23 March 2014

Busy, Busy

(This is the second time I've written this post, and I'm stuffed up and groggy, so it's going to be even shorter than the first time (damn you, Blogger for iOS, for dumping my post when I switched to Safari to look up a URL) (yes, I should have saved a draft first, but I really shouldn't have to) (also typing while annoyed) (and too many parentheticals) (I need more cold medication).)

What was I saying? Oh yeah. Busy with craft fair stuff, teaching, and sick, so not posting much until a few weeks hence. There was more detail and better sentence structure, but my ears are starting to ring, which means I need to rest, so I'll leave it at that. Here's a picture of some of what's keeping me busy:

Oh, and this is for the Halifax Crafters spring market, the first weekend of April, at the Olympic Centre. If you're in Halifax, stop by. There's no admission fee, but there is food and chocolate and cool crafts.

16 March 2014

Oops, Missed a Post

Yeah, I missed my Stamp Saturday post yesterday. Apologies to anyone who was waiting for it. I'm in the middle of prepping for a craft fair with mostly-new merchandise, so I'm a bit swamped. But never fear, Stamp Saturday will return shortly. 

12 March 2014

Writing Wednesday: Something From the Future (or the Past)

The next book I write is probably going to be book four of my urban fantasy series by alter ego Nic Silver. Though probably I should also finish Reindeer Girl. And since someone actually asked for it about a million years ago, there's the sequel to A Madness of Kentaurs to do.

But at some point in the hopefully not-too-distant future, I have an old project to get back to. It's one that I wrote the opening paragraphs to sometime in the distant mists of the past (er… the mid-90s, maybe? the early-00s?). I came across it looking for something else about a year ago, and it made me laugh. In a good way. And then I set it aside again to work on other things.

The main character is an archaeology PhD student named Grace Cowell (Gray for short), and I intended it to be a mystery novel, set in southern Alberta where I did my field school (which wasn't that long ago at the time I started thinking about this book, but is rather a very long time ago now). I had some fun notions about the plot, but no experience writing a mystery.

I still have no experience writing mystery novels, but I do have a lot more experience reading them. But I think I may also add some adventure novel elements -- maybe not to this book, but I have some ideas for the next one in the series. Because, naturally, all my short story ideas turn into novels, and my novel ideas turn into series. Sigh.

Anyway, here's the opening for Reading the Bones, an archaeological mystery-adventure, which I might get started on before the year is out. Or not.


“Consulting the oracle?”

Grace Cowell looked up to see the jolly, bearded face of her thesis supervisor grinning at her. Professor Ray James straightened his stocky frame from where he’d been leaning against the doorway, and stepped into the room.

Gray looked back down at the array of bones on the black-topped table. “Apparently, I’ll have an exciting adventure this summer, and meet a short, dark and handsome stranger,” she said.

Short, dark and handsome?”

Gray held up one of the bones as an exhibit. “Absolutely,” she said, schooling her voice to mock-oracular seriousness. “The healed fracture in this ursid phalanx is unmistakably indicative of short stature.”

The professor laughed and took the slender bone. It looked very much like a human finger bone, unless one knew what to look for. “So many big words,” he said, “from such a small object.”

“I keep hoping that if I make the summer sound grand and important, it will be. Or at least that it won’t be dull.”

Ray grunted. “These are the bones from Devon Island?” he asked.

Gray nodded and absently spread the jumble out more on the table. “Yup,” she said. “And instead of heading to the frozen north, the land of the midnight sun, etcetera, etcetera, to dig up more material for my dissertation, I’ll be going to hot, sticky southern Alberta to supervise bored field school students digging up cow bones and rusty nails.”

“And bits of broken glass,” Ray said. “Don’t forget the bits of broken glass.”

“Thanks so much for the reminder,” Gray said, resting her chin on her hand and her elbow on the table. She sighed. “Bits of broken glass. I hate historic archaeology.”

“If you want,” Ray said, handing her the bear bone. “I can tell Simon to find someone else to assist with the field school.” He tried unsuccessfully to hide a smile behind his beard.

“No,” said Gray. “I said I’d do it. I have to do something this summer, and historic archaeology is better than no archaeology. Besides, this field school gig pays.”

“You’ll have fun,” Ray said. “Not all students are bored. Or boring.”

Gray made a doubtful noise.

“And even if you don’t meet a short, dark and handsome stranger, at least you won’t have to live in a tent and worry about being eaten by a polar bear.”

“I suppose,” said Gray. “Though I don’t relish driving down to the ranch every day.”

“You’ll be able to bathe more than once a week. In a real bathtub.”

 “There is that.” Gray sighed and began to pack the bones she’d been examining back in their box. She might not get back to her dissertation work until the summer was over. “There is that.”

08 March 2014

Stamp Saturday: A Few Materials to Avoid

Until I test all the various things from my first post, most of which are specifically sold for rubber stamping and/or easy printmaking, I wanted to point out a few materials that might seem like good choices, but are probably best avoided (unless you're going for a specific effect, in which case you may want to experiment anyway).


If you read the other posts on this blog, or follow my Twitter or Instagram (both @anagramforink), you probably know I do a lot of linocuts. So it may seem odd that I'm now telling you not to use it. The thing is, though, lino is great for relief printmaking, but terrible for stamping.

Lino is a lot harder to cut than rubber stamp materials, it'll dull your tools a lot faster (and you *really* need sharp tools to cut it in the first place), and you probably won't be happy with the results unless you're printing on a press or using a hand-printing rub technique. For simple stamping, it's just not soft enough to make a nice clean image.

So, unless you plan to take up printmaking proper, save yourself some aggravation and steer clear of linoleum.


One of the things on my list for stamp making materials is white plastic erasers, and they're excellent for rubber stamping. But they're pretty much the only kind of eraser worth spending money on. Personally they're also the only kind I use for erasing, too (except, very occasionally, kneaded rubber).

Most other kinds of erasers are too hard, too crumbly, or too textured to give good results (though, possibly, they might be useful for specific effects if you want to spend a lot of time experimenting). Those horrible pink erasers are among the worst, though different brands have different properties and a few of them might be worth trying if you're in the experimenting mood.

Also, there are some white erasers that are not the good kind -- they're pretty much just white versions of the pink ones, and nearly as bad to work with. They're usually the same shape as the pink ones, and often sold with ink erasers attached to one end.

Some coloured erasers, like novelty kinds, are very similar material to the good white plastic ones and would probably work, so if you find them really cheap it might be worth trying them, but in general I'd just say just get the white ones. You can even find them at the dollar store in a pinch.


Those sheets of craft foam might be tempting, and so might styrofoam trays and that sort of thing. They certainly could be fun to play with, but won't give very good results for rubber stamps you actually want to keep and re-use.

If you've got any more materials to avoid, or have achieved interesting results with something I said was no good, please feel free to leave a comment and share your results.

05 March 2014

(Instead of) Writing Wednesday: Sunset

Instead of inflicting another boring grammar or pet peeve article on you all, and because I'm not feeling particularly moved to write about anything specific (or maybe just because I'm lazy) here's a gorgeous sunset out my window Monday evening.

01 March 2014

Stamp Saturday: Little Prints

I was initially drawn to rubber stamping because it was like printmaking, only smaller, less messy, and less expensive. And the vast array of ink pad colours, not to mention extras like embossing powder and markers for colouring, were appealing to that same part of me that always has the urge to buy more art supplies. (I have ink -- both for fountain pens and for dip pens -- in just about every colour you can think of, just to name one example).

I never did end up buying many stamps. I have a set of Celtic designs given to me as a gift that I use from time to time, but never on something made to sell (or almost never -- I can think of one exception). I think I bought a couple of leaf stamps, and I have a office supply date stamp and a really great set of tiny alphabet stamps that can be set on a plastic holder almost like letterpress type (another gift, and one I have gotten a lot of use out of).

But, like just about any other craft I've tried, there was one thing that kept me from making rubberstamping a significant part of my art/craft making. I took up cross-stitch once, and really enjoyed the meditative aspect, but gave it up soon after. Why? Because I wasn't interested in making someone else's design, and I knew I could like never develop the skills needed to create my own designs without first spending a lot of time working from patterns.

With rubberstamping, though, I soon discovered that it wasn't that difficult to make my own stamps from my own designs. I can't remember where I saw or heard or read about it -- I won't claim it was an original idea, though I suppose it could have been -- but the Internet was relatively young and there wasn't much information to be found. But somewhere, I heard you could cut stamps from white plasitc erasers. So I did it, using an X-acto knife. I think the first thing I ever cut was my original White Raven logo. I still have it.

And though I set stamping aside for a few years while I worked on other things, I eventually came back to it, armed with more knowledge about other forms of printmaking, and with better skills for cutting print blocks that could be put to use cutting stamps, too.

For some people, rubberstamping is one of those scrapbooking crafts that are looked down on as not very original. For me, while I don't want to work from other people's designs, I'm sure as heck not going to look down on someone who isn't interested in making their own. But I see rubberstamping as a kind of small printmaking (though some stamp-making materials come in fairly large sizes and are even sold as printmaking, rather than runnerstamping, elements). And I use it for the same things as I do lino, litho, and intaglio: small art prints and greeting cards, bookmarks, gift tags, and other odds and ends.

The prints tend to be less crisp than printmaking, and I feel they're less precious, but other wise they're no different. The same skills are used to cut your own rubber stamps as to cut any other kind of printmaking surface (though rubber is rather easier to cut than lino, wood, or copper).