Zines, mail art, postal stuff – All This is Mine!

atim zineOver the last 6 months or so, I have acquired a few zines about mail art, & my opinion (so far) is that by far the most interesting is All This is Mine.  ATIM is a zine & a website.  The zine covers different subjects, but Issue 12 is all about letter-writing & while it’s not entirely about mail art, it’s still one of the most interesting I have read on the subject.  And it comes with a packet of random postal labels as well, which is very cool.

ATIM stationeryIf the random labels are more interesting to you than a zine about letter-writing, you’re in luck, because the ATIM website also sells absolutely awesome hand-collated themed packs of random stationery.  Whether you see ephemera for artwork or original accessories for your correspondence in these packs, they are absolute essentials for mail lovers and creative letter-writers everywhere.  I want one!

Guerilla matchbox art!

redheads matchbox project“Each week, a decorated matchbox with a tiny present hidden inside is left by a girl (and sometimes willing friends) somewhere in her travels. It’s a random act of semi-artistic kindness aimed at disrupting someone’s day in a tiny but positive way. That’s if they dare to pick it up…”

I came across the site for The Matchbox Project yesterday, & it has set me thinking about what cool things might be left in a matchbox, to be randomly left behind & randomly found by total strangers.     Of course, it might be the perfect ‘shell’ for a zinebomb – just reduce templates to just under 1/4 original size & they will fit into a 32ct matchbox!

Are you a zine writer as well as reader? You need a zinalogue!

What’s a zinalogue?  Well, it’s a catalogue of zines.  Obviously.  😉

It works sort of like a friendship book, except you use it to promote the zines you have available to trade and buy.  All you need to do is make a small booklet(/mini-zine), add in the details of your zine/s along with a handful of blank pages; then every time you trade a zine with someone include a copy of your zinalogue.  The theory is, it gets passed around every time a zine is traded, and each person who handles the booklet adds their own zine/contact details.  You include your own home address on the back of your zinalogue, so that once the blank pages are full it will eventually return home to you, full of info about the zines that are ‘out there’ in the world.

Why?  Well, it’s just a way of promoting your own zines – because who knows who the person you traded with last will trade with next?  Your zinalogue could realistically reach zinesters all over the world, whose zines you might otherwise never have heard of, and who might otherwise never have heard of yours.  It’s mutually beneficial to everyone who contributes a label, business card or promo to a page, because their zine info will be seen by a random bunch of zinesters, too.  Then when your zine returns home, you can while away the hours checking out the links of everyone who has contributed to your zinalogue.  A nice idea would be to include an extra zinalogue (with unfilled return address) when you send one asking for the recipient to contribute, then they can play, too.  Don’t forget to add your details to one of the blank pages, first!

Ultimately, if enough people start filling and passing zinalogues, you could even trade full zinalogues (once you’ve either made a note of the details you’re interested or traded with everyone therein!).  There are always going to be new zinesters, and old zinesters with new zines to find out about, so why not try it?

I’ve added a couple of templates (A4 & letter-size) that you can print & fold directly, add your details & get started!

What’s everyone up to?

I’ve had some great updates in the last week! And it’s always cool to see what other people are working on, so if you’ve been inspired to try something by one of my kits or zines, do let me know so that I can share 🙂

wall hangingFirst up today is Sharon Schmeidel – back in January, she bought one of my ATC weaving kits and has been weaving away ever since. In her own words, tapestry weaving has become “another passion I should probably have done without”! The scale has increased somewhat since her ATC-sized beginnings – I’m sure you’ll agree with me that this wall-hanging is pretty awesome! Sharon is a member of the Iowa Art Quilters Group, and this piece has been on display in Grenell, Iowa, over the summer, at a show in conjunction with an area weaving conference. Cool!

doodle stitchI was also really happy to see Robin O. Mayberry’s post on her Alchemy Studio blog, about the bookmark she doodle-stitched, after I sent her a copy of my new ‘Contours’ zine, less than a month ago! The zine is all about doodles, and at the very last minute, I decide to include a bookmark as an extra. I didn’t have time to trial the concept first, so I just hoped that it would work – and it looks like it did – hurrah! Huge thanks to Robin for being my guinea pig & actually trying it out :-). If you would like to try it yourself, every bookmark that comes with the Contours zine is hand-doodled, and will be similar but different to Robin’s, so your doodle-stitching is guaranteed to be unique.

faux stampedAnd last but not least, I received a great piece of post from Kristina Howells in France. I’ve been taking part in some faux postage projects, lately (although Kristina was very quick off the mark with this one, & I haven’t created, let alone sent my response, yet!). The envelope I received from Kristina had 2 ‘real’ stamps at the top, which had been duly postmarked, but also a faux postage stamp just beneath – and what tickled me was that the faux stamp had also been postmarked! I hadn’t got too far yet with my ideas for the faux postage project, but receiving this really prompted me to give it some thought & I’m itching to get started, now…

Still quiet?

Borrowers coverWell, it looks like I’ve not been up to much but that is definitely very far from the truth! The last week has been spent almost solely fulfilling Etsy orders (everyone’s gone Borrowers crazy!), and because I’m a fool & make all my zines with lots of extra bits, it gets very time-consuming putting everything together.  I ran out of one of the key components, but I think that worked out okay in the end, as I created a cute little addendum, with a substitute for the missing item…  Oh, and I had my first 2 Folksy sales last week, too, so that was also quite exciting – although definitely no competition for Etsy, as yet!

I say I’ve been solely fulfilling orders, but of course, that’s not really the case, as I’ve also been working on several new (related) ideas.  One is nearly complete, and the others are still at germination stage, but they’re definitely sprouting…  Will post more details once I’ve got all these orders underway!

Does anyone know the story of Baba Yaga?  That’s what one of my new projects is based on: a Russian/Eastern European folk tale about a witch who lives in a hut on chicken legs (to minimise the kernel of the story to the extreme!).  My first encounter with Baba Yaga was when I was 6 years old.  After a day trip to Cumbria where my sister and I made a wish in a wishing well, we went to bed and forgot all about it.  The next day, there was a letter waiting for us from ‘the fairies’.  They explained very sweetly, that they were sorry but they could not supply the item/s we had actually wished for.  However, they hoped that we would be happy with the record that they had left for us instead.

This was in the days before CDs even existed, and the record was a bright yellow vinyl.  For the life of me, I couldn’t tell you what it was my sister and I actually wished for, but believe me, the excitement of a yellow record was more than a good enough substitute for me!  On the record was a story.  That story was Baba Yaga.  I can’t say that the story shaped my formative years any more than any other fairy tale that I remember, but it is a story that keeps finding its way back into my life.

So look out for a Baba Yaga-shaped ‘something’ coming soon to TangleCrafts; and in the meantime, check out these cool projects elsewhere, that I found while I was ‘researching’: Baba Yaga dollBaba Yaga HutA Baba Yaga doll (from SmallWorks) that you can turn upside down and magically transforms into her nemesis, Vasilissa the Fair/the Wise/the Brave; and a Baba Yaga plushie hut, complete with chicken legs from Melissa Sue Stanley!  The doll reminds me of one my Grandma made (one each for me & my sister) when I was little, which was a ragdoll Cinderella & broom one way up, then transformed into a glamorous Cinderella in beaded ballgown when turned upside down.  Why did I not keep these things…?

Nigel Peake

Peake MapsOn Sunday, I was very decadent and bought myself a new book.  It is only 24 pages long and cost £8.95, but it is so beautiful and enticing that it is absolutely, definitely worth every penny.  It’s not a craft book, or even fiction: it’s a book called ‘Maps’ by Nigel Peake.  It’s full of, well, maps; but not your ordinary, everyday atlas-type maps: these are out-of-the-ordinary, everyday, stylised, hand-drawn to the tiniest minutiae maps, filled with colour and pattern, and – well, they’re just awesome. Peake Maps 2See left for a couple of pages from inside this book.  There aren’t many pages in the book, but it’s not something you can just flip quickly through: you need to really study the pictures, to see which details have been picked up.

Peake Map 3I just stumbled upon this book as I was browsing the shelves – it’s very thin and there is not even any wording on the spine, so could easily have been missed, but that’s probably actually what made me notice it.  I was just mesmerised, as soon as I opened it.  The example to the right, here, is more representative of what I love about the amazing use of line, and pattern.  (The image shown is a print, but it does also appear in the book, ‘Sheds’ – I just didn’t want to break the spine of my book, to scan it!).  Slightly off-topic, but something to think about, I can totally imagine this kind of image converted into blackwork embroidery.  Hmm…

If you check out Nigel Peake’s blog, it’s obvious how the detail of the ordinary things we often just walk past without really seeing is being plucked from obscurity in his work.  It’s not that it is enlarged or prettified, but itjust makes you actually look at the detail, makes you aware, instead of being blind to it.  I love the photos on his blog.

There is also a website where you can actually flip through his publications, and see even more of his wonderful illustrations; then when you can’t take it any more, you can also buy prints and zines online.  Go and do it now.  I insist.


Corey is away for the weekend, so I am luxuriating in having a couple of decadent evenings to myself.  What am I up to?  Well, I’m about to make myself a cheese & pickle sandwich, and am otherwise having an evening off from ‘work’ and just browsing online.  That’s very rare!  And after I’ve made my sandwich, you know what else I might do?  I might actually switch off the laptop and read a novel for a couple of hours.  I’ve not done that for ages!  I know what you’re thinking: this girl’s life is just one long, endless party…  No?  Yeah, I know; it’s not the most exciting evening I’ve got lined up, but  I’m looking forward to it, anyway.

zentangleOh yes, nearly forgot the reason I stopped by here!  The reason was ‘Zentangles’.  I suspect, as with most things, I am way behind the times with this one, but just in case you’re in the dark like I was, it appears to be ‘doodling with intent’ (rather than in absentia) – hence the zen part of the name – and then (because they do look pretty cool) calling them art.  It’s not just the ‘tangle’ part of the name that attracts me (honest).  I had a flick through the gallery (see pic, right) at the official website, and a lot of the patterns just reminded me of the kind of doodles I actually do.  Therefore it didn’t strike me as something that would take an enormous leap for me to grasp the gist of.  And looking through the gallery, I also thought the black & white patterns would lend themselves well to relief printing.  I’m feeling slightly more confident in my lino-cutting skills these days, but drawing isn’t really my thing, and I hit a kind of stumbling block (no pun intended) in terms of new projects & design inspiration.  If I can get away with adapting my doodles, I will be very happy!

Now, the Zentangles website gives lots of background information about how great & therapeutic it can be for the soul, and all that kind of new age stuff, but it’s very thin in practical advice when it comes to getting started – mainly, I would guess, because they sell a $50 starter kit, and they want people to buy it, rather than think they don’t need it.  Personally, I would rather test out the principles of the concept before shelling out $50 on yes, very nice, high quality materials, but really not essential to the practice itself.  Having said that, the website does include a free online newsletter which gives clear guidance on ‘learning’ particular filling patterns, and where to find doodling inspiration etc.  But if, like me, you read through the website and can’t quite see how to get started, you might also appreciate these posts on Crazy Art Girl’s site, which demonstrate a beginner’s zentangle from start through to completion.  It really clarified the concept for me, anyway.

I bought a cool notebook from Bad Day Ben Designs on Etsy a few months back, with good thick quality paper pages measuring 2.5 x 3″ each – I think I might have just found the perfect use for it…!  I’ll let you know how my Zentangle explorations progress…

Oh, one more note ‘Zentangle’ is a trademark name, and I think refers to the method they use to teach the Zentangle doodling technique (hence $50 for starter pack).  However, you can also find references to similar stuff with a google search for the more general ‘zen doodle’.  There are ‘zen mandalas’ which are similar, too.

Super-cool playing card notebooks

playing card notebooksThey’re notebooks, they’re made out of playing cards, and they’re very cool indeed.  What more is there to say?  Well, plenty, actually.  Check out the full post (including a tutorial for making similar notebooks) over at Diane Gilleland’s Crafty Pod.  Can you resist?  I’m not sure  I can…

Hand carving stamps

After my little experiment with carving a mousemat stamp earlier today, I’ve done a little research, and found this great tutorial for doing it ‘properly’.  I love the retro flower motif she uses in the example.  I think I might invest in one of those lino-cutting tools, as it will just make life easier (you need to be careful you don’t ‘under-cut’ the lines you carve, or they will just crumble off, with use).  I’ve seen a multi-pack of erasers at one of the local pound shops, though, so that might account for my next foray in this direction…

Craft Leftovers – yay!

Have I mentioned before how cool Craft Leftovers is?  I’m sure I have!  I just got my latest (April) issue of Craft Leftovers Monthly (zine + kit!) yesterday, so I’m a happy little bunny, just now :-).

clmclm2This month’s goodies included a complete kit (instructions, yarn & vintage buttons) for the Snowdrop Gauntlet, a cute, random origami ‘thing’, and of course the zine, which is packed with projects, including a cool woven clutch purse.

You can only sign up for CLM once a month – check it out here, so you don’t miss out next time!  If you’re tempted by the woven purse, though, head over to the Craft Leftovers Monthly shop, as you can still by the April issue on it’s own.