Sunday, January 21, 2018

Testing and trialling

Sometimes the only art work I get to do is testing and trialling - and sometimes the results are exciting; at other times they are not so exciting.

On Friday I spent some time with good friends in one of their studios. They were exploring serious copper plate preparations and etching and proofing and printing. I was all set to test how well my friend's small tabletop press would emboss.

I need to work out a system fro embossing in an isolated location with a group of students for about a week.

We can emboss by hand; but the crispness of the mark you achieve by embossing with an etching press is so delightful and uplifting I'd love folk to have the opportunity to experience the difference.

So to looking around, asking lots of people and trying to work out what the actual specifications of a press might be that would allow for the extra pressure needed for a great emboss.

At times I amaze even myself with the ridiculous amount of preparation I can do to test something - it seems so unlike me!

Still, here's what I got up to:

I ripped up sheets of Arches Velin, BFK Rives, Fabriano Rosapina and Zerkall 140 and Zerkall 170 into 10cm x 10cm squares.  I cut up A4 sheets of Bristol Board 150 and 200 and Colorplan 170 into the same sized squares. Then I initialled each them so I knew what it was. Made a stash of about 60 pieces of paper.

I decided I would trial each paper wet and dry; and use 4 different matrices: thin desk mat; lino; milk carton open; and milk carton tight. That just meant I would emboss hearts that were open shapes and also dashes which are tiny and tight shapes.

I was testing if different thicknesses would go through the press better than others.

Lino is the thickest.

Milk carton slightly thinner.

Thin desk mat the thinnest.

Prepared myself a little grid to record results. Which I then re-did the maths on once I worked out I needed to add in the Bristol Board etc!

I spent about half an hour cleaning the roller - the press lives by the seaside which means that rust can appear magically overnight.

Put three blankets on and a sheet to protect the blankets from any random rust I hadn't cleaned.

Got my stashes and my matrices together to go.

You can see that the press is not much bigger than my notebook!

Long story short; the rollers were not big enough to generate the pressure needed.

Here are a bunch of the samples - I tried wetting the paper, reducing the number of blankets and working the press back and forth; all to no avail. Just could not get enough grunt out of it.

Compared to this - done with my etching press at home; you can see there is really no comparison.

Nevertheless, the item was in no way wasted.  It was really valuable to have made time to test this; not to have assumed and thought we'll be right. I now know I can't get away with a really lightweight press, and it is great to know that.

So, the hunt continues; the research is still being done and in more depth. I have a few options to pursue and will hopefully find a solution for the workshop coordinators.  If not, we won't do embossing this way; but it would be great if we could!

Friday, January 19, 2018


Just a quick reminder to those folk who left a comment on the blogpost about the set of wee cards; I'd love to hear from you with your best postal address.

Just pop over to the "About Me" at the bottom of the right sidebar, find my email and send me a note!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Thursday Thoughts...

“There’s only one core rule to being an artist that no creative man or woman in history has been immune from. You’ve got to show up. If you don’t even attempt to give your creative urges time, space and energy in your life, then you’ll never be able to create a thing.” 

 Dan James, creativity coach

Each year I wonder if I will spend more time in the studio this year. I wonder what is the best way to make sure that happens? Should I create a timetable and go to this studio at certain times, no matter what other commitments might appear?  Should I? Could I? And round and around.

I do know that these words by Dan James are true.  You most certainly do not get to make anything at all, if you don't show up.

If you stay sitting at your computer; or watching TV; or head down and eyes captured by social media or other things.  If you don't actually prioritise your art, then it often won't happen.

Time in the studio is never wasted.  Cleaning the studio can refresh things; ordering the studio can make it quicker and easier to create when the urge hits; rearranging this and that can remind you that you even have a stash of that so you start to think about how you could use it...and then of course there is the time spent there testing ideas, playing, exploring, practicing.  And then, the moments when because you have shown ups and all the other subliminal and preparatory stuff comes together and you start. You get going and you barely come up for air. You make, you create, you produce and it happens.


Showing up last Autumn...

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

heartbeat script

Just in case folk thought I may have given up my love of calligraphy and become a complete and utter letterpress person; fear not!  I continue to love and admire words wrought by hand and have been able to play a little bit of late with my heartbeat script.

A friend asked if I could write a reminder for her, which she could pop in a simple frame to remind her to "just breathe".

I loved it. I had so much fun playing with the words and the script and the whimsical little flowers I had been exploring earlier.

Sometimes somebody asks you to do a 'job' and the stress of it drives you bananas; this time it was the lovely antidote I needed and it felt like the 'job' was a gift to me from her, so I had a great time.

I tried a few and sent her some drafts; then we worked on the design for a final which was quite different from these; simpler and beautiful. More of a whisper...

I thought I could share the drafts here nonetheless as the final looks so different.

I did a couple of different colours, styles and backgrounds - pink on grey, black ink.

Blue on grey, black ink.

Gold infill and 'stitched' outline on cream, purple ink.

Multi colours on cream, no leaves on stems, purple ink.

 Multi colours on cream, leaves on stems, black ink.

So many possibilities and combinations! It has been interesting nonetheless; that these spare drafts have sat on the entrance hall table and already two have been gifted on to folk who saw them and sort of, needed them.

I am also working my way towards doing my pennant for Mo's exhibition. If you link to Mo you will see her plan, and it is based around the words of Old Man Crow (her partner)'s lyrics " I dream of a world where love is the answer".

I have received my pennant - cut from an old wedding dress - and have been working out how to respond. I am headed this way I think...

This is a book from a long time ago when I was doing A Letter a Week. I handstitched a letter each week; using my heartbeat script. I stitched onto rusted braille paper which I had 'decorated' with lead pencil or silver pen a tiny bit. Every second letter I filled in; the alternates were left with just an outline.

I made a book and use it as an exemplar whenever I teach this script.

I am thinking I would fill in each of the letters for the pennant. It's a good place to start and as ever, we shall see where we end up...

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Things happen

I was planning to post on more tidying up the studio today - that seems to be pretty much all I have been doing.  This morning I remembered that I had to print some things because the rest of the week is full and there is no time to do them - which came as a bit of a shock!

So I managed to get that job done, and then...

I think it is serendipity really. A few folk have written or spoken about their desire to keep in touch by mail a bit more this year.  Expressing the pleasure they get when receiving a card or package or even a very lengthy handwritten letter (that was me, I was thrilled!); but also wanting to make that almost physical connection by writing or sending something that has a presence, and is tactile.

I would not be the first person to ponder the manner in which we have replaced slower handwritten communication: firstly with email; then we superseded that by commenting on things; and reduced that further to a heart or a like.

I thought how often I title an email to a friend "quick hello" or "touching base" almost indicating to them before they open it that it won't be a long missive, just a "I was thinking about you before I ran out the door" kind of thing.

Nothing all that wrong with that - at least I got in touch - but it did make me wonder if folk might send a card that said the same kind of thing?  I had the idea to print a few postcards that basically just had phrases like that on the front.

I wondered if perhaps you could carry a few with you in your bag, and when you were waiting somewhere or having a coffee by yourself you could pull one out and write a note to somebody? Maybe?

I'm not sure, but I had a quick go this morning after finishing the job and came up with these.

Using some of the wooden type I recently received I had a play.

And the results.

I printed them on the postcard practices I did recently, where I used too much pressure for the back of the card, so they are really just proofs at the moment (altho I would use them, but couldn't sell them).

I always love how wood type shows you it is wood type. It rarely prints perfectly like lead type; it always carries a part of it history onto the page. You can often see the grain of the wood, or the nicks and cuts it has had along the way.

Also it is pretty darn hot here today and the ink was drying in front of my eyes, so given they were a final run after another job they are slightly less densely coloured than I imagine they would be had I printed them properly on a cooler day.

Possibility or not?
Other phrases I could use?

Thoughts most welcomed! I am trying to work out if it would be worth making sets of them to sell on my shop or not, so thanks for being an unexpected part of my first ever market research!

Go well.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Thursday Thoughts...

“Books and doors are the same thing. You open them, and you go through into another world.” 

 Jeanette Winterson

I love Jeanette Winterson and her words.  I love too how she has managed to make sense of her life and hold it together under some pretty tricky circumstances (see Why be Happy When You Could Be Normal?). Her writing can be achingly beautiful.

Her passion for art and books and poetry and reading is boundless, and she thinks and write about them with equal verve.

And here she puts it so plainly and yet to me so vividly. That moment of opening a book and entering another world...

I know it must have been said before in similar, yet different, ways; but here I think she says it so simply and elegantly. Books and doors are the same.

Door in Sonoma, Arizona, 2013.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Choosing and a giveaway!

About this time last year I was pretty disillusioned.  I was worried, concerned and pondering how low can we go?

It took me a little while to pick myself up, and in celebration of a blogging milestone, I printed some cards and sent them out into the world to folk who told me about the words they were choosing for the year.

This year, for some reason, I feel slightly more positive about it all.  I am not overexcited and thrilled because we have reached nirvana just yet; but I feel a creeping kind of positivity, a gradual increase in my personal positivity index perhaps? I like that, my PPI!

The new year still feels fresh and a little bit bright and it feels right to send out some more cards.

I have pottered around with a bunch of words and fonts, and in the end, I landed back where I began, with Kindness Care and Hope. I tried to think about a new set of words that could describe things better for me - yet these three feel honest, true and like real touchstones to me. They res till what we need.

What did change however, was that I put the word Choose in front of each of them.  That in itself feels like a positive move; an action to take and to bear in mind.

I have 20 sets of these three cards to give away. So for the first 20 folk who leave a comment telling why they might be feeling bit more hopeful at the start of 2018 than last year, I shall be in touch regarding postal details and then send a set of cards to you.

They are business card sized, printed in grey ink, using Placard Condensed type at different point sizes and a mix of upper and lower case letters.

They use whatever random scraps of paper I have in the studio and all offer a lovely reminder of how we can be in the world.

So once more, ripples of kindness, care and hope head out into the world...

Sunday, January 7, 2018

New Year's tidying

It seems to me that this time of year is an excellent time of cleaning up and tidying.  Barry and I have been working mightily hard in the garden for the past week - cutting, pruning, weeding and generally cleaning up around the place.

I have moved inside to the studio now and have begun the process of sorting through my paper and establishing sensible homes for some new wood type.

We have a commission to do where we need to use large wood type.  It is pretty hard to get hold of full sets of wood type these days - and in particular it is hard to get them into Australia if you do happen to find them overseas.  We are most particular about bringing wooden items into the country and the impact any insects might have on our flora and fauna...

I managed to borrow some beautiful type (thanks Caren) but also went in search of some more wooden type, and found some in Western Australia. After much to-ing and fro-ing we worked out size and price and then I had to wait nearly three weeks for the post to deliver them over Christmas - stressful!

Caren was visiting for a few days when the type arrived and together we ooh-ed and ahh-ed over them and she helped me start the sorting process.

It kind of sort of worked; but she suggested some metal drawer sets a friend of hers uses to store wooden type and like the instant action person I can sometimes be; the next day Barry and I went out a bought a few sets of drawers!

Very happy.

Some of the smaller ones have plastic inserts to help organise things.

Others I simply filled.

I put a few dividers in between similar, but slightly different, fonts. These look the same but some letters are narrower than others.

The big black drawers allowed the largest new type to go in, and then I used a divider to add in another full set as well.

In addition I have catalogued the lead type I have - by drawer, by name and by size!  Hopefully that will mean when I want 36pt type I can easily check which fonts I have in 36pt; if I want to use Bodoni, I will know how many sizes I have, how many variations (bold, italic, narrow) and where they are!

I printed out paper labels for the drawers and used blu-tac to attach them.  The next step is to print the labels with the actual typeface when we are making the type sample booklet. Not sure when that will happen; but for now I am happy with the wiggly randomness of the paper labels!

I also sorted out all my paper. I inventoried it so I knew what I had, then re-arranged where it all was so that mostly it is in one or two places and now I have catalogued the paper as well and I even know what is in each paper drawer.

Good grief, time for a lie down I think!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Thursday Thoughts...

“One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” 

 Iris Murdoch

As we begin a new year, it is nice to ponder how it might unfurl and unfold.  I like to stop and think about the things I'd like to do again, the things I'd like to not do again; and the general way in which my days will be...

I know it doesn't work to a plan like that; but I do think I need to have some agency in how I live. I need to be active, rather than passive, in choices and decisions about how I spend my days.

Barry and I choose a word each morning from our bowl of words. We think about it during the day; and we think about how we might bring that aspect into our day.  On New Year's Day it all feels slightly more portentous - that somehow the word could guide our year, not only our day.

This year our two words were: nurturing and abundance.

That certainly felt good!  So we are still discussing, as is our way, what nurturing might look like for us; what it might mean and how we can embrace it on a daily basis.  And abundance - it too is taking a little while to show us how we can have and bring abundance into our daily lives, but we are enjoying the thought!

And so this little quote felt like it fitted right in with nurturing.  I often think its the little moments, the little treats that help us more than they look like they should.  Barry I often treat ourselves to a coffee in town - it feels special and a treat for sure.  These little things make us smile and feel as if we are being kind to ourselves.  They can feel like a wee circuit breaker; a little bit of time out from crazy busy-ness.

What a great insight this is into a happy life...

I was trying to find an image of nurturing - and funnily enough this quiet, elegant glass vase with flower stem seemed right. I found this entire exhibition by Shohei Fujita in Tokyo in 2016 truly filled my soul and was an utter delight. A real treat.

Certainly not an image for abundance tho!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A New Year...

And indeed it is.

We welcomed 2018 gently and quietly and hope that it will be a wonderful and kind year for all.

As is our custom, Barry and I spent the time in between Christmas and New Year preparing and printing our New Year cards.

This year we both chose letterpress, and used the cards I had test-printed as postcards which was good fun.

I fiddled and faddled for a bit trying to get Empire 72 pt to print nicely with some Empire 36pt, and in the end admitted defeat and went for consistently sized type.

I also realised that I didn't seem to have any 8s in my 72pt - only what I think are really ampersands! Still - I could have gotten away with it I think; that little curlycue adds a certain je ne sais quoi?!?

Truth be told, I like the similar sized type better in the end anyway.

Not that it was all smooth sailing to this point, where the cards are lined up of drying on the stairs..

My first proof was close but not quite.  If you look really closely you can see the first 2+0 are riding a tiny wee bit higher than the rest of the characters on the line...

So I had to fix that. Much happier!

And then it was on to adding the embossed logo for deckled edge press - our letterpress imprint.

Lots of trials to check how to align the new die.

But doesn't it look great?

It was good to use the postcard prints I had prepared earlier and to see how the pressure on both sides had pushed thorough;  something I need to work on and hoped I could rectify, but didn't really manage to.

 Still, they are kind of nice and are headed out into the world, wishing folk happy 2018.

I think I hope for a year that is kind; and that is gentle. I wish for a year where we get to spend time on things we love, and with those we love. And I wish for year that has moments of making and creating; and precious precious peace.

 To 2018.