11th Annual Community Handmade Valentine Swap

10th Annual Handmade Valentine Swap for Western MA Families

9th Annual Handmade Valentine Swap for Western MA Families

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: Handmade Valentine Swap

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: January Segment
Handmade Valentine Swap Filled with Values & Learning

Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News!  Each month, Hilltown Families’ Founder & Executive Director, Sienna Wildfield,  joins Mass Appeal hosts to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).

This monthly segment continued on Monday, January 25th, 2016 with Sienna and Ashley talking about Hilltown Families upcoming Handmade Valentine Swap and how it can support community values and learning:

Sign your family up for the 8th Annual Handmade Valentine Swap by Jan 30, 2016 and get ready to make and receive 10 handmade valentines with families from around the region.  Read the rest of this entry »

8th Annual Handmade Valentine Swap for Western MA Families

Handmade Valentines: Connecting & Expanding a Community Tradition

Handmade Valentines: Connecting & Expanding a
Community Tradition

February 2015
Hawks-Hayden Room Gallery, Meekins Library
Williamsburg, MA

Featuring handmade Valentines by Hilltown Families’ Annual Handmade Valentine Swap participants, 2009-2015

For the past seven years, Hilltown Families has organized an intergenerational, community-based, handmade Valentine swap. Spearheaded by Hilltown Families founder, Sienna Wildfield, this community tradition has grown from an intimate group of families to an extensive roster of participants living across western Massachusetts, from Williamstown to Monson.

This year, 1,550 handmade valentines are being prepared for swapping through the mail by families, individuals, and even youth groups, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

For the month of February, in the Hawks-Hayden Room Gallery at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg, over 100 handmade Valentines sent to Hilltown Families by swap participants over the years will be on display in an exhibit, Handmade Valentines: Connecting & Expanding a Community Tradition. New handmade Valentines received this year as part of the swap will be added to the display throughout the month.

These handmade tokens of friendship and community push back against the commercialization of Valentine’s Day while connecting and expanding an age-old tradition. The act of creating handmade Valentines supports creative-free play, while receiving them generates excitement to make community connections and eliminates loneliness. Having them on display at the Meekins Library chronicles the growth of what has become a delightful community tradition in western Massachusetts, open to all and free to participate. Read the rest of this entry »

7th Annual Handmade Valentine Swap for Western MA Families

Valentine History & Events in Western MA

Valentine History & Events in Western MA

Esther Howland, a Mt. Holyoke graduate and Worcester native, began designing fancy valentine cards in 1848 and hired young women to help cut and paste together these small works of art. By 1850 she was advertising her cards in the newspaper, and by the 1860s she was selling up to $100,000 worth of valentines annually. – This cloth and lace Valentine card was made by Esther Howland, ca. 1870s.

Every year, Americans exchange an average of 142 million Valentine’s Day cards – making the holiday near the top of the list of holidays where large amounts of cards are exchanged (second only to Christmas). Valentines come in many different shapes and sizes, and can be handmade or store bought, clever and creative, or very traditional. Whatever form they come in, the valentines that we exchange each year have their roots right here in western Massachusetts!

The American valentine industry was started during the mid-19th century by Esther Howland, a Mt. Holyoke graduate and Worcester native. Often called “The Mother of the Valentine,” Howland was inspired by the beautiful, ornate valentines imported from England and suspected that there might be a market for them in the United States, as well. Through her father’s paper company, she sold her first valentines in 1848 and within a few years was able to begin her own business, the New England Valentine Company.

True to Howland’s plan, the valentines sold by the company included lots of lacy, cut paper and fanciful images of all kinds. Today, Mt. Holyoke College’s Archives and Special Collections house a variety of valentines created by Howland’s company. Seen in a video offered by the college, the valentines embody the spirit of the Victorian era with their intricate designs and elaborate decorative features. Eventually, Howland sold her company to a competitor and left the valentine industry. However, her legacy lives on in the tradition that we practice every Valentine’s Day!  Monday, February 10th through the end of the month the Archives & Special Collections will feature a student-curated exhibit case of valentines in the Library’s courtyard (next to Rao’s coffee shop inside the building). You can see examples of many valentines from the Mount Holyoke collection on their valentines Pinterest board.

Find out about events happening this weekend that celebrate the history of the valentine…

6th Annual Handmade Valentine Swap for Western MA Families

Families Gather to Make Handmade Valentines in Shelburne Falls

MYO Handmade Valentine Workshop
Brings Families Together

On Friday, January 25th, Hilltown Families and the Art Garden presented a Make Your Own Handmade Valentines Workshop, as part of a 3-part free Friday family workshop series in Shelburne Falls. Families with children of all ages gathered to make Valentines together.

Getting crafty with family, friends and neighbors in a community art space like The Art Garden, builds relationships, affords opportunities to share and connect, and allows the space for creativity that our otherwise busy lives might not offer.

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Join in the Swap!

Hilltown Families 5th Annual Handmade Community Valentine SwapThere’s still time to sign up to participate in the Hilltown Families 5th Annual Community Handmade Valentine Swap! For the past several years Hilltown Families has coordinated a community Handmade Valentine Swap — and we’re doing it again! Push back against the commercialization of Valentine’s Day while getting creative with your kids and connecting with your community… sign up to participate! Swapping happens through the mail with 10 other families! It’s free to sign up and open to all in Western MA. Deadline to sign up: Jan. 31, 2013. Western MA (FREE)

5th Annual Handmade Valentine Swap for Western MA Families

4th Annual Handmade Valentine Swap for Western MA Families

3rd Annual Handmade Valentine Swap for Western MA Families

2nd Annual Handmade Valentine Swap for Western MA Families

Handmade Valentine Swap for Western MA Families

Handmade Valentine Card Swap

Hilltown Families Valentine Card Swap, 2009 (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Last year I organized a handmade Valentine swap with friends and members of the Hilltown Families Listserv, and we had so much fun that we’re doing it again!

A handmade Valentine swap gives local families an opportunity to be creative together while connecting with other families in Western Massachusetts.  Through the swap, participating families mail out handmade Valentine cards to ten assigned addresses, and in return, they receive cards from ten other participating families.  The cards can be handmade by any combination of child and adult, so if you’re kids aren’t completely up to the task, or if an adult would like to make their own design, there’s flexibility.

Deadline to sign up is next Saturday, January 30st by midnight with the info below. On Monday (02/01/10) I will email your assigned names/address of participants you would send your handmade cards to.  You would be kindly requested to send your Valentines off by Feb. 7th.

If interested in participating, email the following information to hilltownfamilies@gmail.com by midnight 01/30/10:

  • Name of child/family:
  • Mailing address:

Read the rest of this entry »

Mount Holyoke College: Early Valentines Exhibit

Will You Be Mine? An Exhibition of Early Valentines
An Exhibit, Ground Floor of Dwight Hall
at Mount Holyoke College
February 3 – February 22, 2009

Each year, the Mount Holyoke Archives and Special Collections at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA, display valentines from the collection in honor of Esther Howland, a Mount Holyoke alumna credited with having established the commercial valentine industry in the United States. Howland graduated from the Seminary in 1847 and, inspired by an ornate English valentine, began creating her own elaborate renditions of the greeting card. The exhibit contains a selection of original valentines made by her New England Valentine Co., as well as some by George TC. Whitney, the designer who bought Howland’s increasingly popular company in the early 1880’s. Other valentines were gven to the collection in the personal papers of former faculty members Mildred Allen and Ruth Lawson. They show stylistic shifts within the valentine industry as it endured paper shortages, postcard crazes and a growing nostalgia for the Victorian-style cards that characterized the golden age of valentine production in both Western Europe and the United States.

This exhibit runs from 02/03/09-02/22/09.  Dwight Hall is open Mon-Thurs from 8am-Midnight, Fri-Sun from 10am-10pm. Click here to see images of Valentines from this exhibit.


Another Vintage Valentines Exhibit is at the West Virginia University Libraries which can be viewed on-line here. View a collection of over 40 valentines, including greeting cards, 3-D cards, and postcards. “While browsing click on the thumbnail images to view the larger, full resolution, images of the Vintage Valentines day cards. From the full size image you may send a greeting and message via email.

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