carving

Jan 072016
 

Each winter I select a myth/figure/character related to the winter solstice and carve a lino block for it. These are printed onto Fabriano medioevalis cards, hand colored, and sent off as Solstice party invitations or winter cards. This winter, the Yeti.
The Yeti, Legends of the Winter Solstice #3.
I now have so many UFPs (UnFinished Projects) piled up on my work table that I had to use my oversize ironing board as a print staging area.
The Yeti, Legends of the Winter Solstice #3.
I really like this guy; he turned out great. I wanted to hit the highlights of the Yeti, the ubiquitous footprints credit, the snowy mountainside where sightings happen by hikers with no one else around for verification, the “is it a monster, a man, or a throwback combination?” form. This print makes me happy. The odd grays you see in some places (like the snow ridges) is an iridescent pearl, which the scanner/Photoshop/any computer monitor ever could not make reflect light in a digital image. In other words, its even better in person.

Legends of the Winter Solstice series:
#1 Krampus
#2 Perchta
#3 Yeti (this post)

Mar 272015
 

Praxis: Soft Carving
My own freshly carved alphabet stamps.
Yes, I am completely aware that driving to the local craft store, spending $1.06 on a premade alphabet set and driving back home could have been completed ten times over instead of carving my own. But, I like my own. And now I am better at carving text.

This took longer than I expected. In part, the long time spent was due to the meditative nature of carving. It is easy for the clock to tick away while the gouge is moving. The other part is due to distractions that keep me out of the workshop. I think the soft carving praxis I’ve set before myself is going to take multiple months to complete.

Jan 052015
 

Continuing the Winter Solstice series this year is Perchta. Over the generations she has been renamed, combined and downgraded so many times her stories are difficult to find or separate. In the end, I went with the ones that were common and seemed to fit best to me, this being my series and all. The flax, the gutting knife, forest animal benefactor, and her higher form changeling swan foot. To be nice, I did her beautiful visage instead of monstrous – we’ll assume that everyone was good enough to deserve it this year.
Printing the Perchta cards.
The first run of prints, drying. As usual, I was running a week or so behind schedule for getting these done and out to people. The print pulling process went quite well; only a handful of misprints. Same with the envelopes, my printer doesn’t like to feed in those things for addressing.

Printing the Perchta cards.
I managed to pull barely enough good prints on this first run to send out a couple to friends who are too far away to make it to the Solstice Party. The rest of the run will fill in for the full sets of the series I’m building. If you’re interested in a complete series set, simply come back at the end of 2017 when the series completes. No rush.

Maker Talk:
Again this year, I did hand coloring for better control and variety, which worked out well. This time around I had gold paint, so her hair got the special treatment it deserves. The white of her shift is precisely what I wanted; noticeable, but not obnoxiously bright. The blue flax flowers barely show up, but that is okay. I wouldn’t want to make them any bigger or mismatch their level of detail compared to the rest of the print. Also, this has been a very bunny year for me.
I am happy with this print and I already have the Legend for next year. Now, if only I can get started on schedule this coming 2015 winter! I have a while to think about it.

And, the Legends of the Winter Solstice #1 print, Krampus.

Jan 062014
 

For the winter solstice this year, I wanted to do something in a block print. After some research, I decided to do a whole series, because I am incapable of doing a single, small project! Plus, there are so many great characters associated with winter holidays throughout different countries and regions that I couldn’t choose only one. I decided to start with Krampus, since he is starting to make a comeback of sorts.
Krampus, a block print.
A shot of the first print run, and me testing out masks for the holly border. I want the border to be the same on the whole series, so I needed to make it separate. Next winter I will take on Perchta. I wish I’d had gold for Krampus’ birch sticks, but no. Next time I will try to start earlier so I have time to run out and get any supplies I might need instead of waiting until the last reasonable day.

Krampus, a block print.
The colors I did by hand instead of another color layer. I wanted the choice to do some shading and be particular with the colors. It was difficult to keep the paint from pooling in the fine depressions of the hair on this block. I’m happy with how they turned out and used them as our Solstice Party invitations. I was going to use the extras as Christmas cards to folks not in the area or not attending the party, but that simply didn’t happen due to over-scheduling. Maybe I’ll do some Happy Spring cards or something. Might get something like that done by then.

Jan 202013
 

After a completely unproductive, although enjoyable, Friday and Saturday, I decided to do a little craftiness to have something to show for my day. I had a new soft carving block product* I purchased to try out, so I sat down and carved a little stamp.
Quick star stamp
Maybe the size of a quarter, I wanted something like this to put in backgrounds. I’ve already started another, smaller star and I figure I’ll do a few more like this to have some variety. I’ve missed the freeform, just-bang-out-a-stamp work of soft blocks, even though I still love the lino blocks I’ve steered towards lately. This was fun and quick to carve. I spent more time futzing with a spot of color for a background with watercolors than carving. I am not entirely a watercolor fan, I like my inks and acrylics much better. The ephemeral and transient nature of watercolors simply hinders and constricts me.

* Speedball makes a few different soft carving blocks all with confounding and conflicting names.
There is the beige stuff called Speedy-Cut Carving Blocks:
The beige Speedy-Cut Carving Block.

And the new one I recently purchased and is pictured (although covered in ink) above, the blue Speedy-Cut Easy Block:
The pink Speedy-Cut Easy Block.

The pink stuff called Speedy Carve Blocks:
The pink Speedy Carve Block.

As I said, the names are useless. The pink one is the least carvable and the first one I’d take a cutting tool to, given its plasticity, while the Speedy Cut ones are both crumbly to degrees and better for gentle carving even without gouges.

Anyhow, it is fun to try different products. Sadly, the best soft carving block I’ve used yet, the PZ Kut Grade B from Stampeaz, doesn’t exist anymore. I treasure the few scraps of it I have left. Stampeaz is a one-woman-company ordering the product in small runs which seem to be difficult to control in quality and consistency between. She’s currently shipping out three differing versions of her product, each one divergent enough from the original recipe to earn their own version titles. Given the lack of measurable qualities and the wildly varying preference among carvers, I can effectively judge from neither product details, nor customer review descriptions of each. I will have to order one of each type to judge them, and if I find one I like, risk that there is stock of that particular batch left to order a supply. I will probably give it a go; I like that this one woman is putting so much effort forth to get good carving materials made. Plus, with all the leftovers, maybe we can have a stamp carving Craft Night. Woot!

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Nov 282012
 

It is the end of a long, busy day today. Work nearly got the better of me when I stayed an hour late to write a procedure, only to have Word fail, corrupt my file and destroy all evidence of its existence. While that stung a great deal, more annoying is that I have an all-day meeting tomorrow and will have to go in early to get the thing written again before it starts. Dammit.

Also have not done my drawing homework, which is due at tomorrow’s class, which immediately follows work. Haven’t figured out how I’m going to fit that one in. But, more importantly, I had a nice evening at home with Slick and the cats, and have thus accomplished a far better thing than homework.

If you have reason to expect a Solstice party invite in your mailbox, you may want to check for it if you don’t have it already.
The second layer of the carved reduction print block for the Solstice invitations.
I took a weekend to carve, print and finish off these and get them out. While I enjoyed doing this, I have to say the cats weren’t very helpful and a few invite prints will show evidence of smearing or feathering, thanks mostly to The Captain, Friday and Oz. Which means they are perfect.

Nov 222011
 

a.k.a. Why is there a werewolf in my mailbox?


This is it, the last postcard made in a hotel, then mailed from the airport, while away traveling for the work.
The Lafayette, LA postcard.
Last week I was in Lafayette, LA. This concludes my intensive and repeated tour of Louisiana and all their delicious food.
As for the postcard, I was having a hard time coming up with ideas since I’d used all the expected Louisiana images on the New Orleans postcard together. Lafayette also has some nice holly trees around, but I found a different path. While reading about the Acadians I page hopped onto the subsequent Cajuns and various associations, I learned about the Rougarou. I suggest you read that link, but quickly; the Rougarou is the French Louisiana version of the Loup Gaurou aka werewolf. The Rougarou was sorta added on to the local (Cajun) Roman Catholic religion, especially in regards to following Lent. Bit from the web: “Children are warned that Loup Garou can read souls, and that they only hunt and kill evil men and women and misbehaved horses.” I love the bit about misbehaved horses. I became enthralled with the Rougarou myth and knew it had to be on this postcard. As I tried to sketch out a werewolf, I realized I hadn’t included any references to the famous Louisiana cemeteries yet, so they made it in to the background. Throw in a full moon to complete the feel and you have this Lafayette postcard.

When I first drew out his arm raised like that I’d meant it to be threatening, as if the Rougarou were striking out at you from the postcard. But, it ended up looking like he was waving at you instead. I thought this was kinda fitting for the final postcard, a wave goodbye, so I left it that way. Also, I resolved the Bone Black transparency issue, finally, by adding Carbon Black from the Fluid Acrylics line. Contrary to many other brands, Golden super pigments their fluid acrylics so I got a nice solid black by mixing the two together on the plate.

This also concludes the work travel postcard series. While there will be some travel in my new job, it will only be three or four times a year, tops. I suppose I’ll gather up the other editions and bundle them into packs. So, if you were one of the people who missed out on the postcards while they were happening, you’ll get another chance.

Nov 162011
 

Ephemeral Baton Rouge postcard, made by me.
I was really struggling with what image(s) I could use for this Baton Rouge postcard and its existence was looking bleak. Then one of my customers mentioned the magnolias in the area and I was sold. If you aren’t familiar with magnolias, they are interesting. I mean, beetle pollination! Wow. Also, the little blue heron looked pretty striking and I wanted to include a bird. Baton Rouge is a popular bird watching area and John James Audubon, of bird painting renown, began his work in the Baton Rouge area. If you look closely at the magnolia petals and the white section of the heron’s wing, you can just make out the white paint. It isn’t much contrast to the off white Fabriano paper, but I think it was still worth the effort. The blue I had to mix on the plate as I didn’t have a better shade. I’m happy with it.

This is the next to last postcard from a customer site. One more to go and the collection is done and over with. Keep an eye out on Twitter for the last call in another day.

Nov 152011
 

The postcards sent from Tyler, Texas took a worryingly long time to arrive at their destinations. Now that they’ve all arrived, we can chat about them.
Postcard from Tyler, Texas.
Tyler Texas is a small city, mostly known for their roses. You could say there are other things, but really the roses are the thing. So, given the single focus and the very short time I had in Tyler, the postcards got a single subject. The star was thrown in at the last minute so the roses didn’t get lonely and as an offhand reference to Texas. I think it turned out pretty nice. I had to print the black twice, which took way too much time. The Golden Open Acrylic Bone Black has too much transparency. I should have learned after this event, but I continued on with the Bone Black on the next one and had to print the black twice as well. Pain in the ass. You’ll notice the differing reds in the roses. Since I had so little time in Tyler, I mixed the two reds, one bright and one dark, together on the inking plate to get some red variations. I like the effect, but I don’t know that I’ll do it again as it was hard to control.

As soon as the Baton Rouge postcards arrive, we can chat about them, too. Tonight I’ll be sketching out the Lafayette postcards and get a first color printed, if I’m lucky.

Oct 282011
 

Wichita postcard block and color test prints.
I know these went out three weeks ago, but I didn’t get a chance to talk about them, so we’re doing it now. Thanks again to my postcard fans for making this batch the fastest claimed yet on Twitter.

Wichita postcards, ready to go.
This was a busy trip, with almost no time for sightseeing. I think I got ten minutes, as noted below. So, the images may not be the most perfectly representative of the city of Wichita, but that isn’t really the point of these postcards. Thus, my inspirations. The Keeper of the Plains, with bonfires at the base, is an iconic Wichita figure and the sunflower is the Kansas state flower. The lucky five who received their mailed postcards will notice a sunflower stamp on the backside in honor of this. The upper corner has a little Cessna plane coming in from the border; Wichita is aircraft production heavy, albeit less today with the recession affecting such. The clouds I had to put in because one thing Kansas definitely has is pretty clouds and open skies – almost as nice as Wyoming does.

Wichita postcard inspiration.
The old town theater. This link shows what it looks like at night, and thus the postcard version. I had hoped to have enough time to go inside and maybe watch a movie. I’ve read and seen some photos that the inside has been restored to its art deco splendor. Alas, I had exactly enough time to walk over, snap this shot and walk immediately back to the hotel to drive off to the work dinner on my only available night. Such is work travel. Wichita is making efforts to push their art and theater life in the city. There are three restored theaters and many performance art events as well as physical art shows and galleries to share a respectable number of artists and forms. Good for them.

Wichita postcards, ready to go.
This is the only other thing I had time to take a picture of, while in a parking lot. Funny.
Such exotic sights I see.

This Wichita postcard looks much better than New Orleans did and I’m happy. In New Orleans, while I was at the mercy of an understocked store, mostly I have myself to blame. I didn’t have time to test the inks, which blows, but I could have done at least one test for color opacity and viscosity. Those inks were way dark and didn’t like to spread out on the paper. Also, the only carving block the store had was a fat, thick, squishy one – Moo brand. I’d not tried them before, but merely picking it up would inform you of the flexibility and the spread when pressed. This means it was completely the wrong block for a reduction print like I did. Every time I pressed the block onto the paper, whether it was perfectly aligned or not, the whole thing would squash out and the lines wouldn’t all match up. What a mess. I actually thought about redoing the New Orleans ones since I was going to be there again, but (1) these are ephemeral things done in a hotel room and I should let it stand and (2) my New Orleans appointment canceled on me anyway. So, New Orleans stands as is. I learned my lessons. I purchased a sampler pack of Golden Open Acrylics, which have a longer wet time than regular acrylics making them ideal for block printing. I also brought along my own lino block to carve and Fabriano postcards for printing. Controlling my supplies instead of hoping for a craft store in my travel destination simply makes sense. These Wichita postcards look so much better that I think the results (lessons learned) speak for themselves. Although, I forgot my sketchpad and a pencil (!!) and had to make due with the back of old paperwork and a borrowed pencil from the hotel’s front desk. I guess I haven’t learned all my lessons.

This was the third travel postcard issued. I skipped Appleton, WI (although I did take Harry Houdini stamps with me, as he was from Appleton) because I was having a shitty time and just didn’t feel up to it at all. I did regret missing a city, but I am imperfect. Then, the week after Wichita, I was supposed to be in Tulsa, OK. However, I got sick, as you recall from a couple posts back, and had to cancel. A coworker filled in for me (thank you!!) so the work was covered, but that is another city that won’t get a postcard. Next week I have a short trip to Tyler so I hope I might have (barely) enough time to get a postcard out. Then, the next two cities will likely be my last at this job. It looks like I will have only six cities out of a possible eight. It isn’t terrible, but it isn’t much of a series. I do wish I’d have thought of this idea sooner.

Jun 162011
 

I’m here in Chicago for a little while longer for the work. Last night I was overrun with the desire to create, so I carved up a quick, imperfect postcard-sized block print.
The first print of my just carved Chicago postcard.

I Tweeted that the first five people who send me their address will receive a print. I pulled 13 of them in my hotel room last night, due to limited resources. Everything I used I got here in Chicago. The initial sketch was done on hotel stationery, the block and carving blade I got from a Dick Blick store around the corner from my hotel as well as the P.H. Martin’s concentrated watercolor inks on Fabriano watercolor paper. The images are things from my week here in Chicago downtown for the work. I haven’t had much free time (none) during the day to explore or see any of the sights or museums, but it has been interesting nonetheless. I figure that since my trip was fairly short (on personal enjoyment, anyway) that the postcard should be equally ephemeral and thus, the 13 prints are a limited edition. After the five get mailed off, the remaining ones will go into my Etsy shop. As well, the block will be destroyed once I’m home. Well, maybe not completely destroyed, but ruined in such a way so that no other prints can ever be successfully pulled from it. I will probably keep the block, just because I like looking at my carvings.

The flowers in the corner are apple blossoms and the bottle is representative of the J.K.’s Scrumpy Hard Cider I had while dining at Twin Anchors for barbecue (very good). That is my new favorite cider. The deep dish pizza is a classic Chicago food and I placed a rough Sears Tower to represent the city buildings which are so impressive.

So, there you go.

I have one more available to send out before I get on the plane in a few hours, so send me a DM on Twitter or email me directly to be the recipient.All five were claimed and mailed before leaving Chicago.

Feb 142011
 

While we’ve been working on/having work done on the old house Slick and I have been limiting the things that might take away our time and resources from it. We’ve done almost no work on The Arches, we’re not planning vacations, we’re not working on projects or buying any new toys. Plus, a large part of both our future workshops sit in packing boxes in the basement. Getting the old house finished up (paint is drying now!) is at the top of our list and no projects are getting attention until that thing is at least on the market.

This means I haven’t done much crafting this year. I took a stab at finishing off The Sketchbook Project just because it had a deadline (and we had a handyman working at the time), but when that didn’t pan out the gold dust, I turned some of the sketchy bits into their own little crafts. The medium heart I’d carved fit neatly onto a 1.125″ badge:

Inked hearts on silver acrylic on Bristol board.

When they were done and I decided to share them, I put them on those little cardstock cards like Valentines; you saw the previous five with a white background which were already listed and sold (!!yea!!) on Etsy. These are on a silver acrylic paint background on Bristol board. This means they required a smidgen more effort to press into the button shells, but it also means I got to work many layers of ink colors into them.

Inked heart on silver acrylic on Bristol board.

Like this blue one. It has about five layers of blue colors along with some yellow for interest. It is like I use my carved stamps to make my own little coloring book sessions, which is fine. I’m more into having fun and enjoyment out of my crafts than making a piece of statement art every time.

Heart stamps I carved.

I tried to carve the Sketchbook Project stamps in a looser, rougher style than I normally favor. I like to have clean, clean lines, all smooth, with no leftover lines showing. Everyone I showed the sketches to liked the unfinished look better than the clean and finished look. Of course, people only seem to like the messy look if it is a controlled messy – with contour lines; not real, actually unfinished lines. While this sorta means an artificial roughness that I am naturally opposed to as a control enthusiast, I gave it a shot to see if I would like it, too. After all, I can always go back and clean them up to my normal standards later. There are about twenty or so stamps (at this point some are bordering on block prints) in the dramatically incomplete collection. Maybe I’ll show some of those so that I can blog about crafty things until I get to create again.

I also carved this broken heart stamp I’m chuffed with. I carved the heart and interior jagged lines and then cut the whole thing along the split lines. The stamp is actually in two pieces so I can stamp it as broken apart as I want each time. However, these broken hearts were a bit too big to fit on my small badges and too small to look good on the large buttons. So, I trimmed some of these up and turned them into teeny, tiny, anti-Valentines.

Inked broken hearts on printed cardstock cards.

These are the size of credit cards, when they’re folded. Here you can see what I mean about the variety of broken space in the hearts.

Interior of inked broken hearts cards.

I already had my ink pot and nibs out, so I scrawled out some anti-Valentine appropriate messages. Except for that one that says Happy Valentine’s Day on the front, I think these could be all seasons cards of bitterness. They’d make excellent bitter-breakup cards. You know, if you’re looking to be prepared for the worst breakup ever.

Inked broken hearts on printed cardstock cards, with envelopes.

And they fit into these unassuming bitty kraft paper envelopes. Since they’re the size of credit cards, you could carry one around in your pessimistic wallet for just the perfect moment.

The (silver background) badges I did list on Etsy, but they didn’t go anywhere. The cards I never listed because I apparently can’t get over myself. Plus, until I’m willing to put the word out and around that I have stuff in my shop, I can’t expect anyone to find it on their own. That would be like putting up a table in my front yard to sell lemonade without a sign. But, I’ll put further effort into the Etsy one day. One day when the old house is sold, perhaps. It would be nice if some of the profit from Etsy sales could contribute to my craft supply fund.

That was it. That little bit of playing around with things on my desk, not even a real project. That was a month ago. I haven’t done anything crafty since then and am getting noticeable crafty withdrawals! My dreams the past couple weeks have involved crafts. Making things is such a creative outlet in my life that I’m dreaming about it. I have been away from home a lot already this year and I’m leaving for more work travel in a couple hours. Although, even if I were here I wouldn’t be doing much creating anyway. Yarns call out to me, tempting with crochet. A gal at work is ready for a baby shower and I can feel the cottons under my fingers and hear the gentle snickety-snick of Gretchen twisting thread through the baby quilts I want to make. Looking at the stamp pictures above makes my hands miss the hold of the carving tool and the Xacto blade. I’m dreaming of cutting paper, punching holes for brads, straight stitching, gluing paper, twisting wires and planning. I am jonesing for crafting. I could gather up some small crafty things to pack into my suitcase to sate my desires, but I might hold out until I can get some straightforward, basement, dedicated crafting time for full satisfaction.

I am a hedonist, after all.

I hope you all have a delightful VD. Not a droopy one. Or an itchy one.

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