REVIEW: House of Cards

Front cover over the book House of Cards

I always see the most original and beautiful handmade cards in gift shops, so I know that they exist, yet for some reason when I think ‘handmade cards’ my mind conjures up all kinds of old-fashioned nastiness. When I initially heard about ‘House of Cards: Step-by-Step Projects for Beautiful Handmade Greetings Cards’, I didn’t have high hopes. I need not have worried because Sarah Hamilton and her fellow contributing artists demonstrate how to banish 'naff' homemade cards and instead create professional-looking little pieces of art you can be truly proud of.

Internal iamge taken from House of Cards showing examples of silk screen printed cards by Sarah Hamilton

How this book differs from many craft project books is that it has a bit more meat to it, with the first part of the book giving you all kinds of interesting information to read before you even contemplate getting your Pritt Stick out. We begin with an introduction from Sarah, followed by a brief history of the greetings card by Jakki Brown (co-owner and editor of Progressive Greetings Worldwide magazine). Sarah then continues talking you through ways to find inspiration and offers six great tips to help you stay creative. There are eight top tips for selling your cards from the book’s contributors, as well as advice on how to license your designs by Jehane Boden Spiers of Yellow House Art Licensing. There is a word on what it is like to represent yourself by Jessica Hogarth, and a short piece on what it is like to work on a Christmas card design for a charity by David Oakes. 

Internal image from House of Cards showing examples of handmade cards

After taking you through a basic card making tool kit, the second part of the book introduces you to the actual projects. There are ten projects in total, each contributed by a different artist/designer, each specialising in a different skill. What is quite lovely about this section of the book is that you are introduced to each artist/designer behind the project, learning a little of their background, where they work, their tools and techniques and how they find inspiration. I can sometimes find books filled with one project after another a bit monotonous, so I found reading each individual’s story really interesting - this made me feel more connected to the contributor and their project. 

The techniques featured in the book are:
Silk Screen Printing – Sarah Hamilton
Decoupage – Lynn Giunta
Papercutting – Sarah Morpeth
Linocut Printing – Sam Marshall
Found Objects – Kirtsy Elson
Collage – Gabriela Szulman
Handstitch Art – Lucy Featherstone
Digital Illustration – Jessica Hogarth
Textile Foiling – Anna Jackson
Letterpress Printing – Kathryn Hunter 

Internal image taken from House of Cards showing Decoupage by Lynn Giunta

Each project is written clearly in numbered steps and accompanied by clear supporting photographs; at the end of each set of instructions we are also shown more examples of the contributor’s work. I think the range of techniques included is a huge selling point for this book, for anyone that feels like they would like to be more creative but doesn’t know where to begin, or what techniques they would enjoy, then these projects are a fabulous starting point as they are fairly straight forward but still of a very high standard.

For the more seasoned crafter (having been round the creative block myself a few times), there is still enough to inspire new interests. I found myself drawn in a couple of new directions; I never thought I would have an interest in decoupage, but seeing Lynn Giunta’s bright, contemporary designs has made me reconsider. I’ve also always assumed that silk screen printing wasn’t something I could do at home, leaving it behind in college workshops years ago – but Sarah’s project has rekindled my interest.

Internal image from the book House of Cards showing silk screen printing - photo by James Balston
(Photo by James Balston)

I love Sarah Morpeth’s “Family of Deer” papercutting project! Having created papercut pieces on numerous occasions, I know it isn’t the technique for me, but I love the finished result and have tremendous respect for papercut artists, it looks simple but it is blinkin’ hard work! 

It was also great to see a digital project included, we all like to get our hands dirty and make things, but so much work can be enhanced or adapted with the help of a bit of software. Coming from a background in graphic design I take for granted that I know how to scan things into Photoshop or Illustrator and alter them, but I do sometimes wonder what I would do now if I hadn’t taken that route, when I rely on those skills so heavily. I think it is definitely something that should be shared with artists and crafters but which is often overlooked. 

All of the techniques included are fairly accessible and easy to do at home, apart from the final project “Camper Adventure”, which introduces the reader to the art of Letterpress Printing. Even though it isn’t as accessible, I think it is great that it has been included – it is such a beautiful craft; the instructions explain not only how it works, but also what equipment you will need to find (or get permission to use) in order to give it a try, (a list of suppliers at the back of the book suggests places where you can find more information on access to letterpress supplies and equipment).

Internal image from House of Cards showing a collage by Gabriela Szulman

It is obvious to me how much time has been spent putting this book together, it has been so well thought out. It isn’t just a bunch of projects similar to those you have seen in other craft books, it has more detail, more background, more focus (I don’t recall ever seeing any other craft project book offering an insight into licensing). Sure you can use it as a rainy day project book if you desire, but the real aim is to encourage you not merely to copy a project and just learn a technique, but to learn a whole creative process. It gently urges you to find your own voice, to have fun, experiment and create your own designs. Then once you are feeling confident with your own creative endeavours, you have useful information at hand to help turn your creativity into an income, taking your art one step further. It is an accessible and inspirational book and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it as an essential read to a beginner and an interesting read even to the most seasoned crafter.


House of Cards by Sarah Hamilton
All photographs by Kristy Noble (apart from the photograph by James Balston)

Publishd by Pavilion Books
RRP: £14.99

ISBN-10: 1910904570
ISBN-13: 978-1910904572

All images © Pavilion Books