Saturday, August 31, 2013

Making things for the little one

office So, we're also busily making things for the expected addition to our family. Here's a sneak peek at our progress. RJH is under the weather, so these less than impressive photos are my responsibility. I'll get him to take some proper ones when we're finished. I've taken a suitably terrible "before" photo. The room was RJH's office. He had a desk with computers (yes plural), an old single bed, an ironing board and in the photo, it would appear that laundry was in progress. I confess, it didn't generally look this bad. There were white walls, and forest green curtains. His office has been moved to the basement, which now has a proper floor, rather than carpet on cement. This house is about 85 years old, and was built before people decided that precision might be important in construction, or that people really like closets. So, there are no truly right angles and the rooms were not designed with closet space in mind. Luckily, it's been owned by people who really like closets, since it was built, so all the bedrooms have a closet and there is a linen closet, but these are closets built for very small people. So, I confess, I have claimed the entire closet of the master bedroom, and RJH has been using the linen closet and the office closet. For now, we've cleverly installed a new lengthwise rod in the master bedroom closet (previously, the presumably tiny people who wanted a closet but had little to hang, had a rod which was short and widthwise, blocking access to half the space). Also the closet is under the sloping part of the roof, so much of it would actually be too low to allow RJH to stand which bolsters the imperial closet claims of his less-than-tall wife doesn't bother me much. He also built me a stand for my shoes. He thinks I have too many shoes, but clearly has never lived with a real shoe lover, because I really don't have that many by the standards of most women I know (who also do not need to use valuable closet space for steel-toed boots, but, I digress). Our immediate solution is that for now, RJH will continue to use the closet and ironing board in the soon-to-be completed nursery room.

nursery painting First we painted it yellow. By "we" I mean I gathered dozens and dozens of paint samples, we negotiated and then he painted the room with (allegedly) zero VOC paint, which is safest for expectant mothers and babies. I actually don't mind painting and am pretty efficient, but generally, the received wisdom seems to be if you can avoid exposure to any chemicals you probably should. Also, to be honest, I've never been accused of gracefulness, and was a bit accident-prone before my centre-of-mass changed, so I am humouring my husband and have agreed not to climb chairs or ladders until after the baby is born. So, he got painting duty. For "zero VOC" paint, it certainly smelled. I wondered what I was smelling if it wasn't volatiles - volatile inorganic chemicals? I don't know. I'm not a chemist. Perhaps it was for the best I didn't spend hours painting the room.

nursery muralI actually drew up several different mural plans. The room has one south-facing window, but it faces our neighbour's house, so it's not actually very bright. We both agreed we wanted something cheerful and colourful. So while my sky mural was the winner, we avoided sky blue because it would be too dim and shadowy. So, after RJH had painted the yellow, I started planning and thinking about how clouds would look. I actually tapped mock-up paper clouds to the wall, before I painted the clouds in white (much less smelly) zero VOC paint. Then, I added my block printed stork in turquoise.

nursery2We went to Ikea, and much to our surprise, bought a crib. Their higher end crib was greatly reduced in price, so we just bought it. It feels very solid, gets good reviews and safety ratings and can convert into a toddler bed. We also got some cheerful fabric and a new light fixture (decorated with clouds). We're not entirely convinced we've succeeded with the light as it casts a harsh and surprisingly focused beam, which was not our goal. If we lower it, so that adults are too tall to see the light directly, RJH will hit his head. We're still considering options. I bought some blackout fabric and made curtains. I decided not to be too insistent on a theme and try to have everything match; that just seemed a little too controlled. What was I going to do? Tell people who might want to give gifts to the baby they had to be yellow or turquoise and relate to a cloud-filled sky? But, I did choose fabrics which contained yellow, white and turquoise, as well as other colours.

I'm also working on a baby quilt, of course. Its main colours are yellow, turquoise and grey, but it has different patterns and my block printed animals. RJH meanwhile, is working on a wooden rocking horse and building a change table!  When I was a toddler, my Uncle Bob made me a rocking horse, and I love that our baby will also have a handmade rocking horse. (Uncle Bob is in his eighties now, and no longer putting his woodworking skills to use supplying furniture to the youngest members of his extended family. He took up woodworking after having a massive heart attack, days before I was born. He was actually sent hundreds of kilometers to Toronto General for surgery, so coincidentally, he was one of the first people to meet me and pretty well the only member of my extended family who could reliably remember the day, since I guess my birth was tied in his mind to a life-changing near-death experience. I gather now it would be unlikely he would remember me at all, let alone my birthday. My own rocking horse was inherited by my uncle's first grandson, so I no longer have it. So, for me, this handmade rocking horse seems particularly special).

baby coat for little explorerI am also gathering a box of things for the baby, including the bibs, block printed camera and soft alphabet blocks I've made. Yesterday, I added a small woolen coat, lined with a map print cotton, fit for a wee explorer (based on this tutorial). I have more projects in mind. If you happen to be interested you can follow my thoughts on decorating rooms for wee people or my growing collection of tutorials for DIYs for babies and small children.

baby coat for little explorerbaby coat for little explorer

I guess this baby will be growing up in a family where it seems normal that if you want something, you can make it with your own two hands. That seems to me to be a good place to be.

Q for Quail

QforQuail005I'm working on a baby quilt (of course). I've actually finished the quilt top, but I decided for the back, it would be great to include my block printed, illustrated letters on fabric. I've now made 14 letters, so I still have 12 to carve, but I should still have plenty of time to finish, I hope. Here's my latest: Q for Quail. I love how the top feather on a California quail sort of mimics the tail of a q. I used to see bustling little quail families regularly when I lived on Vancouver Island. They always struct me as having funny personalities; they managed to seem a wee bit pompous yet bumbling.


These are open edition, printed on various Japanese papers, 14.8 cm or 5⅞ inches square.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013



This is an apt little linocut for your cabinet of curiosity; a quartz crystal complete with iridescent facets. I printed a variable edition of eight prints, 6.25" by 7.5" (16 cm by 18.8 cm) on Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper, with chine collé (collaged fine Japanese paper) facets in iridescent pink origami paper. Each print is unique, with a different selection of iridescent facets. Depending on the angle at which you view the print, these facets can appear to include a shimmering range of blue through pink through yellow. The specimen is labelled 'Quartz' in a printed script, so you can begin a hand-printed mineral portrait collection.

Quartz linocuts

Monday, August 19, 2013

Prototype Tee Shirt

aries proto1A sneak peek....

I was approached by FUN artists, a clothing company in Southern California, about printing my Western Zodiac linocut prints on tee shirts. They've now made a prototype of the Aries print in white on black tee. They want a soft, vintage feel to the fabric. It looks pretty cozy to me. The idea is to eventually produce shirts for a variety of constellations and in different colours.

I love also that they recruit artists and art they like and were drawn to the look of a block print, with its inherent imperfections as something authentic and handmade.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Beautiful Bugs

There's a really interesting post up on the Etsy blog, by Abbey Nova about gorgeous handmade insects. This is right up my alley, having recently had my bee biodiversity show, and also, since I've been thinking about how best to supply a certain museum shop with prints to accompagny their planned entomology show (more on that soon!). Also, I've long been a fan of Elsita who makes magical illustrations, paper cut art and sculptures and writes some lovely blogs too. Her paper bee is featured in the main photo illustrating the article. Nova notes that human-insect relations are often strained, at best, but she puts these lovely bugs into the context of the history of the still-life painting and some of the fascinating ancient symbolic associations we've harboured about insects. Some of these were new to me: ancient Spanish rock paintings of spiders are linked to the moon and fertility; I knew the butterfly could symbolize the soul and bees industriousness, but did not know that the fly and dragonfly in the 16th and 17th century Dutch still-life tradition could symbolize the devil or spiritual temptation. She includes a wonderful selection of insect-themed art and I'm flattered to see my bumblebee linocut amongst them. Check out the post and the art. There are some amazing finds. Fellow Mad Scientist of Etsy Sasha of whatnomints even made a beautiful cockroach on her hand-embroidered flour-sack tea towel.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Say it with me, "A Flamboyance of Flamingos"


Is that not the perfect term for a group chorus line of hot pink, long-legged flamingos? Alliterative, apt, succinct, this flamboyance of three pink and fuchsia flamingos are about to break out into a can-can routine.

The typography I designed for the words represents their meaning; "Flamboyance" is flamboyant in line and colour; the letters of the word "flamingos" are made from the distinctive shapes of long, flexible flamingo heads and necks, and their long, thin legs.

These linoleum block printed flamingos are printed on Japanese kozo, or mulberry paper. The block is inked 'à la poupée', meaning the multiple colours (pink, fuchsia and black ink) are all inked at the same time, in small areas, and the print is pulled all at once. Each print is 10" by 12.5" or 25 cm by 39 cm in dimension. There are 10 prints in the edition.

I like how the reflections turned out.

This is my latest in my terms of venery series.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Happy Birthday to Erwin Schrödinger!

Schroedinger's cats

Is Schrödinger's cat in the box, or not? It depends on when you look at this linocut! This colour-changing thermochromic block print shows the famous thought-experiment of renown quantum physicist Erwin Schrödinger (who would never hurt a real cat!). Both the cat in blue and the poison in pink will disappear when the print is exposed to heat.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Etsy Newbie Seller Bootcamp

Today I launched a new project, as 'Captain' (I feel like I need some sort of badge or special hat) of the Toronto Etsy Street Team. I'm going to be be running a 'TEST Back to School Etsy Newbie Bootcamp'. When I did first open my Etsy shop one of my main motivators was actually to show all my artists friends that it was really easy to do - to open a shop on-line. I had hoped I could also show that it is possible to make some money from art, and indeed, it is. I know that a lot of people who are fans of handmade goods are in fact creative themselves. So, if you or one of your friends, has been toying with the idea of trying to sell on Etsy, there's no time like the present. If, you've just opened a shop in the last few months, you're welcome too. The Bootcamp is free and includes mentoring and answers to any questions you might have. Just sign-up and drop me a line at Want to get a head's start and dive right in? Just follow this link .

You can find the on-going Bootcamp tutorial series here.

New Monograms


I've been making more monograms with the aim of producing a set of soft blocks with every letter of the alphabet included. In the meanwhile, I'm printing on a variety of papers of different colours, textures and patterns.