Card­mak­ing around the world

Chilean cardmaker Ka­rina San­tos Lara shares her life­long pas­sion for craft­ing and the en­dan­gered art of the hand­writ­ten letter

Cardmaking and Papercraft - - Contents - As told to Si­enna Parulis-Cook

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

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