A Watercolor Revival

When I first made the decision to move to Bermuda, I made a list of goals for my time here to stave off a small (ok, giant) panic attack that went a little something like this: I’m going to quit my job. What if I don’t get steady freelance work? I’m not going to have a steady paycheck! What if I get bored? What am I going to do all day? What if I get all clingy and totally ruin the relationship because I’m so bored?!… etc. etc.

So, to pause that downward spiral, I started making a list (it’s still the best way I’ve learned to get a grip: somehow tasks look more manageable when they’re written down with a little check-able box in front of them) :
• Redesign the 622 press logo (check!
• Grow 622 press social media (check!)
• Start blogging again (check!)
• Reshoot all merchandise (check!)
• Grow wholesale market (first round of catalogs are out—fingers crossed!)• Submit my work for blogs and editorial features (working on it!)

And lots of other business-oriented goals like that plus lifestyle goals that I hadn’t been able to do with my very full-time job and my part-time letterpress work…
• Learn a new language/brush up on French (does downloading Dualingo and never opening it count?)
• Volunteer (check and check! I should write about that some time…)
• Work out (hitting the gym 2-3 times a week lately, plus tennis lessons!)
• (And the point of this post…) Draw every day

As it turns out, I shouldn’t have been so worried. For the first three months here, I was so busy with both freelance design work and getting my new life in order—guiding my crate through customs, getting my license, buying a bike, etc., that I actually felt like there weren’t enough hours in the day more often than not.

Now that the holidays are over and I’m smack in the middle of my longest on-island stretch yet (three more months until we have any travel planned!), I’m starting to tackle more of my Bermuda to-do list. To-do is perhaps a bit too hard of a word, as all of these activities are things I enjoy, but have simply fallen out of practice with. Throughout my childhood and into college, I kept dozens of sketchbooks and made art—crafts, paintings, calligraphy, pastel drawings—nearly every day. But even though I’ve been in a creative profession since, there was usually just one day a month—if I was lucky—when inspiration flowed and I got to create something that felt closer to art.

ombre_watercolor_5341It all started with watercolor—for 622 press actually. I experimented with letterpress printing over watercolor, then started with production in earnest not too long after. First, abstract washes of color in the background of these invites and then employing paint as the main source of color in these prints.

quotes_5502Then, one Friday when I gave myself the day off from “real” work, I started painting in earnest. First succulents, which I ended up finishing with colored pencil in the smaller details. Then poppies made with pastels, and wet with a paintbrush for a smoother effect.

succulents_5663 IMG_5664Then, coincidentally enough, a dear friend asked if I could create some art for her new house—she even had some inspiration: feathers, abstracted a bit. So I painted feathers for her.

IMG_5661And then, since I feel bad when I monopolize the dining room table for too long, I cleaned up my paints and transitioned to my sketchbook. My trusty set of Prismacolor colored pencils made the trek to Bermuda with me, but I’ve been sticking with plain old pencil as well. The textures of nature have always spoken to me (my photography professor had to force me to shoot anything else in college), so that’s what I’ve started with: poppies, seed pods, more succulents.

It’s not quite a drawing a day, but it is flexing my creative muscles and waking up a part of my brain that has been dormant for a long time. I feel like my skills in seeing and translating form still need some work, but I’ll keep posting work here—hopefully that will help encourage me to keep at it!

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Long-awaited Studio Tour

Remember when I promised you a studio tour approximately one thousand years ago? Well, I thought I’d finally make good! Here’s where I spend my days:

BDA_studio_officeDesk: Obviously a lot of my time is spent here: designing new letterpress imagery, working on freelance design projects, managing social media and of course blogging! I try to keep my desk fairly neat, but let’s be honest, there is usually a bit more clutter!

BDA_studio_deskdetailsEven though I have significantly fewer appointments these days, I still love my planner. I finally discovered the most perfectly designed planner four or five years ago and have ordered the same style online every year since! For lists that need to last more than a week, I prefer a small notepad—the one pictured here is a very fancy letterpress version given to me by a former intern.

The coffee mug was thrown by yours truly in college. I love drinking from a handmade mug, I always taper my mugs at the bottom so they’re perfect to wrap hands around. And I make them extra large so I only need a few refills each morning.

On the right are Bermuda stamps so I’m ready to send a card any time. I love the stamps here—they’re absolutely gorgeous.

BDA_studio_press BDA_studio_press2Now for the lady of the house: I’ve got Bess set up on a rug with a piece of plywood underneath to protect our light-colored tile floors and my feet. With my type cabinet on my left and a clean table to my right for finished product, I’m set up for maximum productivity!

BDA_studio_inkI keep my ink on my type cabinet, as that’s sort of the “dirty zone.” You can ruin an entire run with one inky finger leaving marks on your work, so it’s important to sequester ink and non-clean items in one area and wash your hands A LOT. When I was in my parent’s house that meant going upstairs every time I needed to wash up, so I feel downright spoiled that our kitchen is just 10 feet away.

Anyway, I mix my ink with a putty knife on a thick piece of glass; standard printmaking procedure. I currently use oil-based inks by Gamblin and Graphic Chemical and save my mixed colors in folded-up freezer paper (another product of my printmaking roots). And yes, I always label colors really specifically: robin’s egg, light orchid, plum, often with notes about consistency as well.

BDA_studio_typecase BDA_studio_toolsThe top of my type cabinet is quite warped (imagine that after a century or so), so I lock up my type on the dresser I use for storage (it belongs to our landlords, so I protect it with a plastic cutting board that just happens to match my yellow rug). I didn’t bring all my furniture (which is the wood blocks used to keep the printing plate or type tight in the frame), so I just keep it in a ceramic bowl I threw in college.

Other necessary printing tools: a ruler, screwdriver, masking tape and pencil hang out on the small side table of my press.

BDA_studio_finishingOver on the clean side of things: a small table to lay out freshly printed work, and my cutting mat for trimming and folding. I use a rotary cutter, thanks to my mom who is a quilter. I find that it doesn’t leave the dragging edge of an exacto knife and it’s much easier on your hands!

BDA_studio_dresserThe newest addition to the studio is this dresser, pilfered from the upstairs guest bedroom with Andrew’s help. I was trying to get by with just a few small drawers of storage and it just wasn’t working out. The room is much cleaner and more organized with it!

Above it, I decided to create a sort of inspiration wall. The alphabet was printed by Sugar Cube Press and purchased at Anthology in Madison before I moved. I’ve added other prints I’ve made, photographs, art pieces from my Australian penpal and others, and my own letterpress circle garland.

BDA_studio_dresserdetails

Back to Business

When I first started my company, I did everything I could to drum up custom business. Business cards, stationery, wedding invites—you name it I was up for it. And my prices were low (seriously, if you were a custom client of mine a year or two ago, you got a GREAT deal!), so low that I think I was losing money once I figured in how much time I was spending on each project—not to mention the ones that never came to fruition! I would kill myself trying to make an impossibly short timeline, include tons of freebies…. It was a completely unsustainable business. A handful of jobs came and went and finally I wised up: it simply wasn’t worth the time and stress.

Over the past year or two, I’ve done a piece here or there, but generally I turned down more work than I took on. However, I recently had the pleasure of designing and printing business cards for a local tutor and to my surprise when I finished the project I felt really good about the whole experience. The finished product is beautiful of course, but I think the best part was that after all was said and done, I didn’t feel burnt out or defeated, but inspired and ready for more! Not to mention, my skills have improved over the last couple years, so the process of creating the cards went much smoother from beginning to end.

Business cards by 622 pressI finally learned to value my own work. I know I am good at what I do and my time and talent are worth charging a fair price for. The stress and inconvenience were all internal, and once I let that go, I was able to enjoy the work again. I’m excited to revive and revamp this aspect of my business, you can check out the details for business cards here and watch for more to come! I hope this post reminds you to let go of the internal pressure you put on yourself and take pleasure in whatever you’re working on.