4

Tea

I’m what you might call an occasional tea drinker. When I was a little girl, I thought of tea as something people took when they were sick. Coffee was the go-to beverage for adults though my older sister took a liking to it early on. Her version of coffee was mostly milk, though. For my part, I always thought coffee smelled better than it tasted.

Then over the years, I discovered different teas that promised more pleasing flavors than the plain Lipton tea that we had at home (for when someone had trouble with digestion). Then came something called Butterfly Iced Tea which then became a drink of choice for when my sisters and I wanted something more exciting than water or juice. We weren’t allowed sodas except on very special occasions (an aside: we had grape Julep at home and whenever I was given one, I used to secretly hope it would be, by some sort of oversight, Coke!) and this tasted like a treat. I think it was really just honeyed tea blitzed with ice.

The best tea to me, though, was the green tea at Japanese restaurants. I’m not sure if at that age I appreciated the tea or just the fact that the tea was being poured by someone in a kimono. Back then, there weren’t many Japanese restaurants and to be dining in one was nothing short of magical (Coke was allowed too!).

Nowadays I think of tea as a kind of comfort drink. I like loose leaf ones and I still have a preference for green tea. My health coach from the Philippines sent me a gift card for my birthday (via Facebook!) and it was for any tea I wanted from a company called Kusmi Tea. I chose one called Euphoria because the site said it was an “exhilarating blend of roasted mate with scents of chocolate and orange.”

Of course I had no idea what mate was but they got me at “chocolate and orange.”

Anyway, back to teas.

My recent return to working with paper led me to various mixed media and collage work sites and magazines. I came across an article where the artist mentions that she incorporates used tea bags in her work.

Pack rat that I am, I have paper and cardboard stashes that include the packing paper from Amazon deliveries, cardboard from cereal boxes or cookie boxes, and even junk mail. However, I never thought of saving tea bags because most of my teas are loose leaf teas. As always, my husband, albeit unknowingly, came to my rescue. He had tea in tea bags! Not knowing what I was up to yet again, he set aside his used tea bags.

And so it was that I began dismantling the bags whenever there were two or three waiting for me. I was pleased with the little pile that I was collecting though I had no idea what I was going to do with them yet. In my Paper With Everything blog, I showed how I used one sheet to put a quote on a canister. I also used some of the sheets to make paper roses as part of a gift-wrap. Then I decided I wanted to incorporate the tea bag sheets into a painting. Which I did.

I rarely work on paintings. Most of the art work I do is digital. If I do paint on something, it might be a floorcloth or a bag. But I find being able to do something a bit larger with no one telling me to tweak this or change that is very calming. I do have to deal with my own inner critic but since my mind tends to wander off quite a bit, I’m sure I’ve left the inner critic still going on and on somewhere.

I used molding paste to create texture as well as handmade paper here and there. The petals are from a rose that a friend from the flower shop downstairs gave me (a really lovely gesture because it was a particularly stressful afternoon and she just handed it to me). She said it was called Coffee and she opened the petals a bit to show me that the inner sides were brown!
Then I carved a stamp for my signature because I felt that doing my usual signature with a paintbrush and paint or a Sharpie (yup, I sometimes do that for bolder paintings) wouldn’t do.
I had some sheets left over and thanks to my hubby, more were added to my pile. I used those on a floorcloth I’ve been working on (and off) for more than a year now. I couldn’t finish it because I ran out of the sheets. Looks like someone’s going to have to drink more tea!

10

My Very First Guest Paper Artist!

I feel very blessed to be in a community of writers and artists. They are the most generous people I know in terms of sharing knowledge, techniques, and even resources. I grew up doing artwork and all sorts of crafts and I’ve never gotten over the excitement of finding new things to try out or new artists and writers to discover. Many of the art and crafting projects I do were done intuitively but just like everything else, practice makes perfect. There are, however, some things that no matter how I practice, perfection seems to be always turning another corner.

This brings me to my very first guest artist on the blog! I came across her work during one of my mad click away days (Pinterest links, website links, just click, click, click!). The first of her works that I spotted was a papercut deer in a glass bell jar. This was in December so it was a Holiday theme, of course. Click. I went to her website. Click. She had two videos! Click. A papercut butterfly! A few clicks more to her other work and I just knew I had to ask her about her work. I saw Perfection!

The artist is Rachel Gibson. I didn’t waste any time emailing her. I just knew I had to have her on the blog! Rachel agreed to the interview and she was very warm and accommodating. Here then, is the interview:

butterfly-flower-in-bell-jar

You mention on your About Me page that your love for paper began in 2009. Were you doing other kinds of art before then?

I used to write – a lot more than I do now – mostly short fairy tales and urban myths.  After a while I realized the majority of my short stories had no dialogue and I
became more and more interested in visual storytelling. I’ve always loved stop motion and puppetry, and scriptwriting felt like a natural progression at that point.  So I took a few of my stories and worked them into short film scripts for animation.

Can you describe your process? (How do you come up with your design ideas? Are they mostly influenced by your love of fairy tales and folk tales? How long does it usually take to finish a project like your deer in the bell jars?)

It varies, and sometimes it can be just seeing something completely random in silhouette, or a black and white image, that makes me wonder whether I could cut it out, and if so, how?  Or it could be something that has an interesting shape that will look particularly striking as a silhouette. I’m currently trying out a seahorse design because I really like its outline, and there’s potential to cut away some interesting little designs into its body. There are also lots of good shapes to cut in terms of sea coral and plants with long, drifting fronds. It’s starting to look like an underwater forest, to be honest, which I quite like.

Often it’s a number of practical things that help shape the design. I’m fascinated with cut paper and light, so I always plan on how the finished piece could cast a shadow.  This then helps me decide what kind of box frame the piece would suit; whether it’s going to be a layered papercut or not; and whether it would work in something different, like a bell jar. I then think about the types of paper that might work best.

bird-in-spring-black-unframed3

 

My Bird in Spring was inspired by a bird and cherry blossom design I’d seen on an old Japanese vase, but it took on more of a folk art look as the design developed.  I knew I wanted a bird in the middle of a box frame, so had to work out how to “suspend” it within some sort of border. I then had to make sure the paper was a sufficient weight so that the papercut would hold steady and not sag at all, and I found Bockingford watercolour paper worked really well. It’s 300gsm though so pretty thick paper to cut, and I found that worked better with bigger, bolder designs rather than something as small and delicate as cherry blossom.

 

the-homecoming1

My Birdkeeper was definitely a fairy tale inspiration, though I originally had her in mind as a shadow puppet.  I did a couple of pieces as well for a fairy tale inspired exhibition last year (Once Upon Again).  One was called The Homecoming, which depicts the Wolf in disguise as the Woodcutter returning to the Grandmother’s cottage in the woods.  The other was Frau Trude versus Little Marya: a standoff between Frau Trude-as-demon and a swordwielding girl, which was a bit of a cheeky nod to my love of martial arts films.

Some projects are quicker than others, but a lot depends on how long it takes me to get the sizing just right.  With the deer in the bell jar design, it took three solid days of cutting out winter woods and deer, all at fractionally different heights, to get the combination that I felt worked best within the glass dome.  Similarly with the butterfly in the bell jar, it took around 15-20 differently-sized butterflies and flower designs until I was happy with it.  With papercutting, I can only really tell if something will work or not, once I’ve cut it out and tried it.  It can be a slow process getting each new piece right, but once I’ve got the design that works, I can use that as a template.  It gets much quicker and easier after that.

Do you have a favorite among the work you’ve done?

I’m really enjoying working with bell jars at the moment, but the Angel Wings are perhaps my favourite.  I’ve had customers buy them sometimes for very poignant memorial reasons, and that significance has meant a lot to me.angel-wings-1

Any advice for anyone who’d like to try this type of artwork?

Just give it a go. The materials to get started don’t have to be expensive by any means.

You’ll need a cutting mat: I use a double-sided one like this – http://www.craftsuperstore.co.uk/Papercrafting/Craft_Tools/Knives__and_amp__Mats/Xcut-XCU268431.html.  It’s black on one side; white on the other, which is great for me.  I’ve found that cutting black paper on a white mat/white paper on a black mat, a lot easier than the standard green cutting mats.

Get some different types of paper and card – different colours, weights and textures.  Scrap papers leftover from other projects will always get used, so keep hold of them.

And finally, get a craft knife.  I’ve got a variety of knives with different blades, but the one I use more than any other is the very cheapest.  It’s a no-frills Jakar cutting knife http://www.fredaldous.co.uk/jakar-cutting-knife-small.html

I do use a more expensive X-Acto knife like this one http://xacto.com/products/cutting-solutions/knives/knives/X2000-Knife.aspx when I’m cutting thinner, more delicate paper.  It’s perfect for that.  But because I tend to use thicker watercolour paper, I have to apply quite a lot of pressure when I’m cutting, and I can safely hold the Jakar knife much closer to the blade, so it feels more precise, and it easily gets through 300gsm paper.

————————————————————————————————————-

A huge thank you to Rachel for sharing her work and her process! Her blog is called in the dark woods. Rachel also has an Etsy shop as well as a Storenvy shop should you want to purchase any of her work. And finally, here are Rachel’s animated works for you to enjoy!

 

 

 

5

Handmade Journal Part 2

2014 flew right in and brought the freeze along with it! Happy New Year to all and if you’re in a part of the world that’s got below zero temps going, I do hope you’re keeping warm and toasty! I, on the other hand, am trying to type on the keyboard with fingerless gloves. As I don’t happen to have delicate fingers and hands, it certainly gets in the way of my feeling out the right keys! And yes, I’m happy to report that I’m not quite the hunt and poke kind when it comes to typing. There was a typing class I had to take when I went back to college and while I’m not a typing whiz, I do get by without looking down at the keyboard for the most part!

Now on to the second part of making the journal. This is where we put everything together.

Image

It doesn’t matter if the binding is worked from the front cover to the back or from the back cover to the front. What you have to decide is where you want all your knots (when attaching a new length of thread) to be. I like to make sure that all the knots I do are only on one end of the book, but it’s really up to you. Just make sure you leave a tail later on that can be woven through the stitches. Also, you don’t want to end up in any of the holes in the middle. You’ll see why as we go.

I use embroidery floss and a needle with an eye that’s big enough so I can thread the whole thing through painlessly. I once tried to start with thread that was long enough so I wouldn’t have to do any attaching but I found that having to undo knots that kept magically appearing took more time and was more frustrating so now I just pull out about a yard out from the skein. Then I make sure to finish off or to attach additional thread on the same end of the journal.

Insert the needle from the front of the cover, making sure to leave enough of a “tail.” Make a knot to secure the floss in place then use a blanket stitch to finish off the other holes.

Image

blanket stitch

Image

When you get to the last hole, finish off with a knot but do not cut the thread. You’re now ready to attach the first signature.

Take one of the signatures and align the folded edge with the edge of the cover you just worked on. Insert the needle into the hole that matches the hole on the cover as shown in the photo.

Image

Pull the thread all the way through the hole and bring it back up out of the next hole. Make sure your thread is pulled up all the way. Now you’re going to “lift” the segment of thread that runs from the first hole to the second so that your working thread runs under it, around the stitched part, and under the next thread segment. That’s a bit of a mouthful so it might help to just look at the photo below. The needle then goes back into the same hole it came out of, and there you have your first chain stitch!

Image

Do the same with the next hole. On the last hole, instead of making a chain stitch, you’ll simple make a knot to secure the stitches you made on the first signature.

Image

Repeat the same procedure with all the other signatures, making sure the thread that runs through the middle of each signature is snug. The spine of your book should have a couple of chain stitch rows like the one below (and that’s why you may not want to do your knots in any of the middle holes!).

Image

The other cover will be attached with a blanket stitch just like the first one. This time, though, just make sure to run the needle and thread through the chains so it’s like you’re combining both stitches.

Image

The first hole is easy because you can just run the needle through the hole of the cover like in the photo above. Then run the needle through the stitch on the signature right above it and make a knot the way it was done at the start of the first cover.

Image

detail_vertical_view

Then move to the next hole and begin your blanket stitch, working from front to back. Now make a chain stitch to attach this second hole to the chain stitch above it.The same will be done to the third and fourth holes. Secure the thread with a knot on the last hole. Do not cut the thread just yet. Instead, weave a bit of the thread through the knots then cut. Do the same with any additional “tail” that might be hanging loose.

detail_knot_end

 

Cover the knots and the woven ends with white glue. The white glue will dry clear and you won’t have problems with the ends sticking out or coming loose.

gluing_after_weaving-in

And that’s it! All you have to do is to add embellishments as you see fit to personalize your handmade journal.

finished_book

 

I made this one for my niece. I added charms and other ephemera using more embroidery floss. Unfortunately, I was rushing to get the present done in time for our Christmas Eve get-together and forgot to take a snapshot of the completed journal and even the wrapping. I used printed tissue wrappers that I found at Home Goods. The design had music notes all over which was perfect for my niece. I used tulle that comes in a roll (from Joanne’s) to make the ribbon and added a rose I had made from tea bags. The great thing about tulle is that it just makes everything a bit more special–at least to me. I used a black version that had glitter on it with the same tissue wrapper and the gift (a different kind of journal) took on a more sophisticated look!

I hope you try your hand at making this journal. Let me know if you have questions or if you run into a snag. I’m going to be coming out with an ebook with more detailed instructions for three different bindings sometime in February so watch out for that one! Meanwhile, try and keep an eye on items around the house that you can use for making your own journals or for upcycling into useful things.