28 January 2010

Blog Ring: Jewelry by NaLa

Well, I managed to miss last week's featured blog (but see below). Sigh. This week's blog is NaLa: Delicately Elegant Jewelry. Blogger NaLa says of herself, "I'm just a natural born crafter. Jewelry making is not my first venture into the world of crafting, but it is definitely my favorite."

You can see more of her work, and buy some if you're so inclined, in her Etsy shop, Jewelry by NaLa. Here's a piece that caught my eye:

The featured blogger in the other Handmade Artists Forum blog ring this week is Kitzbitz Art Glass, maker of stunning handmade beads. Last week, which I mentioned that I missed, the featured bloggers were fiber/felt artist FiberArtistToo and Bejewelled and Beguiled from Lynwood Jewelry.

27 January 2010

Wednesday Wishlist: LaMech

Part two of promoting art and craft and getting myself blogging regularly is the Wednesday Wishlist. Basically, this is going to be cool, mostly handmade stuff I find online that I would buy for myself if I had the money. Sometimes I will buy them for myself. But if you're looking for gifts for me (hint, hint) here is a good place to start. Or, you know, cool gifts for anyone. Anyone cool, that is.

My first pick is actually something that was near the top of my to-buy-when-I-have-money list, but has now been removed, on account of I'm trading a Flying Machines calendar for one. So don't buy this for me, but do buy it for the other cool people in your life.

This is the Mechanical Companion (LaMech for ladies and GeMech for gents), made by the tremendously talented Haley Moore (aka toenolla) and available for purchase at High London Mechanical. Or if you prefer Etsy, you can also get it there. See more of Haley's work on her deviantART page.

25 January 2010

Monday Multiples: Purple Shore Crab by ploverwing

As part of my efforts to promote art and craft, and to get myself blogging more regularly, I've decided to start a series of more-or-less weekly posts. Actually, I hope to do a couple of series focusing on different things. Monday's post, "Monday Multiples," will focus on printmaking and related disciplines. You might find artist's books in here, though I'll probably have a separate day for those. You may even find the odd one-of-a-kind item (like, say, a monoprint or some other kind of art on paper).

So my very first ever Monday Multiples pick is this Purple Shore Crab by Amie Roman (aka ploverwing) on Etsy.

I really love her whole "BC Bestiary" series, and if I had a bunch of extra cash, I'd buy them all and make a special hand-bound album for them. Or put them all over my wall. She's from Cobble Hill on Vancouver Island, which is almost spitting distance from where I lived in Duncan. Sometimes I miss BC terribly.

Amie Roman is also only of the organizers of Printsy, the Etsy printmaking team, which I recently joined (I'm working on getting better images of my prints to add to the Flickr group). To search for other members, just type "printsy" in the searchbox on Etsy. And if anyone just happens to be gift shopping for me (yeah, I know, it's months till my birthday), you can consider Monday Multiples posts to be part of the Wednesday Wishlist. Which I haven't even posted about yet. Hah!

19 January 2010

Spring Cards: Preliminary Design

I started working on my spring card designs today. I need to pick up some stuff in Halifax next week, and I want to be able to send at least one new card to film while I'm there. Ideally I'd like to send as many as I can fit on an 11 x 17 inch film, but we'll see how much I can get done.

My plan is to do a series of cards featuring Nova Scotia wildlife. I'm starting with birds, since they're around me every day, and they're a popular subject. Despite the fact that it's the middle of winter and my bird feeders are crowded, birds still evoke spring. Anyway, I hope to eventually do four different birds, four plants, and four animals, and maybe expand from there. I originally thought six was a good number, but I have these plastic card sleeves that allow for the customer to see four different designs without having to remove any of them, so four seems to make more sense to start with. Maybe, come to think of it, I should try to do one each of bird, plant (or berry, or flower), tree and animal, to begin with. Or maybe I can do colour themes: bluejay, blueberry, bluebell (are those local?), blue . . . spruce? Heh.

Anyway. Bluejay is the first design I'm tackling, because I have some good photos of my own neighbours to work from. I'll do each card as two plates: one black, and one colour. It limits the design somewhat, but it's not cost effective to do more than two colours for most cards. Obviously, I'll print the bluejay in black and blue.

Here I'm working out where each colour will go. The bluejay is the perfect bird for a two colour print, because they're blue and black and white. Well, OK, and grey, but I can represent that as the white of the paper with some cross-hatching. The branch, being less important, will just be in black.

Next, I'll make two separate drawings from this design and scan them. I'll write more about that later, as I finish each stage and have something to show. I think I'll keep the images fairly lose and sketchy. I have a tendency to try to be too perfect, but I think in this case less formal will be more interesting. Maybe. We shall see.

I've been thinking hard about what other birds to do. If I base them on my own surroundings, I'll probably choose either downy or hairy woodpecker (they're so similar that there's no point in doing both) in black and red, and chickadee in black and beige. But I should probably also remind myself that spring will bring other birds, some of them perhaps more iconic of the province. Which reminds me, I really ought to see what the provincial bird is.

Ah! Osprey. That's cool. I can do him in black and brown. Now, I need to tweak that jay's tail a little bit, and maybe give him more of a standy-uppy crest.

16 January 2010

Blog Ring: Speranza Jewelry

One of the things I've joined in on, in an attempt to meet my goal of promoting craft in general and my own work in particular, is the Handmade Artists Forum Blog Ring. The idea is that one blog is chosen each week, and everyone else in the ring posts about that blog, then posts the link to their post on the forum. Then everyone reads everyone else's posts and comments, and so on. That way, the featured blog gets lots of inbound links, and the bloggers doing the featuring get lots of comments. Both of these things can boost a blog up in Google search, among other things.

This week's featured blog (yes, I'm a little late to the party, but I thought posting later in the week might help spread things out, since most other ring members will post early in the week, if that makes any sense) . . .

Let me start that sentence again. This week's featured blog is Speranza Jewelry. The blog is quite new, with only a few posts, but it looks very promising. The blurb under the blog title says, "My First Year on Etsy – A Blog About Art, Entrepreneurship, and the Handmade Movement," indicating that this could be a very useful and inspirational blog for other crafters just starting out.

Aside from a blog with great potential, Speranza Jewelry also (as you might have already guessed) has an Etsy shop. Here's something really lovely:

As a side note, the HAF Blog Ring is actually two rings. I'm in ring two. This week's featured blog in ring one is Heather's Haven. Also, the blog ring actually started last week, with everyone in a single ring, but I got distracted and forget to post. Last week's blog was Seedlings Jewelry.

10 January 2010

And The Winner Is . . .

I finally got myself organized and chose the winner of the 2010 "Flying Machines: possible and improbable" calendar.

I determined the winner my counting up how many entries each person had and writing their name on that many slips of paper. Then I shuffled the papers, put them in a box and shook it vigorously, opened the box and shook it a little more, than asked my lovely assistant (the fabulous BillyZ) to draw one of the slips.

So without further ado, the winner is Sunshine Folk! Yaaaaaayyyy! (Imagine Kermit the Frog and his arm-flailing enthusiasm--and if you don't know what I'm talking about, get thee to a video rental place and get some old Muppet Show episodes.)

I didn't get the huge response I was secretly hoping for, but I think the contest was successful in its own modest way, and I'm thinking about having another contest sometime in the not too distant future.

If you didn't win, and you're very sad about it, you can still buy a copy of the calendar on Etsy or ArtFire. And if you read this blog, I'll give you a secret free postage discount. Just post here, and I'll make a special Etsy or ArtFire (your choice) listing just for you. There's no time limit on this offer--as long as I have calendars to sell, you can get free shipping by posting here. (If you want to buy several items, let me know and if the postage isn't too high, I'll give you free shipping on your whole order. If the shipping is a bit steep, I'll knock off the cost of the calendar shipping from the total.)

Anyway, THANK YOU!!! to everyone who entered. You guys are the best.

07 January 2010

Winner Coming Soon

Many, many thanks to all who entered my contest! I'll be tallying the entries and posting a winner soon. Whee!

04 January 2010

Tools of the Trade: Quoins and Weights

Some of the smaller tools for bookbinding and printing are things we don't always think about. They're not as exciting or as romantic as century-old presses or handcrafted wooden sewing frames (topics for future posts, I think), and they're not as often in our hands as bone folders or etching needles. But they are dead useful just the same.


Pronounced "coins," these little devices are what printers use to lock type in a chase, or cuts on the press bed. Quoins come in a wide variety of types, but I've mostly got one. Later, when I'm back in the printshop, I'll photograph some of the other types.

As you can see from the photograph, this type of quoin is made of two separate pieces that fit together. When you use a key (or, in my case, a big screwdriver) you twist them past each other, making them expand in width and put pressure on the furniture (those wood blocks that fill in the extra space between the type and the chase).

I've collected several different brands of this basic type. Each press maker usually also made their own quoins, and in the photograph you can see cast iron versions from Kelsey, Challenge, Warnock and Hempel (I don't know if Warnock or Hempel made presses, but Kelsey and Challenge did). Most of them use friction to stay in place, which is remarkably effective, but the Warnock quoin has a little spring-loaded nub on the inside of each half that pops into dimples on opposing half.

You may have noticed that one of these things is not like the others. It's a bar quoin, in which the parts are joined together. Despite the complexity of construction, it still works the same way. Stick a key in the hole and twist, and the quoin expands (alas, a screwdriver doesn't work on this type, so I've not used it). The advantage of this type is that it only expands in width, and doesn't slide sideways.


Even less glamourous than quoins are weights, but good weights are essential in a bookbinding shop. They range from bricks wrapped in brown paper, to lead or iron blocks covered in davy board, to specially machined brass.

I'm a little poor in weights at the moment (I've been eyeing the bricks in the garden, but I think I'll have to find a replacement for them before BillyZ will let me have them). I have a couple of very nice chunks of scrap lead that came from a batch of type donated to the Dawson Printshop last year and were rescued from the trash by printmaker and Dawson alumnus Chris Dunnett. We spent an afternoon covering them in davey board (and Chris covered his in bookcloth, too), but then I left them in Joe's studio. Eventually, I'll bring them home.

Here in my own space, I've only got two actual weights. One I just made today. I had a handful of linotype slugs that came locked into the chase of my parlour press when I bought it. Since you can't take linotype apart and reuse the letters, I've just had it sitting around taking up space. Today I finally cut some scrap card and glued it on all six sides of the stack. For fun, I used a scrap piece from the old Dawson packaging on top.

My other weight is an old flat iron that belonged to my grandmother. She had several in her collection. When she passed away last year, Mum asked me what of hers I wanted. I asked for her rock and shell collections, because it was my grandmother who first encouraged me to collect rocks (and my rock tumbler used to be hers, too). Alas, my nephew had already claimed the rocks, but I did get the shells. And I asked for her flat irons. I remember them always decorating her kitchen, which is where we always sat for Sunday tea. I don't know what happened to the rest of them, but Mum managed to snag me one, plus one of the trivets. The iron I have has a lovely smooth wooden handle.

I'm glad to have the things of Gramma's that I have. And not only does the flat iron remind me of her when I look at it, but it's useful, too.

Photo credits, from top to bottom (all by Niko):
  • Chase with a cut and furniture. Normally, you'd use at least two quoins--one to apply vertical pressure and one for horizontal. A second quoin is shown apart.
  • My collection of quoins. I really love the two-piece cast iron ones, and will keep adding to my collection. I suspect the Warnock one might be brass rather than iron, but I'm hesitant to take a file to it to find out.
  • A weight I made from old lines of linotype and scrap card.
  • My grandmother's flat iron, now a book weight in my studio.

01 January 2010

50 Books and 2010 Goals

Some of you may remember a few years back when I picked up a challenge (I no longer recall who the originator of the challenge was, or where online I found it) to read 50 books in the year and blog about it. That first year, I was single and working entirely from home, and I ended up expanding the challenge to 50 fiction, 50 non-fiction, and 50 graphic novels, and still beating it easily.

So this year I've decided to change things (though I'm not single anymore, and often drive for more than an hour to get to the printshop, which will cut down on my free time). I'll still aim for reading 50 books (and maybe, if it goes well, for 50 fiction, non-fiction and comics). But this year, I'm going to try to bind 50 books.

While I don't count books I've already started in my reading 50 books challenge, I think I will include books started in my binding 50 books challenge, as incentive for me to finish the projects I've started and not finished over the past couple of years. So yeah, this year I aim to bind (at least) 50 books, and I'll blog them here.

And as for 2010 goals, I don't usually make actual New Year's Resolutions, but I do like to start the year with some general goals. This year, besides the 50 books thing, my goals are:

  • take White Raven Ink seriously as a business, including registering the name, working on marketing, developing product, getting the website finsihed, etc
  • finish, or at least get a bunch more done, Fey: Drawing Borders
  • seriously get back into writing fiction (and maybe even finish White Foxes, Full Moon), including submitting stories and further exploring the possibilities of POD, and writing The Fabulous Forays of Aeryn Daring as an illustrated serial novel
  • work on illustration, including furthering my skills in Photoshop and Illustrator--one of the projects I'll be doing is full-colour Photoshop illos for Aeryn
  • work on organizing and cataloging my backlog of photographs
  • get a portfolio together for Viewpoint Gallery and apply for membership
  • apply for at least one show
  • become more active online (one selected sites) in order to network and market my work
  • make some time to play video games for fun (and not just for work)

Well, I think that's enough for now. Like I said, they're fairly general goals, but that makes them more feasible. 2009 was a pretty good year for me professionally (plus I bought a house!); I'd like 2010 to be even better.

Photos: Top - Copper Manuscript of the Hill People of Frisland. Copper-covered coptic stitch book with Japanese paper pages, hand-done calligraphy and illustrations. Photo and art by Niko.

Bottom - Sneak-preview back cover of an in-progress POD book project (and possible gallery show) called Taxonomy gastronomica (Silvester). Photos and design by Niko.