Homemade for the holidays: Local artists craft greeting cards by hand

We are living in the age of DIY, says Lawrence artist Sarah McCormick.

Where to buy

Here's a short list we've compiled of places to find locally made holiday cards in Lawrence:

Van Go, Inc., 715 New Jersey St., 842-3797

Ruff House Art, 729 Massachusetts St., 856-2117

Phoenix Gallery, 825 Massachusetts St., 843-0080

The Raven Book Store, 6 E. Seventh St., 749-3300

In a time when the many uses of a Mason jar can draw as much excitement from folks — especially the hip, young ones — as the newest iPhone, a handful of local artists are finding a market for handmade greeting cards.

“I definitely think a lot of people are interested in homemade stuff,” she says. “A lot of people in my generation are super frustrated with how corporate everything is in the U.S. and the world. Everything is so cheaply made, and you don’t know who your money’s going to.”

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Leslie Kuluva lays a Hanukkah card within a screen printing press as she prepares to add another color on Friday, Dec. 12, 2014 at her studio, 518 E. Eighth Street. Kuluva is one of several Lawrence artists who are making and selling handmade holiday cards.

McCormick and fellow Lawrence artists Leslie Kuluva and Grace Chin are among those selling homespun cards this holiday season at Lawrence’s Wonder Fair, 803 Massachusetts St.

Customers can pick up one of their creations for $5 each — an average price point for handmade cards, says store owner Meredith Moore.

With Christmas and Hanukkah on the horizon, the simple gesture of sending a card to loved ones is an easy way to show you care, McCormick says.

And a card made locally, lovingly by hand? Well, that’s even nicer.

“It’s nice to get something that you know wasn’t made by some 7-year-old in Hong Kong," she says. "People love getting mail, even if it's just a card that comes with a gift. If it's really amusing or really beautiful, they're going to hold onto it."

'If you can make it, then you can have it'

McCormick, who studied art at Johnson County Community College, often incorporates her childhood love of zoology into her cards.

One popular Christmas design features a duck wearing a Santa hat. Holly berries adorn each corner while bold letters loudly proclaim, “QUACK QUACK QUACK QUACK.”

She’s still fascinated by “anything having to do with the animal kingdom,” even parasites like tapeworms.

As for the others, “they’re kind of geeky,” admits McCormick, who grew up watching sci-fi flicks like “Tremors” and the “Star Wars” series as well TV’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”

McCormick, who also sells hand-sewn trinkets on Etsy, says the most enjoyable part of the card-making process is the very beginning.

Most of her designs are created with rubber stamps, which she makes by hand.

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A series of Hanukkah cards made by Leslie Kuluva dry on racks at her studio, 518 E. Eighth Street.

It’s time-consuming work that involves transferring an image onto a block of rubber and carving it into the material.

Each stamp can take hours to make, she says, but seeing the fruits of her labor makes it all worth it in the end.

“It pays off if you do it right, because the stamp looks good,” she says. “And they’re totally unique. I doubt you could find a ‘Tremors’ stamp of a Graboid (giant man-eating worm) anywhere, but if you can make it, then you can have it.”

Handmade cards 'bring the cozy'

For Grace Chin, card-making is “just something you do.”

It was a rule passed down by her mother, an art professor at Tabor College, early in life.

“Whenever I’d go to birthday parties, she’d be like, ‘Let’s do something personal. Why don’t we draw a card for your friend and write something?’” Chin recalls. “And I think that’s something that’s stuck with me since I’ve been a kid.”

A printmaker by trade, Chin started selling her cards about two years ago. At first she reproduced her cards manually, but now employs a “mix of handmade and mechanized processes.”

She designs her cards at home on a computer, tucked away in her bedroom.

“Right now it’s a mess,” jokes Chin, who also works as an assistant manager at The Toy Store and as a shop manager at Wonder Fair. “The holidays have wreaked havoc on it.”

The space also doubles as a drawing-and-painting studio. Chin sells her cards, as well as her handmade crepe-paper flowers, in her Etsy shop.

Her cards often evoke the work of children’s book illustrator Gyo Fujikawa and Henry Darger, an “outsider artist” who produced hundreds of watercolor paintings that often depicted idyllic scenes of flowers and fantastical creatures as well as more sinister images of children being tortured and killed.

Still, Chin says she likes to go with “things that are pretty sweet.” Her favorite card incorporates different sweater patterns with text that reads, “We bring the cozy.”

“I just thought that was such a nice sentiment,” she says. “During the holidays, there’s just something nice about the cold weather and how it makes you want to stay inside and be with people and be snuggly.”

A very 'punk rock' Hanukkah

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Christmas cards and others by Leslie Kuluva.

Leslie Kuluva (or Leslie Kay, as she’s known in art circles) became a printmaker “by accident.”

The LFK Press owner was studying textiles at Kansas University when she took a class on Latin American political prints of the 1940s and immediately fell in love with the medium.

“I love painting, but I always felt kind of weird about selling one-of-a-kind items for a bunch of money that only certain people could afford, or would only be exposed to them in some gallery,” Kuluva says. “I wanted to make stuff that anybody could afford.”

Accessibility fuels Kuluva’s business approach. She started making Hanukkah cards after noticing how few were available in the Lawrence market.

They’ve since proven to be some of her best-sellers, she says.

“I think when people see them, they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, Hanukkah cards — I know a couple people who I’d want to send them to,’” says Kuluva, who is Jewish. “It helps remind them, maybe.”

This year’s offering features a four-color print of a menorah with lit candles. She also sells a Christmas card that depicts a two-color Christmas tree sprinkled with snow.

A “sentimental person” by nature, Kuluva often mixes hard and soft in her cards.

“There’s a lot of hearts and little kids and kitty cats, but it still has a punk-rock feel to the whole thing,” Kuluva says of her work.

She’s been selling her cards through the LOLA (Ladies of Lawrence Artwork) craft guild since 2006. Interacting with customers face-to-face is her favorite aspect of the job.

“I sell things at a couple places in town, but selling them in person at these craft shows is pretty rewarding, to see people get excited about my stuff,” Kuluva says. “I like when people smile.”

— As of press time, Wonder Fair has sold out of Grace Chin's cards.

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