Watercolor Commissions

Each year, a dear friend does a fair amount of her Christmas shopping from my shop. This year was no different, but instead of cards and stationery, she took advantage of one of my new offerings and commissioned several watercolor paintings. Now that the paintings are in the hands of their happy recipients, I can finally share them with you!

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It all started with the radish watercolor I sold last year. Brittney asked if I was planning on more vegetables, and when I said yes, she made a special request for beets! I especially love how the leaves turned out on this one—I made sure to keep the painting very wet and loose so the varying colors I added could flow into each other and dry with the natural variations that make watercolor so great!

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Next up: something new! That’s Deirdre up there, and she loves flamingos, so Brittney asked if I’d be up for doing a little something different, and of course I was! The texture of the feathers was a bit of a challenge, but I feel like I got it just right.

Don’t worry, I’ve saved the best for last (or maybe it’s just my favorite because it’s the one I finished most recently…). For this piece, Brittney sent a few inspiration images, and they were all sketches and drawings, so I decided to go with a different medium. I created an abstract background with blue, purple and green watercolor, then inked the drawing (which I had already sketched in pencil) over the top. I don’t draw much any more, and this reminded me how much I miss it!

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I’d love to do more commissioned work in the future, so if you’re interested in a very special gift, or artwork for yourself, get in touch!

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Words with Friends

As you may remember, just a few weeks before I moved to Bermuda, I bought a bunch of vintage wood type from a college classmate who was closing her shop. I never even got a chance to print with it in Wisconsin, it went straight from the back of my car to the containers I was loading into my crate.

typeA_6793Within the first few months, I had proofed all the type and was offering custom stationery sets in a variety of styles along with a handful of type-based note cards, but after that I focused on my attention on my spring collection and let my wood type gather dust.

I’m happy to report that I’m rather word-focused at the moment and my collection of vintage type is getting inked up regularly. Check out the stop-motion video I made of locking up type before printing!

The “hell yeah” card and others are now available in my etsy shop. Here are a few of my faves—check them all out here!

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mazel_6967 bestMOMever_6592 bestDADever_6796Oh hi! You made it all the way to the end of the post! For that you get a little sneak peek of something else I’ve been working on… more to come :) Thanks for reading!

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Typhography textiles

navy_4744Confession: I love watching home improvement/décor shows. Back when I owned (and was in the process of rehabbing) a century-old bungalow, watching them was a near daily activity. I’ve weaned myself in recent years, but a few months back I caught an episode in which the host and her trusty sidekick rustle up some antique wood type and simply stamp them on canvas for fairly inexpensive art.

Lucky for me, I happen to already own a lot of antique wood type.

I had silver metallic screen printing ink from a few years back when I thought I’d take up yet another method of printing (because I don’t have enough on my hands), so I decided to use that on regular fabric instead of gessoed canvas.

navy_4748My plan was to print enough to stretch around a frame large enough to cover an unsightly fuse box in our entry way, plus enough extra to do a test wash and maybe a few scraps to include in a patchwork pillow project I have planned. While I had the ink out I also wanted to test out an idea for bespoke monogrammed wrapping paper I’ve been kicking around for a while.

Thanks to the magic of television, I didn’t realize how incredibly time consuming the project would be! After spending entirely too long printing a 12”x12” block of paper, I realized it wasn’t going to be a feasible option for retail (although my sister’s Christmas presents looked fab).

The letters printed more rustically than I anticipated, but I love how the fabric turned out! What do you think? Would you invest in hand-printed fabric for an accent pillow or piece of art?

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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.

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The studio

Ever since I fell in love with typography and letterpress in college, I knew one day I’d buy a press. One day meaning when I had a house to put it in and the time to do it (ok, so maybe just the former).

Then came craigslist. The boyfriend, he is addicted, and he found this press under an hour away from where we live. With everything I needed to start a studio. Plus type. For cheap. How is this possible? Well, of course because I had nowhere to put it. Then the most surprising part of this whole enterprise, my parents were easily sweet-talked into letting me take over half their basement. I had a studio!

just after she moved into the basement (left) and with her second inking (the first one was a bit of a disaster)
Bess, my press: just after she moved into the basement and during her second inking (first successful print — the first one was a bit of a disaster)

A very dirty studio. A studio covered in dust and bugs and 120 years of ink and solvent (mixed with dust and bugs of course). I bronze-brushed every square inch of the press (ok, only the important square inches, but it works, doesn’t it?) and have been slowly but surely going through the process of taking every compartment of type out, cleaning it in denatured alcohol, drying it and putting it into a clean type case.

dusty type (no bugs in this drawer at least), a toad who thought a freshly washed type drawer would make a nice home, delicious squeaky clean lead type.
Top: the drawers of type. Bottom, left to right: dusty type (no bugs in this drawer at least), a toad who thought a freshly washed type drawer would make a nice home, delicious squeaky clean lead type.

Then I had to figure out the whole image thing. The only image I had ever letterpressed before I made with a solar plate, which didn’t create a deep enough impression, wasn’t mounted at the right height and was generally a total and complete pain in the ass. Thanks to briarpress, I found boxcar, and later Owosso Graphics.

While boxcar does beautiful work and many many letterpress artists swear by their photopolymer system, I like Owosso for two reasons. 1) The initial investment is significantly less (as in less than 10% of what it would have taken to start with boxcar’s system) and 2) There’s something wonderful about working with wood and metal, materials that have been used in this manner since this method of printing was invented, that photopolymer plates simply can’t match. Since then, I’ve also found they have great customer service (as in they call you if they’re unclear on your order—a real person, not an automated anything) and a super quick turn-around. GO OWOSSO!