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Children of Time inspired card

This thank you card for Adrian Tchaikovsky was inspired by his Children of Time series. The card is shaped like an hour glass, with an astronaut and spider in the top half, spider webs behind the hourglass and in the top 2/3, and the bottom 1/3 (ish), is water with octopod tentacles.

Recently Children of Time author Adrian Tchaikovsky was a guest on Dark Matter‘s podcast. Above is a picture of the thank you card I made him, which he’s just posted to social media so I’m not spoiling the surprise.

Making the card – step 1!

So I had a basic idea, which is more or less what you see in the photo. An hourglass to represent evolution and time, which is significant in the series. Water in the base. An astronaut with a spider in the top. More or less, as I say, what you see.


However, construction was tricky. I had an hourglass die set and used it only to discover that, with the poles separate to the top and bottom, aligning all the pieces was REALLY tricky. I may have pulled it apart, reglued, trashed, started again… Tried various techniques…

THEN I realized that the basic construction ended up with too little support. The whole thing was really flimsy and wouldn’t support its own weight. So both the back and front needed reinforcing with more layers.

In the end I felt it was still too flimsy but, short of starting again and constructing it differently, the base would have to do. Next time I use the hourglass, I’ll mount it on a rectangle of heavyweight cardboard and won’t try to keep the fancy hourglass shape for the overall card. Or I might use acetate as a backer, but I’m not a huge fan of plastic.

Upper hourglass

I have an embossing folder that imprints spiderwebs onto cardstock so I used that. Then I swiped a silver ink pad across it, and brayered (used a roller) to smooth it out. But that created a really solid spiderweb. That seemed appropriate for the story but it was a little overpowering for the hourglass, or so hubby and I thought.

So I embossed another piece of navy cardstock. This time I left it without added color until the very end. At that stage I thought “what the hell” and just used a gel pen to very lightly draw along the raised strands of web.

The astronaut

I used to be something of an artist, selected to exhibit in the Adelaide Fringe Festival in 2008 and for a University of Adelaide Place In The World exhibition. But now, my eyesight is fading and that author-led international pile on in 2021 shattered any self-confident mask to which I had aspirations. So the thought of actually drawing something – a thing I consider increasingly often for various reasons – is not something I’m prepared to attempt.

So, unfortunately, this astronaut – the only girl-astronaut-stamp I have – is facing the wrong direction. When I say the “wrong direction”: that spider rides on her back in the book. I tried to obscure the direction she’s facing by obscuring her face.

I used copic markers to color her in and added gel pen stars to the face plate, deliberately in a quasi Southern Cross formation as an Easter egg. Living in the Land Down Under as I do.

The bottom

I used the hourglass to cut both the embossed navy cardstock and some pale blue cardstock for the background. Then a wavy die cut the blue cardstock so the top of the blue emphasized its watery nature. And, again using copic markers, I added some shading and bubbles.

A handy dandy tentacular die cut the tentacles, which I – again – shaded with copics.

And another die cut the silver web, which I so so soooo stupidly glued across the interior of the card blocking me from writing. As soon as I did that I kicked myself. I should have at least glued it to the back of the front. My thinking when I glued it was that, when the card is open, the web will be a little distant from the front, thereby creating more dimension.

And that’s all, folks!

That’s pretty much it. Now I’m sitting here I thought I should have added glossy accents to the water bubbles and the faceplate and other little details. However, it’s easy to think about that in hindsight. At the time I was agonizing over whether the card was good enough to send or should I make another although I’d already spent hours working on it.

I enjoy cardmaking. From pretty flowers, which can be relaxing to make and color but aren’t relaxing to compose into bouquets, to challenging myself to make cards that reference the recipient or their book. Some cards are more of a learning process than others, though. And I couldn’t find a youtube video with anyone having used that hourglass die as the shape of a card, which made this a bigger challenge. In hindsight, no such video might have been a clue!

Thanks again to Adrian. Also, thanks to his followers who’ve been liking his photo of my card and making lovely comments. You are SO encouraging!


Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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