16: Holiday Greeting Cards

16: Holiday Greeting Cards

Before I had children (13 years ago) I enjoyed making handmade holiday cards and sending them to friends and family. Unfortunately, that tradition has gone by the wayside, but last year, I created this virtual card (I did make the original in handmade paper) and thankfully had a talented intern who helped with the animation. I love mixing the old and the new!

I’m hoping to come up with something new for this year, but this blog is keeping me pretty busy!
When I lived in NYC in the late 1980’s, I often visited the National Stationery Show to get inspired by the current trends in card and stationery design. I also took graphic design classes at the School of Visual Arts, and I worked for a commercial printing company, where I saw all kinds of interesting designs coming through the door.
Graphic Design is a field full of experimentation and playing with paper. I have three books that I often thumb through for inspiration: Three Dimensional Graphics by Keizo Matsui, Paperwork, by Nancy Williams and Greeting Cards, edited by Takenobu Igarashi. These are all image collections of paper creations from around the world. I used to love pawing through the books on the graphic design shelves at The Strand in NYC and Powells Books in Portland, but now I’m just plugged in via the internet (although the local bookstore here is pretty amazing – they even had two of my books on the shelf when I visited). I just ordered Paper Graphics from Amazon, which looks like another inspirational book.
Rather than composing images on a computer, Lucie Thomas and Thibault Zimmermann of Zim & Zou prefer creating real objects with paper and taking photos out them. Click on this link and you can see how they set up their props.

Zim-Zou paper forest greeting card

I have a box full of clever paper cards that I’ve collected over the past 25 years, and friends often send me their old cards to add to my collection. See how simple and elegant a design can be, like this one from M&M Group. Two shapes are die cut from a sheet of paper; the paper is punched out and interlocked to form a small sculpture.

M&M Group holiday card

The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) always has a great collection of holiday cards, like these die cut creations.

MOMA Cards

Die cutting is a mechanical form of cutting in which a die is made from actual blades that are shaped and then pounded into a piece of wood. Die cutting is done one sheet at a time as sheets of paper are fed into a press.
Laser cutting is done from digital files and can be much more intricate. An actual beam from a laser runs over the sheet of paper, cutting away bits and pieces as it follows a computer program.

Laser cut ornaments by The Hummingbird Card Company

Letterpress printing has had a big comeback in the past 20 years. I was fortunate to work for a few years at Oblation Papers & Press in Portland, Oregon when I first moved there.

They make their own paper and letterpress print wedding invitations and cards for other social occasions, and they also showcase cards, papers and other stationery products from around the world in their retail store.

partridge in a pear, by Oblation Papers & Press

I’ve pinned a group of other unique cards on a Pinterest board. Do you have some favorite cards that you’ve designed or fallen in love with? Please share them with me by emailing or leaving me a comment below (pictures are welcome!)
About the 25 Days of Paper: I’m going to be a crazy blogger in December, featuring cool paper products, projects, blogs, books, or papers each day. Join in the fun by reading along! I’ll also post links on my FaceBook page. Enjoy the season!


  1. Linda K. Fendley says:

    I love your animated tree card with the star on top. I also enjoyed the Zim-Zou Forest of Trees. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Claude Aimée says:

    Hi Helen,
    I’m really enjoying your marathon blog! I LOVE everything paper myself so your blog just feeds me more and more eye candy. Thank you!
    Since you are talking about greeting cards today I just wanted to mention one book that I have and really like: Creative cards, postcards Envelopes and more BY THE BATCH. by Judi Kauffman. (ISBN 13-978-0-8230-4508-2. published in 2006) What I like about this book is that it shows you how to make multiples of the same card while you’re at it, something I never thought about ( duh) She shows how to get organized and make many cards at a time, where you would make only one normally. Great concept and lots of design ideas.
    If you touch the subject of gift wrapping, my favorite book is: Gift Wrapping Creative ideas from Japan by Kunio Ekiguchi (Kodansha InternationalnLtd, 1985. ISBN. 0-87011-768-8).
    Another fascinating topic is the natural collaboration between printmakers and papermakers. I have a book published by the World Print Council (San Francisco) in 1979 entitled Paper -Art and Technology The History and methods of Fine Papermaking with a Gallery of Contemporary paper art. It’s a fascinating book that helps trace the evolution of handpapermaking as used in an art context in the seventies. I bought it on ebay about five years ago. Closer to our times, as moderator of the Yahoo handpapermaking discussion group, I have had the chance to see all sorts of collaborative projects take place (like the annual Swatch Swap project) and many zines where members contribute an article on papermaking. In one of the zine there sas an article about printmaker Maria Arango who teamed up with M.J. Coles (papermaker) to develop the kind of paper she wanted to print her woodcuts. I love all manners of collaborations between artists of different disciplines who get to explore materials amd media that are new to them and expand their vocabulary and their personal production and approach the new media in a new way, giving a new light or new life to an old medium. Cross pollination at its best!
    Keep up the good work!

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