December 2, 2016

Holiday Cards

        Many adults’ experience of block printing consists of making a family holiday card back in the days before ubiquitous photo cards.  That may seem hopelessly old-fashioned, but remember that retro is cool!  On Tuesday I ran a printmaking workshop at a local senior living community, at which people could make cards (or, of course, any small relief block print).  Some people came with ideas, sketches, or pictures to work from, while others came ready to start from the very beginning, but soon they were all working on drawing designs.  A couple were members of the local Art Association, while one or two did not think of themselves as being artsy at all.  Combine this diversity with the fact that people always work at widely variant speeds and we had a wide range of progress, from a woman who unfortunately had to leave very promptly and never even got to print, to one who stayed half an hour late and was able to complete about a dozen cards.  Still, I think everyone got excellent work done.
        One of my favorite things about printmaking is that the simple can look as striking as the complex.  We also had a selection of more stylized and abstract designs than I usually see with my children’s classes, which was fun.  One woman started with a basic design and, after inking once, added more carving, then checked again, added more, for three or four iterations, having more and more fun carving further designs.  Another woman was the opposite, having originally designed some extra details which she decided she didn’t like and then carved away, leaving a quite simple but dramatic geometric design.  Many made holiday designs with natural elements - snow, holly, birds, stars…
        In this season of a million generic commercial holiday cards, who wouldn’t enjoy receiving a good, old-fashioned hand-made card?  It demonstrates a little more thought and care, a little more special affection.  If you’d like to make holiday cards for your friends and family this year, it isn’t too late.  Here are a few tips:
     1. If you want to make a single whole scene you’ll need a piece of rubber in the neighborhood of 3.5x4.5 inches.  That will fit nicely on standard 8.5x11 inch paper that’s cut in half and folded once, which fits nicely in standard “invitation” envelopes.
     2. Another option is to cut smaller, simpler blocks that can be combined into larger patterns, such as holly leaves and berries, or snowflakes, or stars.
     3. Ordinary white paper works, but feels awfully flimsy for cards, while heavy card stock is harder to print on without smearing.  Therefore I recommend a paper in the 32 - 60 lb range.  (Alternatively, you could use plain paper folded into quarters so that each sheet becomes one card instead of two.)
     4. You don’t have to stick with white paper, of course.  You could print on colored paper - white snowflakes on blue, green pine trees on lighter green, black birds on bright red…  You get the idea.
     5. Remember that you can use a stamp pad if you don’t have ink and brayer.  It isn’t hard to find pads in all different colors big enough for blocks of this size.
     6. It may help you to pre-fold a few cards before printing in order to help you get used to where you have to print your block.  Without thinking it through, you may find you’re printing your cards so they open upside-down or backwards.  At the very least, don’t print an entire batch before you’ve checked that they’re right!
        I think the participants in my workshop made some really attractive designs, and I worked on my holiday design, too.  We’re just doing what we can to put the ART in HeARTfelt Holiday Wishes!
[Pictures: Carving;
Tweaking and touching up;
Some finished cards by class participants, all photos by AEGN, 2016.]

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