Michelle Mackintosh: Care Packages

Michelle Mackintosh: Care Packages

Jenna Templeton chats to Melbourne graphic designer and author Michelle Mackintosh about celebrating the art and craft of thoughtfully made packages.

I’m a graphic designer, illustrator and author. When I was small, I used creative mailing to stay connected with friends interstate and to personalise my correspondence.

It’s the reason I wanted to become a graphic designer. Writing books is quite new for me; I normally design and illustrate other people’s books and I love working on projects from start to finish. I feel extremely privileged that I’m able to make books about subjects that are really important to me.

‘Care Packages’ was a chapter in my first book Snail Mail. Both my publisher Hardie Grant and I thought there was so much more to say, so we decided to do a follow up book concentrating on the subject.

Making things for friends, especially in a time of need, is a very important part of my life.

I truly believe making things by hand or choosing things the recipient would find useful or love will really brighten their day.

Inside Care Packages you’ll find a little history of when the first packages were sent, when to send packages based on particular occasions, along with how to projects, recipes, decorating wrapping ideas and lots more!

For both of my books, I asked my friendship group and the Instagram community to send me a letter or package made to a theme. The response from people was overwhelming. I received intricate mail art from all over the world. Each one of their parcels was filled with handmade treasures; craft supplies, mini paintings, sculptures, origami, confetti, food, photographs and letters. Each and every parcel is a mini treasure to me.

Michelle Mackintosh: Care Packages For Kids

I had my first care package experience when I was two years old, my sister was a flower girl and I was sent to my grandmother’s house to be cared for.

I was pretty sad about not being included in the wedding and wasn’t too happy about being sent off to be looked after. So my grandma crocheted me a little bag and filled it with toy animals and sweets. This is my favourite childhood memory. It instantly cheered me up, and made me feel like we were the only guests at a party she had thrown – just for me.

Recently a friend of ours has been going through intensive chemotherapy. Her friendship group started a ‘meal train’ online.

You can sign up and make dinner for the family on allocated dates. She has a new baby and a young son, so I’ve enjoyed making meals for both the adults and children. My favourite meal I’ve made was congee with Chinese dipping doughnuts. Her little boy loved having savoury donuts for dinner and congee has the right amount of ‘blandness’ and restorative qualities for anyone going through chemo.

Michelle Mackintosh: Care Packages For Kids

So how do you make a care package for a child?

If I was to make a care package for a child myself, I’d really think about the personality of the child I was sending the package too. What colours do they like? What are their favourite things to do? I’d always include activity-type gifts such as a puzzles or craft projects, as well as something delicious to eat, perhaps a fun homemade snack. A nice book, a pair of cosy socks, a letter and a narrated podcast or audiobook. Then I’d wrap the parcel up in a piece of bright paper, using washi tape and string, making it very OTT with their name being a really big feature on the parcel in the form of a card or on an envelope written in big letters or spelled out using washi tape.

Could kids make care packages too?

Why not? Firstly, ask the child who’s special and makes a difference in their life. When they have time to think about it, their answer may surprise them and you! If they need a prompt maybe try:

  • Grandparents would LOVE a care package; this would really make their day
  • A favourite school teacher, sports or activities coach
  • A friend who’s had a tough time
  • A sibling who’s working hard studying for exams.

What else could we include?

1. A drawing of the recipient.
2. A handwritten letter.
3. A photograph (it could be of themselves, themselves and the recipient, their family, sports team or pet).
4. If the child grows vegetables at home or has chickens, the package could include fresh veggies or eggs.
5. If the child likes baking, they could ask a parent to help them make some biscuits or a cake.
6. Or if the child has a crafty parent, some homemade bunting or paper craft like origami would be a wonderful inclusion.

Is there any advice you could give our child mags blog readers for those who have time constraints or feel they’re not creative enough to make one?

Just really think about the person you’re sending the parcel to. Choose items in one colour palette (to link all the items together). Yellow is great for a sunny (and unisex) parcel. Bright pink and orange for a friend who loves bright things. Visit your local craft supply shop or $2 shop and choose some paper and string or ribbon. When in doubt, a brown paper package tied up with string with a homemade biscuits or some cosy socks will be very much appreciated and will hit the right chord for any occasion.

Michelle Mackintosh: Care Packages For Kids

Michelle Mackintosh is a graphic designer, illustrator and author who lives in Melbourne with her husband Steve and their Scottish Fold cat named Bronte. Michelle enjoys sending letters to friends on her travels while in Japan and is the author and designer of many Hardie Grant book titles such as Care Packages as well as her first book Snail Mail. You can learn more about Michelle’s work via her tumblr or Instagram.

Michelle Mackintosh: Care Packages For KidsMichelle Mackintosh’s new book Care Packages, published by Hardie Grant Books, RRP $29.99, is out now.

Interview by Jenna Templeton / Images by Chris Middleton