Crafting on a rainy afternoon

Britta's mini envelopesBritta (see JaguarSnail section of the TangleStore) popped round yesterday on another miserable, rainy day, which we brightened up with lots of junk food & an afternoon of crafting.  Britta made (almost) the teeniest tiniest envelopes imaginable, measuring just 1″ x 1.5″ and embellished with a handcarved stamp of even teenier tinier faux postage, postmark & ‘handwritten’ address (she also made pandalopes from a poster salvaged from her erstwhile teenage bedroom).

Collage postcards by TangleCraftsMeanwhile, I collaged 2 postcards which will be hopping into a postbox near me today.  The colours used for the postcards were based on the preferences of the individual recipients, and blue is not my favourite colour, so I struggled with that one a little bit.  (Only peach is worse.  Peach literally makes me shudder!)  After a bit of a false start & a composition which did nothing for me at all, I started again, this time mixing in some teal and turquoise (the acceptable face of blue for me!), and all was well. 🙂  And it turns out I love the combination of both postcards together, like a wet, sandy beach leading into the sea, or beneath a summer sky (which was especially cheering given the damp & dismal weather outside)…

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Carved stamps and Christmas robins…

Britta (aka JaguarSnail) and I had another productive afternoon in the craft room, yesterday.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that she is a bit of a demon when it comes to hand-carving stamps?

A collection of hand-carved mail art stamps by Britta Jarvis

Britta's stamp-carving mini zine & airmail labels
Britta’s stamp-carving mini zine & airmail labels

Well, she has put together a tutorial mini-zine so that you can perfect your own demonic (I mean stamp-carving) skills.  The demo design teaches you to carve an ‘airmail’ stamp featuring a funky little arrow in flight – but as if this wasn’t enough to satisfy you creative mail artists out there, she has also pre-cut & hand-stamped a set of airmail labels from the very design featured, so you can start adorning your outgoing post while you are still honing your own carving abilities.

I went through a stamp-carving phase myself a few years ago.  I enjoyed it at first, while I was playing with new ideas, but I wasn’t really ‘a natural’, and eventually decided my time was better spent pursuing other…pursuits.  So while Britta & I were sitting companionably in my craft room yesterday (with popcorn & chocolate close to hand), I was somewhat relieved when she ever so kindly offered to carve a robin stamp for me, to illustrate the presentation cards for my new Round Robin upcycled postage stamp badges.

Round Robin badge with Britta's illustration on the card
Round Robin badge with Britta’s illustration on the card

(I know it seems early to be working on Christmas designs, but I thought better now than in a couple of months’ time when everything is too hectic to think straight & I don’t have enough time to put all my plans into action…)  Then on top of feeling relieved, I was equally fascinated to watch her turn swiftly to the task at hand, and present me with the cutest little (2-layer) robin stamp you’ve ever seen in what can’t have been more than 15 minutes!

Britta's robin illustration in pride of place
Britta’s robin illustration in pride of place

I loved Britta’s robin illustration so much that today I made a new batch of Round Robin badges giving her robin pride of place – and then I made some matching envelope seals, too!  I’ve had a soft spot for robins since first reading The Secret Garden, so working on these projects the last couple of days has made me happy… 🙂

TangleCrafts & TangleClub updates

May was a bad month for me, as anyone who has placed an order recently can testify (please note, though, that all delayed orders will be in tomorrow’s post, along with my sincere apologies!).  I am relieved to say that I am pretty much caught up, though, and working on several new projects, so there will be various new things appearing on these pages and in the Etsy store over the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, TangleClub members should hop on over to the TangleClub Archive, where I have just added the latest club exclusive freebie: Stamp a Stamp printable mini-zine.  There are also several new volumes of the Going Postal mini-zine now available in the Etsy store, so check out the Mail Art Category for even more postally creative inspiration!

More soon – watch this space…!

A quiet week?

Despite a lack of blogging activity here which may suggest the contrary, I have been busy busy busy all week!  Well, I took a week’s holiday from ‘real’ work – caught up with a friend, saw my mum & dad (my dad has been in China for the last 6 months or so, so that was an especial treat), and went on a day trip with Corey – the highlight of which was probably when he left his umbrella behind on the train there, but found it again on the train back!  But around these brief outings I have been working non-stop.  There are some new things very nearly ready to tell you about, but the most immediate, are 2 new zines (& something else a bit different), now available in my Etsy stores:

Contours cover shotThe first is ‘Contours’, my first art zine, which is all about doodling.  This is where my brief encounter with Zentangling led me.  I suddenly realised how the majority of the patterns I have designed as an adult all stem from one basic doodle that I used to doodle all the time.  The zine looks at how that doodle has emerged in the various crafts I have worked in, considers the possible origins of the doodle, and leaves lots of spaces for you to doodle away to your own heart’s content.

tiffanyacorns1As you can see from the photo, there are some extras included – hand-doodled bookmark to stitch, and a hand-doodled ‘fingerprint’ of lino to carve & print.  Inside the zine you will also find a 4-way Acorns cross stitch chart, Bobbin Along freeform bargello pattern, plus 4 postcards (2 printed, and 2 blank for you to doodle yourself) printed on gummed paper, freeform-bobbin-alongso that you can turn any piece of scrap card into a postcard, (these come with 4 postcard reverse labels which could also be used as envelope re-use labels, if you prefer).  Check out the TangleCrafts Etsy Store for more details.

Papertrail #2 cover shot Hot on the heels of Papertrail #1, you can now also find Papertrail #2.  Papertrail #2 is a zine full of questions and books and reading habits, with answers/opinions from me, Corey, and spaces for your own responses, too.  It’s all about books, and how we live with them.  Alongside everything else is a Papertrails ‘map’ of routes you can take from novel to novel, spaces to design your own book jackets, plus copy-&-cut bookplates & bookmarks.  And as if all that wasn’t enough, Papertrail #2 also includes a free membership pack for the Papertrail Reader’s Club!

The Papertrail Reader’s Club is there for everyone who loves to read.  The Basic Membership Pack includes:Club Package

  • 2 pre-gummed Ex Libris plates
  • 2 recommendation bookmarks left blank for you to personalise
  • and the Member Book:

The Papertrail Readers’ Club Book is a membership card and reader’s record book combined! It is a 20 page, staple-bound mini-booklet, printed on high quality recycled sugar papers. Each book will be personalised with your name and membership number, and date stamped with the start date of your membership. It includes spaces to list all the books you want to read alongside dates started & finished, and there are even pages to fill in with your own mini-reviews! Club Book

Each month, a different book is chosen as a feature title, with review printed inside the back cover.  Club members are eligible to submit their own reviews of the club titles which may earn them a free Papertrail zine!

If you buy any issue of Papertrail, you will receive free membership to the Reader’s Club, including the current month’s club review.  If you don’t want to buy the zine, you can still buy a one-off membership to the club with a Basic Membership Package.  And if you fill your record book quickly, or just want another, a Renewal Membership Package is available at a reduced price.

Told you I’d been busy ;-).  And this is just the tip of the iceberg!

Nice parcel from craft place

Happily, I placed a couple of orders this week for ‘essential’ crafting supplies, and top of the list was more lino, to continue my printing experiments.  The place was out of the softcut lino I used previously, so I bit the bullet & ordered some ‘real’ lino.  The parcel just arrived (happy day! 🙂 ), & opening the box, the smell took me right back to my school days!

I only did lino-cutting once before my recent attempts, and that was back at school, taking GCSE art.  I’d forgotten the smell of the stuff until I opened the box!  I know (I remember!) it’s going to be a lot harder work carving this stuff than the softcut, but I’ll give it a go & see how it turns out.  I’ve heard that slightly heating the lino before carving makes it much easier, so I’ll definitely be implementing that advice!

I also got some more pigment ink blocks in some lovely colours that I thought would be nice for blending with the brown I already have – 3 additional browns, a berry purple, and a couple of mossy greens.  Yum 🙂

Lino cuts & doodles

I’m still catching up on all the stuff I wasn’t able to work on while off-line, but I’ve been up since 3.30am, so I am going to take a break and talk about lino prints, for a while…

snowdropThe prints you see to the left are the first lino cuts I’ve done since high school (but if you click here, you’ll see I’ve been experimenting with eraser-carving & relief printing with other random household stuff).   I started off with pencil drawings (something else I’ve not done since school!), then transfer-rubbed the image onto lino, and went over lines with a black Sharpie.

RosebudIt all went very smoothly, and unlike my first eraser-carvings, I managed not to stab myself (or at least draw blood!) once.  As you can see from the prints, I didn’t worry too much about how ‘clean’ the backgrounds are, as I don’t think a print should look like a pen & ink drawing.  I like to leave ‘movement’ lines in the background, so that you can see it has been hand-carved; otherwise, what’s the point?  I carve away the background working outwards from the central motif, so any remaining marks echo the flow of the drawing.  Violet

All 3 of these prints are used as illustrations in my zine, ‘On Flowers and Fairy Tales’.   I used a combination pigment ink stamp pads & pens for the colour, and although it would have been nice to achieve the slightly raised effect of ‘proper’ printing inks, I think they came out quite well.  As a collection of illustrations, & as my first real lino experiments, I’m quite pleased with them.   At the same time, I don’t really feel as though the prints look like they belong to me – there’s nothing that says ‘me’ in the style of them – so that’s something I wanted to address in my next attempts.

Doodle postcardsAfter my very brief flirtation with Zentangling, I doodled some postcards, reminiscing over a type of doodle I used to do all the time (I don’t doodle so much, now I do all my writing on the pc).  (Do you see the kangaroo in the top doodle?  It might only be apparent to me…  It certainly wasn’t intentional!)

Landscape postcardWhen my next inclination to carve a new lino print occurred, the seed of inspiration had been sown.  Although once it was carved and printed, I realised that my doodles have been subconsciously influencing my creative output for longer than I have realised.  Do you see the resemblance to my tapestries…?

Agate Evening 2My next lino project followed a similar course, and I am far corn-ishhappier with both of these as representative of my ‘style’.  They feel a lot more me…  (And I love the potential ambiguity this last lino-cut – is it an ear of corn?  a head of lavender? layered slices of onion…?)  It’s funny, but I wouldn’t have even said I had a style until I started looking at my  doodles, yet there it is, everywhere!

Anyway, I think that’s about all I have to say, just now 🙂

A cool (& quick!) stamp carving project. And some other stuff.

rubber stampThe wonderful Dollar Store Crafts has once more done that thing it does best and found another fantastic low(/no)-budget crafting idea, this time courtesy of Yarni Gras.  Click here for the tutorial to carve a miniature rubber stamp from the tiny eraser on the end of a pencil! There must be all kinds of variant miniature designs that you could carve with just a few cuts – my imagination is racing!

This project combines 2 (more) of my current favourite things – eraser carving and crafting on a small-scale.  I signed up to Swap-Bot a couple of months ago and participating in a couple of swaps has really helped me to think outside of the box a little bit, and work on some projects that otherwise may never have seen the light of day.  One was for a mini-zine to fit in a matchbox, which I gave a Borrowers (Mary Norton) theme.  I was really pleased with the result, and am just in the final stages now of expanding it slightly to put out into the world for a wider audience (via my Etsy Store).

Similarly, I signed up for a swap to make 3 lino cut prints (4″ x 4″ each), to illustrate poetry.  This was a real challenge for me, as I had only done those few small stamp carving experiments I have blogged about, previously.  I was slightly worried when I realised just how big 4″ x 4″ was – much bigger than the scale I usually prefer to work on!  But once I’d signed up, I was committed, and I have made drawings (something I haven’t done for about 14 years!), and very quickly learned some lino-cutting processes, as I couldn’t afford to waste the lino I had bought.  My prints are nothing amazing, but for my first attempts, I’m more than happy with the results, and feel like it was worth pushing myself outside my comfort zone.  I’ve put it together in zine format (surprise surprise) including additional text besides poetry and the prints, because as always, the idea grew.  I will post some pictures once the swap has been completed, and copies will be available a little while later.  Although I’ve hand-carved the prints and bound the zines, it’s a very different piece for me, as it includes no craft projects at all (even the Borrowers mini-zine includes Borrower-crafts).  I’ll reveal more in a couple of weeks…