Watercolor strings for Zentangle

I've shared about Zentangle here on the blog before but I don't think I've talked specifically about strings. Basically a string is a light framework for drawing a Zentangle pattern inside the shape created. They're typically drawn in pencil so that once you've tangled with ink those light lines recede and become unnoticeable. The second thing to know about a string is they're meant to come out of your pencil with ease and without trying to draw something specific. 

What I'm sharing with this project is a watercolor string that is actually very noticeable in the finished art. But in creating the watercolor line there is more randomness that occurs compared to drawing a line with a pencil.

I've created my "watercolor strings" a couple of ways. Note that none of those ways was taking a brush to the actual paper. I've dripped the watercolor onto the paper either using a brush or an eyedropper. You can make a bunch in one sitting to create a stockpile of pre-strung tiles.

Method 1

Method 1

Method 1
— Start with full sheets of cotton paper or bond paper.
— Have fun creating color combinations while dripping your water colors on your paper. You'll need to tip the sheet to make the color run, creating your lines.
— Alternately you can water down acrylics instead of watercolors.
— Use a ruler and x-acto knife to trim out as many 3.5 x 3.5 inch tiles as you can. After they're cut they can almost fit together like a puzzle. 
— Tangle to your hearts content

Method 2

Method 2

Method 2
— Follow all the instructions in Method 1 but use pre-cut Zentangle tiles instead.

Patterns used: Modified cheese cloth, Hollibaugh, Onion Drops, MmmForesty, and Papyrus.

One hundred days of Day Break Play: Start

Day 1 image from Instagram. Using my go to practice list.

Day 1 image from Instagram. Using my go to practice list.

Have you heard of The 100 Day Project? The quick synopsis is to choose 1 action and do it for 100 days while documenting it on Instagram. Background info on the whole project can be found here.

As I write this we're in the first week of the project so I thought I'd outline my project in greater detail than I have on Instagram. 

Day 2 image from Instagram. Various handwritings using various writing implements.

Day 2 image from Instagram. Various handwritings using various writing implements.

I had first come across The 100 Day Project a couple months ago and in that first encounter had decided not to do it. I didn't want another thing to add to my to-do list. But in the meantime I'd started to create some new routines for myself and have been working on getting up earlier in the morning to feel a little more personally productive before I go to my day job. 

Ten days before the project start I had the opportunity to see Elle Luna speak at a Creative Mornings event (currently no video but I imagine there will be one up soon). Seeing her speak sealed the deal and I knew I'd be participating in the project. 

Day 3 image from Instagram. Some days I might feel like playing with something random like legos.

Day 3 image from Instagram. Some days I might feel like playing with something random like legos.

My little piece of the 100 day project is 100 days of waking up and playing creatively pretty much first thing when I pop out of bed. (#100daysOfDayBreakPlay) I went back and forth for a bit on if I'd stick with using just one medium but then I realized this project is about doing the same action everyday. The important action for me is to get up and make. While I am very motivated to make, and do so often, I don't always do it everyday. I've found making things with my hands to be very meditative so I'm looking for this project to solidify that as a daily routine for myself.

While I won't be having any specific rule for myself on what I'll be creating, you will see lots of calligraphy and other hand lettering experiments. That's a medium I'm always exploring so it will ground my project by being my go-to on days that I'm not driven to play with something else. 

As for how many minutes I'll be making... I'd like it to be a minimum of 15 with a general goal of 45 mins. I'm not sure yet what will feel right so you'll notice on my daily Instagrams that I'm going to keep track of how much play time I got in to help me keep track. And because this is about play you will be seeing lots of in process photos. Some things will never turn into anything else but that days play.

I hope you follow along!

Felted Peeps


Did I fool ya? Some of those peeps are not like the others.

Most years I make something out of Peeps so this year I thought I'd make an everlasting Peep using needle felting. I figured it would help with peeps withdrawal after Easter to have one of these guys hanging around.

After making the first one at actual Peep size I thought I'd try going larger. The proportions were a little odd so that's why the pink one in the photo above is sporting a fluffy mohawk. Peeps are just more adorable at their petite marshmallow size.

And of course more adorable than a Peep itself is Peeps on little chicas. My friend Ada above has no problems wearing things on her head so I'm sure I'll be attaching more felted objects to her before she transforms into full on tot. Zara bellow was less into the hairband idea so I came up with the idea of turning her peep into a necklace. She loves it and I will be stealing her style and making a peep necklace for myself no doubt. (Note: the necklace is on the long side so she'll be able to enjoy it for many years).

The full peep lineup

The full peep lineup

Using yarn instead of wool roving

Using yarn instead of wool roving

One challenge for this project was finding wool roving in bright peep colors. My go-to local resource sometimes has a wide variety of colors and sometimes doesn't. So instead of waiting for roving to be shipped I bought wool yarn in bright colors to use. It's a little bit more of a process but works in a pinch.  

There's a couple things to be aware of when needle felting with yarn. Because I don't knit I didn't know there's a process called super washing that is done to some wool yarns. This is so you can actually wash your knitted sweater without having it to shrink. BUT this means the fibers won't work for needle felting. Look out for that when purchasing a yarn to felt with.

Second it's helpful to have a fiber blending tool. Shown in the photo above they're like miniature wool carders so you can unravel your yarn a bit before working with it. Just like a marshmallow Peep my felt version is white on the inside. I used natural roving for the base structure and then covered it and put the finishing touches on using one of the bright colors. For ease of use I just fuzzed up a little snip of yarn at a time.

Peeps eaten this season prior to writing this blog post: 0 
Peeps eaten while writing this blog post: 1 pink, 3 yellow. Yellow tastes the best/tastes the least like food coloring. 

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).