Nov 162017

Sometimes the best way to deal with being creatively sluggish and behind on your schedule is to say FUCK IT!!! and play Minecraft until your feet get cold. Repeat as needed.

Nov 152017

It is the middle of November?! And the Solstice Party is in the middle of December?! I should have the handmade invitations in the mail this week?! I haven’t even started the sketch for carving! I need a day off, or three, to catch up.

Nov 132017

Three this week! Woot!
Lunch hour painting, coals from Baba Yaga.
Most people who know stories of Baba Yaga first envision the chicken legged house, or the witch herself, but the part of the most familiar story that sticks with me is the coals. It was the goal of her quest, the coals were well-earned, and they are hastily given at the end in a skull. That part lives in my head. Magical, red and gray coals being tossed into a human skull for carrying. It always seemed the bone wouldn’t be enough insulation for carrying. I always imagine Vasalisa picking up the first sturdy branch she found that had forks to wedge the skull into during her travels home. Last year when Slick and I were clearing branches from our yard, I found a really good one. I even tried it on against my head to be sure, and it was a good fit for a human skull. I idly wanted to toss some red LED battery lights in an appropriate Halloween skull and make my Vasalisa’s torch. Fortunately for my project list, I didn’t keep track of the branch – although it is probably still out there.
In one of the subscription art supply boxes I receive, there was a skinny landscape format watercolor sketchbook. (Just a link if you’re interested, no affiliate or any strings at all.) I’d seen it before but not purchased because I don’t do city or land scapes and I was unsure I’d find uses for it specifically. Between this sketchbook and a sample sheet of some truly luscious Daniel Smith Watercolors, I was carried gently on a wave of painting thoughts back to the lunchtime paintings. The long paper called out for this torch rendition, although I didn’t use the WC samples on this.

Lunch hour painting, taxidermy fox.
In one of my dreams, Slick and I attended a sort of estate sale, but it was for an institute or club of some kind. There were art books, pieces of furniture, a variety of things. I went out some dark, double doors onto a small courtyard fenced with black wrought iron. The sidewalk was damp with rain and the tree leaves sparkled as their wet surfaces caught sunlight. In the shadow of a branch, I saw what at first appeared to be a fox. As I got closer, I saw it wasn’t really a fox. The fur was flat and the snout had an oddly long shape to it. It was a taxidermied fox, and it appeared unnatural enough for me to remember later.

Lunch hour painting, a silly fucking cat on the internet.
We wound down an evening looking at funny cat clips online and this one stuck with me. The angle of his eyes and that single tooth sticking out won me over. Had to snap a screenshot and paint this silly cat. It was fun. I like combining a couple layers of pen linework and watercolor. The look of it pleases me.

Now to see if this week is equally productive.

Nov 092017

Using foam interlining in a snap flap pouch, attempt #3. No French seams this time.
pouch with foam interlining and snap flap closure
This is fine. Again, using fabric scraps that looked good enough, plus a stripe of small and colorful, patchworked bits. Pretty enough. I like it much better with regular, internal seams.

pouch with foam interlining and snap flap closure
I estimated the width of the flap to match the front of back width, minus the sides that have bottom boxed edges. This worked quite well. I cut the foam to NOT fill the edges so that it could fold flat and not be puffy. Coincidentally, a pack of index cards fit inside this pouch perfectly – which is great because I need storage for a pack I opened and then the cats knocked them off the table onto the floor. That worked out.

The next foam interlining project is much more involved and the foam is the least of it. Hope to get it done soon, but if I don’t that’s fine, too. I’m enjoying taking my time on all the little pieces of this project, which I am completely making up at every step as I go along.

Nov 082017

Last week on the internets, I saw a sewing project that had impressive interior structure, but also looked soft and squishy. I suspected a foam and asked the sewist what she used. Surely enough, her response was Pellon Flex Foam. This is a thin (.125″) foam sheet that can be sewn, pressed, manipulated, whatever. Like interfacing or batting, but simply open cell foam. Ever in need of new things to try (true) and in dire need of more creative supplies (diametric opposite of true) I hopped on to Amazon and got a roll of Flex Foam in the non-lined, non-fusible version. The lined and fusible version are probably easier to handle and more convenient to use, but I didn’t know what I was going to use it for and the bare, naked foam on a roll version would offer the most options. Plus, it was available immediately and was WAY cheaper.

While I waited for delivery, I thought of ways I could use the stuff. Some obvious choices are shaped containers, like wine bags, pouches, etc. Not being a drinker, I started thinking about bags and pouches, but didn’t want to use the same old non-foamy methods as usual. For those I use lining, interfacing, batting, stabilizer, etc. in varying combinations depending on the item. To make the foam easy to insert or use, I thought I’d go for French seams. And hey, while I’m at it, I haven’t used the snap dies for my press for a while. Why don’t I make them with snaps instead of zippers – I’ve used plenty of zippers this year.

This is how I get myself into trouble. A new, unfamiliar interlining product, French seams I don’t usually use, and forcing snap closures or additions. I can’t do anything easy.

Nonetheless, I carried on and whipped up a couple prototypes when the foam arrived. I am a big believer in sharing failures alongside successes because how else can one learn? I hate going to blogs where folks casually show perfect finished products in flattering lighting and stylish props with no indication of the effort to get there. Save that shit for your Etsy shop! I need to see how you fucked it up! I want to see the chewed up seams that wouldn’t get through the presser foot, the crooked alignments that forced you to change your pattern, and hear all about the challenges you overcame to get that product to do what you wanted.

We all have different priorities.

Thus, the first tries:
Foam lined, snap pouches, with flaps closed.
A simple, French seamed, foam lined, snap closure pouch in blue print on the right, another in stripes on the left. Since they were made from the first scraps I grabbed that didn’t look hideous, they are odd shaped and sized. If something fits in these nicely, it is by pure chance alone.

Foam lined, snap pouches, with flaps open.
Same pouches with flaps open.

While I consider these failures, they aren’t really. They’re merely NOT GOOD ENOUGH. The one on the right was attempt #1 and I rather miscalculated (which implies I calculated at all, which I didn’t, everything is freehand) how much SA (seam allowance) would be eaten by the seaming and the foam puff, so the foldover flap is noticeably larger than it needs to be. It isn’t terrible, but it bugs me. Also, the lining fabric is not adhered to the naked foam anywhere but the edge seams, so the fabric … I don’t know a word for this .. it exists away from the foam. It doesn’t lay flat, or next to it. As the pouch moves, the lining moves and the foam doesn’t. Improvement choices are to make the lining tighter so it can’t move or to attach the lining fabric to the foam so there can be no excess when the seams are sewn. And I don’t like French seams inside the pouch. You don’t notice them at first because they’re fine, but once you notice them, they bug you. Or, me, at least. As well, doing boxed bottom corners with French seaming was new to me and I fucked it up, ripped it out and redid it. The seams ended up a bit fatter than they ought to have been if I’d done it right.

On to attempt #2 on the left. To make the flap SA match the pouch SA, I did the flap with French seams, then the pouch, making sure to aim inward on the lining fabric as I went to help with the loose lining fabric problem I had on the #1 pouch. These worked; the flap is not significantly bigger than the pouch, the lining fabric is snugger, and I finagled the boxed corners with French seaming better (seam edges first, box, tuck raw edges before box seam). I still don’t like it.

So, that sucked. I do realize I set myself the hardest, rockiest path up this hill, so I am not surprised. For the next attempt, I took away one of the restrictions, the French seams – since I like them the least. Also, French seams on pouches with flaps removes any fast or easiness from the seaming. I mean, really. Why do French seams which are best for fast, clean, interior seams that are enclosed when a third of your project must be seamed and turned out before you can assemble the body? It is illogical. I’ve found (from a few minutes of reviewing blog “tutorials” on this subject) that the people doing them this way are also simply seaming the edges up and leaving them with an exterior seam showing. Yuck. No thank you. That would be fine for giveaway-freebies or initial children’s sewing projects, but I don’t want that. It is also NOT GOOD ENOUGH and I’m going to die. I don’t have time to make expectedly lower-quality work.

I’ve gone on for a while now, so I’ll need to show attempt #3 tomorrow.

Nov 062017

Between workload, inconveniently timed meetings, and the almost-dead creative funk, I only got in two lunchtime paintings the past couple weeks.

Painting of Tasmanian devils.
I had a pic of a pair of Tasmanian devils in my Inspiration folder for a while now, and it was time. I like how their markings look like Batman symbols.

Painting of a wolf in the workplace.
After a work thing, I had to paint this. Wolf in the Workplace seems to be sprouting as a theme for me. At least, when I’m painting at work.

Got some good creative work time in yesterday and will share some pics soon. Yea for sewing!

Nov 032017

Moxie and Slick.
Moxie, cleaning her face while laying on Slick.

We have both (Slick and me, not Slick and Moxie) been working very hard lately. We took a break and stayed on the couch the whole evening. It was good. I can face today with a refreshed feeling. Moxie even took advantage and spent some time being sweet while Slick snuggled her.

Oct 272017

I don’t know what’s going on. My Muse is on a mini-break, maybe. I go down to the workshop and am simply indifferent to my lovely fabric and excellent sewing machines. New carving blocks seem dull. My watercolors remain dry and untouched. Freshly emulsion coated screens sit, gathering dust, waiting and becoming less efficient. Something is off, and I don’t quite know how to fix it, but I’m not to panic mode — yet.

The Good Place, Chidi.
“Okay, but what do we do, panic, freak? I usually panic, but I am happy to freak.”

Fortunately, I have a variety of projects that do not require inspiration or design thought, and can make progress even with very little motivation. I have a quilt ongoing with all color, design, and layout decisions already made and pictured in my head, so I’ve got some of that done.

Sometimes I find myself with my head laying on the sewing platform, presser foot LED reflecting off my cheek while I stare at the screen saver pics my Chromecast puts up.

I cut out some Scrappy Cat blanks and managed to get a couple bases prepped.
red violet scrappy cat base
Love those ears.

blue green bugs scrappy cat base
The bugs! Good.

But, that is the most fun part of making Scrappy Cats, so the bases sit there. I tried to do a third one, but the fabric pull was borderline depressing (for NO good reason – the fabrics are FINE!) and forcing myself to start stitching even one piece down, that I know I could cover up if I didn’t like it later, made me give up so suddenly I didn’t even turn my machine (Nome) off. More staring.

New supplies excite me, but a recent Sketchbox with cool items only produced some swatches and a doodle. Inktober is meaningless to me. There are no Lunch Hour Paintings. Poetry eludes me (although some might argue it does normally – hah). Minecraft didn’t even help.

Maybe I’ll go for a hike tomorrow. Something different. I’m not sad, depressed, nothing so easily defined. I’m healthy, happy, as well-slept as usual. Work is exciting and new – maybe my brain cells are tired? Perhaps they need a break after all the technical work? Breaks are fine. I make art for my own pleasure, so I’m not up against deadlines or anything. Not really – all projects I do are self-imposed nowadays. Maybe I’ll do what normal people do. What is that? Watch television? Shop? Play games on their cell phones? Blech – forget all that. Maybe …. shit. I just don’t know. I’ll clean and sort and wind bobbins until I do know.

Oct 202017

While I don’t have any cat photos for this Friday, I did complete a small, but useful workshop project. The spandrel (space under the stairs) in my workshop was used by prior owners as storage – for random crap, dirt, and a tangle of spider webs, as far as I can tell. Inspired by how much I loved using my last workshop spandrel for relaxation, I planned on doing something similar in this one.
My past workshop spandrel hammock.
The old hammock.
Me, in my workshop spandrel hammock, a dozen years ago.
Me, 12.5 years ago, reading in my old workshop spandrel hammock.

That spandrel had a lot of space to work with. The whole place had high ceilings, even in the basement, which meant a much larger spandrel area. There was so much space that I had a storage shelf above the hammock and at the foot area, too. My current spandrel is significantly smaller. I can stand up in the highest part, but only if I’m not wearing thick shoes. The hammock idea was out, but I bought a twin sized, foam mattress for it and figured that would be nice. Crawling into a soft, warm, corner of light and pillow filled space to read, sketch, or maybe have a nap. Sounds good, right? Except I kept not getting around to it (three years have passed since the mattress purchase) and finally, only this past month, realized it was because I didn’t want that so much. What I need more of is storage space, not a corner to chill in. The old spandrel hammock gave me a place to “be”, which was in short supply in the living spaces. Our house now has good amounts of living spaces, which is probably the biggest change to the motivation.

Thus, the foam mattress will get a frame (one day, in the years future) and live upstairs (probably) and the spandrel be mostly storage and workspace. Since it is so small, I need to maximize the unusual qualities of the space and the perfect need presented for this: a screen printing frame storage and drying area. After washing out screens it is good to have a spot for drying with free air flow all the way around them. Similarly, once you’ve coated a screen with photo sensitive emulsion, it needs at least an hour of free air drying in a light-free place. Even when they’re dry and safe for use, they need an undisturbed space to be stored in, preferably a space that is out of the way of curious cats and their destructive claws. I mathed up a design last Saturday morning and, using scrap lumber and a half a box of screws, spent the day building these racks. Racks? Brackets? I don’t know exactly what definition they’d fall under, but I’m calling them racks because it is close and the word is short.
Screen printing frame drying and storage racks.
(Do ignore the sloppy spray foam drippy bits that I’ve not trimmed down yet.)
Racks shown with some freshly recovered screens. This small, diagonal space is idea for a few reasons. One, air flow. The rack uprights and cross pieces leave lots of area for air movement around the frames. The photo doesn’t show, but I have a small fan in here to help. Two, I can reach through them to clean the dustbunnies or murder any wayward spiders that haven’t met me yet. Three, there are power wires running way back under there and I would not feel comfortable having them next to storage boxes or such, which means I’d have to protect and enclose them if I wanted to use this spot for traditional storage. Blerg. This works out great. This setup has slots for 22 frames, or 24 if I’m willing to allow the bottom ones to touch the floor. Oh yeah, fourth is that I won’t ever have to get down and crawl into that space to use it (only clean it, seldom) merely bend over slightly to reach the lower, racked frames.

And, for light protection:
Black felt light-blocking curtain.
A simple and cheap black felt curtain. There will be strings and top hooks to roll it up and keep it out of the way when needed, but I haven’t attached those yet. I will put two small hooks at the bottom also, to keep out mildly curious cats. I’ll add a motion activated air bottle for a few months of training to make sure any more-than-mildly-curious cats are discouraged.

Currently, I have ten screen printing frames which I mostly keep in a rotation of exposing, using, storing until I acknowledge I’ll never use them again, recovering them with remover, cleaning, and storing until I need a new screen print. The whole rotation takes years and I only have two or three (oh, I guess have twelve total then) that I intend to keep mostly-permanently. At the slow rate I acquire additional screens, this rack setup should last me for decades yet. Hopefully, until I die or can’t get down the basement stairs anymore. Or until someone comes up with a personal, laser plotter printer for fabric and I rip them out. Yeah, I’ll probably die first.

Now I’m left with the rest of the spandrel which is about 4 x 3 x 5′. That is a lot of valuable workshop space, although I have to leave access for the racks and for some electrical box stuff in the back. It won’t be an easy shelf build, but I will come up with some method of making good use of it. Currently, it holds about half my Lego collection and unused paint and plaster buckets, so it definitely has room for improvement, now that it has a purpose.

I think I’ll be spending a lot of time next year building in and refitting parts of my workshop. It has been a while since I made improvements to it and now that I’m refining some of my creative focus, it is time to get to it.

Oct 192017

I’ve been a bit stuck, creatively, for the past couple days. As frustrating as that can be, it is a good time to get less fun things accomplished, like cleaning, building some shelves, recovering screens, and swatching. If things don’t come together tonight, I’ll be winding bobbins and folding fabric next. This has been a consistently midgrade challenging week and I’ve been having illogical trouble sleeping for all of it. Tomorrow is Friday; Fridays are dedicated to Slick and I having fun, relaxing, laughter, good food, softest clothes, and couch-life-boat time. That usually works as a good creative recharge.

If it doesn’t, there’s no shortage of workshop stuff that needs cleaned, finished, sorted, painted, built, prepared, or tossed out – so this is FINE!

Also, if Saturday isn’t creatively productive, I’m taking all the fallen leaves in my yard, piling them up and having a cloud-watching session in that pile. Shit, that sounds good. I might do that anyway.

Oct 172017

AKA: Long live Too Lazy To Be Evil

the CoDU pickle monster
Creations of Dubious Utility was the shop name Slick and I came up with, many years ago – about 13 years past now, late at night in a shitty diner as we talked for hours. We felt it would appropriately encompass items we were likely to make for sale. We have decent vocabularies, are clever, creative, inventors and both lean to a mix of practical and artistic existence, in ourselves and in our creative endeavors. The name is great for us and people like us. It is not great for the masses. More often than anything else, I have to explain to people how to pronounce “dubious” and what it means. This generally saddens me, although I refuse to let something good go past just because some people are ignorant. That isn’t my point, although it is a factor.

The biggest point is that Etsy shop names can only be 20 characters long and Creations of Dubious Utility is 25 characters (without spaces, obvs). It simply won’t fit. I joined Etsy “back in the day” when your username was automatically your shop name and you had a shop, by the way. Now you can sign up for Etsy and not have a shop unless you click a button and give it a name. Thus, I technically had a shop for years, but did nothing with it. When I finally decided (last year) that I was okay with putting items in my Etsy shop on a more than seldom or occasional rotation, I pulled up our shop name idea, Creations of Dubious Utility, made a banner, a logo, got a couple stamps for packages, etc.. I did it up. After a couple weeks of casual preparation, I was ready. I went to officially change the name on my store only to discover the character limit. Dammit. I’ve left it this way since, but now that I’ve sold a couple items, the big, actual problem has come up. Creations of Dubious Utility is not my actual shop name, but it is the one I “advertise”. When a sweetie who bought one of my shag bag zipper pouches was asked her where she got it, she told them my shop name – which the asker could not then find, because it does not exist. Fatal flaw, game over, customer lost. Well in this case, not lost because said sweetie knew my username and told the asker that and the asker did find me that way, so fatal flaw avoided, but through no creditable action of my own. I mean, short of having a username that is fairly easy to remember and I am consistent with it. Or as often as I can be with two username-Doppelgängers occasionally competing with me on platforms, but you see my point.

the CoDU title

I thought for a while I’d change it to something shorter, something equally catchy. Maybe something that still kept most of the original Creations of Dubious Utility so I wouldn’t need to change my logo or stamps. Or, maybe simply something new, short and snazzy. I have a couple pages of possibilities I considered. Eventually I came around to trying to get my standard username into the title, since that is (as proven by the anecdote above) effective, in spite of my misstep. That brought up a problem for me – I try to keep my personal blog and personal username, well, personal. I am Sarcastra, online. I don’t mix the blog with other things, although I will mention other things on my blog, which some people (who are dummies) cannot seem to understand. If I mention on the blog that anyone who shows up at the bar tonight will get a free drink from me, and I’ve also sent this in an email to some friends, some people will show up at the bar, complaining that I’m only buying drinks for people to get them to look at my blog. I cannot express how much this pisses me off. It’s like a hot coal in my metaphorical stomach.


I wanted to keep my Etsy store and profile separate from my personal profile. Except, the problem with that is I don’t want to be an Etsy seller profile. I don’t want to do the fake-social, online-traffic-seeking, always-smiling, never-offensive, stylishly fresh photography of shop items persona. I want to be my Sarcastra that I am naturally online. Sure, I’m going to offend people sometimes, but that doesn’t mean much to me anymore. I mean, have you met people? They suck. Why waste concern for them? Until, of course, they’ve got torches and have ganged up at your door. Then it’s a problem. After that, there is the GLARING fact that I (and all that I make and do) appeal to a very small sliver of population. Appreciation for my expressions of my existence is an exclusive, niche market, let’s call it. I don’t care about that much anymore either. Same with the aforementioned torch gang (or cyber trolls, same thing), sure, but my biggest reasons for the separation were privacy, caution, and acknowledgement of the separation of expectations – and I don’t feel those things are important to me in this matter, at least not enough to keep up the duplicate efforts.

So, now that I’ve explained this all way more than anyone else actually cares about (except me, and this whole blog is for me!) we have this:

the TLTBE logo

tl;dr: I’m changing my Etsy shop name to Too Lazy To Be Evil instead of Creations of Dubious Utility.

Etsy Banner
Etsy shop banner.
The devil heart logo will become my shop logo, too. I already have stamps, and my website, I’ll point Creations of Dubious Utility at Too Lazy To Be Evil to redirect the one or two people EVER who might find their way there. I’ll be doing a relaunch with some new items, maybe a sale, definitely some little freebies like stickers and cards. And that’s it. My shop name will exist now and should be easy to remember.

Also, I have to tell you now that if you show up at the bar for your free drink and Etsy coupon, and complain that I’m doing it to drive traffic to my blog, I will lose my shit with you.
The Good Place, still, NBC.
“Janet, if you hand me a cactus, I swear I will lose my mind.”

Oct 162017

Lunch hour painting
Lacking energy, motivation and time, I bunted with an easy page of autumn leaves. This day, I’d hoped to have a walk to enjoy the leaf colors, but it snowed and destroyed my plans. So, I have these colorful ones, at least.

Lunch hour painting

I will take your heart with me
carry it in a red bag tied around my neck.
Down the path to the copse
and the tiny cabin we never got around to.
More of a shack, really.

We will wake with the sunlight and birdsong,
your heart and I. No alarm clocks here.
We will forage in the woods for toppings
and roast them for a pizza in the evening.
It won’t be very tasty.

We will drink cider and more cider by starlight;
we will serenade the sliver moon.
The night creatures will scoff at us,
but we are free, wild, and alive!
And maybe a little drunk.

I will bring your heart back to you
you are weary, worn, flat.
Your heart and I will remind you
how to believe in magic, how to live.
Because life is magic.

Lunch hour painting
Voodoo lilies, or corpse flowers. Once a year, the giant varieties give off a rotting corpse scent to attract carrion flies, their pollinators. Some medium varieties are a food source; the spadix (big center part) is quite tasty and part of many dishes, having a gel-forming property when combined and cooked. I think they’re quite pretty and have carved a couple blocks to see if I can pull off a small fabric print.

That’s it for this week.