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)…

Advertisements

More postal patchwork (& other fun things)

Another crafternoon with Britta produced lots of fun results!  Of course, my new Postal Patchwork experiments paled somewhat beside Britta’s amazingly detailed hand-carved stamps – applied to Moleskine notebooks, so we can all share the goodness!

Badgified BoxesAs if that wasn’t enough, Britta presented me with a little stash of badges she’s been working on, made from the quality control marks & recycling logos on salvaged packaging (‘Badgified Boxes‘, as we decided to call them!).  We worked together on the presentation, hand-cutting mount cards from discarded packaging lying around TangleCrafts HQ, together with low-fi hand-stamped title & by-line, using my DIY printing kit.

We had a fun afternoon (topped off by pizza!), and I was inspired to carry on with a little more Postal Patchworking the next day.  This one is a postcard, and I’m thinking of putting together a tutorial zine & possibly kit so that you can try it out yourself.

airmail arrow 1

As soon as I started laying down the stamps for the above ‘airmail’ arrow pattern, I started visualising alternative pattern variations which are crying out to be tried.  The problem with this Postal Patchworking – with any kind of patchworking, probably – is that there is an almost infinite number of variations for every pattern, and it’s simply impossible to act on them all!

I’m suffering slightly from ideas-overload at the moment, so am planning to scale back again on PP experiments while I try to let some of the other ideas that are buzzing around in my head chance to breathe (before they just spill out of my ears…).  Watch this space (&, of course, the TangleStore) for the results!

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 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!

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!)