I’ll let you into a secret…

F&F Mini #1…do you remember the Friends & Faux mail art project I hosted back in 2010?  Well, it’s about to return!  I’m currently in the process of building a new blog so that updates can be kept together all in one place.  Due to moving house multiple times following the inception of the first run of the project, I did sadly let it slide off the back-burner once the initial wave of postcards was sent out.  If you helped me track the project by forwarding a pic of one of the project postcards, though, please rest assured your reward (mini zine documentation) will finally be on the way to you within the next week.  And I promise I have learned from my mistakes and will be far more efficient, this time around!  Full details of the new project to follow shortly…

Beanie Mouse with F&F #1
Beanie Mouse with F&F #1

While I was working on the new Friends & Faux blog yesterday, I was reminded of one of the contributors to the very first F&F postcard – Beanie Mouse!  Beanie is star of the Found Art Blog, c/o Andrea McNeill.  Together, they create and then ‘lose’ labelled artwork around the south of England and the rest of the world, while the blog documents all the artwork as it is lost and then found again by happily unsuspecting members of the public.  As I was browsing, I soon learned that Beanie is a somewhat prolific mail artist and artistamp creator.  Above, you can see Beanie with Postcard #1 after adding his stamp, but this barely scratches the surface of his vast catalogue (album?) of work:

Photos used with kind permission of Andrea McNeill.  Please visit Found-Art for further adventures of Beanie Mouse!

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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 🙂

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!

Stamp carving experiment #2

I couldn’t resist: I went out and bought the bargain pack of erasers, 7 for £1.  Nice little rectangles, approx. 3/4″ wide x 2″ long x 3/8″ deep.  I drew my pattern freehand onto the first eraser, with a fine point Sharpie (currently 5 for £1!).

needlestamp1With my craft knife, I outlined the pattern, trying to take care to angle the blade outwards from the line I was drawing.  Then I cut inwards from the outer edge, and sliced out chunks of the surface around the pattern.  At first, I was very impressed with how smooth and easy it was to cut.  Then I noticed how the once smoothly outlined lines were actually flaking off leaving little ragged edges behind.  On my first test print (above right), it is most obvious around the eye of the needle, and you can also see ‘feathering’ along the edge of the swirl of thread.

I decided not to worry about the flakiness, as this was just a practice run to get used to the technique of carving.  I just made sure to be as careful as possible to avoid knocking any bits off if I could help it, and tried to neaten up any especially ragged areas.  I carved away more of the background area and, in the end, just cut off the uncarved areas of the eraser – the easiest way to avoid them picking up & transferring ink in unwanted places!  This was when my craft knife broke…

needlestamp21I was really pleased with the next test print, though.  To be honest, I really don’t mind the ‘feathery’ effect where the eraser crumbled.  What I mind is the knowledge that with use, the eraser will continue to crumble, ruining the stamp very quickly. Not much use, really!

needlestamp3But this was a very educational test run.   I discovered that there is a reason people buy particular brands of eraser or carving blocks for their stamps, and that is quite simply that they are better quality and (in the case of carving blocks) designed specifically for the job.  Likewise, my budget craft knife was just not up to the job, so looks like I will have to invest in at the very least a better craft knife, if not one of those lino-cutting tools.

But while the flakiness of the rubber means that these £1 erasers aren’t going to go very far in terms of my stamp-carving ‘career’, I still think they were great value, as their budget price did enable me to test out the principles of  carving, to see if I enjoyed both the process and the results.  Which I can now confirm I do!  It may not last very long, but I’m really happy with how my needle & thread stamp turned out :-).

Unfortunately, I think my next carving experiments will have to wait until after the house-move, when I will have chance to pick up more adequate supplies…

(Check out my stamp-carving experiment #1, where I used a mouse mat, instead of an eraser – it worked!)