so that a design stands out in relief.
In the final stages of card making, embossing powder is sprinkled liberally on the card and melted with gentle heat from an embossing wand—a device that’s a little like a mini hair dryer. The process gives the final product a gloss and helps hold the elements in place. Tiny pieces such as butterflies, birds or jewels may be placed as a last step.
Browning has a bag of ink stamps with such conventional messages as “Happy Mother’s Day,” “Happy Birthday” and “Thinking of You;” however, card makers have the option of using a computer to create an original message.
Cardmaking should be approached as a craft hobby, not as a money-saving venture, according to Browning. “A nice card can cost around $7 to $10 in a shop; you can spend close to that making one. You’re going to have a lot of wasted materials, but when you’re done, you have something unique. You can be proud of a beautiful product you made yourself.”
“These are definitely not 99-cent cards,” remarked participant LaDoris Bias-Davis. “These take a lot of work and a lot of time.”
Most participants were rushing to finish their cards as the two-hour session drew to a close.
Browning said she learned card making through a series of classes at the senior center next door to the Scott Candler Library. After studying with Diane Spencer for more than two years, Browning learned that the library was interested in having someone teach cardmaking, so she asked Spencer if she wanted to teach the class. “She said, ‘No, you teach it.
You’re ready. In fact, I feel I’ve taught you all I can. I’m ready for some new students.’ Actually, this is just the third time I’ve taught,” Browning said.
The second time Browning had taught was less than a month earlier and some in the May 5 group also had been in that class. One participant brought her card from the April session framed to show the class. “Mine is on its way to my daughter,” another said.
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