Baltimore Clayworks artist Mary Cloonan makes Valentine jewelry… (Algerina Perna, Baltimore…)
You're smitten with your valentine, but not with the idea of a mass-produced card or a pricey trinket. Then why not give the objection of your affection a handmade gift?
While crafting was once the domain of your grandmother, these days do-it-yourself projects are hip and retro-chic.
And thanks to such popular websites as Etsy — a marketplace for handmade and vintage items — and fun reads like Suzie Williams' "The Complete Book of Retro Crafts," it's now a cinch to go "crafty."
And there's sentimental value.
"The 21st century affords us much more in terms of avenues for expression," says Whitney Sherman, an illustrator who heads the master's program in illustration practice at Maryland Institute College of Art. "Art that conveys a message or tells a story," she says, "tells the story of our lives."
Just in time for Valentine's Day, we have assembled a group of local experts to help you create cards, floral displays, clay beads and other objects that can be tailor-made for your sweetheart.
So why not embrace your inner Martha Stewart or Nate Berkus? Use your imagination to craft a personalized Valentine that comes straight from the heart.
Greetings and readings
Experts: Students at Maryland Institute College of Art
Project: Valentine cards
Lisa Perrin and Aehee Shin are in MICA's master's program in illustration practice, which prepares artists to meld their artistic and business abilities and blend media in new cultural contexts.
In a sunlit studio on the campus, they're making an array of Valentine's gifts and eating pink and red M&Ms, amid lots of laughter.
Perrin has fashioned a pop-up card. The object placed on the pop-up can be any number of things — such as a paper cutout of a heart.
"It's simple but pretty," says Perrin, 23, a Long Island, N.Y., native whose work focuses on history, fashion, nature and fairy tales.
Shin, on the other hand, has gone high-tech, using her computer and smartphone to make a simple video or text that can be translated into a QR code — those black squiggly squares you've probably seen in product ads. The "quick response" codes are similar to a barcode and can be scanned.
"The QR codes can be used to plan a treasure hunt," says the 25-year-old illustrator and author, who was born in Oklahoma but moved to Seoul, South Korea, at age 5.
Shin integrates the codes into cute doll-like characters on greeting cards. Each one will lead to a Valentine's Day text message or video that can be posted online via YouTube. "Give it a try — it's fun."
Flowers from the heart
Expert: Carla Feigley, floral designer, Fleur de Lis Florist, Baltimore
Project: Nosegay floral bouquet
Inside Fleur de Lis, a fragrant little shop in downtown Baltimore, owner Christine Rubin and floral designer Carla Feigley specialize in custom arrangements that evoke love and romance.
"Most of our clients are brides," says Feigley. "And of course, it's busy around Valentine's Day, with men and women buying flowers for sweethearts and their mothers."
To celebrate the day, Feigley is making an old-fashioned nosegay, a tiny handheld bouquet.
She has come up with several designs: a cheery yellow bouquet of ranunculus, baby green hydrangea, daffodils and lily grass; a "beau" bouquet with dark red roses and anemones accented by a hint of eucalyptus; and a Ravens-inspired nosegay with tulips, hyacinth and anemones in hues of purple.
"You can adorn the bouquets with a jeweled brooch or feathers, or attach it to a bottle of champagne," she says. "Or add a black satin bow, and it resembles a tuxedo."
The nosegay can be presented with a vase or without; if you prefer the former, the shop carries small red glass vases with phrases like "Kiss Me."
Expert: Carla David, graphic designer, Say Cheese! Paper Props, Savage
Project: Paper props and banners
On any given day at her boutique in Savage Mills, graphic designer Carla David can be found constructing intricate paper goods that resemble fine art.
While wedding invitations and other custom projects make up much of her business, David recently launched Say Cheese! Paper Props to offer paper paraphernalia with a sense of humor.
"Some of the things we do that would be great for Valentine's Day are lips, banners with X's and O's, hearts and the word 'love' on a stick," says the owner of Carla David Design, who studied at Southern Adventist University. "They're great conversation starters."
David uses the computer and specialized machines to create and cut out her designs. But folks at home can use scissors to yield similar results, she says.
A fun project is to create a "hand prop," a message for your valentine that attaches to a stick they can hold. The props look like a mask that people carry for masquerade parties, but they can be made into all sorts of shapes like hearts, a mustache or even letters.
"I like using different colors and shimmery paper to make it unique," says the designer. "You can do this in 10 minutes."