Hand-made tactile cards with Braille inside

I have a big plastic box that’s full of cards. Cards that people have made for me, that have special messages inside, or that I just can’t bring myself to throw out. The oldest ones are a birthday card that a teacher made me when I was five, and a card I made for my grandparents’ anniversary that has a smiling piggy on the front. I’m not sure about the connection between wedding anniversary and smiling piggy, but it made sense to me at the time.

I like receiving cards, but as many of them feel the same, I really appreciate it if someone goes to the trouble of finding one that is tactile or which has Braille writing inside. However, this isn’t always easy to do, and although I think there’s a bit more on offer now than when I was a child, most of the cards in the shops don’t have any special features that can be appreciated by someone with partial or no sight.

Understanding what’s written inside is another thing. It’s easier now that I live with S, but in the days before Facetime, I remember trying to get an image of a card with my phone so that I could text the message to my Mum and find out who had sent me money in my Christmas card!

That’s why I was interested to hear about Lynn Cox and her range of tactile Braille greetings cards.

I first met Lynn through an online forum for self-employed visually impaired people. I wanted to find out more about the cards and tell you about them too, so I arranged an interview with Lynn.

Lynn also sent me a sample of her work. Knowing that I love dogs, it’s one of the dog range, which can be made up for any occasion. The dog on the header image is on a Christmas card. Mine was on a Valentine’s card, and the design can also be used to go on other cards such as birthday, thank you etc.

The first thing I noticed was the perfume scent coming out of the envelope because these tactile cards are scented too!

The dog is running after his ball, and I can feel his furry outline – his legs as he’s running, his waggy tail, his furry snout, and his ball.

The message on the front and inside is in Braille and printed on the card. Lynn’s details are on the back, also in Braille, and personal messages for the recipient can be added on request.

I think it’s such a lovely idea and would encourage anyone with blind or partially sighted friends, children, colleagues or family members to check out Lynn and her cards. The cards start from £7, (there are additional charges for larger or custom-designed cards). That’s not much more than what you pay in the shops, and when you consider that you’re buying something that is hand-made and with additional touches that you can’t get in the shops, I think it’s very good value.

Here’s what I found out when I Skyped with Lynn a couple of weeks ago! It’s a good thing we skyped too – there was a lot of snow that day!

Why did you decide to start making tactile greetings cards?

I decided to make the cards because there were no quality products out there for people to buy if you wanted something tactile, scented, or with large print or Braille inside.

Also, as an artist, I was using my skills to exhibit artwork but none of it was affordable for people to have as a day-to-day product.

Can you describe one of your cards in terms of tactile features, writing inside, scent etc?

The dog one is a popular one. It’s a dog playing with the ball, running along with his mouth open.

I use Contrasting coloured paper for the card, and then draw with wool to create a line image of the dog and the ball. I like to look for very fluffy wool for the dog. He wears a little leather collar with a bell that jingles, and has a leather ball – so you have a variety of textures, the smell of the leather, and the sound of the bell. I also use little gem crystals to decorate the ball.

I like to use shapes that are easy for people to recognise by touch, such as the Christmas tree with a star on top. I also like to experiment with textures. I have a card with a guitar on the front, and I use metal for the strings.

Do you put Braille in all your cards?

All of the cards have messages in Braille and large print. There’s usually something on the front, such as “happy Easter”, something in the middle, and my contact details on the back.

How about the message inside the card?

I can add a personal message, either in Braille or in print if you send it to me with your order.

Do you send the cards directly to the recipient?

It’s up to you. I can either send it back to you, so that you can post it off yourself orgive it to the person, or I can send it directly to the recipient.

Do you send the cards internationally?

Yes, my cards go all over the world, although of course sending them internationally does mean that I need to know a bit further in advance as the post will take longer.

What other occasions do you make cards for?

My Mother’s Day cards are usually flowers or hearts. I spray them with some perfume as well. This won’t last for ever, but it’s nice for the recipient when they first open it. I put a man’s scent in if it’s for a man.

If you want one of the designs I already have, like the flowers or the dog, you can change the message on the front. If you want a whole new design, that would take longer and cost a bit more because it would be custom-made.

I think this is the first scented card I’ve come across. What do you do for Christmas cards?

I have an oil that smells like a Christmas tree. It’s pine with clove and a hint of ginger.

Do you make all of the cards yourself?

Yes, they are all hand-made. No two are ever exactly the same because I’m always on the look-out for new materials to use.

Why do you go for simple shapes?

I want people to be able to recognise them without having to ask what they are. You get some Christmas cards with a fire in the grate, a mantelpiece with cards on top and Christmas decorations hanging from it. But if there is too much detail, the individual shapes can get lost.

Do you have any special Easter cards?

I have one with 3 Easter eggs on it, all made of different materials. One of them has a fluffy chick coming out of it.

Then there’s an Easter bunny with a big fluffy tail and long ears.

How do you make sure that the shapes are right?

I use things like reindeer toys or cuddly toy owls. I still remember what a lot of things look like and tactile props like the toys help me to check things like reindeer antlers!

What cards do you want to make in the future?

I want to do a cat one! I love animals and a lot of my normal artwork is around animals such as horses and sheep. I also like doing musical instruments.

Where can people find out more about your cards?

You can go to my website. Or, if you want to ask me a question, you can send me an email.

Thank you Lynn for letting us know about your cards and I highly recommend that you go and check her out if you have anyone to buy cards for who is visually impaired. And yes, if my friends and family are reading this, I’d love to get one!

More from Unseen Beauty

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Blogmas day 24 – happy Christmas in 23 languages

So, I’m not going t to write a lot today because I know people will be busy getting ready for Christmas and probably not have a lot of time for reading blogs. However, as a language lover and language teacher, I wanted to end with a link showing you Christmas wishes in the 23 languages of the EU. You can find it here.

The calendars

In L’Occitane there was a little box that contained one of the L’Occitane perfumes. A lovely way to end the calendar.

In M&S there was a primer. Really, a primer for Christmas Eve? It’s not the last day of the calendar, but still I think the nice sparkly nail varnish would have been better behind this door! Ah well, it was ok, but not as nice as the primer from a couple of days ago.

Christmas tree in Stockholm

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Blogmas day 22 – winter holiday tag

I don’t often do tag posts, but it’s Christmas and I want something light-hearted for today’s blog post – so here we go!

I was nominated by S & J from the Cozy Den – go and check them out if you haven’t already! They’re doing Blogmas too!

What is your favourite holiday tradition?
Hmm that’s a tough one because I love the time leading up to Christmas with all the fun of decorating the house, buying and wrapping presents, Christmas baking and visiting Christmas markets.

What are your favourite go-to winter lippies?
Hmm, I have so many. I have a lot of festive reds, and I like something with a satin finish or with “moisturising” on the label because my lips can get really dry this time of year.

What is your favourite winter scent?
It has to be a real Christmas tree. We don’t have one, but my grandparents did when I was a child and I loved that pine smell so much. Now, whenever I smell it, I immediately think of Christmas!

What is your go-to winter fashion trend?
I don’t have one, but I’m not one of those people who stand around in the cold with a skimpy dress and no coat! I love to be warm, so winter is a time to get out the fleeces, fluffy blankets and cosy jumpers! I’ve got a couple of really nice scarves too – a thick wool one, and one with an a sparkly owl that hangs from the middle.

Your all-time favourite holiday song?
I want something really original for this one! I know – last year there was a funny video doing the rounds on Facebook with goats singing Christmas songs! Wait, I need to find it now! Here! Merry Christmas from the goats!

Do you prefer to travel during the holidays or stay home?
I have spent a couple of Christmases away with some friends on the Isle of Wight, but I prefer to stay at home.

Your favourite winter skincare must haves?
Erm, all of the stuff from my advent calendars? If I can’t have that, then all the things you need for a pamper night – a relaxing bath, followed by a face mask. Not to mention something to take care of the lips, like a mango or pink grapefruit lip balm from Burt’s Bees!

Your favourite winter hair care must have?
I’d say the banana hair mask from the Body Shop!

Your favourite winter activity?
Either going to Christmas markets or going on wintry walks!

Your must-have winter beauty product?
I think this was meant to be make-up, but skincare is important too if you want to look your best!
I was really impressed with the night cream from Gatineau and as their skincare collection is on half-price at the moment at Feel Unique, I treated myself to it! There’s loads of other stuff in the sale at the moment, so if you are in the UK and want £10 off your first order, you can use my affiliate link!

Do you love the snow or hate it?
I love it when I don’t need to go anywhere and I can build a snowdog in peace! It’s not so much fun when you are struggling home from work, all the trains are cancelled and you need to queue for ages in the taxi queue because the snow has melted and frozen over again!

One item on your wish list this year?
I didn’t actually make one, but I am pretty sure that Mother Christmas got me a new office chair – more about that next year!

Your favourite holiday treat?
Holiday food would be turkey with all the trimmings. But I think they mean something more indulgent than that – I’m not a fan of the traditional Christmas desserts, but I do like a slice of chocolate log!

Holiday shopping finished before December or last minute?
Somewhere in between. This is the latest I’ve ever been this year because the last present arrived today, but that’s just because I had an extra idea. Mostly I’m done by mid-December.

I’m not going to tag anyone, but if you feel like doing this tag, feel free to post your link in the comments!

The calendars

In L’Occitane there was a shower oil. I prefer the shower gels, but it was still a nice product.

In M&S there was a primer – I didn’t use it today because I had a can’t-really-be-bothered-with-a-lot-of-make-up-day, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it compares to my Benefit or Elf primers!

Christmas tree in Stockholm

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Blogmas day 21 – how much do you know about reindeer?

When I was a child, I used to insist that we left something out for Rudolph and the other reindeer, not just Father Christmas. I thought they would rather like dog biscuits, so they got some of Cindy’s shapes! (It was just a coincidence that my guide dog shared the name with the dog with whom I grew up!) The shapes were always gone in the morning, so reindeer must like dog biscuits, right? Much more interesting than a plain old carrot?!

I didn’t know much about reindeer then!

A few days ago, I came across a blog post with 12 facts about reindeer. I’ve used it a couple of times in my lessons, and I thought I’d share it with you too!

I hope you enjoy it and learn something about Santa’s friends!

Do your children, or did you as a child leave food out for the reindeer?

The calendars

IN L’Occitane there was a Verbena handcream. It seems a bit more lightweight than the others, but I love that lemony scent!

In M&S there was something that will be passed on to Mother Christmas – a face oil! I don’t use them, but 19 hits and 2 misses so far is not at all bad for a calendar!

How about you?

Christmas tree in Stockholm

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Blogmas day 20 – 10 December favourites!

So, as I usually do my monthly favourites at this time of the month, I thought I’d share December’s as part of Blogmas.

1. Firstly I’d like to mention my phone. It’s a joint birthday and Christmas present from S and it means that I now have a main phone and a really old one that I can use for video calls at work. I didn’t want the newest model or anything, but I did need a faster one and one with more space for all my books and music, so I’ve really been appreciating my phone since I got it in September.

2. I don’t have an office secret Santa because I work for myself, so I bought myself a silly present today. I wasn’t actually looking for this, but when I saw it, it kind of sums me up – love owls, hate mornings and stupid behaviour so maybe I do have irritable owl syndrome as it says on this mug! I got it for myself anyway!

3. The next thing is something I got for Giving Tuesday and I was alerted to it from the lovely Kerry from Kerry Life and Loves – go check her out if you haven’t already! She said in one of her posts that Radley was doing a collaboration with the Dogs Trust and they’d brought out a range of backpacks and coin purses with the usual Radley dog, plus a range of other dogs based on real dogs at the Dogs Trust. It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I got the retriever purse! It’s out of stock at the moment, but you can sign up to be notified when new stock comes in.

4. I was happy with my Red Carpet lipstick from Elf, so I got 2 more – Wine Tour and Touch of Berry. One is moisturising and one is satin – I don’t like lipsticks that really dry out your lips, so always look for ones that moisturise. These are a good price too, even with the shipping.

5. Blogmas! It’s been fun, although I struggled most at weekends and on days off where I try to spend as little time online as possible! I’m wondering whether I joined the party too late – so many people are doing Blogmas this year that I’m way behind with all the content that I wanted to read. I wonder if other people feel the same? I wonder if Bloguary or Blogpril would be better in terms of getting more people to see the content? I don’t know, but I have enjoyed taking part, coming up with Christmassy ideas, and of course reading the content that my blogging friends have been putting out.

6. Clinique make-up. I was kindly sent some money for Christmas from someone who is probably reading this, so thanks again! I’d heard really good things about the Clinique chubby sticks, so I got the sculpting highlight and the cream contour. Anyone who has been following my blog for a while will know about my love for cream rather than powder products, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed with these. Yes, you have to blend them well, and yes, this is a pain if you can’t see what you’re doing – but it’s much less of a pain than dealing with fall-out from powder if you can’t see it’s there, so this type of product has meant that I can do a lot more with my make-up than I did before. I’ve tried Clinique skincare before, but not the make-up, and I think it’s really good quality.

7. If you get the Latest in Beauty subscription box, they usually put in a couple of little free samples. Today was truffles and I very much approve of those, but what I wanted to tell you about was a little sample of the Lavera night cream. I liked it so much that I got the full-size one. Firstly it was the smell, which I loved, but I was also pleased to have found an organic cream that also left my skin feeling wonderful and soft.

8. Hot chocolate. Just because it’s winter and you can’t go wrong with a big mug of hot chocolate when it’s cold and you’re snuggled up in the warm. We like the Whispa one or Options orange sachets.

9. I’d never heard of Shay and Blue before, but I really liked their blood orange perfume that came in the M&S calendar. I would like to try out more citrus scents from this range in the new year – once I’ve used up some of the wonderful things from the calendars!

10. Time off! I love it! I spend so long in front of my laptop that a couple of days offline this week have done me the world of good! I’d definitely recommend it!

So, what things have you been enjoying this month?

The calendars

IN L’Occitane there was a shimmering cherry lotion – something I haven’t tried before, so I’m looking forward to that. I love a cherry scent!

In M&S there was a Pixie lip gloss. The only thing I’ve tried from Pixie is their glow tonic, so it’s good to have a look at one of their lip products too.

How about you?

Christmas tree in Stockholm

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Blogmas day 19 – Christmas markets

So, do you know what the number one thing that you should do is when you’re planning a trip to a Christmas market? Make sure the Christmas market that you want to go to hasn’t been cancelled!

We didn’t do this, so we turned up in Reading at the place where the market should be, only to find no market! Not good! We did manage to find out online that it had been cancelled, but the information wasn’t easily available.

Anyway, I did find a stall with a lady selling some very cute owl rings, so not all was lost, and we kept with our original lunch plan of going to Comptoir Libanais (Lebanese canteen.

We ordered two starters and two mains, which we shared. We had grilled haloumi, pastry parcels with fetta, spinach and pine nuts, followed by a mixed grill and a chicken tagine (I actually wanted the lamb one, but they couldn’t take out the peppers). The restaurant was quite busy, always a good sign, and I would definitely recommend it and go back again.

After that we went to a Christmas market that had not been cancelled – the one in Winchester. It takes place in the grounds of the cathedral and there are plenty of stalls selling home-made gifts, food, mulled wine, Christmas decorations, and other hand-made goods. I was sorry I was so full from lunch because the food smelled great, but I couldn’t eat any more!

I did however find a cute little wolf pendant, a doggy cheese board (so a wooden board in the shape of a terrier for serving cheese), a cheese wheel for Christmas, a chocolate snowman from Holland, and I got a cup of mulled wine too – because that’s a fun thing to do at Christmas markets!

There was also the chance to go ice-skating, although we didn’t do it!

Have you been to any Christmas markets this year? If so, which are your favourites?

The calendars

IN L’Occitane there was another soap – not my favourite find, but they definitely last longer than the lotions and shower gels!

In M&S I got my first Leighton Denny nail varnish, and a 12ml one at that! This will get me in the festive mood later!

How about you?

Christmas tree in Stockholm

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Blogmas day 16 – let us howl

Our visit to the Wolf Conservation Trust near Reading, whom we met there, and what we learned!

So, I’m going to break with the Christmas posts to tell you about what I did last night – because it’s cool, and also I’d like more people to find out about the Trust.

Anyone who has been following this blog for a while will know that S and I are interested in Wolves. I published the walking with wolves post earlier in the year. While I was researching that trip, I also discovered the UK wolf conservation Trust website, and last night, S and I went with some friends to their Howl Night!

The first part of the evening is a presentation about wolf communication. We learned about ways in which they communicate with other wolves using long-distance communication, such as howls, as well as other verbal forms of communications, such as barks, growls, whimpers, yips and woofs! We then went on to look at body language – the positioning of the ears, tail, and posture, as well as the eye contact. Real footage from the centre’s wolves was used to demonstrate points about what was happening and what the wolves were trying to communicate.

The centre is home to 10 wolves in four packs – two packs of 3 and two packs of 2. After the presentation had finished, we went outside to see, and howl with them!

The first pack we saw was my favourite – Mosi and Torak. Mosi is one of the older wolves at 11 years of age, but that didn’t stop her being the most vocal with her howls! She deposed her sister Mai as alpha female, which led to her sister being moved out of the enclosure when they were younger. She was eager to respond to us with howls and interested in her visitors! Torak is a tall and proud wolf with a handsome, masculine head and the most mournful howl that you have ever Heard! He was more aloof and stayed to the back of the large enclosure, but that didn’t stop him joining in with a howl!

The next pack we came across was the arctic wolves, Massak, Pukak and Sikko. Sikko is the only female in this pack, where she lives with her brothers. They were born during a severe snowstorm in Park Safari, Quebec, and abandoned by their mother, who got out of her den with one other pup, but didn’t accept these three back as they had been touched by humans, who revived them from severe hyperthermia. Pukak loves his food and sometimes paws at the fence in anticipation. Massak is the dominant male and often lets his brother and sister go to greet visitors first. All of these wolves have thick, white coats to protect them from freezing arctic temperatures.

The next pack we saw was Mai and Motomo. Mai was separated from the pack with her sister and now lives with Motomo, an unsocialised wolf from Devon. Though partially spayed now, Mai and Motomo had been getting on better than expected as, soon after they were put together, Mai was found to be pregnant. We saw their offspring in the next enclosure. Apparently Mai likes to howl to Motomo when she is away on a walk. Motomo was only hand-reared for two weeks of his life, so he can’t be handled by the volunteers as he is still very scared of humans.

In the last large enclosure are Mai and Motomo’s offspring, now 6 years old. They were very playful when we came up, chasing and growling at one another. Nuka is the dominant male and the most adopted wolf at the trust. He already knows which humans he doesn’t want to have around him! Tala is a very friendly and inquisitive wolf, who is often put in her place by her sister Tundra, the dominant wolf in the pack. Tala’s inquisitiveness sometimes leads to the destruction of things such as Christmas trees put in their enclosure for children’s events! Tundra is a wary wolf who is less likely to come and greet visitors. If her brother and sister do silly things like playing in the pond, Tundra just looks on and doesn’t join in.

The wolves are well-cared for and have plenty of space to run around. As well as looking after the wolves in its care, the trust also supports other projects to help wolves in other parts of the world – both in terms of caring for captive wolves and educating the local population. The centre is also involved in research projects to enable people to better understand these wonderful animals.

If you’d like to support the Wolf Conservation Trust, there are plenty of different ways for you to get involved. If you can get to Reading, there are Howl Nights or wolf walks throughout the year. You can also make a donation, adopt a wolf, give a child a junior membership, or buy a wide range of wolf merchandise from the store. I’d already got myself a pair of earrings and a necklace online, but last night I also came back with a mug, a keyring, another pair of earrings and a hoodie! All for a good cause, so that’s ok 😉

Are there any nature or conservation organisations that you like to support?

Christmas tree in Stockholm

Listen to the podcast episode

I’ve also produced a podcast episode about the wolves. You can look for Unseen Beauty on Apple podcasts (previously known as iTunes), or wherever you get your podcasts. Alternatively, you can listen to it here:

The calendars

Going back to Blogmas and the advent calendars- what was behind your door no. 16?

L’Occitane – this time it was another soap – the last of the 3!

M&S: this time I got a hair spray, which I won’t use, so that’s something for Mother Christmas!

We still haven’t finished our Christmas shopping, so you can guess what we’ll be doing later!

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