Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Printing Tea Towels

I went over to the Torpedo Factory yesterday to work on some tea towels for Arts on Foot, which is coming up in two weeks. I print my cards and coin purses in my studio by hand, but for a large quantity of big pieces, it is much easier to just crank them out on the press. I took a few pictures of the process so you can see how they are made.

I start by ironing all the towels so there are no creases, otherwise the print won't go on smoothly.

I use a rented etching press to make the prints. I would love to have one of my own, and recently saw an ad for one that was in my price range, but getting a five-ton press into my sixth floor apartment would be a huge challenge. Plus, it would take up the remaining five square feet that isn't already filled with prints, so I'll wait until a more appropriate time to buy.

When I'm working at home I use Speedball brand inks because they are easy to work with and relatively odorless. On the press though, I use Graphic Chemical inks which are much thicker and messier but have much richer colors. They also smell really strong and you will get a headache after working with them for a few hours in an unventilated space. The results are great, but if you are working at home I would suggest using something else, your lungs will thank you.

Mixing the right shades of magenta:

The presses are covered in "felts," which are several layers of felt in varying thicknesses. This pads the block while it's going through the press, and you need a layer of paper between the block and the felt to stop the ink from transferring everywhere. The paper gets this fuzzy multiple-exposure print on it after a few runs.

Laying the block down on the tea towel:

Cranking the press:

And a finished tea towel, fresh off the press!

Clean-up is a lot messier with these inks, and you use a special razor blade to get all the ink off the glass. It is one of the most satisfying things in the world.

And that is how the tea towels are made! Much more complicated than printing by hand, but much faster when you are working on large pieces.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Some Finished Ceramic Pieces!

Last week was crazy. An earthquake, a hurricane warning and several 16-hour days led me to end the week on a very stressed-out note. We stocked up on water, snacks and movies for the weekend to get ready for the hurricane, but woke up on Sunday to one of the most beautiful days of the year. Instead of sitting at home and watching 13 Going On 30 while the sun was shining, we decided to have a barbecue and ran to the store to get chicken, zucchini and peaches. The predicted storm actually turned into a really fun weekend. Even though the storm passed us by here in DC, there was still a ton of damage in a lot of places, including Vermont where several old covered bridges were swept away by the flooding. I hope everyone reading this is OK!

Last week I got my first ceramic pieces back from the kiln (actually, the second, but the first round was such a disaster that they will never be seen again). I made three bowls, three small vases, a little teacup and a planter. I tried several different glazes to see what I like best, since there is really no way of telling how something is going to look while you are glazing. My favorite is the patterned bowl on the top left (I do love pattern) and I have already glazed a few more pieces with the same design.

This little bowl is another of my favorites: it's a transparent avocado on the inside with white on the outside and the rim.

I made this little teacup that I made to match a mini teapot I bought in San Francisco earlier this year. They don't really look alike, but I still really like this one.

That is just the first round, and there are a lot more pieces in progress. Sadly our class is almost over, so I am rushing to get everything finished up. On Saturday morning I got really in the zone and threw eleven bowls in two hours. So now I have a ton of bowls, if anyone wants to come over for soup.

I'll share pictures of the next batch when they are finished!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New Journal Designs at Minted

I have two new journal designs over at Minted, and the voting round just started. The first design is a repeated block print pattern, and the second one relates to my earlier travel announcement.

The journals are completely customizable, so you can add your name, photos or any other titles you want! They are coming out just in time for Christmas, and would be perfect personalized presents.

Your votes made a huge difference in the Christmas card challenge (being released this fall!), so will you head over and vote in this round?

To vote for the block printed design, go here.
To vote for the customizable map travel journal, go here.
Thanks so much, every vote makes a huge difference!

The Plan: Asia 2012

I've been so excited about this news for a few months now, and I can finally share it!

At the end of December, after the Christmas rush, we will be heading to Asia for three months to visit Hong Kong, Thailand, Cambodia and India. Our itinerary is planned out, but is somewhat flexible. We will be spending a week in Hong Kong visiting my family, then one week in Thailand, two weeks in Cambodia, and then two and a half months in India. The Hong Kong and Thailand portion of the trip will be a welcome vacation after the busy holiday season, and in Cambodia we will be doing a combination of sightseeing and research, with visits to several weaving centers.

Once we arrive in India, it's back to work. I'll be running my business from the road, so I will be blogging, answering emails and doing administrative work from my laptop. I'll be working with a shipper here in the US, so the shop will stay open, and all of the retail stores I am working with will continue to be fully stocked.

The majority of the trip will be spent in India, where we will be moving from place to place, with extended stays in one or two cities. I am going to be doing several apprenticeships, hopefully with a group of kantha quilters, a block printer, and a group of embroiderers, although these may evolve once we get there. In addition to that, I will be finding inspiration for new designs and looking for suppliers and artisans to work with on a line of new products.

We've been wanting to do this trip for a long time, and felt like if we didn't go now, we wouldn't have another chance for a long time. The tickets are booked, I bought my big-but-not-too-big backpack, and have been contacting weavers and quilters and block printers all over India.

We will be gone from the end of December to the beginning of April, so the new collection that I'll be working on in India will be debuting at the National Stationery Show in May of 2012.

I'm so excited to be able to share the news, and in the coming months I will share some of the trip planning progress, from sites and organizations we will be visiting, to packing up and getting ready to go.

In the next few weeks, I will also be launching a new online shop selling a small selection of Indian textiles, printing blocks, home goods and scarves, so watch out for an announcement about that coming soon.

All photos from my last trip to India in 2007, but there will be plenty of new ones to come.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Around the Studio

The last few days have been extremely busy around here, so the weekend was definitely a welcome break (as I'm sure it was for everyone). We went on a five-plus hour hike in Shenandoah National Park yesterday and got caught in a torrential downpour. I don't think I have been that exhausted in years, and I'm definitely feeling the burn today. It was well worth it though, the scenery was incredible, and as the clouds rolled in and the sky darkened before the storm, it felt like we were in a horror movie.

There is an ever-lengthening to-do list to tackle around here, and I thought I would share a few pictures of what I've been working on lately. Prints hanging to dry, ready to be sewn into coin purses:

Mixing up some magenta ink to print with:

Christmas in August!

A few new sketches on linoleum:

Cards waiting to be packaged up:

After several months of being out of stock, the tote bags are back in the shop! You can get one right here.

I hope you all had a good weekend too!

Friday, August 19, 2011

New Stores!

There are some new stores to add to the list: Cog and Pearl in Brooklyn, NY, Two Hands Paperie in Boulder, CO, Good Press Paper in Charlottesville, VA and Amelia Presents in Oxford, MS are now carrying my work! If you live in one of those areas, stop by and take a look. The cards are either there already, or arriving in the next few days.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Natural Dyes by Sophie Morille

I found these natural textile prints by Sophie Morille last week, and I love the way she uses muted colors and shapes from nature in her work. She uses ferrous sulfate (iron), a natural mordant, to transfer images on to fabric. She also writes a blog cataloging all her work. It's in French, but the pictures speak for themselves, and there is so much more to see on her blog than is listed in her shop. Take a look, it's a new favorite of mine!

I've been wanting to branch into natural dyeing, and have been looking at a few classes and workshops to take in the future. I did a lot of natural dyeing and work with mordants in India, and I would love to try it again and apply it to my own work. Some day down the line I would love to try growing plants that can be used to make natural dyes, like indigo and marigolds. The book A Weaver's Garden looks like a great resource for starting a garden like that, and hopefully in the future I will have space to give it a try.

Photos from Sophie Morille
Speaking of books, I've had Color: A Natural History of the Palette and Blue: The History of a Color on my reading list for a while, and need to make time to read them. We take the use of color for granted today with chemical dyes, but there is so much history behind each color, and how it was traditionally used and made. Has anyone read them? What did you think? I will make sure to do a review once they have made their way up my reading list.

Until I start dyeing fabrics myself, I will just keep reading Sophie's beautiful blog for inspiration.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Big Thank You, and Ballston Market

Thanks to everyone who stopped by the shop on Friday to take advantage of the 50% off sale! There was a huge response, and I'm so happy that I could offer that discount to all of my long-time followers and friends. Thanks to everyone who has supported me and made the past year a success!

On Saturday, I had a booth at the Ballston Arts and Crafts Market in Arlington. The forecast said sunny, but it ended up raining for most of the day, and traffic was slow. It was a perfect time to get some work done on a project that I will be announcing next month though, so look out for that! I'll be back at the Ballston Market in October, so hopefully the weather will cooperate then.

Photos by Joe, who was practicing his camera skills while it rained
Unfortunately, I fell and hurt my hand this weekend, so I have to take a few days off from printing while it heals. That means it's time for some administrative work, and I'll be back to making things in a few days. Maybe I should get hand insurance like celebrities get on their legs, just in case.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sale Day Today!

Today is the day: everything in the shop is 50% off! It's been an amazing year, and I am so excited to say thank you to everyone by offering 50% off for the entire day. Just use the code "SALE50" at the checkout to redeem the offer.

Here's to another great year! You can head over to the shop right here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Celebration Sale this Friday!

One year ago this week, I made a huge leap and left my job to work full-time for myself. It was a huge risk, but this year has been incredible. I have learned so much about what it takes to run a business, to be an artist and designer, how to manage my time, how to handle success as well as failure, and have had an amazing time doing it.

In celebration of my one-year anniversary of being fully self-employed, I will be having a huge 50% off sale this Friday from 7am to 7pm! That is twelve hours to get everything in the shop half-price! This is a one-time-only celebration sale, so this Friday is your only chance to get everything you've had your eye on in the shop for a full 50% off the original price.

Just use the code "SALE50" when you check out on Friday only, and receive 50% off your entire order. Happy shopping!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Garden Update: Heatwave Edition

As many of you living in the US may have noticed, we have been going through a heat wave which is sticking around in DC. The temperature has been hovering around the one hundreds for weeks, and I have been avoiding spending extended periods of time outside since then. Unfortunately, the plants don't get to enjoy the air conditioning, so they have gone from looking like this to this:

We've been giving them plenty of water, but it is just so hot that the leaves are withering. Even though the plants appear to be dead from afar, they are actually growing lots of delicious cherry tomatoes.

The basil and mint have been holding up well, and don't seem to mind the heat as much as us constantly picking the leaves to use.

The eggplant is still totally green, and doesn't seem to care about the baking soil it is sitting in. There haven't been any eggplants yet, but it is flowering.

There are also little green leaves starting to grow again, replacing the almost-fully brown stems that are there now, so it's recovering!

We considered bringing the plants inside for a few days to cool down, but since they are actually growing tomatoes it seemed better to leave them. The big tomato plant still hasn't produced a single flower or tomato, so I think we are going to call that one a failure and focus on the delicious cherry tomatoes.
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