By Devlin Smith
For the fourth year in a row, Elsha Stockseth has designed a Christmas card to benefit the African Well Fund that is being sold through her website. Stockseth, who lives in South Weber, Utah, is an artist who has Werdnig-Hoffman disease, a form of Muscular Dystrophy, and uses a computer to create her designs.
Stockseth, who has been spotlighted on Africare’s website for her fundraising, answered a few questions about her Christmas cards and how she was inspired to raise money for clean water in Africa.
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Why did you want to design your own Christmas cards?
I have always been into creating art and I slowly lost the use of my arms and hands, which meant that I could no longer hold a paintbrush or pencil. I first started doing computer art in 2001 by balancing my right arm on my left and using Photoshop, an onscreen keyboard and the laptop trackpad to draw. The first real picture I created this way was the Snowman Nativity, which was just something I was trying because I was bored. When I showed people the finished picture they kept saying that it would be awesome to have that as a Christmas card. When I realized how much interest there was and could be, I decided to try it out. The first year I did pretty well and it has been steadily gaining ever since.
Why did you want to donate a portion of the proceeds from the cards to the African Well Fund?
I have been “The Biggest Little U2 Fan in the World” since 2001 and have really been INSPI(RED) by Bono and the work he does for Africa. I decided that I have been really blessed with all that I have and wanted to give something back. At the time I couldn’t really find a charity which Bono worked with directly and then I found the African Well Fund website. It isn’t really clear to me why I chose that one or even really how I found it other than I think I saw it on @U2 sometime and then definitely agreed that everybody should have clean, safe, useable water. I am really happy that I have found the African Well Fund because you guys are really sweet and do such great wonderful work. I believe you guys are truly making a difference in the world and I am pretty sure that Bono thinks so, too.
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How did you come up with this year’s “Hopeful” design?
I have done two other snowmen cards in the past and they have been my biggest sellers. When I was selling cards last year everybody was asking what I would do next. I didn’t quite know so I began asking what the people would like. A few said Santa and some people said a Christmas tree. I didn’t really want to just have a tree by itself or Santa so I decided to put everybody’s ideas together and that is the story behind the picture. I usually try to use words from a song (especially a U2 song) for the insides but have only had success with it on the nativity card. Then last year when U2 released “I Believe in Father Christmas” I was really INSPI(RED) by the lyrics and decided that would fit the “Hopeful” picture perfectly.
Can you describe your other designs, which are also available for purchase?
I have three other cards for sale this year. The Snowman Nativity which has Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus as snowmen. They are under a starlit sky with a yellow border. The inside reads “Peace on Earth.” The other card for sale is the carolers. It is three snowmen holding songbooks while singing and the snow is falling. It has a bright pink border and reads “Joy to the World.” The third card is a reindeer with a bright shiny red nose, a blue mittened waving hand and a green background. The border is red with the words “Warm Season’s Greetings.” The “Hopeful” cards show a Santa snowman giving a present to a little girl snowman with a decorated Christmas tree and presents under it nearby. The snow is falling and it has a light blue border with the words, “Wishing you a hopeful Christmas and a brave new year.”
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Can you share your process of designing and creating your cards?
As I mentioned earlier, I used to balance my right arm on my left and then using Photoshop, an onscreen keyboard and the laptop trackpad, I would draw the picture. I can no longer use my arms so I only created the nativity card and half the carolers card that way. I now still use Photoshop and an onscreen keyboard with a Dwell feature, KeyStrokes, I must use a HeadMouse Extreme. The HeadMouse Extreme is a little camera that uses a small reflective dot which I wear on a headband to move the cursor/arrow on the computer screen. I have to use the onscreen keyboard KeyStrokes because I have to use the Dwell feature to click and drag. When Dwell is on I just have to hold the cursor in the spot that I want to click on for a few seconds it will click. I just use the Photoshop tools (shapes, brushes, patterns, etc.) and began drawing on a plain white background. I keep working on it until I get the picture I see in my mind.
How can people purchase your cards?
The Christmas cards can be purchased using PayPal on my website. If people are ordering over 50 cards, or are ordering from a country other than the U.S., I need them to e-mail me with the quantity, card choice(s) and mailing information, and I will e-mail them back with the total because the PayPal is only set to charge shipping expenses for up to 50 cards. I am going to donate $0.25 of each card sold from the African Well Fund website instead of the $0.10 usual donation if when people order they mention the African Well Fund website.
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Is there anything else you would like to share about your Christmas cards?
The pictures are 5×7 so they are easy to frame as an easy inexpensive gift and just that I know that money is tight for people this year but just remember the blessings that we all have every day. It is a simple way to give a little bit to those less fortunate this holiday season.