Not handwriting

At first glance the photo above may look like something from the past. A closer look and you see it's a marriage of the essence of the past with more modern technology. A mechanical arm holding a vial of ink attached to a pen nib writes out religious text in angled gothic letterforms. Descriptive text tells me that "as a person approaches the sculpture the machine becomes 'distracted', making textual errors as it copies". Eventually it transforms the Gospel of Mark into a different text.

Is this handwriting? There is no hand. It looks like what was once traditionally called handwriting.

Across the room over a dozen machines wielding ball point pens write out texts from a programed search of the internet beginning with — America is not... Germany is not... Norge is not... Canada is not... — they stop, they stagger, they spit out more and more paper with variations of cursive handwriting in the dominate language of the country. Again, is this handwriting?

These images are from an exhibit at the Museum of Craft and Design. The art installations in the room are by Chris Eckert. He's created elaborate machines to highlight and automate the tedious which even includes a machine to pray the rosary.

At one time all the words on the printed page were hand typeset individually with lead letters forming the word. Now we tap out those same letters on keyboards that hold the memory of a typewriter. Our keyboards have the same configuration of the typewriter that was designed to slow the typist down just enough so the arms thwaking at the page didn't get tangled and caught in each other. When handwritten passages were handset, cases to hold the loose type were designed so the typesetter could quickly get at the letters used most often. It was about speed. It is still about speed. And say it in 140 characters or less.

A couple weeks after seeing the Mechanical Parables exhibit I read an article on Wired about Bond. It's a company with a writing machine not dissimilar from the one in the exhibit. Originally is was designed to write out personal messages to recipients of high end gifts. The company created it as a solution to their own problem. They wanted to include a personal handwritten note with each of their shipments but found they couldn't keep up with the demand... [because writing takes man hours]. Still wanting it to be personal they came up with the solution of having a machine write the sentiments from the gift givers. Their machine is also programmed to make errors, though these errors are in the letterforms themselves. So it's not exactly a pen plotter with a fancy nib. Ultimately their solution has become their business and they seem to have forgone the gift curating aspect. You can now compose and send your own messages in the mail through Bond.

When I first read about Bond I was a little grossed out. [People can't even write their own cards anymore!] And I still have mixed feelings. If the gift component was still there, making it an upscale version of Amazon I agree it would be adding some intimacy to an online buying experience. For centuries pen to paper has emphasized the sentiments of messages, but what does it mean when you separate the tactile element coming from the one giving the personal sentiment? Is it handwriting?

Currently the handwriting [or robot writing] choices available are created from real handwriting samples. They're not the elaborate copperplate calligraphy I've been practicing. They are perhaps a neater version of what anyone could write if those muscles aren't to atrophied from texting and typing. Sending this style note could be confused for a truer version than what it is. You might not realize your neighbor didn't personally write the note thanking you for a fundraiser donation but wouldn't it feel weird if you got a note from your mom written in Nikola Tesla's handwriting? 

So, yes, I still have mixed feelings. When I watched the video from Bond it's so ernest that I kept having to remind myself I was watching in February and nowhere near April 1. This was not a joke. That earnestness is hopeful because at the root it it about keeping connection and making it easier for people to stay connected in our socially networked saturated world. You also have the option of having your own handwriting scanned making the whole experience a high tech version of yourself. I definitely see how this could bring some intimacy to business correspondence.

Ultimately I do not think this is handwriting but it doesn't mean it can't evoke the same emotions. It's allowing those who no longer write handwritten notes anyhow to have an alternative and of-the-moment fun way to do it. Ultimately the words being written are still coming from a singular human. [I think therefor I am?] We'll start to worry when the Hallmark of the future as depicted in Her becomes a reality.

What do you think?

Links of related interest
Museum of Craft and Design. The Chris Eckert installation along with another equally compelling exhibit called Data Clay will be available until April 19th, 2015.
Wired article about Bond

Blog post I wrote about the calligraphy trend
Blog post I wrote about the design trend of handmade

Watercolor greeting + surprise

This little note I've made holds a surprise. It's both a greeting and a gift because the inside holds a watercolor palette.

The watercolor palette is made using Peerless Watercolors. My favorite supply store, Arch introduced me to this tool. They're highly concentrated colors that sit dry on sheets of paper. A wet paintbrush easily picks up the color. (A little goes a long way.) The history of this product goes back over 100 years. They were originally designed for photo retouching and colorizing black and white photography. The little booklet comes with original instructions for that purpose (along with 15 colors).

Some of the colors have a fractal pattern similar to frozen ice on a lake.

Some of the colors have a fractal pattern similar to frozen ice on a lake.

There is also an expansion pack of watercolors available. Using all the colors at my disposal I cut little swatches to make a full portable watercolor palette for crafting on-the-go. Below the swatches there is crystal clear cellophane tape that can act as a mixing palette. This on-the-go palette idea came from my friend Caryn at Arch when she showed me this product.

Of course my next logical step was to create greetings for this easily giftable art supply. To go with the watercolor theme I wanted a watercolor look to my calligraphy. Using paint similar to gouache I used two primary colors and let them mix to purple in my pen nib. I applied the color using eyedroppers. If you were to use the peerless watercolors for your calligraphy ink you'd get much lighter letterforms so the gouache allows for a more substantial ink.

The peerless watercolors are so concentrated a little swatch goes a long way. I still have so much left for personal use and making more palettes.

Most of the colors in the palette look very different once exposed to water.

Most of the colors in the palette look very different once exposed to water.

This was my paint setup for writing the calligraphed greeting.

This was my paint setup for writing the calligraphed greeting.

I made a handful of these for gifting and for mailing to you! To get one of these greetings in the mail make sure you're signed up to play The Mail Game. This will be the handmade goody I send to the winners of my next mailing (in March 2015).

Project Resources
If you're not in San Francisco to head to Arch I've got you covered with these online resources.

— Peerless Watercolors (set of 15)
Peerless Watercolors (expansion set)
Watercolor brush with water reservoir (handy for using with the portable palette).
Bristol paper (for making the card)
Double stick tape (to adhere the color swatches)
Crystal clear tape (for creating a mixing palette)
Gouache (for the calligraphy. I don't have an online resource for the exact paints I've used so I'm including a link for a different set that I've used). 

A pop of green

I remember a magical moment; waking up to find green footprints leading me into the bathroom where a large dinosaur formerly known as a brontosaurus sat in the tub, inflatable and green. It was St. Patrick's day and I was six and a half.

I think I love holidays because they all come with a little dose of magic. What's more magical than finding gold at the end of the rainbow? Perhaps these things seem so much more magical as a child because we don't know how the mechanics of the world work yet. Either way we try right? We dye scrambled eggs, rivers, and beer green for one day a year. So I ask you... why not popcorn?!

This is an easy little DIY to create some green magic and a pretty healthy snack.

— Popcorn, popped in an air popper or plain microwavable
— Green food coloring
— About 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
— Clean spray bottle previously used only for water or food purposes
— Optional seasonings of salt, dill, OR seaweed 


  1. Poor olive oil into the spray bottle and add about 8 drops of food color. 
  2. Shake vigorously. Test that it squirts out of the bottle. It will likely only squirt not mist.
  3. As your popcorn pops into your bowl spray with green oil. Or squirt on after for microwave popped.
  4. Add additional seasonings of your choice. I recommend dill or seaweed seasoning for even more green!

(Be aware that when you use a lot of food coloring you can sometimes taste it. I recommend adding enough to create some pops of green instead of trying to douse every kernel in color).

Crafty garage sale not in a garage

This Sunday I'm participating in a crafty garage sale with many other creatives. It's being held at the Hand Craft Studio School in Emeryville from 11am – 5pm.

I've been going through my studio and all the nooks and crannies where I store stuff and am pretty surprised by the amount I've gathered up to part ways with. Some materials are left overs and extras from old projects and some are for crafts I never could get into. Ehem, knitting. So if you're in the Bay Area it should be a fun time and you'll likely go away with something to create with. 

Besides the goods in these pics some of the other notable things I'm selling are; letterpress inks, a sewing machine that needs a little love, and two old but functioning digital cameras.

I Weave You

Today I'm sharing my first little loom weavings as I've started to explore this craft. I bought myself a loom for Christmas at the West Coast Craft Fair from Meghan Shimek. She has a beginner's kit that includes, loom, yarn, and an instruction book for making a sampler weaving. The sampler is a good tutorial for learning basic techniques and how to merge different kinds of yarn within a weaving.

I had been wanting to take a beginning class for awhile so decided to just go the kit route. I was also given a little tutorial when I purchased my loom. It was very helpful along with hunting down some good blog posts and youtube tutorials on the subject.

This heart weaving is the first project I've planned out. I wanted to use only yarns I already owned. With a little help from a friend I decided to make it a fuzzy heart using wool roving.

This heart weaving is the first project I've planned out. I wanted to use only yarns I already owned. With a little help from a friend I decided to make it a fuzzy heart using wool roving.

My first weaving made with the Meghan Shimek kit.

My first weaving made with the Meghan Shimek kit.

This was my second little weaving and I was exploring fibers I already owned.

This was my second little weaving and I was exploring fibers I already owned.

In the past when I've gone to the yarn store to get wool roving for needle felting projects I've always had to avert my eyes from all the wonderful looking yarns. If I bought them they would have just waited for a future project or a future where I suddenly enjoy knitting. Unlike knitting I do indeed weave it!