Fifteen years ago, I took up papercrafts. It was easy to start, I could teach myself out of a monthly magazine, and my daughters (then 10 and 8) could get into it with me. Together we designed and made bookmarks, greeting cards, paper boxes – anything and everything you could make out of paper and cardboard.
The girls grew up. It was no longer cool to craft with mom. I did not stop, though, I am still designing and making greeting cards and bookmarks. Each is a unique design, each is handcrafted. Working with and matching pretty colours and shapes, creating something beautiful, satisfy a creative need inside me. Each creation gives me joy to make and joy to give away, where hopefully they will be given to someone else on a special occasion, spreading that joy.
What have I learnt, from years of crafting?
#1 – Look for beauty everywhere
Because I use commercial papers, ribbons, embellishments, stickers, feathers, shells – you name it, it has ended up on a card – I am constantly looking for beautiful things. Beautiful patterns. Beautiful shapes. Inspiration. I have, in autumn this year, rediscovered the beauty in the lacy veins in the remainder of autumn leaves. That translated into a number of cards, using the “remains” of a punched-out image.
Inspiration is everywhere. Beauty is everywhere.
#2 – Inspiration lurks in unexpected places
One of the easiest ways to get started is to buy some beautiful paper, in colours that you like, and then to look for embellishments that match. Yes, art and craft shops are a good starting place, but also look at stationers, cake decorations, hardware stores, party shops. Your local supermarket may have some inspiring giftwrap, an open-air market some unique earrings that you can re-purpose.
I have recently been inspired by the symmetry of an image seen on TV – during the Tour de France cycle race. The camera angle was low, taking a shot of eight or ten riders, all riding in the slipstream, repeats of pedal/shoe/calf. That image translated into a series of cards with repeating patterns / shapes. Five or seven flower shapes, in a row. Three of five butterflies, in a row. Groups of five stars, repeating in different colours, at a 45-degree angle from each other.
#3 – If in doubt, add a curve
The shape of a greeting card, typically a rectangle, dictates that you work in straight lines. So do some of the materials you use. Ribbon is in essence a rectangle. Paper is sold in rectangular shapes. Envelopes are rectangles.
Just like life tosses you a curved ball from time to time, that lifts you out of your comfort zone, adding curves lifts you out of the usual, the ordinary. Try a round card. Try working with rounded shapes. Try adding a curve of ribbon instead of a straight line. Curve one edge of the card. Just break those straight lines!
Some of my most beautiful cards consisted of a curve, traced around my coffee mug. Over time I have also invested in some tools that help me create curves, other shapes. To keep my cards interesting. To stretch my skills. To re-fire my imagination.
#4 – Nothing is wasted
When you are primed for finding beauty, you find it in the strangest of places. I was printing a colored image when my printer’s ink cartridge ran out. Instead of a uniform turquoise page, I got a pixelated image in tones of blue and red. What a cool color combination! The paper, instead of being discarded, was used in a card.
Like any crafter, I sometimes collect too much of one thing. Buy a pack of paper of which I love three quarters of the designs, but really dislike one quarter. Collected seashells for decoration, but found that they were too big to use effectively in my design. What to do? Donate them to other crafters. Approach your local craft shop and ask if they will display them with a “Free to a good home” sign, for other to pick up and use.
Those images on calendar pages you tear off every month? Maybe you can re-use them in a card. Someone gifts YOU a birthday card you really like? Re-use parts of it. Even if you only look at color combinations and copy those, you have found something extra.
Something new. Some beauty.
#5 – Break all the rules, if necessary
When you read design / art / photography books, they often start with design principles and rules. Work on the two-thirds principle. Repeat in groups of 3, 5 or 7. Never work asymmetrically. Use the colours opposing each other on the colour wheel.
These are guidelines. To be broken as and when you like. As long as it looks good to YOU, who cares about these so-called principles? So often the size of your card does not allow five repeats, and three is just not enough. Or seven will not fit, but five looks a little forlorn. By all means, use 4 or 6. There is no policing squad out there, marking your designs.
Do what seem right to YOU. You are the designer, after all. And the creator. The bringer of joy, in your creations.
Want to start doing paper crafts? I run a crafting circle on Saturday afternoons at Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery in North Riding. We are a group of people, coming together to create together. No artistic abilities or equipment necessary. Just come, and create something beautiful. Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org for more info or to book your spot.
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