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Personalize Your Holiday Cards 

Distributed by New York Times Special Features

There is something about the holiday season that makes me crazy with creativity, crafting and do-it-yourself projects. I am always fussing around with new tools and techniques, and experimenting with suggestions from my craftiest friends and mentors, but not with the frenzy and excitement that I display in November and December.

For example, a few years ago, I learned about embossing with gilding powders, and I decided to make cards for 200 special friends this way. I ordered an oversize rubber stamp of my sycamore tree woodblock, a work of art I had commissioned from book illustrator and wood engraver Michael McCurdy. I also stocked up on rag paper with deckle edges and envelopes, gold and silver embossing powders, embossing pads and two heat guns. All of these materials were sent to my house in Maine for Thanksgiving weekend.

I was entertaining friends and family but thought I would have enough free time to complete this card project. The process really interested everyone -- until I started a production line to try and speed up the handicraft. By Saturday night, I had been totally abandoned, cards were drying everywhere, and all of the surfaces were lightly coated with fine gold and silver dust.

Everyone enjoyed receiving one of these luxurious images. What was strange was that because the cards looked so professional, no one seemed to realize they were made with loving care in my kitchen. After figuring out the number of hours the project took, I discovered that each card cost a lot more than if I had purchased it at Tiffany or Buccellati!

If you prefer to use photography for your cards, I urge you to try some of the methods I have learned over the years. Fellow crafter Melissa Neufeld showed me how to enliven any image with glue and glitter. Megen Lee, another gifted crafter, and I discovered how easy it is to alter, color or antique pictures using a computer.

Embossing

Use store-bought cards, or make your own from card stock.

Press a rubber stamp onto an embossing pad. Position the stamp over the card, and apply firm, even pressure to transfer the design. Clean the stamp with a paper towel, then a stamp-cleaning pad.

Place the card on a paper plate, then sprinkle embossing powder over the stamped design. Tap the card to remove excess powder, and reapply as needed to coat design. If there is stray powder on the card, very gently spray compressed air from a can fitted with an extension wand.

Working in sections, hold a heat gun 2 inches from the design and move the nozzle in a circular motion. The powder-covered areas will melt, creating a glossy finish. Continue until the entire design has melted.

Gently wave the card three or four times to set the design. If the paper begins to curl, heat the back of the card, and fan it again. Then place the card under a heavy book for 5 to 10 minutes.

Photo Cards

I made frame-style cards to highlight digital photographs of my kittens Sirius and Electra. You can make a border using a frame-shaped stamp or "photo corners" using a triangular stamp.

Emboss your design on a folded card by following the instructions above.

Using a utility knife, cut an opening into the card that is slightly smaller than the photograph. Center photo over a piece of card stock (cut to the size of the card) and secure with double-sided tape. Tape the card stock and photo to the inside of the frame.

Sparkling Cards

Landscapes and architecture are ideal subjects for cards and they look great with a dusting of glitter. Many computer programs offer antiquing functions that "age" a photo in seconds. Visit www.marthastewart.com/living for how-tos on making the cards themselves.

Working in sections, use a fine-tip brush to apply white glue to an area of the card. If there is snow in your picture, you might glitter those areas. If not, you could glitter spots where snow might fall, such as tree branches.

Place on a paper plate and sprinkle with glitter. Shake to remove excess glitter. Let dry.

Making a Deckle Edge

This gives paper a charming, handmade look.

Place a sheet of card stock face down on a flat surface. Align a ruler parallel to one side, about an inch in. Pressing firmly on the ruler, rip the edge of the paper along the length of the ruler. Repeat on the remaining three sides to create desired size.

click to enlarge MATTHEW HRANEK
click to enlarge TIP: You can make beautiful cards at home using - gilding powders, glitter, embossing and even manipulated - photographs. - ANTONIS ACHILLEOS
  • Antonis Achilleos
  • TIP: You can make beautiful cards at home using gilding powders, glitter, embossing and even manipulated photographs.
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