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Holiday DIY

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By April Wright, Reporter

Paper artist Karen Poe of Hillsville says homemade gifts have saved her hundreds of dollars, and her friends and family have been raving about the personal gifts they receive from her each year—all it takes is paper.

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Sixteen years ago, a friend invited Poe to her home to make gift cards, and she's been doing it ever since.

It started with cards, and now it's notepads, gift boxes, calendars and anything else she can think to do with paper.

“It's amazing how you can make gifts using just paper and change it into what you want,” said Poe, who will be teaching paper arts classes Thursday and Saturday at Chestnut Creek School of the Arts in Galax. “It has become my stress relief and is how I unwind.”

On Thursday, she will teach students how to make homemade cards and notepads. Students will learn how to emboss, layer, use brads to make double page cards and use eyelets punches to create four cards and a notepad.

In another class on Thursday and Saturday, students will learn how to make three different boxes for all-occasion gifts.

Also on Saturday, students will create a personalized book with 12 monthly pages with pockets to hold cards. Students will learn about stamping, chalks, markers, blender pens and aqua painters.

Because homemade gifts are from the heart and not from the department store, it means so much more, she said. Recipients feel more special when someone takes the extra time to make their gifts by hand.

That's not the only reason to create homemade gifts. It can also eliminate some extra Christmas expenses and saves the time spent looking for cards, gifts or gift boxes.

“When you go to Walmart and buy Christmas boxes, you can easily spend about $75,” said Poe. “And most of the time, people are just going to tear the box and throw it away.”

Poe, a staff development director at Southwestern Virginia Training Center and SWVTC Regional Community Support Center coordinator, usually gives about 75 presents to friends and family for Christmas.

For the past 16 years, she's given out homemade cards, notepads, calendars and decorated trinket boxes — made from paper and filled with treats — that people actually keep. She even makes box sets of cards — birthday, sympathy and holiday — and gives them away as Christmas presents.

People appreciate that she's saved them money, as well. "They just love them. When I tell people I made these cards, they're like 'no way,'” she said. Her cards are so detailed, with shiny gold paper and glitter, they almost look store-bought.

“And people are always asking, 'when you going to give out those notepads again.'”

For her daughter's wedding, she designed the wedding invitations, save-the-date cards and wedding shower invites.

“It may cost someone between $300 to $500 on wedding invitations, but it cost me way less — about $75,” she said. “All it took was three hours sitting at the table.”

In order to stay on budget, Poe shops for sales on scrapbook paper and stamps to make her crafts.

Making homemade gifts, she said, comes natural. Before she got into paper crafts, Poe was making pieces of art from polymer clay and designing monogram towels as gifts, she said, pointing to the pink beaded necklace she's wearing, which she also created.

She even made her daughter's bridesmaids' necklaces.

Poe said she's always thinking about what she's going to do next. “When I'm at a craft fair, and I see something I like, I have to make it. I love to make jewelry, paint, make things from paper and stamps.”

Poe, a native of Roanoke and a graduate of Roanoke College and the University of Virginia, moved to the area several years ago, after searching for a place to relocate. She was almost on her way to move to Colorado when she got the call from Southwestern Virginia Training Center she had been waiting on for months.

She has been teaching for 25 years and lives with her husband, daughter and Siamese cats in Hillsville.