Handmade Cards: The Art of the Carte

I’ve always loved greeting cards —  the racks of Hallmarks at the corner drugstore or the Graphiqes de France gallic b&ws at snooty paper stores . When I was a kid I’d wait for the museum catalogues every fall so that I could con their gorgeous new Christmas cards. For most of my life I my wallet was helpless before a beautiful card.

The newish- tech advance in greeting card is the audio card, and  I regularly run the rack, giggling at the witty/deliberately incongruous musical choices. And they’re tough — I opened a birthday card sent to my father-in-law six years ago and the organ vamp followed by fans going wild sounded newly pressed.

I’m as plugged in as most middle-agers and I’ll accept well-wishes via email or Facebook with enormous gratitude — I  send them myself. But there’s something sweet about a card in the mailbox: someone actually bought it, wrote on it, had a stamp in the house, then plopped it in a mailbox. Sometimes they made it!

My sister-in-law Patty makes her own cards. I received this in the mail today and it just might be the most beautiful handmade card I’ve ever seen.

Look at all that intricate cutting and fitting, the paper choices, the design! She mentions inside that she made it specially for me, which makes it even lovelier, because she knows I too make my own cards.

I realized today  that I come from a long line of card makers. My great-uncle Dan McArthur’s cards were, literally, works of art — some hang framed in my parents’ house. They were his own letterpress or lino prints, hand-colored, of  a slip of landscape or architecture. His niece (and my aunt) Charlotte Waller’s Christmas cards are original watercolors painted on a folded sheet of copier paper. They’re art too — I regret that I couldn’t find my complete collection to show you. Here’s one I could lay my hands on quickly:

Her daughter, my cousin Kim McKellar, a woman of talents so multi that I blame her for hogging the generational talent pool, sells her own line of cards:


My daughter tweaks cards: One year she sent Wayne Thibeault postcards, with a paper present and real ribbon pasted onto them.

She and her husband designed and made all their wedding stationery — here’s an example:

I’m not in the same class as as these people — they’re artistic, have skillz, and also wit. But because of happy memories from toddlerhood of hours whiled away at the card table with construction paper, blunt-ended scissors and glue, I’ve made cards off and on my whole life. For fun.

I’m an origami head and a carver of stamps, so I decided a few years ago to start making my Christmas cards. Here are the two examples I could find in the house. (The thickness of the two cranes makes for problematic scanning — that weird shadow!)

Part of the fun is creating the stamps i use in the background:

Planning the annual card has become part of my internal calendar — I can be stumped for inspiration scarily late in November. This year I decided on my design in late February, which cuts down on the suspense, but not the difficulty: I’m still searching for the perfect paper, and the search might go to the wire and involve a trip to Japan. Please, God, don’t force me to make my own paper — that’s truly for the pros!



Filed under Art, Holidays, Less than 50 cents, Origami, Paper

4 responses to “Handmade Cards: The Art of the Carte

  1. Bev

    Boyz in da hoodie..too funny. Hey I think you are understating your talent..I would be thrilled to receive your cards and I think you are funny as hell..so there!! haha

  2. Patty

    You have incredible talent, so your compliment means so much. I am so glad you liked it, thank you!

  3. Kim Shook

    Maggie – gorgeous cards. That is a craft I’d like to get into.

    BTW- HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! I hope that you are celebrating in the manner that you deserve! Big, special and CHEERFUL!

    Love, Kim

  4. Pingback: Today’s Mailbox and a Fabulous Woman « Cheap and Cheerful

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