Why can’t E-day be V-day?

embroidered pop-up valentine
There’s a wonderful chain reaction that happens when something beautiful that someone else has created and shared sets off a string of your own creative sparks. Mini-eco’s pixel heart pop-up sort of did that for me, yesterday. After making the wood-burned valentine card, I had the idea of using embroidery on the same design, so I made this card next.

I cut and scored the card like before, but before popping it up I used a pencil to draw the design (including a small grid of lines in the center for the cross-stitched part…the squares aren’t very regular or precise, but who cares? Not me. 🙂 ) Then I used a bookbinding awl to punch the needle holes, and stitched the design up with 3 strands of DMC stranded embroidery cotton. The whole thing took an hour.
embroidered pop-up valentineSo then I was hooked, right? Because when the gratification is so quick in coming, I can grow an obsession in moments. I got started on a third version of this valentine card (Hey! How about a card where the pop-up has pop-ups?) but didn’t finish because Kris reminded me that I was going to work early the following morning, and I reluctantly put the tools away. But I want to pick up where I left off, this Saturday, and make as many of these versions of Kate’s card as I can think of.

For a mad moment last night, sitting in the dark with my last cigarette before bed, I even wondered “Why can’t Every Day be Valentine’s Day?” and started to think I could make one valentine a day (not just mini-eco’s already much-too-abused pixel heart pop-up design, but all sorts of valentines) for a year, just to see what that might feel like; just to see what focusing on love and friendship everyday for a year—and then sending those 365 love messages out to people—would do.

Life might explode like some amazing hundred-year-rains desert flower. The world might turn over in their dreams, and sigh with love in their sleep. I might get nothing but lazy Facebook messages back: “Hey, Nat, thanks for the heart, soooooo super cute! OMG!” Or nothing at all might happen. Silence. No reaction. Hmm…either way, it’d be an interesting project, no? Maybe the day I get put into a retirement home, that’s what I’ll do for the rest of my time on earth. That and scare children.

Valentine 2005 by Marian Bantjes,
Valentine 2005 by Marian Bantjes,

All of this reminds me of something that the amazing designer, typographer, writer and illustrator Marian Bantjes does on a fairly regular basis. If you aren’t familiar with Bantjes’ work, I highly recommend a visit to her website…this woman is amazing! Her ideas are original and playful…her projects are sometimes wacky, sometimes elegant, but they are always poetic and, in the case of her personal Valentines projects, downright romantic.

I love that she still does a lot of hand-drawn design, lettering, and illustration. I love that there is nothing on the planet that she will not explore in a playful way to create something beautiful and striking (her pixel patterns made with sugar cubes for Stefan Sagmeister, for example.) I love that she only does work that she loves, now…

“She started working as a book typesetter in 1984 and opened her own design firm in 1994 employing up to 12 people. In 2003, she left all of that behind to begin an experiment in following love instead of money, by doing work that was highly personal, obsessive and sometimes just plain weird…”

This is a sample of the 150 hand-drawn Valentines she made in 2007; since then Bantjes has transformed Valentine’s Day into her very own ritualistic way of using her design skills to connect with the people in her life. Her Valentines 2008, Valentines 2009, Valentines 2010, Valentines 2011, and Valentines 2012 are each worth a look. My personal favorite is 2009’s 4 fragments of love letters, in beautiful handwritten calligraphy, that start and end in the middle of a really romantic, loving message…the sort of passionate writing that anyone would want to receive, really…and Bantjes’ recipients will probably spend the rest of their lives sighing over the missing beginning and end parts of the ‘love letter’.

“150 Valentines” by Marian Bantjes, 2007. Pen and ink hand-drawn designs.

6 thoughts on “Why can’t E-day be V-day?

  1. Commence swooning.
    Around Christmas time I attempted to create the pixel Christmas tree cards for my loved ones and was frustrated by the whole experience–i constantly cut lines that should have been folds. sigh. Anywho, I love how you adapted the project and incorporated embroidery. I’m sure anyone would be more than glad to receive one of your valentines..I say do it! If anything, you can be sure that at least two people will look forward to seeing you share them.


  2. Nat! Love, love, love what you do. And don’t try and talk me out of adoring you this time, it just won’t do. 🙂 Happy Valentines Day! When you start your worthy quest of 365 V-day cards, I’d love to try it out with you. Can’t think of a better way to spend retirement. You truly are a graphic designer at heart aren’t you? I’m also a huge fan of Marian Bantjes – a fellow Canadian who is living out my dream after quiting and starting all over again from a cozy cabin situated on the gulf islands. If only one day I could become good enough to work with the likes of Stefan Sagmeister too (another bright star). I own Marian’s book “I Wonder” which I’m pretty sure you’d go ga-ga over if you haven’t already. Hope you had a great Valentines Day.


    1. Oh, very well, you may fall down and worship me, Dana. And kiss my toe. No, not that one, the little one, that’s it…

      I suspect it’s probably easier than you think to become “good enough”…I sense a lot of weight in her words “doing work that [is] highly personal, obsessive…” That’s probably the secret, right there, for all to see. Those quirky little ideas that appeal to just yourself, taking no one’s brief into account, that you pursue for your own personal happiness and satisfaction. And being obsessive about it…sparing no effort, time, nor physical health in the pursuit—taking it so many levels beyond what is reasonable or sane that it really stands out as the work of some mad genius. And voila, you have an amazing project that tells the world “Everything I do, I do for Love.” True romantics are totally self-devouring, immoderate nutcases. 🙂
      I AM attracted to graphic design, but avoided it because I thought it would mean less of my own creativity, trying to please philistines and do boring things for banks and other conservative clients. But I worked very young as a digital typesetter for my family’s printing press, so I guess you’re onto something. It’ll never happen, though. I will never learn Photoshop or Indesign. Heh.


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