“Plush velvet, lush berries,
red ribbons and bows
and all my love
I here enclose.”
Enter any greeting card store the morning of February 14 and you’re sure to see a large handful of people – sons, daughters, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends – picking up a last minute Valentine’s card (or two) to present to their loved one(s). I know, because I’ve been counted among their number in years past.
Since Valentine’s Day is second only to Christmas as the largest card-sending holiday of the year, the best ones are sure to be long gone, and the selection may consist of a higher than desireable proportion of Sponge Bob Square Pants, Spiderman and Dora the Explorer themed cards. And, of course, nothing says “I love you” like a Sponge Bob Valentine’s Day card.
Parents and grandparents of school-aged children may be lucky enough to receive a hand-crafted Valentine this year, but most of the rest of us will likely be gifted with a rather expensive, mass produced (if lovely) card with a schmaltzy sentiment penned by someone we’ve never met, personalized with a quickly dashed off signature, and some x’s and o’s.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that there’s something so personal – not to mention rare – about a hand-made card.
The Victorians, who invented the culture of exchanging cards for special occasions, used to embellish theirs with real lace and ribbons. Of course as the popularity of card giving quickly grew, so did the demand for mechanically printed works.
But there’s still something to be said about hand crafted sentiments – even if they don’t have the same polished panache as some store-bought designs.
“I never buy (brand name) cards,”says Alissa Woodside, owner of A Woodside Design Gallery in Kelowna. “Just the thought of giving a handmade something is better than writing anything on it.”
She carries, in her gallery at 1561 Pandosy Street, a small selection of cards. She started with her mother’s – Kelowna artist and calligrapher Liz Woodside.
“Obviously, running this place, I insist on everything being handmade,” she says.
More recently Alissa, an artist in her own right, started adding to the stash with a selection of her own cards.
While her mother’s are quite embellished – “she’s a true artist in the sense that she’s a calligrapher and that’s her starting point for most of it,” says Alissa – Alissa chose a more playful style for her cards.
She’s been hand crafting cards all her life, and has been selling them for about five years. This is her first foray into Valentine’s cards for sale.
“I work with what I find available,” Alissa relates. This year’s line sports a colourful collection of buttons, as well as cut paper and wire embellishments.
Her own list of recipients includes her mother, her sister and her fiance, Jay.
Depending on a person’s level of ambition – and creativity – a Valentine doesn’t have to be limited to a standard card format – as this one, made by Liz a few years ago, demonstrates.
While the words are Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s, they are both timeless and made personal with a pen guided by the giver’s hand. It’s not the kind of card that can be easily disposed of after February is gone.
Of course, there are simpler ideas out there for the time pressed – ink stamps, cut paper, pen and ink or coloured pencils all can be useful tools. Or, like Alissa, incorporate found objects – buttons, beads, used postage stamps, for example. Alissa recalls cutting shapes out of recycled greeting cards and making a collage from them.
For something really classic, here’s an idea we found on the Victoria Magazine website.
Because Alissa knows she’s not the only one out there with a soft spot for original Valentine’s cards, she’s putting out the call: Feb. 11 from 5-9 p.m. A Woodside Gallery is holding an appreciation night to showcase new artists. To enter the raffle draw that will be held that night, guests must bring a handmade Valentine, a poem or an insightful quote. At the end of the evening, the cards will be handed out to kids in the children’s ward at Kelowna General Hospital.
After all, the point is to share the love.
– Story and photos by Lori-Anne Poirier