Enjoying a hot cuppa – 2015 Christmas cards

For a while now I’ve been wanting to do a black and white Christmas card – something that works well conceptually with that kind of art, and would also be relatively easier/faster to draw and set up.

With the tight schedule I had this year of work, going to Japan for TCAF in Tokyo (something I still need to do a more proper write up on!) followed nearly immediately after by a guest lecture and Bit Bazaar XL, it was a busy time as usual. So I decided this would be the year to do it!

Inspiration and format

My workplace recently moved to a bigger space with a nice little kitchen, and I’d taken to loose leaf teas at the office. However, I’d frequently get busy with emails and work, and leave my glass next to the boiling kettle. My amazing coworkers would frequently top up my glass or even bring it back to me at my desk, leading me to exclaim, “thank you, tea fairy!” This was the idea behind the card!

Sketchbook drawings of card ideas and NowRecharging.com doodles from Tokyo trip

On the long flight to Tokyo, I started doodling ideas for a Winter Tea Fairy card. I thought it’d be adorable to include a single tea bag with it. Above are the sketches from the flight (alongside some doodles of Emmie the android from Now Recharging demonstrating some of the things I was up to in Japan).

Originally I thought I’d use the basic 1 page zine format, but while I was at some Tokyo events (I think Design Festa, but not sure now … everything is starting to blur!) I saw some simply printed promotional papers that did a simple 1 page gate fold. The gate fold allows you to have a bit of a “surprise!” or reveal punchline type feature. It was a format I had seen before, but completely forgot about because most of the work I do doesn’t really require something like that. But it works really well for cards!

Pile of flat artwork on top of Cuterpillar Crop rotary paper trimmer

To keep the format small, cute and similar to the size of a tea bag, I did them two up on 8.5 x 11″.

Boxes of President's Choice Mulled Apple Herbal Tea on bookshelf

I also asked my mom the tea guru to suggest some good teas that come in individually packaged satchets. President’s Choice Mulled Apple seemed like a great option – this brand is known for good quality stuff, the mulled apple flavour totally smells like the festive season, and each bag has the complete ingredients list printed on the back for people who need to worry about that!


Below are some photos of work in progress trimming and folding. Thank heavens I worked in black and white only for the art – it’s so much easier to scan and clean and fix things. For example, at one point I realized my tea fairy didn’t look particularly wintry, so I redrew it to have earmuffs and a little scarf.

The ease of working with the brush pen lineart really helped to balance out the labour-intensiveness of the assembly.

Pile of folded cards in progress

There were so many little cards I stuffed them into a box to avoid losing track or damaging them. It probably also helped to compress them a little.

Finished cards neatly organized in a box

Finally, my sis kindly lent me some twine, and I bought some matching persimmon envelopes from the Paper Place and bundled it all together~! I did my greetings with a variety of gold markers and pens (mostly because one would start to run out …)

Example of a completed card packaged with the teabag and tied with twine, on top of persimmon coloured envelope with metallic gold marker

Here’s the complete card and how it works, counter clockwise starting from the top left. At the end it opens completely to a drawing of a fat teapot, where I can write the recipient’s name and a little note.

Completed card - folded, open, and hidden art/message area revealed


Minor quibble – I didn’t realize until well after completing all my cards and mailing most of them off that I had swapped two of the illustrations when imposing my art. It makes a bit more sense (in my mind, anyways) to pair “rich roasted” with the tall paper tea cup and “classic notes” with the fancy tea cup, which is how I originally planned the wording and illustration pairings. But the sentiment is all there, and in some ways this is probably a better balance just visually speaking. This is what happens when you juggle too many things at once – you catch some things and miss others!

One more issue that I discovered with this card: by stacking the tea bag and the card and tying them together, the package ended up being just a tad too thick to pass as a standard lettermail, which in the world of Canada Post meant that this at least doubled the cost of mailing each card. Argh! If I had thought about it more, I probably could’ve saved myself some money by putting the card and the tea bag side by side, but at that point everything was tied and sealed and I just had no more time. In the future, I’ll be more mindful … and probably just stick to flat cards :(

All in all, it was fun little project. I hope the tea fairy got to everyone safe and sound, and that everyone enjoyed the visit!

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