Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Gift Wrapping: Christmas 2015

I've been really busy at the store the last couple months.  I bought the yarn portion of a yarn and fabric store that was closing, so I spent much of October moving furniture, assembling displays, and unpacking boxes.  More on that in the next post!  In this post I want to talk about gift wrapping.

Many people don't know that all the gorgeous paper that I use for bookbinding can also be used as wrapping papers.  In fact, that is how these papers are marketed by the manufacturers.  This Christmas I decided to explore all the ways I could combine different papers and ribbons to have THE BEST wrapped gifts under the family Christmas tree.  (I am also giving fewer gifts this year, so I want to make them look extra special.)

 I started with some of the Christmas-specific papers.  My absolute favorite is the Fa-la-la Llama paper my paper source.  (It has puns and llamas, two of my favorite things!)  I paired it with a sheer red ribbon that looks darker any place it overlaps itself.  This is a fairly standard gift wrapping technique with a plain bow, but the silly paper and sheer ribbon really makes it stand out.  I wrapped another package in a red and white lokta paper from Paper Connection International.  This is another one where the patterned paper makes it stand out.  I could see using several papers in coordinating colors to to create a cohesive "look" under the tree.  And finally, a gift bag from Paper Source because sometimes you need a nice looking gift and don't have the time to wrap it.  Add some green tissue paper and you're done!

My next set of wrapped gifts used paper that is not specifically "Christmas wrap" for some interesting gifts that could be for Christmas, or any other gift giving occasion.  The red, green, and yellow paper is a 100% cotton paper from Black Ink.  I used a thin yellow ribbon and wrapped it around the corners to show off more of the paper's pattern, and tied a layered bow.  The package on the right is wrapped with an Italian paper that has script writing.  This one is all about the ribbon- a lovely hand dyed silk, with an oversized decorative key ornament tied into the bow.

For the last few gifts, I used Paper Source's plain rolls of red and green wrapping paper.  The plain paper is great because it is thicker than your average rolled wrapping paper, and it is solid colored on both sides, not just the front.  To make these gifts simple yet elegant, I tied them with contrasting silk dupioni ribbon from Midori.  The ribbon is two inches wide, and SO gorgeous.  Even a plain bow is just stunning!

I have so many gift wrapping ideas with this one.  I could see wrapping all the gifts in the same roll of plain wrapping paper, and tying a large bow around just one or two of the packages.  It would make your Christmas tree look like something out of a magazine!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Halloween Inspiration

In the last few weeks I have been doing some experimenting with new materials and was inspired to make some Halloween tags and backgrounds.  I have access to a photocopier again, so the first thing I did was blender pen image transfers!  The three images I used are cabinet cards from the store.  The transfer process is really easy:

1. Photocopy the image . I usually make multiple copies while I'm at the machine.
2. Cut out the image- this step is not necessary if the background of the image is white with no toner.
3. Place paper image side down on tag (or whatever you are transferring to.)
4. Color the paper with a blender pen that contains xylene to saturate the paper.  Do this in a well ventilated area.
5. Rub with a bone folder or other tool to make sure the entire image transfers.

I love using this technique for image transfers because it can be imperfect and unpredictable which lends an element of spooky-ness that is perfect for Halloween tags.  The old clothing and imperfect transfer brings to mind ghosts and haunted houses.  After doing the image transfers, I added color with Dylusions ink spray and Faber Castell Gelatos.  The Gelatos are still new to me, so this was a great chance to experiment with different techniques.  I mixed the gelatos with water in mini spray bottles to create my own color sprays, drew directly on the tags and blended the colors with a foam blending tool, used the gelatos with a waterbrush like paint...

Afterwards, I added washi tape and other embellishments.  The keys are tag board cut-outs from Coffee Break Design, and the "Boo" banners are my own creations.  Then I added some of my favorite ribbon in coordinating colors.

My other Halloween experiments used alcohol inks, stencils, and Golden Soft Gel in gloss.  I was inspired by the Tim Holtz tag tutorial for September.  I tried his method of dribbling different colors of alcohol inks and blender solution onto a craft mat and "swiping" the cardstock over the surface of the craft mat to get a unique background.  Then I applied the Golden gel over a spider web stencil to create a glossy raised image.  The Golden gel took a long time to dry, so I worked on these backgrounds over several days.  Later I added distress ink to darken the background, leaving the areas under the dried gel the original background color.

I tried this technique with Gelato backgrounds too and it worked great.  For the purple spider web in the upper right hand corner of the photo, I tinted some of the gel with a few drops of acrylic paint for a completely different look.  Overall, I had a lot of fun experimenting and got a few cute Halloween decorations out of it!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Dyeing Yarn with Goldenrod

This is a blog post I started last year, when I was in a yarn dyeing frenzy.  It sat as a draft with pictures for months and months... But last week I dyed with Goldenrod again (but forgot to take pictures) so I thought this would be a fitting post.  I have talked about yarn dyeing a few times on the blog, including this post with a more detailed description of the process.

Goldenrod is a wildflower (or weed, depending on who you ask) that grows in empty lots, along highways, and pretty much everywhere in Ohio in the late summer and early fall.  Last year a coworker filled a trashbag for me with the Goldenrod plants growing in his backyard.  This year I was able to scavenge some from an empty lot down by the railroad tracks.  Last year I used the flower, stems, and leaves to make the dye bath, but you can also get nearly the same color from just the flower heads.

I simmered the plant for about an hour before straining out the plant material.  I bought a big mesh ladle thing from the Chinese grocery store and it works great for this!  Meanwhile, I prepared my yarn by mordanting it in a solution of alum.  The yarn came out a beautiful, bright yellow.

I made a TON of dye that day, so I also dyed two additional skeins of yarn and treated them with an iron afterbath.  To get the iron solution I soaked a bunch of rusty nails and other metal bits in a jar with water and vinegar. Then I put the solution in a pot and heated it to almost a boil.  One skein I dipped from the dye bath into the iron bath for about 20-30 seconds (the color changes right before your eyes, it is amazing.)  That one came out a lovely light green.  The next skein I put into the iron bath for longer, probably 1-2 minutes, and it came out a dark forest green.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Fun With Gelli Plates

A couple weeks ago I decided to experiment and play with using a Gelli Plate.  The Gelli Plate is a brand of reusable, non perishable gelatin printing plate.  It allows you to do monoprinting at home without needing a printing press.  (Remember when I did monoprinting during my printing class in college?)

I used colorful craft acrylic paint, a brayer to apply paint, and a variety of stencils to create patterns.  The process is similar to the monoprinting I had done before, but using a variety of colors instead of only black ink makes a huge difference.  Using the gelli plate was a lot more experimental.  I would often mix colors using the brayer, and print multiple times on the same piece of paper to create depth.

I used one of my favorite prints to cover a small paper mache box from the craft store.  I traced the top of the box and cut a circle of paper for the lid, and cut two paper strips the same height as the side of the box.  Before covering the box with paper, I painted part of the lid blue to coordinate with the print.  I brushed Glue N Seal onto the back of the paper and pressed it onto the box to smooth out any bubbles.  Once all the paper was on, I brushed on another coat of Glue N Seal to protect it.

Every month at my store, I have a group of ladies from a local senior living center come on an art "field trip."  This was their third time out, and I wanted to do something a little different.  So I showed them how to use the gelli plates, and then they covered boxes with their prints.  The ladies had a great time and the boxes turned out just darling.  They are going to use the boxes to hold their "bingo money."  How cute!  I want to go play bingo with those ladies, they are a ton of fun.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Collage Greeting Cards

It has been a busy few months getting the store set up, planning classes and workshops for the spring, and hosting a Grand Re-Opening Party.  I have fallen behind on several things like laundry, art projects, and blogging.  While I can't make any promises about the laundry, this week I have been getting back to the art and blogging parts

I am working on making collage greeting cards for my Kickstarter supporters.  The campaign I started to help fund Small Studio ended in December, and now I need to get my creativity flowing and make the rewards!  This is the start of the 140 cards I will be working on.

Sometimes collage is like a puzzle.  Start by gathering interesting papers, cutting out images, then piecing things together.  And when all else fails, I remember the wisdom of Portlandia and "put a bird on it."

Thursday, February 12, 2015

2014 Challenge Wrap-up and Other Updates

Hello readers!  If you have been following along on my 14 Art Books in 2014 challenge you will notice that I do not have posts for all 14 books I had hoped to make.  That is because I got busy, and distracted, and lazy, and even more busy!  To recap, these are the 5 art books I completed last year, and my original "challenge proposal."

Out of the five books, three were for exhibitions, one was a benefit donation, and one was made to try out a new book structure.  (I will also add that one of the books made for an exhibition sold!)  With that being said, I have three partially completed art books that did not count towards the challenge because they are unfinished.

Instead of making excuses for myself about why I didn't finish the books, or why the challenge was too hard, I am going to do a quick "year in review" post as it relates to my artwork and artistic career.  Things have changed tremendously from Jan. 2014 when I created the challenge.

Last year in art:
- Participated in an invitational exhibition at Heights Arts
- Had one piece of artwork accepted to (and purchased from) the Morgan Conservatory's juried exhibition
- Taught two bookbinding classes in Midland, MI
- Taught a short bookbinding workshop for Art Books Cleveland
- Attended 4 amazing book and paper arts workshops at the Morgan Conservatory
- Participated in 8 art/craft festivals (12 days total)
- Had an artist bio published in the local newspaper
- Participated in Art Books Cleveland's exhibition at the Ingalls Library in the CMA
- Made the decision to quit my job and buy an art/paper store

YES, friends, you read that last line correctly.  I now own a store for paper, art supplies, and vintage goods, with a huge classroom space.  If I am going to blame any particular life event for getting in the way of my challenge, it would be this one.  I got the idea over Labor Day Weekend while taking a book arts workshop with the former owner of the store.  She had planned on closing the store and retiring at the end of 2014.  Several people had expressed interest in purchasing the business, but they all fell through.  The former owner always joked that I would be taking over the store someday when she retired... And I thought, "Why can't I?"

I talked to several close friends and family members about the idea, and did some research before making the decision in mid-September.  The last few months of the year were a whirlwind of meetings with the bank, accountants, a lawyer, the lease company, the former owner... TONS of phone calls, pieces of paperwork, and negotiations later, I finally secured a loan for the business in late November.  (Talk about cutting things close!)  The loan was much smaller than I needed, so I funded the rest of the project through Kickstarter with the help of many friends, relatives, and complete strangers.  I got the keys and officially took over the store on December 31st, 2014.  I am proud to say that I am now a business owner and my own boss.

I'm sure you will see a lot of posts about the store, and new products I will have the pleasure of testing.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fiber Rituals - Art Book 5/14

I finished this book in late September for an Art Books Cleveland exhibition.  The exhibition just ended, and I was finally able to take photos of the book.  The theme of the exhibition was rituals.  I thought about it for months, came up with several ideas, but never actually started anything... I kept getting distracted by spinning wool and dyeing yarn.  That is when I realized that my book should be about the rituals involved with fiber- the things I had become obsessed about this summer!

I came up with seven different rituals associated with wool, and illustrated each one of them.  Scouring, mordanting, dyeing, carding, spinning, plying, and knitting.  The whole book is only about 4 inches tall.

To make the cover, I dyed strips of kozo paper with leftover plant dyes.  Then I spun the paper into thread using a drop spindle, and knit it into a rectangle.  It was my first time spinning paper and using it for a book.  It is a little tricky to get a nice thread without breaking or tearing the paper.  Compared to spinning wool, it is almost easier because you don't need to worry about drafting the fibers, you just need to give the paper twist.

I know I am way behind on my 14 Art Books for 2014.  It has been an interesting year to say the least, with several big changes in my life.  I have two unfinished art books sitting in my studio, and the ideas/materials for at least three more...  Time to get back in my studio and do this!