We love handmade valentines. Every year, we trawl the internet searching for inspiration, then we get to work on the 30+ tokens of affection each of my girls needs for her class and neighborhood friends. Ava and Mira each choose their own project, then I help modify it to match the materials we have on hand. Crafty Crow is our first stop (it’s hard to beat the collection of links compiled there) unless the girls have come up with ideas out of the blue of their own imaginations.
This year, we got lucky at Crafty Crow. Mira chose these butterflies from Aesthetic Outburst, using pencils instead of lollipops for their bodies (OK, I made that choice; since her sister’s class had banned candy in valentines, it only seemed fair to make it a family-wide restriction).
Her favorite part was unfolding each rainbow Rorschach paper, exposing the symmetrical mash-up of paint inside. We used some old card stock I had on hand, earthy paper with rather pronounced grooves that gave the finished pieces an Ikat sort of feel when the paint was thick enough to line up and travel in the paper’s channels.
We glued a pair of googly eyes onto each pencil, just below the eraser, stamped and signed the back of each butterfly then assembled them and put them all into a basket for transport to school. I did the butterfly cutting since our paper was thick and we needed over 30 of them – That was too much cutting for 1st grade hands!
Ava chose these painted newspaper hearts from You Are My Fave and things started out well. We had some lovely concentrated liquid watercolors in a muffin tin, one color per depression, but our watercolors and our newspaper just didn’t mix well. The colors appearing under Ava’s paintbrush were much more muddy and gray than those in the beautiful photos that had caught her eye.
I checked our recycling bin for other paper options and came across a local phone directory, the sort that shows up unbidden in our mailbox or on our porch a few times a year. That absolutely drives me crazy, and I’ve signed up with the national Yellow Pages Opt-Out website, but that doesn’t apply to independent local directories like the one I found in our bin this day. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the newsprint of the phonebook was more robust than the newspaper we had, just the sort of paper Ava needed. We tried some watercolors on the first page, then some watered-down acrylic paints left over from Mira’s rainbow Rorschach butterflies.
The acrylic was perfect, producing rich colors that were still translucent enough for the print to show through. There is perhaps some interesting symbolism in giving your valentine a heart filled with colorful local phone numbers, but that didn’t matter a whit to Ava.
She used the watercolors to flood rectangles of watercolor paper with fields of fuzzy color, then we worked together to rubber cement hearts cut from the phonebook pages on top of each watercolor.
Both girls were delighted with the process of creating these and with their finished valentines. I helped out with their classroom parties (I signed myself up to bring in the zero waste party supplies and chicken buckets), so I was there when their classmates were opening up their Valentine’s Day mailboxes and sorting through their haul of friendly love. It makes me happy to see this tradition carrying on, to see that today’s kids are just as happy with paper creations as my sisters and I were. There are some things that digital life and mass-production just can’t replace.