Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Print Preview: Spring Work

Well, its Tuesday-- and I barely made it before the sun went down, but I have lots of new work to share! I looked back on my first Process Post where I shared my sketches and am amazed by how different most of the finished results are. Sometimes I come across a scrap of inspiration and it just seems like far too strong an image to abandon for a thumbnail I've committed to but have grown less and less crazy about. After all, there's no sense in printing at all unless you're so excited you can barely wait to pull away the screen-- and that's how these came to be for me. This group, along with a few leftovers, will be at the next two shows. At that point (hopefully sooner!) I'll have to print up another big batch.

I still plan on making the stones/sequoia diptych from my sketches, and the landscape, but for now it looks like those will come a bit later on this spring.

So here they are, with a little bit on how I arrived at them.

Title: Hiawatha Birches
I love visiting the Upper Peninsula-- its like a whole different world up there. My favorite stretch is just after the Mackinaw Bridge on Highway 2, right along the coast between St. Ignace and Little Bay de Noc. Filled with old tourist traps, smoked fish and pastie shops and tiny painted cabins dotting the road, its wear-- the faded, peeling paint and rusty signs set against the trees, have always seemed magical to me. The best place in the whole state to visit birch trees is right up there in Hiawatha National Forest. This print is a little nod in that direction. I set the trees against various shades of smooth dolphin gray for a nice, neutral pop.

Title: Jade Stalks
We have a little jade plant that's doing really well, so here's my homage to her. I love the juicy leaves on jade that branch off on equal steps along the stem, and also that they grow straight up in the air. There's also an orange/green version of this print. I offset the registration on the leaves and background and don't have an opinion yet on how they turned out-- I might fill in that color with another, more kelly green at a later date.

Title: Vintage Cattails / Vintage Wheat
I had planned on a silhouette of wheat against orange in the original sketches, and taking cues from a retro Riverwalk sign near Michigan's capital city, Lansing, combined two ideas into one to come up with this set. The two tone color combination floats you back to the 70's with a plant silhouette framing one side. The subjects lended themselves very easily to blue and orange tones, and using those complementary colors also means that they look great as a pair.

Title: Log Slice

In my sketches I had a pile of log slices in various sizes, but I really liked the details I had a chance to depict in printing up just one. I got to make some nice rough bark, circles in varying thicknesses, and in troubleshooting a huge dilemma where my contact paper kept leaping from my screen, added the cracks which ended up really making the composition sing.

Title: Fleming Creek
This one is straight from my sketches-- my Fleming Creek woodcut print has been really successful and I wanted to translate the same image via screen print. The blue is a touch more teal in reality, and sets against the dreamsicle orange quite nicely. Reminds me of racing against daylight on the river and of that magical 5 o'clock hour in the summer where the light is stunning.

Title: Resurrection Fern
This is the second print I've named after an Iron and Wine song-- I couldn't help myself. I made a fern print the last time around and wanted to make another that looks a little more toward the actual plant. I did a little fern research and fell fast for the long broad leaves of the resurrection fern. This one will be available is 9x9" glass frames for the same price as regular screen prints. I had to sneak up on this one at a weird angle under lamplight to get an accurate representation of its color and keep glare off the glass, so that's why the photo is a bit wonky.

I have around 150 of these all together, and probably won't list them on Etsy until the first couple of shows are over. (early May) If you're absolutely over the moon for one I'll make a custom listing and get it out to ya in case they sell out! I will also have a special edition screen print offering in May in conjunction with my participation in IndieFixx's Feed Your Soul project.

I would really appreciate any feedback you have on these as I frame them up for shows. Trying to figure out which ones will sell and which ones won't is not a strong suit of mine-- so your comments help me do a little projection!

Now onto woodcuts!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Favorite Things: Charley Harper for Children

Last week I had the lucky fortune of stumbling on some Charley Harper learning materials for children on clearance.

I contemplated buying it all, but showed a little restraint and walked away with just two items: this ABC's board book and Memory Game. My friend Marissa informed me that night when we were playing Memory at happy hour that she played with one just like it as a kid. By the way, I had forgotten how much fun Memory is-- and hadn't (until last week) experienced the pure joy that is Memory paired with beer. We had a blast!

For more Charley Harper, you can visit this Grain Edit post.
For the best happy hour in Ypsilanti, you can visit the Corner Brewery all day on Monday.
(They have board games if you forget to bring your own. )

One more link! Handmade Detroit has remodeled their site with all sorts of new features!

My weekend officially started at 6pm this evening and runs through Tuesday-- aside from shipping a few orders I will be on ART LOCK IN finishing up the screens and starting woodcuts! It helps that its supposed to snow tomorrow.

Print preview to come on Tuesday!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Etsy Featured Buyer

I thought I'd bring you a new feature while I'm tied up printing. I see features about Etsy sellers everywhere, and it occurred to me one day that individuals who buy handmade, who see the value in it, are every bit as interesting as makers/sellers.

When I write their name and addresses out on the envelopes I wonder what their lives are like and where they're going to stick the little prints I send them. I wonder what part of them connects to the part of me that I printed on the piece of paper inside the envelope I wrote their name on. I think about what the trees might be like where they live-- because that's the thing I seem to marvel the most at when I travel.

Anyway, I've arranged to have a lovely repeat customer of mine agree to be the very first Etsy Featured Buyer. Her name is Gabriella and she's from Geneva, Switzerland and quite possibly one of the kindest people on Earth.

Here's the questions I asked her, if you have any you'd like to ask in the comments, feel free to do so. If you'd like to become the next Etsy featured buyer you can leave a comment for me on this post!

Tell us a little about yourself.

Hmm - I am an Australian-Italian working in Geneva for an international organization. A former roustabout female, finding her way to cool detachment in her 40s. Hubby, 2 constantly surprising little ones, and a long and colourful past working in various corners of the world from Canberra to Cox's Bazaar, London to the Liberian border.

What compels you to buy handmade?

Family tradition. Both parents were pragmatic, hands-on people: father - could construct most things; mother - could create most other things. Trawling school and church fetes was a big family pasttime, and because we were a big(ish) family, a lot of our clothes and things came from second-hand sources - handmade or vintage (before it was endowed with a capital V). Now, after years of an itinerant lifestyle in locations of varying sophistication, yet all with their own cultural and handcrafted identities, I find myself in the one house with a burning desire to populate the walls, our wardrobes, and our garden with the fruit of the world's expression. When I first visited my father's village in Italy, I was overwhelmed by the honour associated with tatting, weaving or embroidering. This doesn't weigh so much on me now as I know I am not only more than capable of creating things beyond the finer details: theatre costumes, re-vamping old clothes, recycling & renovating furniture. Just as much pleasure comes from collecting and appreciating the work of others.

Tell us about some of your favorite handmade items.

Items made, or even more poignant, started and left unfinished, by my mother, for future grandchildren and left in a bag in her bedroom before she died and before any of us siblings had intentions to start families. A sari from Bangladesh presented to me by my team before moving on; breathtakingly simple and refreshing woodcuts and prints that parse the detail from day-to-day existence and take you back to appreciating the barest essentials: an unfurling fern, leaves, honeycomb, branches of trees

Do you make anything? Dinner counts!

I was actually brought up to understand that anything could be made: i once made a big biscuit for my primary school play about a boy who ate so many biscuits he turned into one (made from cardboard boxes from the supermarket and papermache - half the fun was begging mum to buy the choco-chip biscuits as a 'prototype'!). A friend and I wrote the play, so i suppose in a way it was handmade as well. Bread - I love the basicness of kneading and the pleasure gained from waiting for the dough to rise fullsomely. Marmalade, cakes, scones, pavlova, pies. Labels - crazy, ironic ones. I make-up little stories with continuing themes too as bed-time tales for my little hobgoblins. Laughingly, some of the clothes I buy for myself on Etsy, I end up re-working for my daughter, who unwraps them and covets them away before i even have a chance to try them on.
The philosophy of Etsy is essentially a good, pure thing - I hope this does not get tainted by commercialism over the coming years. It is also such a wonderful didactic experience - enter into an Etsy transaction, and a whole new world of learning and appreciation opens up: I personally try to correspond with sellers as I would if I had physically walked into their shop - it has provided many wonderful journeys of discovery.

Thanks to Gabriella for the riveting peek into her world.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rad Linkage

I have been a printing fool over the last few days and have promised myself that I will pump out another edition tonight, so I will keep it short and instead give you a couple of rad links:

1) Frank Chimero

I don't remember the first time I came across Frank Chimero's site, but I keep finding myself clicking on links I like that take me to it, so I thought I'd share it here. His work is part of a rare category that speaks to me across the board-- with both the signs I make in my day job and in the graphic prints I create on my own time.

(I LOVE that glass of iced tea!)

I particularly love this article from his blog. So many great thoughts on design!

2) PrintZero Studios

I also want to pass around this amazing opportunity to participate in a print exchange! I've only participated in a few print exchanges, but I think they're great fun and also a really unique exhibition opportunity. Seems like they usually have kind of steep entry fees and larger image sizes/editions, but this one is only $10, and you only need to send an edition of 15 5x7"s! The deadline is May 15th, so there's plenty of time!

Today we took the canoe out for the first time this year, it was 65 degrees and sunny in the mitten today!

Back to prints!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Oh, Michigan

I may have mentioned here that we're toying with the thought of leaving Michigan this fall due to the quickly deteriorating local economy. I'm not typically a fair-weather fan, but I've lived in the mitten my whole life and could stand to mix it up a bit. As much as I feel pulled to leave, I occasionally get this nagging feeling that we might be leaving just as big things finally start happening. This feeling was reasserted today on two occasions.

1) There's been discussion for some time about a light rail linking Detroit and Ann Arbor, with an Ypsilanti stop along the way. It looks as if the stimulus package is going to expedite the process, and they're already planning a stop within a few blocks from our place. This would pretty much make my life. 15 minute drives to Ann Arbor and 45 minute drives to Detroit keep us out of there on a regular basis because frankly, some of the activities we enjoy partaking in include alcoholic beverages and we're not fans of the drinking and the driving. This deal will be so sweet for our little Ypsilanti, with patrons coming from both directions to take in the many awesome establishments within a mile of the train stop. More foot traffic means that local businesses and the arts scene will only continue to grow.

2) NPR ran a lovely story about the Power House Project today. Click to listen! Artist Mitch Cope purchased (and facilitated the sale of) some really cheap foreclosed homes in one neighborhood in an effort to create a sense of community, nurture the arts, and support environmental sustainability. The only catch for living in a community minded neighborhood amongst artist and environmental proponents with a $14/month mortgage: you live in Detroit.

Sign me up!

(the Power House!)

Thanks to Ypsilanti blogger Mark Maynard, from whom most of my local haps knowledge flows.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Show Announcement!

Yesterday I was chosen to be one of thirty vendors at Handmade Detroit's Craft Revival!

Details: Saturday April 18
@ the Magic Stick
(4120 Woodward Ave. Detroit)

I got somewhat addicted to shows last fall, so I'm really excited to get back to them after a three month hiatus. This show should be interesting because the venue is a little on the darker side and we're encouraged to light our booths up a bit which means that I finally have a reason to coerce Chris into building a log lamp!

So I have six weeks, and its time to get busy! Luckily, I found a really simple solution to my fern measurement snafu yesterday and a major time and money saver in the framing department. Everything should run a little more smoothly and efficiently this time around. My first step today will be to make a nice big calendar of the next month and a half. I'm hoping to make around 200 screen prints and 400 woodcut prints, so planning is essential.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Favorite Things: SPRING

In addition to hearing thunder and rain in the place of the deafening silence of encroaching snow, I also see signs of spring on the way inside our apartment. The first houseplant I have ever successfully cared for, my little peace lily, blooms about two or three times a year-- one of which is always in March, the same month in which I received her. She just bloomed around the holidays, so I thought that maybe it wouldn't happen this March. I was delighted to wake up last week and see that a bloom had shot up seemingly overnight.

I counted four flowers in various stages of growth when I watered her today, there may be a few more on the way. I love that she opens them up slowly, one after another, to savor this rare moment in the limelight before her return to normal houseplant-dom. It always reminds me of the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi-- that the most beautiful moments happen in the starts and finishes, not the grand crecendos in between. Because these blooms move slowly in sequence there's always a beginning and an end taking place on the same plant whenever she blooms. I like that about her.

(click me for some stamen detail!)

Even though the last few days here have been gray and totally abismal (albeit snowless) this little plant reminds me that sun is on the way.

By the way, if you think you have a brown thumb than a peace lily might be just what you need to gain some confidence in your growing skills. They add a huge jolt of green to your space and respond to less than ideal gardeners with a knack for indirect light and over watering-- you really can't water this plant too much, just set the inside pot on a little pedestal of floral foam so the roots don't sit in the extra water. One of my favorite things about this plant is that the water has an instantaneous effect-- you can see the leaves perk up within five minutes!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Overcoming Bobbin Phobia

I have feared sewing machines since 6th Grade Home Ec.

For the record, I never would have taken Home Ec., but it came as a package deal with art class and there's no way I wasn't taking art class. I had done just fine with the cooking portion-- my snickerdoodles came out a perfectly composed golden brown-- when the sewing machines came out. We were going to make a pillow. You could chose a soccer ball pillow or a giant misshapen pig head pillow. Being that I was not even remotely inclined toward sports in middle school, I went with the pig head.

So the whole project was four steps: applique felt face pieces, sew together edges, stuff and close. The tricky part was the little felt pig ears. They were supposed to stick out of the seam (for the record the soccer ball had no complex components like this) on either side of the giant head. I got all turned around and flustered and ended up with one ear on the top of my pig's head and one ear-like triangle hoof on the bottom. Combine that with the fact that I tend to ignore the entire concept of seam allowance, and you have the perfect recipe for pillow FAIL.

Fast forward a few years and I'm trying to use my mom's 80lb ancient sewing machine. I would wind the bobbin, figure out how to get it in there and get the whole thread path figured out and then I would touch the pedal ever so lightly and the fabric would get ripped out of my hands in a pile of 20 yards of thread and tangles and tears. For years I chalked it up to simply not having the touch. I'm confused and jealous by crafters who can throw together a pile of sewn goods in minutes, so in sync with their machine that they can floor it and stitch up a skirt in Guiness Book time.

All this time I have been hand sewing everything-- and that's ok. I am drawn to textiles and to putting pieces together, and sewing has always been part of that where I've had a slight sense of fear and anxiety. I love to hand sew and embroider-- I feel totally at ease with a basic needle and thread, its just that sharp machine sewn look that feels so terribly out of reach.

So I asked my sister if she would teach me how to sew yesterday. She came down with her little blue sewing machine and walked me through it for an hour. Then she left it and her whole kit there with the sharp scissors and the hundreds of needles and thread colors and I made this:

My first pencil pouch. Its a little rough around the edges but I'm still a little shocked I made it-- that I actually managed to sew in a zipper. I did plenty of swearing and seam ripping, and I did learn that I can't really make and sell these-- it would take too long to be worth it due to my lack of experience, but still-- I'm very happy I got back on the horse.

Now that I think about it, I'm always happy when I get back on the horse.