Thursday, January 31, 2013

the Yukon


The symbols of the Yukon, its official bird, the Raven and its flower, fireweed cover the hand-carved map of the Yukon in this linocut. The block was inked 'à la poupée' (with different colours, pink-magenta and black in different areas) and printed by hand on lovely Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper. Each print is 23.5 cm by 31.8 cm (9.25" by 12.5"). The print is one of a variable edition of six.

This is the latest in the series. I have two provinces to go (PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador) but I moved on to my first territory, with great symbols. Ravens are such marvellous birds and I've long loved the bright cheerful fireweed, the common first flower after any forest fire.

Monday, January 28, 2013


minouette at WWCS3 at Gladstone This week in OOAK prep:
We went to Home Depot and found a inormous lock box. Basically, it's a large, sturdy, plastic trunk with hinges, latches and a place for a padlock. I can place my packaged prints inside, and if I need to go somewhere, lock my valuables inside. The whole thing will fit under my table. It isn't large enough for my oversized prints, so we also got a transparent plastic box which is meant for under-bed storage. This box fits on top of the first box and can also fit under my table. Then, I spent the better part of two days packaging prints. I have a collection of cellophane envelops in various sizes, so it was a question of getting a large amount of foam board, cutting it to size, and stuffing the envelops with print, foam board, and business card. I've packaged dozens and dozens. This also involved trying to convince Minouette that there was no cats in packaging prints (like crying in baseball), but she really thought this activity would be improved by a cat's involvement in all aspects. Things I've learned: I have a large number of prints. I need more cellophane envelops and foam board and maybe another storage box. My cat does not understand the use of an xacto knife.

minouette at Movies & MakersNext, I've been working on my profile for the OOAK site and answering questions for Etsy - writing things like artists statements and so forth.

Lastly, I've been scheming about displaying my prints and researching how other people display things. The photos are two shows I did in December - the Wandering Winter Craft Show at the Gladstone and the Movies and Makers show at the Fox Cinema. These were different shows with really different tables and issues. At OOAK, I'll have a large rectangular table, and I'll only be selling art (no pillows or textiles) but I don't want to go with my usual retort stand and ribbon with suspended prints trick. My bamboo stakes on top of retort stand trick probably wouldn't fly either. It's a more formal sort of show and I'm hoping RJH will build me a display. I've found some examples of the sort of thing I have in mind.

Things I still need to do: research smart phone plans so I can get a smart phone credit card reader. There are a number of different products available which are a great solution for small business people who couldn't invest in a regular credit card reader. You just stick them in your smart phone and then you can swipe credit cards and process payments.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia
I've made another in my provincial series. The shape of Nova Scotia is covered with its provincial symbols: the osprey and the mayflower. The block was inked 'à la poupée' (with different colours, green, pinks, yellow and gray-brown, in different areas) and printed by hand on lovely Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper. Each print is 23.5 cm by 31.8 cm (9.25" by 12.5"). The print is one of a variable edition of eight.

This print was troublesome for me. Firstly, I had the opposite issue as with Saskatchewan. As all schoolchildren know Saskatchewan is the hardest to spell, easiest to draw. I mean, it's basically a rectangle. Sure, Canada is so large that you can see the small-circle curvature fo the latitudes marking the north and south boundaries, and there's been a correction to the original purely rectalinear area, and there are some notable lakes, but basically, its shape is so simple that the viewer might not recognize it was a map. Nova Scotia and for that matter, the remaining Maritime provinces, PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador are so irregularly shaped that it's a challenge to avoid having the shape of the map dominate the design. How was I to squish an Osprey into that space, unless I incresed the scale, or, my solution, I did not attempt to show the entire animal.

Lastly, the inks themselves gave me trouble. Inking 'à la poupée' is an acquired skill, but I think that the other trouble was the dryness of the air. It's pretty cold out there and no amount of ink retarder seemed able to keep my inks nice and viscous today. But, here we are. Province print number 8 with two more provinces and three territories to go.

I was tempted to sneak the Bluenose in there, but that would just confuse matters.

Maybe it's appropriate to make a Nova Scotia print on Robbie Burns Day.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Alberta linocut

The symbols of Alberta, its provincial animal, the big horn sheep and its famous flower, the wild rose cover the hand-carved map of Alberta in this linocut. The block was inked 'à la poupée' (with different colours, green, pinks, yellow and gray-brown, in different areas) and printed by hand on lovely Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper. Each print is 23.5 cm by 31.8 cm (9.25" by 12.5"). The print is one of a variable edition of eight.

It was obvious, despite the various symbols of the province from which to choose, that I needed to include the wild rose1; the licence plate of every car in the province proclaims it to be 'Wild Rose Country'. While the provincial bird, the Great Horned Owl is a wonderful subject, its range stretches far beyond the province. The mammalian emblem, the Big Horned Sheep, on the other hand, gets its very name from Canada: Ovis canadensis. Also, I liked the idea of using the shape of the province to micmic its topography. So, I imagined a scene of looking through a wild rose bush on the prarie at the base of the foothills, west towards the mountains of the Rockies and the Big Horn Sheep.

I've had the great priviledge of having seen much of this country and having travelled from coast to coast. (I am still hoping to visit the third coast). I have visited Calgary several times, and flown over the province more times than I could count. I hope one day to be able to explore more of Alberta. I know there is much beauty yet for me to discover. One Week, for instance, convinced me that I need to go to Drumheller, "Dinosaur Capital of the World"! Plus, hardy friends keep moving to Edmonton.2

1 No political overtones intended. I won't hold the, shall we say less-than-gay-positive party with the unexpectedly poetic name against the flower. The flower came first.

2 Did you know they have summer and winter electrical tape there? Do you know why? Cause regular vinyl tape can freeze solid at -40oC and cut like a knife. Or, at least so I've been told.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

1700 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: 1700! (Somehow I neglected to mention the 1600 milestone, but there we are). Thank you very much to each and every one. For that matter, thank you to the 525 fans of the things from secret minouette places facebook fanpage, 696 twitter followers and 582 minouette Etsy followers! I really do appreciate it. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ to you.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Heat-sensitive Valentine

Warm My Heart - both states

I wasn't sure if I should post this. I mean what if RJH reads my blog? But you see, after I invented the thermochromic Valentine ...just for you sweetheart! Surprise!.... I thought other people might want one for their sweethearts. That's the beauty of printmaking after all! It naturally produces multiples. So, if I was going to share the thermochromic Valentine with the world, I would need to do so long before Valentine's Day... so RJH, if you're reading this, this is really for you. Just act surprised on Valentine's Day. I invented you an interactive Valentine, with love. :D

This hand-printed thermochromic Valentine will respond to your loved one's warmth! If you place your hand as directed, over the pink hand, printed in thermochromic ink, your body heat will cause the ink to change colour! It turns colourless to reveal the message printed below, "you warm my heart". The image shows two prints side by side: a cold and a hot one.

Thermochromic ink changes colour with temperature. If you heat the print above about 30°C ( 86 °F) the ink is colourless; below 30°C ( 86 °F) the ink is pink. Body temperature is 37°C (98.6 °F) so body heat alone should be enough to reveal the hidden message. If it's particularly cold day, or your loved one is has poor circulation, you can always heat the print gently with a hair dryer; that always works!

The print is made on beautiful Japanese cream-coloured paper with silky inclusions. Each print is 27 cm by 15.2 cm (10.75" by 6"). Each print is made in red, pink and rose thermochromic ink, and printed in an open edition.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

handmade and the law

Polar Bear and Aurora LightboxThe One of A Kind Show is such a large operation that they have extensive paperwork and contracts for sellers. They of course have lawyers and need to protect themselves against liability. So, part of this paperwork includes informing sellers of pertinent regulations. I've been reading through these documents this morning and I've learned a few things. Officially, to be making pillows or stuffed animals (less than 1000 items per year), in Ontario, I am required to have a licence as a home hobby or craft operator, and to label these items with "New Material Only", my license number, and the content of the stuffing (in both official languages, of course). I have almost never seen this from small hand-makers. Perhaps luckily for me, I will only be selling art at OOAK.

The other concern I have from reading all this documentation is whether my lightboxes qualify as electrical devices and would require an inspection certificate. Also, I'd like to know how much that would cost, and whether it would be worth my while. I do know that the risk of fire or electrocution is nil... but I've been reading Electrical Safety Authority website all morning and frankly have no idea. Clearly, they did not design that site with one-person manufacturers in mind. There are CSA regulations for LED displays but it would only cost me $412 to READ them! (Yes, that was a sarcastic use of italics.) It's enough to make me think I should not sell anything powered at OOAK.

An Improbability of Puffins

An Improbability of Puffins

A Circus of PuffinsThis linocut shows an improbability of puffins in all senses of the words. The collective noun for a group of puffins is an "improbability". Isn't that marvellous? Puffins look rather improbable to me, with their tuxedo coats and tails and their red, Roman noses... I mean beaks. These are Atlantic puffins, to be precise. Actually, there are a few different words for a group of puffins. I rather like the perverse redundancy of  "a puffinry of puffins" and admit that "a circus of puffins" was a temptation for its sheer absurdity, but "an improbability" is my favorite, and seemed like it was best suited for making a print. The typography of the words represents their meaning; "improbability" is most improbable, with each letter in an unrelated typeface to the last, and the letters in "Puffins" mimic the beaks and wings of the birds.

This print is inked 'à la poupée' (with different colours, black, orange and red, in different areas) and printed by hand on lovely Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper. Each print is are printed in dark gold ink with gold and turquoise words on Japanese kozo, or mulberry paper. Each print is 12.25" by 8.25" or 31 cm by 21 cm in dimension. There are 8 prints in the variable edition.

I love the weird and wonderful terms of venery - the collective nouns for groups of animals (and other things). Some are evocative, some strange and obscure. This is the 8th in a series of such prints.

Edited: It has been pointed out to me that baby puffins are called pufflings, which is positively too cute.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Grocery bags, art supplies and imaginary films


I've been running some errands today: post office, groceries, art supplies. I had a dire shortage of ink retarder. My friends know I carry this great, compact, indestructible nylon grocery bag, printed with constellations everywhere I go. So, as I got to the cash register at my local art supply store, I got it out before the clerk could offer me one of their plastic bags.

Art Store Clerk 1 (who looked improbably like the 10th Doctor, including the tweed): Oh, that's a great bag!

minouette: Yes, I like it. It's indestructible too.

ASC1: I was just recently in New Brunswick and the skies were so clear.... like, I can see Orion out my window here, but there, I could see all the other dozens of stars which make up his belt, which aren't officially part of the constellation.

Thinking to myself that I must not tell my one story about Orion's er... belt to a stranger...*

minouette: Ah, yes. I spend a lot of time at sea, and it's a different thing entirely.

ASC1: Oh, really? And the moon... tell me... does it really rise over the horizon at sea and look bigger than anywhere else or is that just a Joe versus the Volcano myth?

Really not expecting to have to answer astronomy questions at the art supply store and thinking furiously that I must not use the word steradian because that would definitely scare most people who did not volunteer to study spherical trig and/or take me 20 minutes to explain.

minouette: Well, there's an optical illusion. The moon always appears larger to us when it's near the horizon though it always takes up the same amount of sky.

ASC1: Oh, yes, that's true. So, why do you spend time at sea? Are you a sailor?

minouette: Um... I'm a marine geophysicist.**

ASC2: Wow. That's a great job title.

ASC1: Isn't it? It sounds like the person you would need on all your adventures.

minouette: Maybe

ASC1: Like, if they made a movie, you would be played by Julianne Moore, and Jeff Goldblum would be your unreliable ex-husband...

ASC2: And Morgan Freeman...

ASC1: And Morgan Freeman.

ASC2: And Morgan Freeman would be the President of the United States.

ASC1: And Benedict Cumberbatch would be... would be the villain, because it seems that Benedict Cumberbatch must now be in all movies.

minouette: So it would seem.

ASC2: So, we'll have to work on that.

ASC1: Yes, we'll have to give that script a treatment, and then you can come and consult on it.

minouette: Um... okay then. I'll be back.

*I always remember going to an astronomy colloquium as a first year undergrad. I must confess, I fell asleep. When I awoke, I distinctly heard the prof say, "...and this is Orion, and this is his belt or other euphemism..." so I turned to my friend and neighbour TW and whispered urgently, "Did he just say what I think he said?" but, while she had remained awake, she had been lulled into drowsiness and had no idea what I was talking about. So, I guess I'll never know... but I assure you, I had never previously considered it Orion's three-star euphemism at his midsection and it made me wonder about astronomers and what they see.

**I never know how people will respond to that, but it seemed less complicated than saying I was a marine geophysicist/printmaker, or vise versa, despite being the the midst of attempting to buy ink.

minouette at the Spring One of A Kind Etsy Section

raccoon portrait

Last night I got a call: I've been accepted to the Spring One of A Kind Show! This is a huge show with sixty thousand visitors over five days, March 27 to March 31st. For the first time ever they will be having a special Etsy section for 40 Etsy sellers. They received applicants from all across the country and even from the US. Participating is an investment, so I've previously elected not to apply. But this new Etsy section seemed like a real opportunity to make the plunge into this huge show! Like the Rising Stars section, the Etsy section will allow sellers to rent a smaller space for a smaller fee. Not only will the Etsy section be showcased as a special artisans section within the show, but Etsy will also be providing us with their support (in terms of promotion of sellers, networking and marketing help). I'm somewhere between jubilant and intimidated.... I'll be working away on preparing my stock and I'll be blogging about my preparations and experience, for anyone else who is considering trying this in the future.

So far, I'm designing some displays, printing more linocuts and scheming about how to prepare prints for sale.

If you are in Toronto and would like to attend, just let me know so I can hook you up with cheap tickets!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Everybody's favorite prognosticating rodents

groundhog 002

It's mid-January and that can only mean one thing. Yes, it's time to print a second edition of my groundhog linocut with disappearing thermochromic shadow. It's important to celebrate absurd holidays. This linocut, in which the shadow cannot be seen if the ambient temperature is over 30 C (86 F), promises to act as a 6-more-weeks-of-winter-prognotication tool, as accurate as any celebrity rodent, this February 2nd, or Groundhog Day. No shadow, no more winter, the adage goes and I think my print is unlikely to give a false positive. If the ambient temperature is above 30 C, chances are indeed very good that your winter is over you've unwisely decided to hang art in your sauna.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Saskatchewan, sharp-tailed grouse and Western red lily


The symbols of Saskatchewan, its provincial bird, the sharp-tailed grouse and its flower, the Western red lily cover the hand-carved map of Saskatchewan in this linocut. The block was inked 'à la poupée' (with different colours, gold, green, brown, orange and magenta, in different areas) and printed by hand on lovely Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper. Each print is 23.5 cm by 31.8 cm (9.25" by 12.5"). The print is one of a variable edition of eight.

The Sharp-tailed Grouse, (Tympanuchus phasianellus), known as as the sharptail, fire grouse or fire bird, because they rely on brush fire to clear their habitat. The males are known for their display and courtship behaviour: stamping their feet rapidly, rattling their tail feathers, turning in circles, dancing forward, inflating and deflating their purple neck sacks, and cooing to attact the females. This is how I've illustrated the grouse. They are similiar, but not identical to the Greater and Lesser Prairie Chickens, though you often see it claimed they are one and the same. They also do some impressive fighting over the females, but how could I resist this dance:

The Western red lily is a protected species, which grows in meadows and grasslands. It has six reddish-orange petals with dark purple spots. It is also known as the Wood Lily, Philadelphia Lily, Prairie Lily or Western Red Lily, and is a perennial species of lily native to North America. It even appears on the provincial flag.

I've had the great priviledge of having seen much of this country and having travelled from coast to coast. (I am still hoping to visit the third coast). I visited Saskatchewan when I was young and found the wide open plains, and the wind in the grain, reminded me of the ocean. My grandfather grew up in Saskatchewan, and I grew up with his stories of his barefoot prairie summers and harsh Saskatchewan winters, when he needed to tie a rope between the house and barn, to avoid being lost in a blizzard, even over such a short distance.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Aquarius and JRT


The silver stars and silhouette of Aquarius the water bearer are illustrated in this handmade block print. The water flows right down to Piscis Austrinus, the fish. Parts of the constellations of Capricornus, Pisces and Sculptor and the dashed line of the ecliptic are also shown. 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 word Aquarius and symbol ♒ appear at the top of the image. The lines linking the constellation appear in silver-on-blue or blue-on-silver as appropriate. There are a couple of bright galaxies or star clusters shown as circles. I printed an edition of eight prints, 9 inches by 7.5 inches (22.9 cm by 19 cm) on lovely, deep blue, handmade, Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper with silk fibres.

The Babylonians identified this constellation with their god Enki (or Ea). Enki was the deity of crafts (gašam); mischief; water, seawater, lakewater (a, aba, ab), intelligence (gestú, literally "ear") and creation (Nudimmud: nu, likeness, dim mud, make bear). As a marine geophysicist and a maker, this sounds like my sort of myth.

Also today, I printed a second edition of my portrait of Orbit, a.k.a. Lady Giggleswick (after receiving an anxious enquiry from that there would be a seconde édition, non?). Here she is, back by popular demand: