Cardmaking around the world
Chilean cardmaker Karina Santos Lara shares her lifelong passion for crafting and the endangered art of the handwritten letter
Learn about cardmaking in Temuco, Chile
My name is Karina, and I’m a cardmaker from Temuco, Chile. My city is the capital of the Auracania Region in southern Chile, and has a population of around 280,000. The city is very new, as it was only founded in the 19th century. We have long, rainy winters and hot summers, and we’re surrounded by natural wonders like volcanos and monkey puzzle trees. Temuco is also famous for the Mapuches – the culture existing before the Spanish arrived – and for having been home to Chilean Nobel Laureates Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda. I like that it’s a small city, so I can get around by bicycle. I live in the city centre in a house which is more than hundred years old and was built by my grandfather.
I’ve been making cards since before I learnt to write, and I still have Mother’s Day cards and other cards I made as a child to express my love towards my family members. After seeing a pop-up card somewhere, I spent years using this technique.
Afterwards, I went through a second phase of cardmaking, a kind of awakening or time for technique change. My interest in cardmaking during this second phase was born from necessity. When I was invited to birthday parties as a teenager and later, I never had the money to buy the gifts I thought my friends deserved. So I would buy a small trinket and complement it with a handmade card, which would be the true gift.
Now I make cards all year round – for birthdays, weddings, graduations and any special event I am invited to or whenever I feel it’s right. When I had more time, I used to make lots for Christmas. I even kept sketches of my Christmas cards for the future just in case I wanted to repeat the design.
When I make a card, I think about the colours I associate with the receiver, and then I lay the selected
“We’re surrounded by natural wonders like volcanos and monkey puzzle trees”
“I go to antique shops to buy papers that are already yellowish and old. I also like to collect items from nature to use in my cardmaking”
materials on the desk, observe them and start sketching. I first make the card, then continue with the envelope and a sticker for a stamp, as I deliver all cards by hand. I’m lucky to have an ideal space for crafting, with the materials, light, music, space and everything I need. I wish I had the skills to draw or paint better than I do – I have too many ideas in my head, and I define my cardmaking style as “doing the best I can”.
I’m the founder and director of the Fundación jaÜja, Centre for Comedy Studies, and I try to bring humour to my cardmaking as much as possible. I remember when my best friend got chickenpox at 19 years old, I made him a card with a pattern of red spots to try to cheer him up in a funny way.
I often make cards with cut out images, so I always look for materials in bookshops. Whenever I travel to any other part of Chile or out of the country, I go to craft shops and places where they sell office materials, as we don’t have any good craft shops in Temuco. I very much like to get papers of different textures and colours, envelopes, pencils and other materials. I go to antique shops to buy papers that are already yellowish and old, which I use for writing letters. I also like to collect items from nature, like sand or leaves, to use in my cardmaking, and I always keep wrapping paper and whatever else I see that may be of use.
Getting the right materials can be challenging, but the hardest part is to make time for it. At least for me, I need two to three hours to make a card, and if you are overloaded by work, those hours are precious. But I imagine this experience is not exclusive to Chile – time, nowadays, has become a treasure.
Cardmaking is not popular at all in Chile, and none of my friends who make cards are Chilean. There are those here who buy cards for Mother’s Day and Christmas, but these are all made in factories. Cardmaking is an endangered species. Technology has entered and even taken over the post office – we have lost the typical stamps and now only have ugly stickers with the date and payment information, which is why I like to put my own ‘stamps’ on my cards!
But because of this, the best part of cardmaking in Chile is that nobody else makes cards anymore! This means that when you receive a handmade card, you are not only getting a handmade object created just for you; you are also being delivered a communicative act that expresses dedication and effort. This brings up a range of emotions in the receiver, including nostalgia, since getting a present like this is no longer usual these days.
Karina has been making cards most of her life
The outskirts of Temuco, Karina’s hometown in southern Chile
Karina likes to make her own envelopes and stamps, too!
Name Karina Santos Lara Location Temuco, Chile
Outside the Feria Pinto local food market
(From top to bottom) Karina’s local paper shop; one of her handmade Christmas cards; her crafting desk; and her house, which her grandfather built more than 100 years ago