Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Alan Turing and the Enigma


This is a linocut portrait of Alan Turing (1912-1954). It is printed in indigo and orange by hand on lovely Japanese kozo (or mulberry paper), 9.25" by 12.5" (23.5 cm by 32 cm) in an edition of eight.

This year we celebrate the centenary anniversary of Alan Mathison Turing, OBE, FRS (23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954), British mathematician, cryptanalyst, computer scientist, prophet and hero. He is someone I've long thought to portray, but I have been stumped. My scientists are shown with images of something quintessential to their science, or the reason they are famous (or should be), but Turing had so many accomplishments, it wasn't obvious what to portray or how. You might recall his portrayal in Neal Stephenson's 'Cryptonomicon'. I was introduced to him many year ago by Douglas Hofstadter's 'Gödel, Escher, Bach'1. You may also be familiar with the Turing Test or at least its portrayal in Blade Runner. Turing foresaw not only that machines might quite likely develop the capacity to think (after all, our brains are only made of matter, and complex systems of neurons, which either fire or not, much like an electronic switch), but that we needed an objective, double-blind test to determine whether something/someone was able to think, as early as 1950, when most people were only dimly aware of the existence of any sort of computer. But Turing quite literally defined what we now mean by computation itself (with his concept of Turing Machines) back in 1936. During the WWII he worked as a codebreaker and invented the device which was finally able to crack the notorious German cryptographic Enigma machine (in its more complex later incarnation)! His work undoubtedly saved many lives, and today we recognize him as a genius and a hero. In my print, I've included a simplified diagram of the mechanism behind the Enigma with its rotors or scramblers which acted as monoalphabetic substitution ciphers, literally scrambling letters at each turn. During, his all too short life, he also made important contributions to mathematical biology and explaining morphogenesis (the biological process that causes an organism to develop its shape) and the existence of Fibonacci numbers in biology. To indicate this later work, I've made the pattern of his tie look like the sort of Turing pattern produced by reaction–diffusion systems. This work presaged much later work in chaos theory.

Tragically, he lived in a time even more biased and bigoted than our own. Rather than recognizing the magnitude of his contributions to society during his lifetime, he was prosecuted for his homosexuality (still illegal in Britain in 1952) and forced to undergo chemical castration. He died two years later, after eating a cyanide-poisoned apple (determined by the coroner to be a suicide). It is truly abominable they way he was treated; while we can't address the past injustice we can remember, recognize and celebrate his remarkable achievements today.

There are many serious looking photos of Turing. I chose one of him smiling as inspiration for this portrait. He clearly enjoyed his work, and had a sense of humour (evident in the silly names he gave mathematical techniques he discovered)2, so I chose to remember him laughing.  

1I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. Read it. Immediately, if not sooner.
2 i.e. Banburismus and Turingery

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why, hello there...


A few weeks ago a customer requested a custom portrait of her cat, printed on a pillow. I won't share that for at least a week (just in case the recipient stumbles upon it before he receives it... as unlikely as that might be). I did carve a block based on a photo of her cat (who shall remain nameless to avoid discovery). I chose the photo of said cat in this improbably comfortable possition, because how could I resist? Is this cat not trying to seduce the viewer? Perhaps not as much as the Bloggess' cat Ferris Mewler who thinks he's Eric Northman, but still. I wanted to make a print with some sort of text. I keep seeing this and first thing that came to mind was "I just me you, and this is crazy, but here's my belly, rub it maybe" but I refuse to carve a joke which would be stale before I could print it. I settled on, "Why, hello there..." which is open to interpretation, so the viewer can decide for him or herself. I enjoyed designing the cursive text and I like the combination of grey and yellow (not to mention his little pink nose). RJH's response what that the print was somehow risqué, but I'm going to take that as meaning it's not just me who things this cat is making eyes at you.

(A propos of nothing, the CBC radio documentary series Twilight of the Gods, about the history of the music recording industry is EXCELLENT and you should listen to the whole 5-part series. I really enjoyed it.)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Send A Raven


The words "Send A Raven" appear in Gothic red lettering next to a raven (of course) This is printed by hand on lovely Japanese kozo paper, 9.25" by 15" (23.5 cm by 38 cm). I made this print due to a relentless campaign mounted by RJH, who says he's not a raving fan of Game of Thrones, or anything. No, not at all. (Winter is coming.) However, if you've read the books, or watched the show, you'll know that the characters are perpetually sending urgent messages by ravens. The sending of ravens, in fact, seems like one of the major, subtextual messages of the show. (Winter is coming.) That and the idea that no good deed goes unpunished - but the show is marvellously entertaining and strangely addictive (even for those still stunned by the fate of Ned Stark). This print would make a great gift for fans of the books or the show. You can send this Raven to your favorite fan of the show! Even without the Game of Thrones context, the red, white, and black design is very graphic, and the slogan is cryptic in the most intriguing way. The crow or raven is a wonderfully clever bird, common in many parts of the world, and often known as a Trickster. (Winter is coming.)

Soon, there will also be postcards available of this image.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Aries Constellation


The white stars and silhouette of Aries the ram are illustrated in this handmade block print. I printed an edition of six prints, 8.75 inches by 7.5 inches (22 cm by 19 cm) on lovely, deep blue, handmade, Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper. The word Aries and symbol ♈ appear at the base of the image, with an actual star at the apparent dot on the 'i'. The lines linking the constellation appear in white-on-blue or blue-on-white as appropriate.

Aries has been identified as a ram since Babylonian times. It later became associated with the ram whose fleece became the Golden Fleece in Ancient Greece. If you imagined all celestial bodies we see in the night sky as mapped onto a sphere (the Celestial Sphere) around our Earth, the ecliptic would be the line you would draw to map the apparent path of the Sun through the various constellations. The ecliptic is marked as the dashed line in this print. Since the constellation of Aries straddles the ecliptic, its stars were incorporated into different constellations in different cultures, including twin inspectors in China and a porpoise in the Marshall Islands. The modern International Astronomical Union includes all the surrounding stars shown in this print as part of the Aries constellation.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Otter O & Unicorn U

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O is for otter and U is for unicorn. Each is an open edition print on Japanese kozo washi (or mulberry paper). It is available in a variety of colours! Each sheet is 14.8 cm or 5⅞ inches square.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

N is for narwhal and nautilus

Lastest monogram is n, for narwhal and nautilus, of course. They are really quite tiny. That's a thumb-sized narwhal.


1500 hearts

Thinking of You Valentine VI detailAs is perhaps apt in a girl with a serious cinnamon heart problem, I adore seeing people ♥ things from secret minouette places. Today a ♥ milestone: 1500! Thank you very much to each and every one. I really do appreciate it. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ to you.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

i is for iguana

I, of course, chose the improbable and amazing green iguana to illustrate my latest monogram:


This is an open edition print on Japanese kozo washi (or mulberry paper). It is available in a variety of colours! Each sheet is 14.8 cm or 5⅞ inches square.

T.E.S.T. 3rd Annual "Spring" Handmade Market CONTEST

The Toronto Etsy Street Team is partnering with covet garden, a lovely on-line magazine and hosting a contest for the vendors at the 3rd Annual "Spring" Handmade Market. So, follow this link, check out all the great vendors, but be sure to vote for minouette! ;)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mme Wu's Short Story

Mme. Wu and the Violation of Parity

I'm really pleased to say that my linocut portrait of Mme. Wu and its story are the subject of the Etsy blog's "Short Stories" series post today!

If you read this blog, you'll know that Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997) devised and executed a brilliant and ground-breaking experiment which showed for the first time that physics isn't necessarily the same if you reflect an experiment as in the mirror (and that the Weak force violates parity). I'm really flattered to get some press for my art and my shop, but I'm also happy to see that I can bring Mme. Wu's story to a bigger audience. You might recall, I wrote previously that I was inspired to make her portrait by the fact that not only have women been under-represented in physics, but even when they have been as extraordinary and successful as C.S. Wu, they have not been celebrated, making the female minority in physics even more invisible. Today, I get to make one of the heroines of physics a bit more visible. At the same time, I get to explain one of the ways in which our Universe, as we know it, is stranger than we imagine.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Elephant E

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This 'e' monogram linocut features a silvery purple elephant in profile, wrapping her trunk around the letter's middle. This is an open edition print on Japanese kozo washi (or mulberry paper). It is available in a variety of colours! Each sheet is 14.8 cm or 5⅞ inches square.

Friday, July 13, 2012

m for minouette (& mermaid and moon)

In a little over a week (eek!) the Toronto Etsy Street Team will be hosting our handmade market. I thought I might make a 'minouette' banner, so that was as good a reason as any to start a series of monogram letters, beginning with 'M'. I carved a seated mermaid combing her hair by the light of the moon, to embellish my 'M', and I printed it in Payne's gray on a variety of Japanese kozo (or mulberry) papers, each 14.8 cm or 5⅞ inches square. I plan to print it on fabric too, to make my banner.

mermaidmoon785 mermaidmoon784 mermaidmoon786 mermaidmoon787 mermaidmoon788

If you're in Toronto, I hope to see you at the 3rd annual Toronto Etsy Street Team Handmade "Spring" Marketplace! Who says you can't have a spring market mid-summer? Not only will I be selling at this event, but I'm one of the organizers. It's near the centre of the Universe ever-hip Gladstone Hotel, just south of Queen St, between Dufferin and Ossington, and promises to be a fun event, with lot of handmade goodies!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Honey Bee

So I'm continuing my bee series with the ever-popular honey bee. Did you realize that there are no honey bees native to North America? They were introduced from Europe in the 1600s. This one is Apis mellifera, the Western or European Honey Bee.

This is a linocut with two sorts of (collaged) chine collé Japanese papers (a patterned pale yellow, and a translucent Mizutama tissue for the wings) on Japanese kozo (or mulberry), 9.25" by 8.25" or 23.5 cm by 21 cm. There are 12 prints in the edition.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rock garden

rock garden above

There was a barren patch of unloved earth next to our (somewhat crumbling cement) stairway from the side of the house to the backyard. So, I decided this was the place to make a rock garden. I love hen and chickens (not least because that is a ridiculous name for a plant), and my father-of-the-green-thumb said they do best if crowded into a tight spot. You can see mine are already sprouting little babies. I have been gathering succulents and other rock-garden-friendly plants, and adding them as I go. I gathered all the rocks I could find on the property, but then convinced RJH to join me on an evening mission to the beach, where we pilfered some larger rocks. I chose a variety of shapes and colours. RJH made me quit when he claimed his backpack weighed 50 lbs. I think he thought we were conspicuous, since I had to go into the water to get the choice rocks, and Torontonians seem to think the Lake is too cold (or fail to understand that it's a Blue Flag beach so likely has less bacteria or toxins than their favorite cottage lake) and rarely enter the water, especially at dusk. I plan to go back for some smaller rocks.
rock garden side

Most of the plants are perennials so this garden will improve with time, I hope. When I was a kid, our family lived on a property which had a rock garden for the entire front yard, so they are something I know well, though I've never before started from scratch.

RJH took the nice photos for me.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Taurus constellation linocut

Taurus774Since I finished my Chinese Zodiac series I've been thinking of making a Western Zodiac series. I'm interested in how the myths and stories we told ourselves evolved into observational science (and thus how astrology, though it may irk my astronomer friends, was a progenitor of astronomy, as alchemy lead to chemistry and some physics). I started with my own 'sun sign', Taurus.

The silver stars and silhouette of Taurus the bull are illustrated in this handmade block print. I printed an edition of eight prints, 7.5 inches by 10 inches (19 cm by 24.8 cm) on lovely, handmade, Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper with a deckle edge. The word Taurus and symbol ♉ appear at the top of the image. The lines linking the constellation appear in black-on-silver or silver-on-black as appropriate.

Taurus is one of the oldest constellation. It contains the bright clusters Hyades (on the face of the bull) and the Pleiades (on its shoulder), as well as the red giant star, Aldebaran (the bull's right eye), all of which can be clearly seen with the naked eye. This grouping of stars has been recognized and interpreted as a bull since the Bronze Age, in the mythologies of Ancient Greece, Egypt and Babylon. It is one of 48 constellations recognized by Ptolemy. Since Taurus is one of the prominent constellations which crosses the ecliptic, it is one of the signs of the Western zodiac. If you imagined all celestial bodies we see in the night sky as mapped onto a sphere (the Celestial Sphere) around our Earth, the ecliptic would be the line you would draw to map the apparent path of the Sun through the various constellations. The ecliptic is marked as the dashed line in this print.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Horse Latitudes

I've been reading a cultural history of the sea and it inspired me to illustrate the 'horse latitudes' (with horses galloping across the subtropical highs upon the Pacific, of course).


It is printed by hand on lovely Japanese kozo (or mulberry paper), 11 inches by 12.5 inches (27.9 cm by 31.8 cm), in an edition of 12.

I carved a view of the hemisphere, complete with all the islands and continents in reverse, showing the major trade wind patterns. The winds travel consistently east to west along the hot equator, west to east in high latitudes like the 'roaring 40s', but at the horse latitudes, between 30 and 35 degrees, both north and south, in the region of the subtropical highs known as the horse latitudes, things are not so predictable. It is consistently warm and dry, but winds are variable, which, once upon a time, could be terrifying to sailors. I've illustrated the horse latitudes with actual little horses, galloping around the planet. Since this this print is about the sea, it is the oceans which are 'positive' (printed in ink) and the land which is the negative space. Sometimes we look at the oceans as the space which separates the land masses, but it is possible to have the opposite view or consider the oceans as what connects us all. I love the unexpectedness of this name, and playing with words.

The origins of the term are debated. Some claim that the name comes from sailor's "dead horse" ritual, during which they would beat a straw effigy of a horse and then throw it overboard; they did this to celebrate having worked off their "dead horse time" (the period they were in debt to the paymaster, since they spent their advance pay too quickly, ending up broke by the time a westbound ship from Europe could reach the horse latitudes). Others claim that Spanish colonial ships to the New World, laden with horses, would risk being becalmed in the doldrums or horse latitudes, and when fresh water ran scarce, the horses were the first to go (though this might be a mere folk legend).

The typography of the word horse is designed to suggest the animal, with its mane and hooves. The horses themselves are inspired by Muybridge's early photos, showing their motion. I've also very specifically chosen the view of our Earth. We have many biases in maps; we expect north to be up, but that's arbitrary, and here in North America we expect to see the Americas on the left (because we read left to right). But, in this print, it's all about the Pacific, so it goes in the middle.

I'm really proud of writing that description without feeling compelled to try and first explain about Hadley cells. That took restraint.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Etsy Toronto Meet-Up

A couple of weeks ago, Etsy hosted a Meet-up for sellers in Toronto. It was a fun night, featuring three speakers, food and drink and live DJs. The idea was to allow us to network and share ideas and it was great to see so many creative (and very friendly) local people come out. A photographer shot the crowd and there are some lovely, and some funny moments captured. They've just posted a video of the night, which features some very short interviews with a few sellers, including me.

I always have that sense of surprise - do I really look and speak like that? that is one wayward eyebrow... what is that eyebrow trying to express about the Toronto Etsy Street Team anyway?- but I thought I should share it with you.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day to all you Canadians and honourary Canadians! Hope you are out there enjoying the sunshine. We're planning a BBQ with friends and their family, which will be suitably bilingual, but first, it's time the laundry room had a ceiling. Wish us luck!