In the world of digital clutter -twitter, facebook, pinterest and other social media that is designed to bring us together, I found the best way to cut through all the clutter and let another human being know they mean something to you is with an actual hand made card, with a hand written note.
It appears this way will go the way of the dinosaurs, as people don’t seem to see that while the social media is making it easier to find others just like ourselves, it is not bringing people together in an intimate way, unless you feel a batch of data packets somehow has emotions.
On the last trip over, I figured I would be here for a while, so I brought the barest of card making supplies over. Someone saw my pictures and asked what I did with them, I said, “The ones I like, I make cards with and send to people that matter.”
Then I though about it for a moment and realized I had succumbed to “too busy” with the card making and sending to friends. I used to lament, that in most people, they only see what is right in front of their faces. If you leave an area, you are literally gone from their lives. Human nature?
The cards themselves started in earnest in 2007. I was on my way to Romania to visit a girlfriend and instead of saying, “don’t come.” I found myself in Paris France when I got the news. I just remember being bummed and I took my camera out that day and in one roll of film, I took 20 amazing images out of 24 exposures. (Too bad I could not do that consistently)
I am not sure if that was someone from above saying, “sorry bout this trip, but there is beauty even in bad times.” When I went back to my friend’s apartment and told them the news and how I now had a hole of a few weeks in my schedule, they asked, “Can you fix this?”
You have to imagine a kitchen floor that was 150 years old and had either octagonal or hexagonal red tile floor maybe 6 inches across, that each and every tile was shattered into pieces, yet sitting in the floor. I looked at it, incredulous to how one could fix it and said, “it would be better if we just got new tiles, how much is each one?”
Like yesterdays moonshine prices, I smiled and laughed, “that’s funny, but what is the actual cost of each tile, you need several hundred of them.”
“16 Euros, each" (my mind did the math. 64 euros per square foot just for the tile)
I realized they weren’t kidding, I also knew we were both poor with any disposable income, so I looked at it, had no idea how long it would take, and said “yeah, lets do this.”
While I never was a fan of archeology, I learned quickly how to gently pull up each of the tiles and keep them on its own sheet of paper. Some had 3 pieces, others had up to 12-15 small pieces. Perhaps god simply knew I needed a project to keep my mind off of heartbreak?
Where the cards came in, is to give my aching body and back a rest with the floor and having no kneepads or normal tools, I would go take a break at the café off the main street with my sketchbook and ideas. I looked out of place on the main street, with the nicest folks in Paris all dressed up, the mistresses with their married boyfriends, and well heeled young political types, the amusing elderly, the old moneyed of one of the nicest androsiment in Paris. It was a great place to people watch, where else can you hear a woman's claim to fame for life as being within one kilo of the weight when she got married.
(I am laughing, as except for the lab in Colorado, I have never had a nicer view with which to work in my life…. Eifel tower was a block away out the window)
In these times, I would go a block further into the neighborhood and a café was 1/3 as much as the posh cafes where the people went to be seen. I remember seeing the one roll of film and thinking, “these are actually nice photos, I need to do something with them.”
So I picked up the napkins, sketches out some ideas, and for whatever reason, came up with an idea where people might think I am gay. As a kid, I always loved velum covering over photos in a book, or as a protection of a page. So I cut up a piece of paper, mounted the photo, overlaid a sheet of velum, and since I had no tools there, I put a hole in the card and a piece of ribbon to hold it all together.
While it might sound simple, primitive and a bit gay – that is what the cards were, and have pretty much remained. Yes, I did get a bit more spiffy with arts and crafts, but I still go right back to that as the original card. For many years I made Christmas cards like that – call it the annual “hope you are well” route to people that I am out of their sight.
Today is bittersweet, as I make these cards out so that someone can try to sell them at a market for Christmas cheer.
While I look at all of them laid out, I smile, as I actually like a few of them. I guess I am my own worst critic, but I actually think some of them look like mini pieces of art.
Then I get sad. I vowed to never sell my cards. They were a bit like these silly words I type in this space. What you are getting am I just being no makeup, no accessories, and me. I am sure a few of you wished I took the time to actually edit, check spelling, and use grammar – but that is not the purpose of these posts.
You get, much like the cards I send. A very personal and albeit wordy, intimacy level from me.
Each card that was ever sent was personal. The other reason I make cards is because one day I was in a hallmark card store in the states watching people shopping for cards. They spent 30 minutes looking for the “perfect” card to say (insert special occasion) and then spent a few dollars for one card.
My mind thought, “Why didn’t they take the same amount of time and just write a letter?
They say the number one reason people get tired of working is that the system kills their passion for working on interesting things. Today, I fight to hand over the cards with the photos and say, “knock yourself out, I find it odd people will pay money for these, but if you want to try – go for it.”
In the process, I found my image for this years Christmas card. The sad part is that I pretty much have used up the materials I brought over to make the cards here. It is one thing I miss about the USA – the craft shops, even better is the coupons that if you time your mass purchases right, you can pick up a whole lot of raw stock for very little.
You will all probably get a digital card this year. I can still personalize it. And while it seems lame to say “print this out at a print store or on your computer.” I think it costs over 3 dollars to mail a card from Switzerland.
Who knows, maybe if any of these sell, I can pay the postage bill to send the cards I can make back to the states and other parts of the globe.
I never understood what the cards mean, as I never really hear from anyone. Then there were two cases where I realized, “keep sending them.”
The first was my Finnish friend. I had never sent anything to Finland before, so I asked if I could send a surprise Xmas card to her mom. So I superimposed her into the image and made the elderly woman’s day.
The next was when I went to help another friend and was shocked to see the cards hanging on the wall. “You actually kept these?”
“Of course I did, they are beautiful.”
Thus, you can understand the bittersweet moment of the day. Some days you just want to keep that really intimate and special think for yourself. The truth is that it probably doesn’t mean much to most, but to the few you connect with – it is worth the time, effort, and seeing all the imperfections of a hand made element versus me uploading files to my printers for perfect cards, books or whatever else people are doing these days.
Tis amazing where the technology is heading and what one can do with software (I am amazed how simple it is getting to use) – but are we getting more creative?
I look out and see social media simply is making it easier for everyone to copy each other. in stead of personal creativity, we have become personal amplifiers with page clicks - sans actual words.
Thus, when you have a good idea. You will come upon some that you just love. Like the simplicity of the photo cards. You do them, not to make money, but because it is a small extension of yourself.
The world wants or seems to think the world is about making money and the accumulation of stuff.
I miss that little café in Paris. The ladies in my two favorite bakeries that taught me en fait la bis! (I guess it is the strange things Americans can do by breaking down social barriers with complete faux pas)
Then there was that old girlfriend. She never got why I just wanted to see her face, have a cup of coffee and say goodbye.
I guess that is just who I am? I have had several people die in my life. Saying goodbye is not a bad thing. There is great beauty in the process of passing along from one life to another. I think about the suicide meal we had a few months ago for the young man that took his life - no one got to say goodbye to him - i don't even know if anyone really knows the reason "why?" Saying "goodbye" gives a space to let the other person know how much you appreciated whatever good or bad they were in your life and visa versa. If someone doesn’t want you in their life – it is simply free will and choice. A moment of finality goes a long way in today's world where we would rather walk away and not deal with it.
Last year i visited an old friend who was shocked one would stop by, "you are brave to see someone like this?"
"What is different inside you today than before you got sick?" was my questions
of course it hurt when i left and blurted out "goodbye." and left. It is what came out, then i felt bad for saying those words as i drove across the country, but, i knew that was the last time i would see my friend alive on this planet.
How does that tile floor fit into all this? There were many times when I reconstructed my friends kitchen floor when I was a bit in panic, there were thousands of pieces, the subfloor was shot, and there really wasn’t the materials to do a great job – just the best I could. When you are putting all the pieces back together, you can’t really see what is going on, it simply looked like a cracked floor.
Then I got to the end and realized I had one tiny piece of floor out of the thousands left. I smiled. It was as if there was a message from above. “You aren’t needed anymore” and I put it in the mail to the old girlfriend and then put the grout on the floor and when I was done, I stood in the doorway and went, “OMG, that is amazing how beautiful this turned out.”
C’est lavie - Back to the cards. May they do some good in helping someone connect with someone else on this small blue planet.