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!

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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 🙂

Zines again!

I’m not really into poetry (with the exception of the ‘found’ poetry, that I included in some of my recent posts!), but I love haiku – capturing fleeting glimpses of moments (like a photograph) in condensed, image-rich words.  I have put together a 3-part mini-zine, with a booklet of Corey’s haiku, a collection of my haiku, printed on individual cards, and a little booklet of my thoughts about my own and traditional haiku.  If you are intrigued, check out the full listing for ‘head-space’ in The Tangled Press Etsy Store.

I also received a wonderful bundle of zines myself this morning, from Kristin Roach of Craft Leftovers.   I would love to add a photo, but my lack of home internet prohibits that, just now!  The July issue of Craft Leftovers Monthly is a fantastic themed issue, which will give you lots of practical tips & resource ideas if you are thinking of making a zine of your own.

Also, arriving just at the right time for me, it includes a great relief printing tutorial.  I’ve recently done some lino cut experiments, but made the best of what I had, materials-wise, and used stamping rather than printing inks.  However, while I was bemoaning the lack of clean prints this resulted in, to a colleague at work, a customer who overheard offered to bring me printing in exchange for copies of the prints I had already done.  I felt terrible accepting the offer, but at least it was a trade, and I’ve felt even more guilty since, as even though I bought a brayer to use the printing ins with, I still wasn’t brave enough to try it out.  Well, with July CLM as my guide, I will definitely be trying it out this month.  Honestly.  Well, maybe…

Zines update

In my hasty post the other day, I forgot to mention that I have listed some new zines in my Etsy stores.  The culmination of my French knitting experiments can be found in ‘Make Your Own…D.I.Y. French Knitting‘, in the usual TangleCrafts store.

For something a little bit different to my usual offerings, please check out The Tangled Press Etsy Store.  Yes, I have finally started adding some non-crafty zines to this store, and there are more to come.  The first two listings are

  • ‘The Beast: Requiem for a Vibraphone’ – the life story of Corey’s sadly deceased (well, definitively retired, at least!) vibraphone; a photo story featuring & with commentary by ‘The Beast’, and a collection of Corey’s haiku.  ‘The Beast’ comes as a 3 part set, bound into a wallet, with 2 integral pockets.
  • ‘On Flowers & Fairy Tales’ features the 3 lino cuts I mentioned doing recently, as illustrations to a collection of thoughts & poems on, well, flowers & fairy tales.  There are also a couple of extracts from literature, a list of flowers & their meanings, and a bibliography.  If you have a passing interest in fairy tales, I think you’ll find it interesting!

There are several more works in progress, but given my current lack of home internet access, these will have to tide you over for a little while…!

    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…

    Stamp carving experiment #3

    (Firstly, a note to anyone who’s waiting for me to catch up with mail-outs, I’m finally feeling on top things here in the new house, and orders & subscriptions will all be in the post tomorrow or Saturday.)

    Moving house was a horrible nightmare of packing, throwing away, unpacking, throwing away.  So many things I wanted to be getting on with just had to be put on hold – very frustrating!  But I’m now all unpacked & have managed to actually get rid of various miscellaneous extraneous ‘stuff’, & my new workroom is feeling like a very nice place to be.  The light floods in, which is great!  (& the house came with built-in wardrobes replete with numerous shelves and cubbies, perfect for storing all my crafting paraphernalia – hurrah!)

    You know how when you pack and unpack you come across all sorts of stuff that you’d forgotten you ever had?  I made some great discoveries!  Firstly, I found a craft knife set – including 2 slightly sturdier knives than the one I broke during my last stamp carving experiment – and (even more exciting!) an unopened pack of anti-slip furniture/floor protectors. cork-tiles What? But yes, honestly this was an exciting discovery: I saw these miniature, self-adhesive cork tiles and instantly saw all sorts of wondrous possibilities leaping out at me.  Not least, a very definite premise for Stamp Carving Experiment #3.  After SCE #2, I invested in a (cheap) lino-cutting tool with a selection of cutting blades, so I was ready to roll.

    1. cork-stampsI started with one of the little round tiles, and drew my design straight on (oops, used a pigment ink pen rather than nice, quick-drying Sharpie – now I have very inky little fingers).
    2. I quickly discovered that lino-cutting tools make no impact whatsoever on cork, so lucky I found that other craft knife set!  I carved out along the lines with a craft knife.  Cork is very crumbly, & I just kind of nudged quite a lot of it out.  I quickly gave up on the prospect of perfect, clean-cut lines.  I took a second tile, & cut it into a rough flower shape with a pair of scissors.  While I was carving the first tile, I suddenly thought larger blocks of colour might work better, so worked the 2 tiles simultaneously, for the sake of comparison.
    3. It seemed almost wasteful, but considering the incredibly convenient self-adhesive backing, the logical thing to do seemed to be to mount the carved/cut tiles onto more of the same.  I cut a very quick stem from a 3rd round tile to go with the scissor-cut flower, and mounted on one of the larger tiles.
    4. flower-printsI was surprised by the results: I had expected the larger ink blocks of the scissor-cut flower  to stamp more smoothly.  The stem is very clean, but the carved ‘pinwheel’ flower gave a more consistent overall print.  The cork absorbs ink very quickly, which I think makes the surface texture more evident than printing with other mediums.  Probably a thicker printing ink would negate this slightly – but then, if you want a perfectly smooth print, there are other surfaces you can carve, instead.

    ray1I was really pleased with the results, another happy learning curve.  In fact, given the success of the pinwheel flower carving, I immediately set to another.  I used the remainder of the tile I had lopped a side-curve off to make a stem earlier.  I decided starting off with straight rather than curved lines would be a quick way to get cleaner edges (lesson learned from stem of flower).  It is supposed to be a rising/setting sun, with rays outwards.  I really like how it came out, but depending on your perspective, it could probably just as easily be a beach ball, a shell,  or even half a daisy…!  Hmm, half a daisy? bat-rayA quick bit of photo-editing ‘magic’ and hey presto!    Um, not so much a daisy though, really, as what?  A bat, maybe?  Perhaps I’ve strayed back to the unintentional Egyptian theme, and it’s some kind of scarab…  And what is that creepy skull/face thing that has emerged in the centre?  This print really makes me think of those old Rorschach inkblot tests…!

    So there you have it, Stamp Carving Experiment #3.  It’s definitely a learning process, but I’m enjoying it!  Next stage is a lovely smooth piece of lino (it’s sitting on the sofa, calling to me) – but it’ll have to wait a day or two: there are lots more things I have to catch up on, first.

    It’s good to be back 🙂 – see you again soon!