Paper Flower Workshops

Sorry for being MIA, so much traveling this spring, and a death in the family added another trip home earlier in March. In better news, I am elated as I’ve just returned from teaching my first paper flower class!

A friend of mine from high school is the special events coordinator at the Milwaukee Art Museum and she reached out a few months ago to see if I would be interested in teaching a workshop during their Art in Bloom event. The workshop sold out! So over the last few weeks, I pulled together all my supplies and made hundreds of flower kits and then met 34 lovely ladies in Milwaukee on a rainy Saturday morning.

The class went really well (although I think I’ll limit future workshops to 25 people)—everyone had a lovely time and left with a poppy and anemone and supplies for a few more. I left exhausted and thrilled—turns out I love to teach! I’ll be offering classes in Wisconsin and other cities I’ll be traveling to throughout the year, but if you’re a shop owner or just someone who wants to get a handful of friends together and host a party yourself, get in touch!

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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

New Star

A while back I realized that if I kept creating goods at my current pace (a byproduct of needing to busy my fingers while watching tv), I’d soon become a hoarder, or that friend who only gives gifts she’s made. So I picked up hand embroidery–a craft I hadn’t touched since I was very young. It’s incredibly labor intensive and slow going, so I knew the production line would slow its pace, plus I’ve been really inspired by modern takes on the ancient craft that have been popping up on the Internet in the last few years.

I’m not one for following patterns. Or recipes. Or direction of any kind, aside from my GPS… And even then…

Anyway, one of those cross stitch kits from the craft store was definitely not going to be for me. I knew I wanted to create a starfish entirely from French knots—the texture would be perfect—so I drew 5 lines radiating out from the center and got started!

Project in progress
Project in progress

A French knot is one of those things—like knitting and reformatting a hard drive—for which I always have to rely on YouTube to provide a refresher course. Here’s a great tutorial (skip the first 30 seconds).

I picked my colors at random—I already had a couple skeins of the vibrant poppy in the center of the star and knew I wanted to work my way out to something more muted to tie in to a chair we have in our living room. Not having a pattern meant many trips to the craft store, sometimes just for one skein, but sometimes I need an excuse to get out of the house these days anyway.

Some of the legs are a little crooked, some are a little bulgy, and the overall shape certainly isn’t a geometrically perfect star, but I like her and she adds the perfect touch. These days she’s happily keeping watch over our living room, right next to the window that looks out over the ocean!

starfish_4659

Keeping up with Bess the Press

Hello blog readers! I’ve been doing a bad job of keeping you up to date lately… a long post just seems intimidating these days! Please make sure you like us on facebook to stay in the loop: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bess-the-Press

A couple cool things are happening over on that other website: I tried my hand at live micro-blogging this weekend. I had a lot to print and thought it would be fun to give my followers a more real-time experience of what printing is like. Along the same line of thinking, I photographed the process and posted the pictures as well. I hope that explains a little more about the process of printing—don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions!

Among the things I made this weekend is a beautiful stationery set for a Madison woman named Masarah. She’s been a fan for more than a year now and it always nice to collaborate with someone who has an appreciation for what you do. Her cards were simple and elegant: with her name blind embossed using lead type. As always, don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’re interested in a custom piece of your own!

Gift guide: DIY

Let’s be honest, if you’re reading this blog you’re probably pretty darn crafty and you’re thinking about making some of your gifts yourself. Here are a few great ideas and tutorials to get you started!

First up: for your dad, uncle, brother or husband, a tie is always a great choice. But why not put a little extra love into this standard gift by making it yourself? Easy instructions are available at the Purl bee blog.

I’ve been spending some time at Higher Fire, a local ceramics studio, throwing mugs and bowls of all sizes. Most towns have a studio that offers this type of thing—or classes if you’re just starting out. If you’re not feeling ambitious or clay isn’t your thing, check out your local paint your own pottery place.

A few years ago, my sisters bought me a necklace pretty similar to the one above. Now, the Bayside Bride blog offers easy instructions for how to make it!

The BEST Salad Ever!

I’m not a salad girl. At a restaurant I’m much more likely to order ribs and fries than a plate full of greens, but lately I’ve been craving just that. Well, actually just one salad in particular. Madison’s most authentic Irish pub on the capitol square, Brocach is home to the amazing Shades of Green salad and today I got all the fixins’ and whipped up my own version. Here’s my recipe!

Ingredients:
•Mixed greens—go with something more flavorful than Iceburg. I like a mix with frisée and some red or purple leaves, they have a bitterness that works great with the sweet elements in the toppings!
•Raspberry vinaigrette—the trick to a great salad is to toss your greens with your dressing before adding the rest of your ingredients!
•Bleu cheese crumbles
•Dried cranberries
•Candied walnuts

Mmmmm… I’m getting hungry again. Enjoy!

Easy DIY Ribbon Necklace

Last May, we featured a great ribbon-and-chain necklace in a BRAVA fashion shoot. While everyone from the models to our fashion coordinator coveted the lovely piece, I sat back and thought, “I could make that.” As with most things on that list, it took me months to get there, but finally, I have that perfect mix of hard and soft embodied in a piece of jewelry!

The project was so easy to make, I thought I’d share the super quick instructions with you!

Supplies:
•60″ length of 1.5″ wide satin ribbon
•ubiquitous tacky chain necklace from the ’80s (I’d venture to guess you could substitute a light chain from the hardware store instead!)

Step 1: Lay the necklace flat, making sure the links fall as you’ll want to wear it. Thread the ribbon through the first link. Leaving about 20″ of ribbon at the end, tie a knot.

Step 2: Weave the ribbon through the rest of the links, making sure not to flip any so the necklace will hang nicely around your neck.

Step 3: Keeping the necklace flat, tie a knot at the other end of the necklace to ensure the  chain doesn’t slip down the ribbon.

Step 4: Tie the necklace around your neck so it hangs at a length you like and voila!