Good afternoon, y’alright?

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the phone with Bermudian customer service representatives and government officials lately. One thing I’ve learned from all this interaction with local is if you don’t wish them good morning or good afternoon and allow them to do the same, you’re not getting anywhere. In fact, last week when I was one of five people waiting in the Customs office, a man walked in and greeted each one of us individually.

The common greeting when you see someone you know here is “Are you alright?” which often gets sort of mushed together into one word (“y’alright?”). I haven’t quite adopted the phrase yet, but I’ve started to fall in love with the idea of slowing down, saying “hi” and checking in with those you encounter. As someone who has admitted to a personal mantra of ‘efficiency’ in times past, slowing down—”wasting” time—is quite the challenge.

One of my goals for my time here is to practice mindfulness with more intention. So my first mindfulness challenge—for me and you both—is to adopt a little island attitude into daily interactions. Ask your coworker how they are before launching into whatever you need to get done. Easier yet—put down your phone/book/mental to-do list while walking down the street and smile at a stranger!

© Kristin Joiner
© Kristin Joiner
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How to Grow an Avocado Tree

avocadosLadies and gentlemen, we have a sprout! While an actual tree may be a while off, these little guys are already defying my dubious expectations (chronicled here). So, as promised, here’s what I did:

  1. Make guacamole, duh!
  2. Remove any remaining flesh. Let the pit sit out for about a day to dry a bit.
  3. Peel the thin, dark brown skin from the tan flesh of the pit.
  4. Stick 3 wooden skewers 1/4″ or so into the pit so as to suspend it about halfway in water.
  5. Place stem-side down in a container filled with water, set on a sunny window sill and wait! You’ll need to refill the water regularly.

I noticed the pits starting to split down the middle about a week in. Another week in, and one of my pits has a visible root growing from the bottom of it, while the other’s root is still in the crack. My friend Kaia left hers to grow in water for several months, until the stem that will (hopefully) eventually come out of the top of the pit was more than 8 inches tall.

Have fun and good luck!

Restoring my faith in humanity

A few months ago, I got an email out of the blue from a woman named Diane who wrote to say she had had a letterpress in the 90’s but sold everything except a few special cuts years ago. She had discovered my blog and loved what I was up to—right down to my paper, which only another artist would notice!

She asked if I wanted the remaining cuts but didn’t mention a price, so I sent her my address and wasn’t sure what would happen. A week later, a box of preciously wrapped vintage printing plates arrived with the loveliest letter.

10409597_766441453395731_6074608240159062572_nI’ve printed a few—starfish coasters? Yes, please!—with many more to come once Bess is up and running again. There is something so wonderful about old plates: Their heft, their patina and the crispness of the way they print. I’m so thankful that Diane decided to share them with a perfect stranger/fellow printer!

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Bermuda in photos

What’s that? More pretty pics of my new home, please? Ok, if you insist!

Where in the world is… Bess?

Once we get through the standard rounds of Bermuda questions, there’s a quick pause while my conversation partner processes it all, and then their eyebrows raise as they ask, “Oh! What are you going to do with your press?”

The answer is… bring her along for the ride! I realize shipping a 400-pound antique printing press to another country maybe isn’t the most practical course of action, but I look at it as an investment in my personal happiness. I considered leaving her at my parents’ house and just printing when I go home to visit, but had I left her for a few months previously and it’s just not something I want to do for the next 3-5 years, or however long we’re here.

press 3A few weeks before the big move, my dad and I took her apart into two main pieces, the fly wheel and lots of smaller bits, above. I spent a Saturday rubbing wax over every inch of her to protect from any water and humidity—which also had the added benefit of cleaning more of the 100-year-old gunk from her frame than I thought possible. Then we packed her up along with all my studio supplies, securing everything to a pallet and built a wooden crate around it all. We then shipped it to a facility in New Jersey.

New wood type that I haven't even had a chance to use! I can't wait to print with it.
New wood type that I haven’t even had a chance to use! I can’t wait to print with it.

She’s currently on a container ship on her way to the island. I’m not exactly sure what happens now—some people have said that since I just moved here, my crate will breeze through customs. Others have said it will probably sit on the dock for 2-3 weeks and cost me several hundred dollars in duty to release. Who knows! Either way, I can’t wait for her to arrive—and don’t worry, I’ll share more pics as soon as my studio/office here is set up!

Adventures in Agriculture

I have what some might call a black thumb… That is I’ve killed nearly every plant I’ve ever owned. The only house plant I’ve ever had long-lasting success with is fondly named Spike, a succulent I picked up at the Dane County Farmers Market three summers back. Since I wasn’t sure if I could bring plants to Bermuda (and he was outgrowing his container again anyway), before I moved, I divided him up, repotted and gave him to friends and family.

However, I’ve decided that Bermuda’s high humidity could be the key to horticultural success. Forgot to water for… ahem… a while? No problem—90% humidity means the soil is still moist anyway! (And my hair has the texture of a Brillo pad.) So I hit up a local nursery and picked up some serious green.

First up: house plants! I honestly have no idea what the ones on the left are… their names have already escaped my brain. The ones on the right are tillandsia, or air plants… which I love and have managed to kill over and over again. Seriously! It doesn’t even need dirt and I can’t keep it alive! Again, I blame Wisconsin winters.

picstitchProduce here is expensive, not always the greatest quality and sometimes not even available. We are so spoiled in the U.S.! So I wanted to get a few things that we could eat. It’s an odd time of the year to start a garden, but I did manage to pick up a few strawberry plants and a really great selection of herbs. At first I had them mixed together in one long container, but the basil and mint are well on their way to shading everything else, and one of my strawberry plants sent out a runner, so I thought everyone could use a little more space to thrive. See, success already!

garden 2The last “plant” I’m working on is really more of an experiment. My friend Kaia (who blogs here) had a bit of a project going when I stopped by her house the other day. She had grown an avocado tree from a pit and was finally potting it. Apparently you can grow trees in your house! Anyway, I picked her brain for a how-to and now I’ve got two pits sitting in water… who knows what will happen. I’d share instructions, but I’m not even sure I did it right, so if I were you, I’d google! If—big if—I have anything sprout, I’ll share by expertise then!

avocadosOh, and finally: limes. I certainly did not grow these, but Andrew picked them last weekend when he was golfing and hit a bad shot into a wooded area. Because we live in a place where lime trees just grow naturally. I wonder how long it will take me to get used to that!

limes 1

Coaster Roller

My favorite new items from the last year are my coasters! The first were save the dates for this wedding, and since the minimum order of coaster blanks was 1,000 I started playing around with existing designs and wood type. Some of my faves were the drink coasters below, currently out of stock because I pared down for the move, but I’ll print some more soon!

drink coastersThe coasters have been so popular, I’ve since ordered a couple thousand more blanks. The first design I drew specifically for a coaster was this citrus design. I love to have a variety pack on hand for summer entertaining and I think a large quantity of single-color coasters would truly be great as part of a baby or wedding shower theme! They’re available here.

citrus_coastersGame day coasters are also awesome—the ones below are exclusively available at Driftless Studio in Madison, WI.

W coastersAnd finally, most recently things came full circle for another save the date for a couple in Australia. Get in touch if you need custom coasters of your own!

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