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Crafty cards
How to spice up your well-wishes

11/26/15
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



 Holiday cards don’t have to showcase photos of people in pajamas by the Christmas tree. They can be handmade, sparkly and configured via collage, or they can be completely digital and include holiday music from iTunes.

The Hippo talked with local artists and teachers for different ideas on how to up your game this year with a little glue, glitter and elbow grease.
 
Digital card
When Beck’s Arts Express owner Rebecca Fredrickson went to make holiday cards last year, she knew money would be tight. Her husband’s employer, FairPoint Communications, had been on strike, and it seemed frivolous to spend money on materials, envelops and stamps.
Instead, she turned to Flipagram, a free phone app that allows the user to tell stories with photos and music. She took 60 images that represented important family milestones that year and constructed a slideshow accompanied by the Charlie Brown Christmas skating song. She posted it on Facebook and emailed it to friends.
“It was a nice little switch from the regular card,” Fredrickson said via phone last week. “I was just trying to think of a solution for our finance situation last year. I thought, what can we do that’s still festive and fun and affordable? It does take a little bit of time and requires you to be tech-savvy, but I did it all on my phone.”
 
Stamp card
Everyone likes handmade goodies, but when you’ve got dozens, maybe even hundreds of cards to make, going that route becomes a little less appealing.
Printmaking is one way to mass-produce handmade creations, said Currier educator Danielle Gosselin via phone. She teaches styrofoam printmaking classes for kids and adults, which she said is easy and relatively inexpensive; your materials include styrofoam (plates or clean take-away cartons), a rubber brayer and water-soluble printmaking ink (available at craft stores).
The process is done often, so when in doubt, check it out on YouTube. Gosselin advises cutting styrofoam into a completely flat piece — ideally the same size as the card you’ll stamp on — and then, using a dull pencil or thin paintbrush end, carving a design.
Then, crafters need to press the stamp, carved side down, into the ink (laid out on a cookie sheet or piece of plexiglass with the help of the brayer) and firmly stamp it onto the paper. When you remove the styrofoam, you should find the relief of your design. (For easy styrofoam removal, attach a piece of masking tape to the other side of the styrofoam in a handle-like shape.) 
You’ll need to decide what to make ahead of time — this will inform your ink and construction paper colors — but the nice thing about this technique is that once you’re done the design, the rest of the work is just stamping and re-stamping. If you want to add details later, you can always come back with colored pencil, ink or paint.
Susan Schwake, who teaches at artstream on the Seacoast, said she always teaches block-printing card-making with adults and kids. It’s a similar technique except it requires a few more materials, and the result provides a more solid shape.
Beginners should avoid words — they’re easy to mess up — and complicated designs.
“Chunkier, simpler images are easier than things with lots and lots of detail, and they can be equally interesting,” Schwake said. 
 
Collage card
Making cards from collage takes a little more work, but it also offers more flexibility and improvisation. Schwake likes to use Uhu glue and cut-up materials — construction paper, magazines, ribbons, scraps, etc. Scrounge around your house and you may be surprised at what you find.
“If you look around your house, you might find you have old wrapping paper, if you’re a good Yankee,” Schwake said. “You could also use recycled safety envelopes from your bills in the mail, which have beautiful patterns on them.”
Safe bets are the basic Christmas tree — maybe spiced up by being combined with different paper patterns, which would offer a patchwork quilt vibe — and snowflakes, which you can make by cutting thin white paper and gluing it to bright backgrounds. Finish it off with glitter.
Gosselin also does a lot of collaging but prefers using Mod Podge to adhere materials together. For something more adventurous, try using Citra Solv, a natural solvent, which Gosselin uses to make magazine scraps more interesting, though it only works with certain publications (like National Geographic from the 1990s or afterward). Sprinkle liquid between pages, and the ink will break down and create a marbleized, interesting design.
 
Tips and inspiration
“Complementary colors are always a safe bet, because they vibrate next to each other. Red and green, blue and orange, yellow and purple,” Gosselin said. “As for composition, generally odd numbers are more interesting than even numbers. And don’t be afraid to overlap.”
Using the rule of thirds, no matter what you make, will ensure a more visually pleasing arrangement — divide the composition vertically and horizontally into thirds, and you should find key elements in each space.
Both Schwake and Gosselin love Pinterest, and Schwake, an art teacher for 20 years, said she always finds ideas online, in magazines and in books from libraries and stores (her own book is Art for All Seasons, which details her printmaking projects). 





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