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Christmases past captured in vintage handmade cards

December 5, 2011

Special to the Standard

NORTH KINGSTOWN – Elizabeth Donovan, community outreach director for the North Kingstown Free Library, has a special tradition: each year she gets out the collection of homemade Christmas cards she’s made and received over the course of decades and enjoys them all over again.
“I love taking them out,” she says. “It’s a lot of fun.”
This year she is sharing a sampling of these seasonal greetings – artifacts from a time when people took time to create personal cards for special friends and relatives.
The display, called “The Art of the Christmas Card,” arranged in glass cases on the main floor and in the stairway leading down to the reference area, contains items made by Donovan, her nephew who is a graduate student at the University of Southern California-Berkley, former library director Susan Aylward and several professional artists.
Among them is Linda Greenall, an artist from Carolina, R.I.
“She and I met once,” Donovan explains, “but we’ve exchanged handmade cards every year.” Greenall’s are pen-and-ink drawings created under the name “Noah’s Art.”
The unique piece made by Donovan’s nephew Jake Brunkard is a geodesic ball made of sections of vintage Christmas cards. Aylward’s contributions are multi-faceted fold-out cards in which each section tells a story. The beautiful greetings by Peggy Henderson, a member of the Wickford Art Association, are reproduced from oil paintings.
Among the pieces that have special meaning for Donovan is a colored-pencil card made more than 20 years ago by her stepfather, the artist Ralph Puziello.
Pieces that Donovan created, she notes, “reflect where I was living at the time.” Those include a street scene featuring St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and a gingerbread detail from the front entrance of a Victorian home on Pleasant Street.
Besides the selection of others’ holiday notes – noted artist Will McCarthy has several studies of Father Christmas – there are 31 examples of cards Donovan made over a 40-year span.
The stairwell display includes books on making cards using a number of methods including rubber stamping and nearby is a book inviting visitors’ comments. So far, they include “Beautiful”, “Inspiring” and “Remembering the good old days.”
“When I was putting it up,” Donovan says of the exhibit, “quite a few people talked to me.”
“The Art of the Christmas Card” will be on display through December.

Martha Smith is an award-winning journalist and author. Retired, she is an independent contractor for SRIN and can be reached at

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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