Darian Graivshark's Christmas cards come with a little holiday joy — twice.
Her handmade paper cards are a one-of-a-kind gift in themselves. And then, months later, they offer another gift — wildflowers.
That's right, Graivshark's cards produce flowers from seeds inserted into the paper.
The idea is to plant the entire card. The handmade paper will disintegrate, and the seeds will grow.
Graivshark began her eco-friendly business Phresh Press last March. Before that, she was a reporter for the Gonzales Weekly Citizen and that's where she got the idea.
"I saw all of this paper thrown away each week in the newsroom, and I started thinking of ways that I could recycle it," said Graivshark, who recently taught a class on how to handmake the cards.
She gathered the old paper, recycled it by making paper and turned it into cards for Christmas and other occasions.
"Then I started thinking about ways to repurpose the cards," Graivshark said. "That's when I thought of the seeds."
During the class, Graivshark gave each participant — Barbara Laudun, Tori Gore and Cynthea Corfah — five already-made 7-by-7-inch cards. Their job was to fill the backs with flower seeds and paint holiday greetings on the front.
To make the paper itself would have taken too long, Graivshark said. "It's a time-consuming process."
But she explained the simple process: Shred newspaper and water in a blender; drained off the water and squeeze the newspaper into a ball; pat the ball flat on a wire screen to drain excess water.
"Then I flip them on a paper towel to soak up the extra water and flatten," Graivshark said. "I separate them the next day, and I take them off the paper towels the day after that. Sometimes I speed up the process by blow drying them with a hairdryer, then I cut them into rectangles."
The cards are soft and thick with rough surfaces that enhance the brightness of painted-on designs.
To insert flower seeds, Graivshark showed how to cut small slits in the back of the card with a sharp knife, without going completely through the paper. Into each slit goes a few seeds, and then it's sealed with a drop of water.
Then came the fun part — painting the front.
The rough surface doesn't lend itself to detailed designs, so simpler is better. Laudun, who has a background in interior design, traced on to a paper towel her designs, including a Christmas tree that spelled out "Merry Christmas," a snowman, a Christmas present, some round Christmas tree ornaments and a wreath.
Each was sketched out in simple lines on the card by using a thin, black pen, then painted in bright colors.
"I'm going to bring my cards home and insert the seeds there," Laudun explained. "It'll be easier for me."
Graivshark sells her pre-designed cards for $6 each. She charges $10 for custom cards and pet portraits, and she makes coasters for $5 each.
Each card is individually designed, which requires time. So, an order or 20 cards takes about five days.
Each card comes with seeds and planting instructions.
"I usually tell people to open the card and press it flat before planting it," Graishank said.
And has she actually witnessed flowers growing from her cards?
"I have," she said, thumbing through photos on her phone. "See? I took a picture of them growing from one of my cards last spring."