When I discover a new crafter or artist whose work I enjoy, I always want to know more about them – where they draw their inspiration, how their ideas develop, why a particular piece took that particular direction, why they use one technique rather than another, or any number of things about their personal ‘story’. Sometimes an artist is especially open, and all sorts of information might be available, but many people – myself included – simply don’t know where to begin when talking about themselves and their work. With this in mind, I have drawn up a series of questions designed to extract the kind of information that I would often like to know, and I will be asking fellow crafty types to share their answers. Continue reading CraftSeller Q&A: TangleCrafts (Part 1)
The lovely Britta (of JaguarSnail) has found yet another potential faux postage perforation solution for us to try and I, for one, am sold!
While rummaging in a junk/antique shop recently Britta came across a pair of rusty, slightly odd-looking scissors with teeth on one side, where the blade would normally be. When she asked what they were for, she was told they were thinning shears, used in hairdressing. Who knew?! (Not us, but probably many other people in the world…) Anyway, I tried out Britta’s shears and they did indeed make neat-if-square-ish perforations which tore off nicely, so I immediately ordered a cheap pair of (new!) thinning shears to try for myself.
Mine arrived this morning, and when I tested them out, not only did they make a lovely perforated edge to my new artistamps, but they separated them in the same swift movement, without any need for tearing! (I’m assuming Britta’s shears only pierced holes because they had been dulled slightly with with age and use.)
I’ve just made a new series of artistamps, printed on self-adhesive label paper, using my most recent postage stamp collages as background images. Here I’ve done a comparison test, first using a serrated pattern tracing wheel to tear off a stamp, and second using the thinning shears (not shown to scale!).
The auto-separation of the paper after using the shears means that rather than pre-perforating a whole sheet of stamps to tear off as needed, I will be cutting off one stamp at a time, but I like the clean edging so much, I’m pretty sure I can live with that compromise!
I designed the sheet of artistamps from notebook covers collaged in July. This is my first notebook collage of August in a combination of some of my favourite colours: an imaginary landscape which only narrowly missed the window of joining the artistamps above! Check out the TangleStore listing for more details.
This great list has been stolen (more borrowed, really) from Alex Wrekk’s Stolen Sharpie Revolution blog. Join me in celebrating International Zine Month, albeit a week late! (apologies – I’ve had a hectic few weeks…)
As a little IZM bonus for you, please use these coupon codes when placing an order in the TangleStore, throughout July (although offers apply to everything, not just zines!):
- Save 10% with coupon code ZINEMONTH10
- Save 15% when you spend £15 or more with coupon code ZINEMONTH15
Enter coupon code at Etsy checkout & discount will be applied automatically to your order.
(Offer valid until July 31st. )
…and here is a little sampling of the zines currently available in the TangleStore, to whet your appetite (but there are more!):
Oh dear. I have inadvertently wandered back into the old art v. craft debate. In general, I prefer to avoid it but a recent interview with craftivist Betsy Greer made me consider a tangential aspect. (It’s an interesting interview from more perspectives than this, though – you should read it!)
And then I got carried away…
Is zinemaking a craft? Approaching this from my own perspective I would have to say that it is, even if only at a most minor level; but zines represent an extremely wide field with all kinds of subgenres and production values so I think it would be impossible to give one all-encompassing yes or no answer. Regardless of that, here are a few aspects to consider:
- A standard 8-page mini-zine involves hand-folding and a cut (origami? kirigami?) – this is a very basic craft, but a craft nonetheless.
- A stitch-bound zine involves basic bookbinding skills (pamphlet/saddle stitch, stab-stitch, all kind of possibilities) – probably more likely to be utilised in a zine already focused on arts or crafts, this is inarguably using craft skills.
- But if you simply fold each page in half and then staple it? Stapling, I’m afraid, is not a craft.
- And if you outsource the printing & binding to a printer? Definitely not craft! Here we are simply moving into the realms of basic book/let production.
- What about the content? Well, a lot of work can go into the design and layout of a zine (or not – anyone can make a zine, with almost any skill level!) – but design and layout are skills rather than crafts.
- What about the aesthetics, all the beautiful artwork found in some zines? But it is reproduction rather than original artwork, as in any art book you can buy in any bookshop. The original artwork of course remains so, but the multiple reproduced copies are clearly no longer original art.
- And if each page of each copy is hand-embellished and/or handwritten? Then we are moving away from zines and into the world of artists’ books.
Cut down to the bare bones, zinemaking is probably more the culmination of a number of individual skills (not necessarily craft-based), combined.
The bigger question is, does it matter what you call it? My (slightly abridged!) conclusion to the art v. craft debate was that there will always be different perspectives of any one work. Some questions to consider…
- If somebody uses a particular craft technique to follow and reproduce the results of a pre-tested craft pattern, they are producing craft, not art.
- If somebody uses a craft technique but follows their own (self-designed) pattern, is that craft or art? Certainly additional skills have been utilised.
- If somebody uses a craft technique but follows their own pattern, then makes minor changes or alters features so that the end result is different every time, have they produced art or craft?
- If somebody uses a craft technique but follows their own pattern, yet unconsciously makes changes as each item is produced so that every item is utterly unique with its own character, is that art or craft?
- If an artist uses a craft technique within an art piece, is that art or craft?
- If an artist makes a series of similar pieces utilising a craft technique, are they producing art or craft?
- If an artist tells you that the meaning behind their work alters the context of the craft, does that make it art?
- What if a crafter tells you the meaning behind what they call their craft?
- What if a crafter is unaware of any deeper meaning in their work, yet subconsciously, they are expressing something unique with every piece?
Different people will give you different answers to probably all of these questions, even when assessing the same individual case. Does it matter if you call it art or craft? Not to me! Create whatever you want to create, and let other people label it whatever they like; all that matters is whether or not you are happy with what you have created. Similarly, if you write a zine, does it really matter if one person calls it a craft and another doesn’t? Just make a zine that says what you want it to say by whatever means suit you best, and be happy. 🙂
Another tangent – I’ve just curated a ZineCraft Etsy Treasury full of ideas & inspiration. Enjoy! (The Make Your Own Zine Kit shown to the left is from the FriendPrices Etsy Store – one of the many cool zine products featured in the treasury.) Do you have a favourite zine? Please feel free to share a link!
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NOTE TO STUDENTS!
I removed a couple of my old posts on the subject of art v. craft when I learned they were quite frequently being plagiarised by art students. Please take note, lecturers know how to use the internet, too! If you ‘borrow’ my thoughts, your lecturer will probably already have a good idea of where they came from. Take the questions above & give them some thought of your own, instead!
I hadn’t planned on any further Postal Patchwork experiments just yet, but I had a reason to sneak this one in between some other projects. I’m about to disappear off to Ireland for a few days to visit my aunt, who is also my godmother (I call her my Fairy Godmother, although I’m not sure how much she appreciates that…) and wanted to take a small gift with me. So I chose greens for the Emerald Isle (and also because I’m pretty sure she is fond of greens) and pieced together this little notebook for her.
This notebook is obviously not for sale; however, this particular patchwork design used halves of 18 different stamps (which means I have 18 matching halves remaining) and thus its inverse twin will probably become available not long after my return. I’m also seeing that almost-tree shape as a potential future Christmas card design (perhaps contrasted against a splash of red)…
Have you ever noticed how when a deadline is approaching, creativity often sneaks out the back door? Similarly, when I am determinedly trying to keep new ideas on hold until all moved into the new house next month (because I need to be packing & cleaning & doing boring things, not tapping away at my laptop and happily running things through my new printer) it seems that my imagination goes into overdrive.
Not counting all the ideas I’ve written down for new projects to commence following the move, I couldn’t help myself from writing & laying out an entire new issue of Enchanted Times Mini, and, um, I’m halfway through another new issue as well…
March will herald the one year anniversary of my separate E.T.Printworks store and it’s going to be all-change. Aside from the new paper mentioned in previous post, I will be discontinuing some items, re-packaging others, and of course, adding entirely new lines, as well. It will be an ongoing process, but I will have as much of the new presentation ready as possible for March. Be warned, there may be a couple of price increases (so buy now with your 25% discount for the best deals!) but there should also be a more cohesive and professional feel.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I will be closing the Etsy stores while my re-location takes place. Everything should be re-opened by March, and if at all possible I will re-open a little earlier, but this will all depend on realities and practicalities of unpacking & more. In the meantime I will try very hard to stem the flow of ideas, because I really already have enough to be going on with… 😉
I’ve been a little bit fascinated by merit badges, lately. The only time I’ve ever had something like this in real life was when I was in the Brownies – where the only badges I specifically remember earning were the Reading Badge (Enid Blyton, I believe!) and the Collector’s Badge (I really need to dig out that coin collection…) although I’m certain there were more. Why should such activities be confined to children, is what I wonder? Well, it seems I am not alone in such ponderances, as a little browsing brought up all kinds of fun stuff that I now feel obliged to share…
First up is the Make Do Mail. I just couldn’t resist – it’s a zine full of DIY projects & recipes, it’s a club with a membership card (doubling as a handy kitchen conversion chart), and it also includes a DIY merit badge for you to embroider yourself, once you have worked your way through the club booklet. How’s that for feeling like you’ve earned something?! I am a little previous mentioning this, as I have only just ordered my membership pack/s but I’m sure I will be back to tell you more once my
Next up is from one of my old favourites, the Letter Writers Alliance. First you need to join the LWA (follow the linked text or image below), but then you can sign up for the quite wonderful new ‘Initiative Response’ program. You can only sign up by mail, and then you will receive in return a letter of introduction to the program and a form comprising a list of tasks to be completed for your chosen initiative/s (choose from ‘World Traveler’, ‘Typist’ and ‘Out of the Box’). If you complete the tasks successfully, then (and only then!) you will receive the appropriate hand-embroidered badge as your reward. I love so many aspects of this. The whole point of the LWA is to promote the nearly-lost art of writing letters so it is wonderful that there is no option to join the program online: you have to apply by post. And I like that you have to complete the mail-related tasks before you receive the badges – which will be sent to you by post. I will definitely be doing this & will update with further developments in due course! 🙂
But if all that ‘earning’ feels like a little too much like hard work, you must check out the quite astounding Lee Meszaros Etsy Store, which offers badges for everyday occurrences and personality traits that most of us can achieve without even trying (although it’s still nice to be recognised for! 😉 ). I picked out ‘Pushing the envelope’, ‘Being just my type’, ‘Letting the cat out of the bag’ and ‘Being proud as a peacock’ but other categories include ‘Surviving first love’, ‘Taking the cake’, ‘Never changing your spots’, ‘Making lemons out of lemonade’ – you get the idea! All sorts of everyday triumphs are recognised in these witty badges. Each badge is silk-screened, hand-painted, hand-embroidered, and comes with its own presentation certificate – they really are miniature works of art and would make wonderful gifts.
What merit badge are you holding out for?
A couple of years ago, I realised that it would be necessary to keep a notebook about my person at all times, in order to jot down ideas when they come to me. Being me, of course it is always on the days I have failed to throw a notebook in my bag that I need to make notes. But that’s okay, because there are always scraps of paper to hand, and often whole sheets (which I can then fold down to mini-zine format). Excellent.
I’ve never been a sketchbook person, because I don’t consider myself an artist, but of late, I’ve realised that sketching quick diagrams to accompany words is actually quite handy; and it really doesn’t matter if the sketches are not those of a talented fine artist. If they convey the point I’m trying to put across, that’s good enough. So now the multitudinous notebooks of my life have been joined by a smaller host of pocket sketchbooks (okay, notebooks with blank pages).
As I work at my laptop every morning, I always have my to-do list notebook by my side – which in addition to my long lists frequently finds itself home to numerous scribbled asides and diagrams because it is handier than either notebook, or sketchbook (which I could obviously go and fetch but simply don’t).
You can see from this haphazard summary that I am less than organised when it comes to organising my ideas. When it comes to getting a particular idea off the ground, I can always visualise in which notebook or on which scrap of paper I made my notes, but then I have to waste time remembering where I have currently stowed those particular pieces of paper, waste further time digging it/them out, then work surrounded by open notebook/s and/or scraps of paper, while I collate my notes for that particular idea.
So it occurred to me that what I need is a larger sketchbook (scrapbook?) in which I can pull together all the scrappy notes into something slightly more coherent. Somewhere that I can literally cut and paste torn out pages from smaller notebooks or loose scraps or pictures I’ve found in a magazine. Then add some extra notes, of course.
Okay, that makes sense: a larger sketchbook. Not something I would carry around with me, I’m clear on that; because I’m lazy, and a pocket notebook is the largest extra weight I’m willing to carry on a regular basis. It would be unwieldy, too, and not very practical to whip out for notes-on-the-go. But how would pasting all my notes into one larger sketchbook work? Because my ideas rarely come in a coherent flow, and are frequently jumbled up with ideas for different projects from day to day (or hour to hour). If I pasted them all into one large sketchbook as the ideas came, it would be equally difficult to collate related thoughts when the time came – flipping backwards and forwards through the pages to find the relevant bits. So, a series of sketchbooks, one for each different idea? This could get complicated. And expensive.
My next thought was a ring binder. Just hole-punch the pages, add in plastic pockets to hold cuttings etc, and easily switch around the pages to re-organise thoughts, and keep notes for individual ideas together. Problem is, I just don’t like ring binders. Those rings always get in the way. And everything looks scrappy very quickly unless you keep everything in those plastic pockets; but then everything is visible but inaccessible. Hmm.
Bingo! Well, maybe. How about an index card system? I’d only ever seen standard 3″ x 5″ index cards before, but I just noticed that my local office supply shop sells 8″ x 5″ index cards (and holder boxes) that would be perfect for organising ideas. Cards are sturdier than paper, so would be less inclined to get scrappy (so quickly) and are easily shuffled back and forth, organised and re-organised according to whatever whim I am currently working on. I’m liking this idea. Hey, I’m liking this idea even better:
- a shoebox
- plus cut-up cereal box index cards
- plus all those blank postcards I have in my stash that I have never found a use for as file cards (write/paste on the blank side, obviously)
- equals cool handmade index card system!
Or, I could go the whole hog and just use an actual filing cabinet with a separate file for each idea. Wow. That sounds a bit scarily organised. I think the shoebox is a bit more me…
Of course, realistically (because like I said above, I really am lazy), I would still never get around to actually filing my ideas until the point at which I wanted to turn the idea into something. But I would have spent some happy hours preparing the filing system. And I would have a better way of keeping the ideas organised while I was working on them.
And of course, the only reason I am thinking about this now is because I have forbidden myself from new projects until after the house-move so I am obviously twitchy to be doing something creative rather than practical. Must distract self from distraction…
(Will update on Friends & Faux project soon – please accept my apologies for continued delay, I’ll get there shortly, I promise!)
we are astoundingly blind
and really do not look at
and see properly
the world around us
which is the source of
The next step on from finding poetry within fiction was to start flicking through my ‘archive’ of vintage weaving books. I felt sure there must be poetry in descriptions of this wonderfully repetetive and meditative craft. I wasn’t wrong, but what I found still surprised me, erring towards the philosophical and the abstract, rather than a simple appreciation of craft and colour.
Anyone who has read Telaic Fantasy 1 will already know about my dichotomous feelings towards Irene Waller – on the one hand so creative, on the other, with such a frightfully upper-class, scarily no-nonsense attitude (can’t you just see the attitude oozing out, even just in that cover photo above?). If there was one author I didn’t expect to find poetry in, it was Irene Waller, yet there it was, all the same.
I also wanted to share another idea I found in the above book. It’s possibly not entirely original (although you must remember it was written several decades before the likes of Keri Smith’s fantastic ‘How to be an Explorer of the World’), but I really like it:
“A marvellous way to break down any inhibitions you may have about colour is to have several large glass jars on your shelving and to drop into them fragments of anything, colourwise, which you find pleasing – beads, glass, paper, yarns, fabrics. Have a jar for blues, another for greens and so on.“
This is just supposed to be an exercise in developing a greater understanding of colour, but I think a jar crammed with miscellaneously textured colour would make a fantastic ornament, or if not ornament exactly, source of inspiration, in my workroom. I don’t think I could put yarns inside, though, as I would just have to fish them out again, when inspiration struck. Could get messy.
I really need to overcome my resistance and look out Irene Waller’s other books…
With the craft show looming (sorry) at the end of the month, I’ve been focusing on getting stock together. But of course, rather than being actually focused, I have simply been stalked by new ideas, which I have then had to try out (some have worked, some not). So I think it would be fair to say that my merchandise will be a fairly eclectic collection, with not more than a handful of any one concept. There’s still time, though, so I might be able to increase quantities in some areas, yet (if I manage to keep additional ideas at bay). I don’t really mind; there’ll always be another craft fair that I will have more time to prepare for. But the long and the short of it is probably simply that I don’t have the inclination/discipline to create multiples of similar items. Not consecutively, at least.
Anyway, here are some of the ideas I’ve been working on (pictures to be added shortly; sorry):
1. Oddballs. These are little creatures (approx. 2-3″ tall) woven and stuffed with the leftover oddments of yarn, so every one is different. I guess they will appeal to kids, and to those drawn to amigurumi. My husband thinks they’re the best thing I’ve ever done, which is lucky, as all of the prototypes appear to have congregated on his desk… The principle behind them for me is that I would rather use than discard short lengths of yarn, and they are quick to make. But they are cute. Feature-wise, I have given them blank expressions deliberately, because the marketing feature is that they are, essentially, an afterthought. Oddballs will come in individual little cotton drawstring pouches, with the label: “I am an Oddball. I just want to be loved.” (Currently superimposed on the picture above left.) Emotionally manipulative? Me? 😉
2. Gossamer bookmarks. The Oddballs are one of those little extras I think people will pick up because they’re cute and comparatively cheap. But other people will find Oddballs a little whimsical, so the Gossamer Bookmark is the alternative quick-to-make souvenir item for those who don’t want to splash out. The bookmarks are woven on 18ct tapestry canvas strengthened by a piece of card (glued to the canvas so that only a single row of holes are visible around the edge of the card). The canvas is warped from end to end, by passing the needle through every other hole along the shortest edges. Then using the same length of thread (I used a fine spun silk) I wove over and under the warp threads from side to side. At each side, the needle passes through the canvas and back to the right side 2 holes along. Once the bookmark is woven from top to bottom, I withdraw the outer thread of the tapestry canvas along each side of the ‘loom’. All the edge loops can then be easily (carefully) slid from the loom, releasing the finished bookmark. Because of stitching through the canvas at the sides thoughout the weaving process, the sides consist of even loops from top to bottom, and there is no danger of ‘drawing-in’. The resulting bookmark is very delicate, though, and needs something extra to substantiate/protect it. I thought about laminating, so that it would look like the bookmark is floating, but it’s not a very eco-friendly solution. I think it would look nice mounted on a piece of textured, handmade paper or card, so that people could still touch the actual threads and textures. Or in a world I have not yet investigated, I know there are stabilisers for delicate fabrics and clever disolving things, so perhaps I can do something with that. (Any advice, or websites you can direct me to?)
The woven bookmark precipitated another idea that is still in the germination stages; but the process does create a very evenly spaced fabric (unlike densely packed tapestry) that is crying out to be embroidered…
There are more ideas, but the next two are related, and I’m running out of time, so I will post again, shortly…