Making, sending cards adds a personal touch

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

With the advent of email, social media and other ways to quickly communicate with one another, especially from long distances, the practice of sending cards in the mail has increasingly fallen by the wayside.

However, when you’re looking for that added personal touch to show someone just how much you care—particularly during the holiday season—nothing beats a card.

Suzanne Kaber takes that one step further. She makes her own.

Suzanne grew up on a dairy farm between Froelich and Giard. She married her husband, Terry, in 1972, and they moved to Lancaster, Wis., in 1976 to start their own supper club. Terry was the third generation of the Kaber family who ran Kaber’s in Prairie du Chien. After a fire at the Lancaster restaurant in 1994, Suzanne worked several office jobs until her retirement in 2011. Now, she and Terry live on Suzanne’s family’s farm in Giard.

Over the years, Suzanne said she always enjoyed sewing crafts, but admitted her mother was the most artistic in the family.

“My mother started painting signs in the late 1950s and then advanced into more detailed art of large oil, water color or chalk drawings,” she explained. “When we moved to their home, I found 53 pieces of artwork she’d done over the years—some I had never seen before.”

Her father, who was a skilled carpenter, also had an artistic bent, Suzanne noted.

Suzanne began making cards in 2002, when her older sister sent her a box of rubber stamping ink in every color one could imagine. She’d already acquired some stamps during visits to her sister in Washington.

“Neither one of us did much too elaborate,” Suzanne noted, “but, little by little, I learned new techniques and tried new tools.”

Aside from the rubber stamps and ink, Suzanne said she has an electric die-cutting machine, called a Cricut, that cuts out layers of items using different colors of paper. She also has a hand-cranked “Big Shot” machine for embossing.

“The two combined make fun cards,” she shared. “I’m addicted!”

In the last year, Suzanne began incorporating tatting flowers, which she purchases online from a friend, in her designs. For this, she draws a design on the card, copied from something her mother made, then glues the colored flowers atop the design. 

“I am not the artist my mother was, but I discovered I can stamp some pretty elegant designs and then embellish with the flowers,” she said.

Suzanne said her mother’s artwork, as well as her grandmother’s collection of vintage cards, have influenced her card designs. She also gets some catalogs that offer ideas and has attended several classes.

Most of the time, though, said Suzanne, she just goes down to her basement workroom and waits for inspiration to strike.

“I never have a plan in mind. I just have the cards folded, ready to make,” she added. “It’s really fun, and I like to keep busy. I could probably make 20 in an afternoon.”

She makes everything from birthday, anniversary and sympathy cards to thank you and holiday cards. 

“I love making Halloween cards the best,” she stated.

Most people like the inside of the cards left blank, she remarked, so they can write their own personal notes.

Over the years, Suzanne said she’s acquired regular buyers of her handmade cards, thanks to friends and neighbors showing off her work. 

In 2012, at the urging of Bonnie Anghelescu from Creative Enz Salon and Spa, Suzanne approached the McGregor-Marquette Center for the Arts, whose retail gallery has now been renamed the Left Bank Shop and Gallery, about displaying and selling her cards there.

Four years later, sales remain steady. She regularly updates her selection of greeting cards and has even given some card making demonstrations.

“I love coming to McGregor and the art gallery,” she said. “We have wonderful artists, and it is a great place to buy gifts for your certain friend or relative.”

Suzanne hopes people will continue to enjoy the cards that have brought her so much joy.

“It’s gratifying, when people want certain kinds of cards,” she said. “A personal card just shows you’ve spent time on the person, that you know them and what they like.”

If you’d like to check out any of Suzanne’s handmade cards, they are on display at the Left Bank Shop and Gallery in McGregor, which is open weekends through Dec. 18.

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