MARVELLOUS MUSKOKA: the story of Creative Muskoka Cards
Frances Mae Balodis has been making cards and brightening Muskokans’ days since 1986.
She came to Muskoka 72 years ago as a baby, and cottaged here her whole life. Her mother arrived in Muskoka in the 20s, her dad in the 30s. Since then, Frances has made Muskoka her permanent home. She and her husband, Gunars, live on Three Mile Lake, and call it “paradise”.
While Frances has been making cards for over three decades, it wasn’t until 2011 when she found her trademark material: birch bark.
“I used to make a lot of stamped and embossed and photo cards,” Frances says. “And then when we moved to Muskoka full time in 2011, I thought, there’s a lot of birch bark on our property!”
The beauty and versatility of birch bark sold Frances.
“Bark is so beautiful in so many ways. It has a wonderful texture. It looks beautiful. It’s my signature thing. If you get a card for me, it definitely has birch bark on it.”
And so Frances began making cut-out cards from birch bark. She assures her card lovers that every piece of birch she uses is off the ground, not straight from the tree.
“We don’t put any trees into stress,” she says.
From there, Frances found her most creative self. She started out with sympathy cards, what she calls “butterfly cut-out cards”, but now she makes a card for just about anything.
“I make birthday cards, anniversary cards. You name it.”
She calls her cottage themed cards “Marvellous Muskoka Cards”. She likes the British spelling of ‘Marvellous’. And her customers love them.
“Some people when they buy them, they say, ‘oh, I couldn’t possibly give this to anybody. I’m going to keep it!’” says Frances.
Not only does Frances make cards, she also sends them…en masse.
Over the pandemic, Frances has started sending out 30-50 cards per week to people who need a little love.
“People are lonely. And they really, really like to have mail,” she says. “I just send them a happy little note. I tell them that I hope that you’re feeling well, and that I know that this is a difficult time for them. I want them to know that I’m thinking about them, and I hope they’re having a good week.”
Frances has been a Member of the Chamber for two years now. She’s currently selling her cards through word of mouth and through her Facebook page, but is “very excited” about ShopMuskokaLakes.ca. This will be her first experience displaying her artisanship on an online shop.
“I’m hoping more people will be able to buy and love my cards,” says Frances. “People want something that’s local, and something that’s Muskoka-ish!”
Frances’ cards fit the bill.
Where can you buy her cards? Through Frances personally or exclusively on ShopMuskokaLakes.ca.
Note: As each card is one-of-a-kind, you will see just some cards that represent Frances’ work on ShopMuskokaLakes.ca. If you want a particular card for a loved one or for a special event, you can also email Frances through ShopMuskokaLakes to order cards made especially for you.
Blog by Natalie MacMillan
When in Muskoka, we encourage you to shop our local stores in person. When you just can’t visit yourself, you can buy Made in Muskoka products, including Frances’ one-of-a-kind birchbark cards, anytime at ShopMuskokaLakes.ca. Thank you for supporting local businesses and artisans in Muskoka Lakes. You can view the Creative Muskoka Cards page by clicking here.