Friends and family will probably never get a commercial greeting card from Shannon Bielke. She can't remember the last time she bought one.
Bielke, who began her adult life with plans to be an artist, has four children, so, she said, she had no time to really devote to art "per se" -- until she started making cards.
It is something she has been doing for about 15 years, far ahead of the wave of current popularity for the craft.
"It was a way to tap into a creative outlet when so much is going on around you with four children," she said.
Her cards were such big hits with her family and friends, she started selling them at the Country Cottage store (in Mario's Borgata), which has since closed.
With the rise in popularity of paper crafts in recent years materials have become much more accessible.
"You can use anything and everything, include special mementos to make a card even more personal and go your own way."
Bielke said she never has a plan for any of the cards she makes. She just decides what she is going to use -- sometimes it is just scraps of materials laying around or something that has been tucked away in her supplies for awhile -- and who and what the card is for.
The card she submitted to the magazine Stampers Sampler was a card she made for a friend who had lost a loved one.
"I lost my brother when I was younger, so I knew what she was going through, how alone you are after all the hubbub is gone," Bielke said. "I just wanted her to know I understood and we were there for her."
The magazine can be purchased at Paper & Metal Scrappers, 804-B N. Beeline Highway, Payson. It has pages and pages of stamping projects.
Bielke said the card she submitted was the first time she had sent something to the magazine, but she knows many people who make submissions.
"They get lots of entries, so I'm honored they selected mine," she said.
She made the submission about three months ago. "You never know if you're going to be included until the magazine shows up in the mail. When mine did, I said ‘I didn't order this' -- but then I saw it said ‘Artist Issue' and that was nice."
Bielke is a frequent customer at Paper & Metal Scrappers and has taught card-making classes for the shop. She participates in the store's card swap program where each person makes 10 cards using the same theme, then trades them with the others in the group.
She said someone interested in learning to make cards should stop by Paper & Metal Scrappers and see what's available. But what they end up creating needs to be something they want to do and a way to express themselves.
"These people are lovely," she said of store owners Brenda Martell and Barb Wilembrecht. "They'll teach you anything and have all the materials."
Since she started visiting Paper & Metal Scrappers on a regular basis, Bielke has found a new favorite paper craft. She loves to make "minibooks" which are small, generally single-subject photo albums with all kinds of special touches.
One she made -- she calls it the "Grandma Book" -- is on display at the shop as an example.