Sunday, 18 November 2012

Guest Blogger...Anneke Vliegen

Guest Blogger - Anneke Vliegen

About ten years ago, I used to make cards, but they really focused around photography. I used to love taking pictures, and then put them into aperture cards to sell for charity. To be honest, I only learnt the term aperture during the last year and a half.

That’s the time I have been doing the full-blown card making for, with toppers and embellishment, and a whole new language to boot.

I came across it on facebook. Because over the last twenty years my health has been left to deteriorate with a wrong diagnosis and an absence of decent treatment, I have been virtually completely bed-bound for the last three years or so. Facebook has come to the rescue to broaden the horizons that were closing in on me. I have gotten to know a whole range of people, each with one thing or more in common with me. It was one such person who happened to be running a card swap.

At first I had difficulty getting my head around it. She kept on posting about it, and then started doing an ATC swap as well. When I had a look on the internet exactly what an ATC was, I thought: ‘Well, even I could do that.’

Since then I have this amazing hobby, in which I keep losing myself. I craft in bed, even lying down if necessary. My thoughts now where about what card I am going to make next, instead of all the things I could worry about.

It has opened up a whole new life. I went from making one atc and one card a month, just for the swap, to now trying to make a few hundred to sell for charity within a couple of weeks. If you would like to know more about this latest project, please visit my blog page and please consider helping me out either by buying a few cards or by joining in and selling them.

I still laugh at the thought of my first few attempts. I had to use whatever materials I could find around the house. The theme for the first swap I took part in was cute characters, so I created this hedgehog with toothpicks as prickles and a button for the eye, using the aperture cards I had around anyway. The person who received it still says she appreciates it, but I am so ashamed now, thinking I had it in me to send that in!

One of my Hunkydory Cards
I am on a different level now, I am glad to report. My preference goes to working with toppers and ready-made sentiments, mostly Hunkydory. I love their quality and their shine, sparkle and sheen. The individuality and creativity lies in designing, using different shapes and techniques, and in the embellishments. It is weighing up when a card is finished, whether adding something will help the balance, when to go on and when to stop.

It is the first hobby I have ever had that I have grown so deeply into. I have done all sorts of things over the years, from cross-stitch and jig-saw puzzles, to horse-riding and jiving and all sorts of other things. I have enjoyed all of them, obviously, but this has really gotten me at a much deeper level. That is due to a few different factors.

It is the perfect answer to how to fill those hours that are becoming available to me as my health is starting to improve little by little. If I do anything that is repetitive (like the cross-stitch) the joints I use flare up with inflammation. This activity is very varied in its movements. It is stimulating and challenging and is turning out also to be useful: people actually do like to send and receive handmade cards.

In addition, and much more important, though, there is this beautiful world of crafters I suddenly discovered. It has been an overwhelming experience. What a wealth of warmth and caring, friendship as well as creativity and inspiration. I have been astounded at the kindness. Because of facebook, I rolled from one group into another, and found my place. I felt appreciated and accepted, and was given such encouraging feedback, about my craft which pushed me along nicely on that learning curve, but also on me, on who I am and what I can mean to people. It is an unusual experience, a real eye-opener, a real heart-opener.

My facebook crafty friends got to know more and more about me and my family, the issues we face and the way we have to live. As they did, so many different people started to send me parcels with stock, candy, all sorts of things. How could I do anything else but keep making the cards?! There were so many, and I was so ill that I couldn’t even keep up with sending each and every one of them a thank you. I still feel bad about that. I hope they all know just how much they mean to me!
A couple of cards I made with the
things people sent me

It also kept pushing me out of my comfort zone, as I was being sent goods I had never used before. The least I could do, to feel worthy of all these presents, was find ways to use them productively, and then post them on the net so all these people could see how I  appreciated what they had sent.

It so held my head above water, when I was in hospital and my husband kept bringing in these parcels that had arrived for me. I only ever crafted at home, but the dreaming about it, the mental picture building and design, oh how much that did for me during the worst of times.

A card I have made for Jean
My husband deserves more of a mention. Without him and the driving force he gives me, I doubt I would be as far along the crafting path as I am at the moment. It started with him commenting on how much he saw the light in my eyes whenever I had been at it. He could easily go the other way, considering how much he has to be involved for me to be able to get on with it.
As I started to get better, both in terms of my crafting skills and my health, I felt guilty that I was putting these new bits of energy into what is essentially a leisure activity. Our little six year old boy, who has multiple special needs, and hubby himself deserved for me to put that towards them, either for fun things to do together, or for me to help lighten the load of the housework which is all done by them. But Jean convinced me seeing me so happy and relaxed was worth more to him than anything else I could be doing.

Whenever I want to get started it is up to him to put the whole stash, which keeps on growing all the time, on the bed, next to me where he would normally lie. So then when he comes to bed, he has to put it all away again, or else he would have to find another place to sleep…  He is also the one that takes the photographs for me.

Following other’s examples, I started a blog and began to take part in all sorts of different challenges. And low and behold, I actually won prizes! More stash! More ideas and creativity!
As my makes became more visible on the internet, and with Jean showing my work to absolutely everybody beaming with pride, people started to order cards. How encouraging and affirming that was! Sometimes I am having difficulty keeping up with the orders coming in. It came as a complete surprise to me, and early on as I still very much considered myself a beginner. The most baffling thing was that it just happened without me doing any pr or pushing
Of course this means I can now get some stock in myself, and I am a real push-over when it comes to pick-of-the-days and –weeks, and blockbusters and such. Again, without my husband behind me I would find it so much more difficult to spend that money. But having decent materials and tools makes an enormous difference to what I can produce. I suppose perhaps it was his upbringing with his Mum and sister having a pottery together, and his Dad being equally supportive of their creativity, is what I am reaping the benefits of. 

And of course each time an order has long term benefits. From the moment of putting it together, to looking forward to it being delivered, to going through it all again and again on my own and with Jean and with Anton, to putting it all to good use the joy is obvious and full. They both dream along with me, which makes the discomfort of all this spending almost disappear.

I now run a card swap myself, together with a fantastic little admin team. Please come and join us, it is a swap group for adults and children, and we run internationally. It is such a good way to get to see other people’s work, and move your own boundaries of creativity and learning. It is great fun and challenging, and again what a warm supportive group of friends.

Mushroom card made by Anton, for the chrildren's card swap
The children’s swap too has had its effect on us as a family. Instead of it being a cause for guilt, the crafting has now become a great activity for Anton and me to do together. It is very stimulating and can help him in developing  techniques to overcome his visual disability as well as being extremely good exercise to deal with his dyspraxia. But there is also the social element, and the motivation. Receiving cards from abroad, and sending to children in different countries, who speak different languages is a whole adventure for these little ones!

I am also admin on another craft group Craft-a-Holics Unanimous, and yesterday I received an amazing email. For the very first time ever I was spontaneously asked to be on another admin team, AND play a role in their design team as well! How can I begin to describe quite how much such recognition means to me?! The fact that Debbi and Marleen from Cards Galore fully understand all my limitations and still see fit to ask me to be on their team has touched me deeply. I only hope I can live up to their expectations!


  1. WOW what a thoroughly inspiring person Anneke is. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Wishing you all the luck in the world to you and your family.

    Big Crafty Hugs
    Linda xxxxx

  2. Lovely story and gorgeous makes. xx

  3. Wow Anneke, none of us know what is really going on in each others lives but your story has revealed so much about you and I feel quite humble, you are an inspiration and your hubbie is one special person, love to you all xxxx

  4. Anneke my dear friend, I am always in AWE off your Zest for life and overcoming whatever obstacles get put in your way, Love to YOU, JEAN and ANTON, and may you enjoy for many more years your crafting and your friends xxxxx

  5. A Massive well done Anneke, I was there when you started and have always said I'm so happy and amazed at how far you have developed. Keep up the good work and enjoy.
    Big hugs

    Lynne xxx

  6. Lovely story love all the makes xx


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