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The Homemade Card 

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The simplest gifts are often the most meaningful. Consider the homemade card. With just a few materials from around the house or from nature — and a little imagination — kids can create a greeting that will put a smile on a friend's face, or make Grandma and Grandpa swoon.

We asked local art educators and card makers for tips on creating stand-out greetings — for the holiday season, or just because.

"I love cards because they're tangible. You can hold them in your hands, tack them on your walls or fridge or even frame them," says Scout's Honor Paper founder Annemarie Buckley. She's been selling homemade cards since she was a kid — in lieu of lemonade, she says. "They show the recipient that you spent time thinking about them and that you care," she explains. "In a sea of fleeting, and often deleted, texts and emails, this can mean so much."

Recycle old items.

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"Keep a few containers of potential treasures on hand," says Maggie Standley of Wingspan Studio in Burlington. Bottle tops, old maps, packaging labels, buttons and used envelopes are all great materials to reuse.

Draw from nature.

Go on an outdoor walk to collect flowers, leaves and other organic materials to affix to your card, says Standley. Try squishing and rubbing geranium petals or grass on paper to make natural pigment.

Personalize it.

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Create a monogrammed card by making a large drawing of the first letter in the recipient's name, suggests Standley. Brainstorm other things that start with that letter and decorate the card with images of those things. For example, Grandma might get a card with pictures of gorillas and Gandhi. Or create a collaged portrait of the card recipient.

Stamp with veggies and paint.

Use cookie cutters to cut raw potato slices into festive shapes, suggests Becca McHale from the newly opened ONE Arts Center in Burlington. For more complex rose- or mum-like floral prints, experiment with cabbages, celery, radicchio and endive. Try carrots with the tips trimmed off, okra or cranberries for smaller stamps.

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Make it sparkle.

Use blue and green watercolors to create a simple landscape of water and mountains, says Finnie Trimpi, programming director of ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret. Embellish a small detail — like a sun or the horizon line — with glitter.

Cut and paste.

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For a clean finish, preschoolers and older kids can decorate a large piece of paper. Cut out the most interesting parts and glue them to prefolded card stock, leaving a half-inch border as a frame, suggests Trimpi.

Borrow from the best.

Really little kids can't make their own cards. But you can cut and collage pieces of their art work into new shapes — the way children's book author Eric Carle does in his illustrations, says early childhood educator and mom of two Heather Duhamel.

Other Things to Consider:

Envelopes are a great way to add additional color, says Buckley. If the card is a painting, the envelope is the wall color.

Wrap your card in newspaper or magazine pages, topped with a string or yarn bow to elevate the card to a unique work of art, says Standley.

Cards aren't just for special occasions. Give them "when friends or family need a little encouragement or you just want to say hello," says Buckley. "Celebrating the everyday is unexpected and can be even more meaningful."

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