Festive Messages

So this year I sent my first batch of Christmas E-CARDS. Christmas e-cards are a ‘thing’.

You might remember I wrote about my research into the current e-card options earlier in the year - whether to go paper or paperless - but I had never actually sent any.

Then a few weeks before Christmas my husband revealed he’d booked us a trip to the Christmas markets in Berlin as a treat. Yay! It was in that moment that I realised I would never be able to get everything done, and that in fact, something had to give. The cards.

A bit flustered and almost out of time to send traditional through-the-post cards to friends and family anyway - especially those living abroad (definitely those living abroad), I decided it was the perfect time to give e-cards a go

Full disclosure - I had some ‘credit’ at Paperless Post due to having featured many of their cards in my earlier post, so with an account all set up and ready to go, it was the easiest option. And it was actually really easy.

You don’t need instructions because once you click on a card, the options just present themselves and you progress through them choosing things like the colour of the envelope and liner, the font and size of your message, and whether you want a background or not. You even get to change the stamp to show postage in your home country - impressive - though I didn’t do it myself (because, time).

I chose this lovely ‘Christmas Square’ scene of skaters in the snow, with a backdrop of foliage and berries. What do you think? I’m always drawn to this kind of vintage-nostalgic image.

Paperless Post Festive e-card

You have the option of sending yourself a ‘test’ version of your design to see how it all looks and to make sure you’re happy with it. I found the process so quick I wanted to make sure I had actually created a personalised card, but I had. Simple.

Then came the hard part: who did I want to send it to and did I have their email addresses?

You can upload email addresses in bulk in various different formats which would be handy for next time or for those more organised than me. I did it line by line and sent 10 cards initially to test out the process.

What I found particularly heartening is a ‘reply’ function that appears automatically, so the recipient can send you a message back. You never normally hear back from sending someone a card (especially to friends and family you hardly see or speak to IRL), so this added an unexpected interactive element to the whole thing which was a pleasant surprise. Who said e-cards are impersonal?

in summary, I would say e-cards are set to become increasingly popular as people lead busier lives and live a more global/nomadic lifestyle. I did feel a nice warm glow from having done something, rather than giving in and doing nothing due to lack of time and missed posting dates; I connected with family members in Dubai and Cape Town, as well as friends down the road. I will definitely do this again. One friend even messaged to say she loved the eco-credentials of my e-card - another fab bonus. Just remember: you’re still only as good as your (email) address book.

So although I saw another friend post on social media that her collection of Christmas cards makes Christmas special - the reliving of special memories while she is writing to a particular person, as well as the joy of receiving cards back, sometimes a trip to Berlin beckons. Maybe I could put this on an e-card?

Festive Market Belrin 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

PS. In the last few years I’ve noticed ‘New Year’ cards becoming a ‘thing’. I’ve only ever sent one to my Mum, because, well because she’s my Mum and I saw the most beautiful card one year that I knew she would love (she did). But it’s not something I want to start with everyone - double the December workload and all that, but I just checked, and there is a whole section for New Year cards. It’s not too late!

Christmas @ Liberty of London 2018

Back in October I had a whirlwind weekend in London, and my first port of call was the Christmas Shop in situ on the 4th floor of Liberty.

The Christmas Shop is a destination in itself, but I also got quite distracted by the interiors floor and all the wild and wonderful creatures on display. I realised right then, I would happily live in the shop.

The soap is beautifully wrapped in patterned paper, the Moroccan rugs transport you as if on a magic carpet ride to a dusty, secret bizarre, and the fabrics - well I could browse those all day, stroking them as if they were special pets. (Yes that’s a tad concerning.)

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

It was all laid out for me like a dream, and due to it being only an hour before closing (one precious hour), it was remarkably quiet to the point I felt like I almost had this wonderland to myself.

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

I loved the winter toadstools, both the wooden version and the metallic-glazed bauble version. They don’t do anything but they do look pretty. I think that’s partly the point of decorations…

There were lots of ‘London’ themed baubles, as you might expect. Corgis, black cabs, the Queen’s Guard, scenes featuring Liberty itself.

I like them but they’re a bit touristy for my taste. I prefer the ice skates and the robins and the more trad Christmas symbols.

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

This cross-stitch stocking deserves a mention because it’s so intricate and gorgeous. I know I would never have the patience (or skills) to complete a project such as this, but I stood to admire it and considered buying the pack for my aunt who adores cross-stitching.

These are the gifts that become a tradition, or rather the Christmas decorations that become heirlooms, unveiled year after year. If someone made me this stocking, it’d definitely be a keeper!

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

And now for the NUTCRACKERS!

It definitely felt it was a ‘Nutcracker Christmas’ this year, with more cards and wrapping paper devoted to this dapper dude than ever before. I really, really wanted one of the musical box versions, but he was rather heavy and we only had carry-on luggage. Next year perhaps.

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

The stockings were lovely though of course I had designs unravelling in my head for my own stockings. Unfortunately I ran out of time this year which was especially disappointing as I’d wanted to make a special stocking for baby Jack. Another to-do for next year’s festive list.

Then came the more exotic baubles. The fruits and festive jumpers (never seen any like that before), the vodka and rum bottles and the inevitable Day of the Dead skulls. I like them well enough at Halloween but I’m not sold on these for Christmas. Am I getting old and boring? Probably!

One thing I do know - Gisela Graham really has Christmas sewn up doesn’t she? I mean, is there anywhere or anything that she has not conquered for Christmas?

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

I think my overall favourite was this gorgeous peacock, perfectly poised and perched amidst the boxed delights. I love the deep turquoise with the gold and green. There is even a fairy + a brace of pheasants to coordinate too!

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

Overall it was the best Friday night I’ve had in ages, wandering the rows of glittery offerings, the baubles in baskets and bowls, the twinkling lights and the life-sized deer/stag. A very special place indeed.

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

A Christmas Gift

December has been a busy month, and I can't believe I've not posted anything here since the 1st, but I'm not going to beat myself up about it. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of Christmas preparation: meeting friends, writing and sending cards, wrapping presents and thinking about the festive feast that is almost upon is.

It's also the Season of Gifts in the Get Messy art journal group that I'm part of; the idea being to give yourself the 'gift of time' to invest in and on creativity at this busy and often stressful time of year.

I've managed a few pages but nothing more.

A Christmas GiftSo now the time is finally here to relax and nurture the self, and I'm going to commit to it wholly. It doesn't feel selfish, it feels well-deserved.

I'm giving myself the gift of time to create, draw, write, stitch, stick, glitter and gesso. There's a Christmas jigsaw waiting for me too; a Christmas tradition I always love between me and my Mum.

I read a quote a few weeks ago that really spoke to me: PRESENCE not PRESENTS. I think that sums up how I feel about 'the silly season'. There is no better gift than the finite resource of time.

What's your gift to yourself? Make time. Make it special.

Merry Christmas to one and all x

Christmas gifts in a woodland forest

(Visit my Christmas archive for previous festive inspiration and a story of hope!)

Holly Leaves Watercolour Sketch

I haven't drawn in years, but I loved art at school. A few months ago I bought some watercolour pencils in the sale. And today I finally got them out.

Holly Leaf Sketch

I was inspired by the holly leaves on so many Christmas cards and on tins and wrapping paper, so I quickly sketched out this holly leaf and it's lovely bright red berries.

I'd wanted to sketch the autumn leaves and twigs and toadstools, but time just seemed to slip away. Today I had 23 minutes left before the washing machine finished its cycle, and so I just thought I'd have a go. And that's how long it took.

It's not perfect and I'm out of practice, but I intend to do more.

Update- I've since used this single motif in a surface pattern repeat:

Ditzy Holly (White) Surface Pattern Design

Nothing is ever wasted when it comes to creative work!

Handmade Christmas Decorations

On Monday I wrote an article on my writing blog about 'heirloom Christmas baubles', and the types of decorations that are special to me. The comments I got mentioned handmade Christmas decorations, which of course make the most personal and special.

Amongst my own decorations I found this slightly battered Christmas tree, crafted in tartan and felt, that I made for my Mum when I was at primary school.

Handmade Christmas Tree Decoration

I remember queuing up to get the teacher to thread the needle for me when I couldn't, and I remember the weeks of sewing class it took to finish this homemade masterpiece. I remember it all so vividly, yet I was only about 6 or 7 years old.

The stitches are uneven and highly visible, and it could do with a bit more stuffing, but it was handmade with love and my Mum treasured it for all these years, until it has worked its way back to me.

Let's celebrate the wabi-sabi of visible stitches and be inspired to choose handmade over mass-produced.

Those stitches may be wonky, but they've lasted over 25 years!

What you making for Christmas? What similar 'masterpieces' are brought out each year and celebrated for their very imperfections?