Crafting home sentiments: Illustrator brings warmth through greeting cards
DIMAPUR — A native of Kachai Thikhor village in Ukhrul district, Manipur, illustrator and card-maker Thingminao Horam, has been weaving emotions into her creations. Unlike conventional cards flooding the market, Horam’s designs are rooted in her surroundings, reflecting the essence of home.
During the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown, Horam found herself back in her native village, grappling with financial constraints and a longing for connection. As the festive season approached, she wanted to send out Christmas cards to friends and thought it would be lovely to craft them herself.
The result? A collection that resonates with the simplicity and beauty of her surroundings — pine trees, cones, fireplaces and the traditional ‘meiphu (a traditional space heater).’
Soon after, ‘Springminao’ was born on Instagram, with the mission to revive the charm of exchanging personalised greeting cards.
Horam also returned to the JNU campus in Delhi and transformed her hostel room into a creative haven. Armed with a photo printer and a vision, she immersed herself in illustrating designs, formatting them into greeting cards and handcrafting envelopes, documenting and sharing the creative process on her Instagram page.
Horam’s cards are more than just illustrations as they encapsulate feelings of warmth and nostalgia. The ‘meiphu’ and enamel cup cards, in particular, struck a chord with clients who found echoes of home in these designs.
“Almost every home has a meiphu, and the family is huddled around it during winters. I wanted to convey this warmth of family and home with this card, and I’m glad it resonates with people,” she said reflecting on some of the messages she received from clients.
The enamel cup card, inspired by Christmas traditions in her village, transcended geographical boundaries. The cups were common in every household and were used to serve tea during community gatherings. Messages poured in from Nagaland and Mizoram, with people sharing that they, too, use similar cups in their villages. It became a reminder of shared experiences and hometown nostalgia for many.
After illustrating the meiphu and enamel cup, she wanted to capture specific feelings or emotions through her art. In 2021, she incorporated pine cones and pine needles in her cards, drawing inspiration from her Christmas experiences in the village. Recalling the tradition of foraging for pine cones to adorn Christmas trees, she aimed to evoke memories of Christmas in various villages.
In one of her Christmas cards, is a charming illustration featuring a village church. According to Horam, there are three small hamlets in her village, each with its own church. She decided to depict her own picturesque church with a tin roof and wooden walls, perched on a hill above a small hamlet with 17-20 households. Her intention was to convey the charming aesthetics of a small church on a hill, capturing the essence of its unique charm.
Horam’s artistic journey faced challenges, from the scarcity of paper varieties in Imphal to her unfamiliarity with graphic design software. However, these obstacles did not deter her. She turned to YouTube for guidance to put her equipment together and also did her own research after moving back to Delhi. She visited paper dealers, and eventually secured the ideal printable textured paper along with an envelope maker.
Horam shared that she is still not familiar with the software used for digital painting, formatting the cards but exuded confidence in her ability to learn and adapt. “I still don’t know how to use any of the other software. I wish I knew more about graphic design. But I like this rather long process of making my cards. I can do it all in my room without having to rely on anyone else,” she added.
While she has successfully translated many ideas into cards, Horam acknowledges the challenged of illustrating certain items like axone/theisui or fermented soybeans to convey specific emotions. These concepts, though intriguing, remain in her mind, posing challenges in their portrayal.
However, the process in its entirety, she confessed, has therapeutic value—a momentary escape from life’s challenges. She takes meticulous care until the final moment of posting the card at the post office, which she described as a creative extension of her love for snail mail.
“I have always loved writing letters and sending them to friends,” she added.
Future artistic aspirations
Looking ahead, Horam envisions creating cards for diverse occasions beyond Christmas. Questioning the absence of greeting cards for tribal festivals and important moments, she expressed a desire for postcards that embody tribal aesthetics and sentiments.
While generating ideas, Horam prefers selecting objects with personal significance or connections. She contemplates whether these choices might resonate with others. She then seeks input from family members and close friends, and gauges their reactions to the proposed card concepts. If they express enthusiasm for the idea, she proceeds with its development.
In the heart of her creations lies a deep connection to her roots. According to Horam, the Naga kitchen, with its array of knick-knacks – woven baskets, smoked pork, dangling dried chilies and garlic, homegrown vegetables and herbs, and earthen pots for cooking radiates warmth that is hard to find elsewhere. “I find this aesthetic and inspiring, and I plan to feature more of it in my future illustrations,” she explained.
Horam’s journey from a village in Manipur to crafting heartfelt cards in Delhi reflects not only her artistic prowess but also the universal language of warmth and connection. The most fulfilling moments for her, come when recipients mention that her cards evoke memories of home, specific individuals, or their community.
As she continues to illustrate emotions and cultural nuances, she said her ultimate goal is to create cards that serve as more than just greetings—they are windows to cherished memories and expressions of love.