spontaneous marks

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After whining a bit about not having enough time for frivolous art projects, I got away for a weekend at Whispering Woodlands for a workshop with Pam Paulsrud. I really enjoy her workshops - a few years ago, I took one called Sacred Geometry, which was similar. This year was supposed to be spontaneous marks, which involves a little non-dominant writing, a little work with sumi and walnut ink and funny tools like pop can nibs, plus some spritzing and other sink work. It's not really something that I see translating into work for the shop but it was really nice to spend a solid weekend just playing around and creating. We were supposed to make an accordion fold book but I had a few too many pages for the simplest version. I spent most of Monday working on the binding (my least favorite part) and actually managed to have a finished book. So often I feel like you go to these workshops and get started but go home with lots of intentions (which I rarely follow through on).

Anyway, I wrote a story/poem for the book and copied the text onto transparencies and then sewed it in. There's a little bit of text on each page (the longest bit is pictured). The story didn't quite make it past the 8 year-old review board: "does your story have temporal words, Aunt Laura? Is there a beginning? a middle? an end? are there periods? question marks? exclamation marks?" Well, I'm quite pleased with the finished book.

 

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This week, I also led two batik tag sessions (one at Pinney through the Bubbler) so now I've got batik and random marks rolling around in my head. I think it would be really interesting to combine them but have to think about that some more.

In the meantime, I have two possible Overture exhibits in 2016 so I'm starting to think about a couple projects for those. Lots of brainstorming going on. Always fun to think of new projects!!!


swarming the world

 

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This is going to sound really silly but for the past year, I've been feeling a little at loose ends. Obviously, there is plenty of work to be done for the shop. And even though I am working really hard (harder, in some ways, than we were when we first opened), thanks to our part-timers, I also have a few more evenings to myself. I've been able to pick back up on yoga and have evenings that I'm home before 8 pm, with plenty of time to satisfy my introverted soul. So I've been kind of stumped: what is it that I want? what is missing that is making me feel somewhat stressed out? It is not simply a matter of taking more vacations or consecutive days off, though I'm sure those would help as well (even though I can't make up my mind where I would go or what I would do).

Completely accidentally, I stumbled across one part the oh-so-obvious answer to this question about two weeks ago. It's really quite pathetic considering how much time I spend lecturing people on the importance of creating. Now, I heard from many people that they were worried that if you make your art your career, you will somehow end up hating your art - just the fact of having to do something for money puts a different spin on it. I wasn't feeling like that was my problem exactly; I'm totally fine creating things to sell at the shop and am challenged (in a good way) to figure out things that customers will like that I can create for a reasonable amount of time and energy and I certainly don't hate the process of creating things for the shop. But I had a free evening and I went to the beach and took photographs for a completely frivolous (as far as it relates to the shop) purpose and it was So. Nice. Not just the part about being on the beach, but playing around with angles to take, placement, etc. It made me realize that, while I AM spending a lot of time creating things, most of that has been for the shop. It counts as creating, as using my hands and brain in that certain matter, but there's some carelessness and intuition that doesn't necessarily get put into play for such tasks. Perhaps one would say that Art is somewhat lacking for these commercial endeavors.

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In any event, it is especially timely (right before the holiday rush when I need to be at a minimum of crabbiness) that this project would come along. Funny how those things work out. For this project, thousands of cyanotype fabric butterflies are making their way around the world (see Swarm the World on Tumblr). At each point, the recipient gets about a month of installing the butterflies and taking their pictures. As you might expect, the process has been somewhat delayed: my initial month of April turned into August turned into September. And while I would have liked to take the butterflies to the Arboretum in springtime, this is probably a better time of year for photographs.

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Each butterfly has a tiny magnet sewn onto the back and while some clever people have been using wire and other tricks to get the butterflies to stick to non-magnetic surfaces, I decided to just keep things simple and find surfaces that are magnetic, even if that means a few disappointments. I thought for sure that street signs would be magnetic so that I could create a sign that was just butterflies, but so far I am not finding one.

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Still, there are plenty of options and I've definitely had fun scouting locations. 

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And, in the interest of continuing such creative play, I took the leap and signed up for a workshop at Whispering Woodlands. I've taken a workshop from this instructor in the past (though usually I try not to repeat instructors, I think this is exactly the arena that is currently lacking in my life). The last class that I took inspired that four-volume hand-bound set of quotes and watercoloring so this workshop will surely be a similar source of inspiration. I think I'm really missing Valley Ridge Art Studio, not just for the workshops but for the way they were totally getaways and a little bit soul-rejuvenation. But that just means I have to be on the lookout for other opportunities. I think next year it will be a workshop from Kelly Kilmer, so that's something to look forward to.

How about you? Any favorite workshops or creative endeavors this summer and fall? Where are your favorite places to learn and be inspired?


monoprinting and masks

Thurman5Ta da!  Well, still a work in progress, but I just had to share what I did with those monoprinted pages: scanned them and brought them in to Photoshop. And now I am playing around with clipping masks and text. I know, the print has a little white spot and thus it looks like Howard Thur said this, not Howard Thurman, but the potential is there. I also really like the look of hand-cut letters so I am thinking about cutting a set of the alphabet out of printed pages and bring those into Photoshop for future projects. Hmm....  For someone who loves text, the variety of fonts and possibilities right now is truly mind-boggling. What's your favorite font?!


more monoprints

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If I didn't have to come into work, I might completely give in to my new obsession with Gelli® plate printing. SO. Much. Fun. and I feel like I'm only touching the tip of the iceberg. Of course, I'm left with the quandry of what to do with the pages once they are printed so that has tempered my enthusiasm somewhat. But I'm thinking it would be totally cool to print pages for a journal (leaving some white space, as hard as that is for me) and then use the journal for a travel journal or something. I have an idea that a person could make some prints that would stand on their own but so far mine have mostly been relegated to the pile of paper to use in collages and backgrounds. Still, it's a pretty great pile, if I do say so myself.

For now, I've been focused on printing on book pages to cut up and make into flowers for our door stop. I had to do some tweaking so I just *had* to print some more.

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 For that project I've been focusing on succulent colors of mostly aquas and greens with some purples thrown in, but I have to say that the Gelli® prints I've liked the most are the ones with some pop of contrasting color (which you should either apply in two separate coats or with judicious brayering or drying time so as to avoid creating mud colors): coral and aqua for example, or red with anything.

I am particularly fond of the "ghost print." That's the second print pulled from the plate, when much of the paint has already printed on the first piece of paper. But there are interesting things happening with the leftover bits of paint. In fact, those prints would be perfect for journal pages now that I think of it since there is more white space left...  Of course, a person has to create first prints in order to get to the second print stage.

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And if there is any advice that I have, it would be to have a lot of space available and a lot of paper for printing. I'm usually working on about 12 pieces of paper at once, printing a first layer, and then continuing to add layers (sometimes not even covering the whole piece of paper but putting a little bit of new color in the corner or along the edge). Really, this process is perfectly suited to the kind of layering that I like to do in my collages and background painting. There's some degree of complexity that isn't necessarily obvious, but I still think it adds to the overall piece. And if you aren't happy with something, just keep going! (of course, this gets back to my chronic problem of knowing exactly what to stop... and ideally stopping before that point not regretfully after).

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Meanwhile, a customer expressed some puzzlement over what to do with her Gelli® plate now that she had one so I've invited her to bring her plate to a printing session. Unfortunately, it is only a group activity if everyone has one so for now we don't really have plans for a workshop, which is just to say that I am just going to keep teasing you with pictures of projects. I'm sorry. But I can't help myself. I'm quite pleased with my 2x2 book (inside) which was made with paper that I painted and also Gelli® printed, then collaged over.

 

oh, and you should see what Pinterest has to offer on the matter....

I would also like to note, per company direction, that they have given me permission to use their trademark for these purposes of discussing the work that I do with said trademarked product. All other uses of the trademark must be reviewed prior to usage.


new projects

"There was a single blue line of crayon drawn across every wall in the house. What does it mean? I said. A pirate needs the sight of the sea, he said & then he pulled his eye patch down & turned and sailed away."  Story People by Brian Andreas

Earlier this week, I met a friend who was taking a painting/collage class and her work for one week incolved creating a horizon line with collage. It was a very appealing look which made me want to go home right away and try it out. Since our holiday party is over, my mind is already on to the 2" x 2" book trade for 2015 and it occurred to me that this might be an interesting design to try out - maybe an accordion book that unfolds to a very very long horizon line? with a little bit of a story or something along the line? or just that text from Brian Andreas? I'm very inspired by the illustrations of Oliver Jeffers so that's kind of rolling around in my mind as well. Plus I'm thinking of all the scraps of paper and notes that I have - tearing those up into a horizon/timeline is an appealing thought.

Well, it's all early stages yet, but I found some pieces of white paper in my livingroom that can be cut down to the 2" width. I decided to leave them bigger for this inital stage of background painting. Most of the background is just the suggestion of pattern and color so it is likely that I will have to wash over what I've done and should probably proceed with more white on the rest of the sheets. But it was fun last night to start a new project and play around with paint on paper.

First step, a la Michelle Ward: brayering a thin coat of gesso onto the paper so I can work (and re-work) it more. Next step: using one stencil for some cohesiveness (one of my favorites from Stencil Girl Products), probably also adding more texture with gesso and bubble wrap or punchinella.

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I can't help it, I like circles. Next step: mostly dry brush, dabbing color on, going back over, spritzing with water, dabbing with a rag,

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dry brushing more paint, toning it down (keeping in mind that this is really all just supposed to be background. So far, so good. I feel like it's all rather greenish at the moment; I'll have to work more on color mixing. I feel like I'm going to have to lighten things a little bit more, but it sure was fun to spend some time just playing around with paint.

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playing with batik

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Yesterday I taught two batik tag workshops at Alicia Ashman library. Well, technically only one since everyone got scared off with the terrible weather, but my mom and niece stopped by so we had the room to ourselves during the second session.

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It's such a treat to use the space of the library and get to spread out to so many tables: one for ironing, one for dyeing, one for applying melted wax and two for drying. Each time I've refined the process - it was useful to focus just on small gift tags. I also limited the class to 10 so that worked well as far as the pace of the process and the amount of tools/supplies that we have. There are a few steps in the process that end up being bottlenecks but on the whole everything seemed to go smoothly. I do love batiking... though mostly this just made me itch to use the whole space for myself and spend an entire day playing around and experimenting.

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I particularly enjoyed using stencils - Stencil Girl stencils are really great to use. I feel like there's still some learning to do as far as which stencil will work best, but I think we got some nice designs out of them. I really love the feather stencil.

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I made a little progress on some batik pages that I'm using in some book projects but I feel like I'm still just fumbling around in the dark.

Prime example: of all the things I worked on, my favorite page was the back side of one of my batik pages that just has a light wash on it, and some dribbles from other pages. I love the intensity of batik dyes, but I also love this pastel version. It's fun, but also somewhat irritating - mostly that one's purposeful work falls short of one's accidental work. Which, yes, I know, suggests that I need to just kick that control freak part of me out of the way.

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And that totally made me think of Michelle Ward who does really great work with her scraps and other things that are incidentally created in the process of making (you know, the pieces of newsprint that are underlying everything? those were pretty fun on their own - and made me start thinking that maybe I should put some arches text paper underneath and create some interesting pages out of my dribbles). I learned a lot from her about being open to that serendipity. Now I just need to keep practicing it.

For example, how fun is this? The newsprint is used to iron off the wax - the first batch of batik I did created some interesting prayer-flag like texture on paper but I'm loving the silhouettes of the gift tags that we were working on. I kind of wish it was on paper that wasn't just newsprint, which, I can't help it, still conjures up the memory of learning my letters in elementary school and practicing on that irritating paper that would rip just at the sight of an eraser.

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We haven't yet corresponded with the libraries about 2015 but we have really enjoyed the partnership and hope that we are able to offer more workshops in the coming year!


more batik works

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That little taste at the library was just not enough!  I've been feeling a little impatient and thought it would probably be best to get that out of my system before I teach again on Wednesday night at Alicia Ashman Library. Luckily I awoke early this Sunday morning and was downtown in plenty of time to work on a partial batch of batik. I had some pages already started from when we were residents at the Bubbler. I was planning to use those pages for a happy book of various ephemera but, as usual, made many more pages than I need for that particular project. Concurrently, I have started an ephemera book of notes and cards from the shop, especially all the lovely cards we get from various stationery vendors in advance of the Stationery Show in New York. oh, and also cool business cards, etc. Anyway, I have a whole box of such things at home and decided last night to split them up into books by color. The first book will be my usual purple/blue/greens. All of this is to explain why the colors of the batik paper that I worked on this morning are so narrow.

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Also, while photos are uploading, I realize I'm having trouble sharing these without a lot of qualifiers. Basically, I'm still at that stage of learning and practicing when it comes to batik. Of all the pages that I have created over the last several months, it is rare for me to make a page that I think will stand on its own. That said, I enjoy the process, and I'm ending up using some of them in my PhotoShop work so the work is not without value. But I feel like I'm not fully illustrating the potential of batik to you.... but hopefully I am at least giving you a sense of the promise.... I think the colors and the patterns are really lovely and the process is fun. They are making really great pages for my books, and also worked really well to cut up and sew back together for the "quilt" that I have at the library.

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If a person is going to do the entire batik process from start to finish, you would need lots of space and time. Limited in both of these respects (seeing as the craft table has lots of new arrivals on half of it), I did a skimpy version of the process: the pages that I started with already had one coat of wax and color but I am learning that you can add to the complexity and loveliness if you do a second coat. I wasn't particularly happy with how they were looking... SO, I added more wax and more dye. Given my space limitations, I just hauled out 6 containers of dye: lilac, blue, olive, kelly green, turquoise, teal. After that dried a bit, I did a wash of color on the back side because I know that I'll be using these pages in a book. I also know that these are going to be background onto which I am going to sew the various pieces of ephmera so I'm mostly just playing around and not too concerned with how lovely or composed each page will be. In the spirit of playing around, I treated myself to my favorite wood stamp block and some stencils from the shop.

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I've been curious to try these Stencil Girl   



stencils with melted wax. They are made with a high quality mylar which can be used for projects that involve heat. There are some plastics (my sequin waste, for example) which can start to warp and melt during the batik process and are probably not really good to be used in that particular setting. Not so with these stencils. The main challenge for me was to decide which ones to use. There are so many awesome designs!

 

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I've also had my eye on the wood blocks that we received at the shop. The patterns are so cool and I'm pretty sure that such things are used for traditional batiking... or printing at least. Perhaps the batik ones are all copper, but there was potential. I find that melted wax can spread out a bit once put on paper, so that sometimes blurs the precision of one's lines. However, the wood block seemed to work pretty well. I didn't get a perfect stamp, but I think that it will make lovely patterns. I don't know how well all of the different designs will work, but I was quite happy with the one I selected.

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I am eager to experiment more with second layers of color and wax - I'm still trying to wrap my head around the final look, but I do love the added complexity of color and pattern. I really like the feathers stencil but I think that the succulents stencil will look really amazing with two layers of wax and color.

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I'm thinking about a batik tag workshop closer to the holidays. Working in the small format of gift tags makes things go quickly and it seems like these would be really fun for holiday packages. Since I have zillions of library catalog cards, I played around with stencils using those. But I think they will be perfect for the tag workshop.

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I've been doing all my work kind of assembly-line fashion, when I can grab some time. Perhaps I would have a little more to show off if I was being more careful. Still, since they are going to be background, these are all going to work just fine. And, more importantly, getting them done means I can get to work on this new book I have in mind.

 

 


lettering musings

My brain is going in all sorts of directions: taking this PhotoShop class has me thinking about various lettering combined with my photographs. I'm having trouble translating what I'm thinking about onto the computer screen though. Getting lots of practice with various tools and such, but my handmade preferences betray me. Ultimately, I've always needed to just work with my hands and see how the thoughts in my head will translate. It's somewhat distracting to have to go through the filter of the computer, and of learning the software. All of which is to say that I didn't get very far on my postcard plans last night during class. 

In good lettering news, I took scissors to paper and had much more success. I had an idea for a sign for the library and was inspired by something I saw somewhere.... I'm thinking it was on Pinterest: just cutting letters out (like this and this, but not this). I'm loving the look. I just found magazine pages that had a more or less cohesive pattern/color, cut them into 4" squares, and then hand-cut out the letters. It would be cool to make a wall with one huge quotation or something. Somehow, someway, this is possible to do in PhotoShop I am sure. Maybe that's for next week's class. This week I managed to select a very finely detailed object, cut and paste it, and change its color - which is a big improvement over last week when I was erasing around the edges at the pixel level.

Anyway, here's my sign for the library, part of the series answering questions frequently asked of librarians. Next up: an artsy way to point out where the bathroom is....

 

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painted pages finis

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more or less....   But I did almost ruin two pages so I am forcing myself to stop with the paint-gesso-ink stage of the process. Last night I re-stitched the fourth book but, really, I'm going to stop.  Really. Except for a few pages that are still waiting for text. But I thought that since this book was for my fortysomethings, I should perhaps leave a few pages blank for any additional quotations that come into my life in the remainder of the decade.

This morning I sat down with all four books and read them from start to finish. Tried to turn off my critical eye and just enjoy.  If I were better at video, I really should just take a video of how the whole book reads because it is really hard to take a photograph that conveys the entire book. But I thought I would at least take pictures of my favorite elements.

{and if you haven't been following along, here's the start of the process at Whispering Woodlands with Pam Paulsrud as well as some of the posts from along the way: here, here and here.

In no particular order:

1. twinkling watercolors on black paper. white gesso on black paper with colored pencil on top. lines of white pencil on black paper. In fact, just in general, using twinkling watercolors - so fun!

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2. batik paper. back side of batik paper, particularly the time when I thought I really messed up by putting still damp batik paper down on plastic tablecloth to dry only to find out there were splotches of dye from the other pieces of batik paper that pooled in the ridges of the warped paper. using sumi ink before the final coat of wax and adding random marks/approximations of text to the back side of the batik paper.

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3. The funky and uncontrolled things that watercolors do. Especially watercolor bleeding into pre-moistened paper, watercolor bleedingwhen I should have waited to watercolor until after the step that involved running the whole piece of paper under running water. The way the particular color of purple has some aqua in it that bleeds out when wet.

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4. The way facing pages that weren't designed initially to face each other work out. Even if I had to do a little extra painting to make that happen.

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5. Sequin waste (aka punchinella) texture created with gesso and/or watercolor.

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6. My decision to go back in with watercolors and fill in the negative space that was created through my random sumi ink lines.

 

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7. My pie, and non-pie charts.

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8. Colors, colors, colors. Notably - a lot of warm tones, and warm with purple.... a bit of a change from my usual purple/blue/green.

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 9. The Michelle Ward approach to making the artists' "hand" visible - imperfect and hand-drawn, almost scribbly, circles.

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10. Using my own photographs.

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11. Frisket.

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 12. Sumi ink lines drawn and then washed out after about five minutes so they create a vaguely marbled look on the rest of the page, and also so that the lines are not solid black. Making up my own sumi ink marbled paper but just from random happenstance not through any "real" techniques.

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13. Playing around with handwriting. I just read a book about calligraphy and I think that is just not for me - what I am really wanting is to work on my handwriting with ink. I like the flow of handwritten text without the time-consuming care required for calligraphy. Writing with pen and pencil. Filling spaces with text. Drawing lines and then writing on them. Also cutting out little pieces of magazine text and poetry and adding them in.

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14. Incompleteness. Which is really really hard for me to work with. The page looks much better with some actual white, incomplete space - but at what point to stop?

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lettering projects: Take what you Need

Take What You Need by L.T. Komai at Anthology
I won't repeat myself so you can read more about my belated/inept Skillshare here if you haven't already. But I did want to confirm that I did follow through enough to convert my pencil drawing into a final piece. Traced everything over with pen and then took it to the copy shop to make copies for the shop and to post around town. Only problem is that when I was drawing the piece, I totally forgot about margins! I ended up having to reduce the piece to 90% or so, and also make sure that I centered it - am I the only one who wastes lots of paper when it comes to reducing or enlarging originals? The copy machine always seems to twist things or put them off center in ways that I don't like. I should have just gone to OfficeMax because I have become familiar with their copy machines, and also their machines let you do a lot more things than the others typically do. For example, the area that was scanned was a smidge less than 8.5 x 11 and thus my reductions were cut off on the margin so I had to do a little work to fill in the cut off text before I photocopied it again. At OfficeMax, I would have been able to set the scanning area to a larger area, and also would have been able to do more with adjusting the contrast. All of this is to say that if anyone at OfficeMax is listening, I am BEGGING you not to do away with your copy machines as you proceed with this merger with Office Depot.  I have NOT been happy with Office Depot machines for a long time now and every time I go there, I end up wishing that I had just driven further in the car to get to Office Max. Rant over.

As soon as the weather warms up a little bit and I don't have to worry about how well the tape will stick to cold surfaces or getting snow on the pieces, I'm planning to post one of these outside the shop for passerby to take what they need. I'm also planning to bundle 5 or so for people to buy and share around.

Sachi has been busy working with the Gocco printer and coming up with all sorts of new card designs. I can tell my sister competitiveness is kicking in because I'm feeling like I need to step up my game to catch up with her (do you think you just grow out of these things? or you just have them with you for life and, if anything, they just get worse as you get older? - I remember my mom saying that I had no interest in piano until my sister started playing and then all of a sudden I was interested). She has printed several different cards already - and is now just impatiently waiting for the envelopes to come in.

  Wisco cards by S. Komai at Anthology

I like the idea of Gocco printing but so far my Wisco Mix is a larger design - not really suitable for a card, and I'm not even sure screenprinting is the route. I am still mulling over my options. I might make it into a transparency and use it for cyanotype printing. I might make it a two-part piece: screenprint/cyanotype/hand-drawn/painted.... I don't know.

In the meantime, I'm just focusing on the design aspect and gaining a whole new appreciation for graphic designers. I realize this would all go faster if I was working on a computer but instead I spent yesterday redrawing cassette tapes and the outline of the state. But I think some of that work is just the thinking and processing that is necessary for me. I had second thoughts about my initial design and drew a variation yesterday, only to realize that my initial plan was better so I redrew that and am now just thinking about what font I should use for the handwritten mix tape jacket. Well, I use "font" loosely, since there's a limit to what I can do with my handwriting. I'm still not sure about the actual cassette tape - I was thinking it would be cool to cyanotype an actual cassette tape but then I'm not sure I will be able to get the detail the way I want it to. I should just try to print one on plain paper and see how it ends up. Anyway, here's the rough rough draft (note that I remembered to put margins in this time).

 

Wisco Mix draft by L.T. Komai at Anthology