Merry Christmas!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and a lot like my Christmas cards will be arriving late in the mail. While my cards were one of the first holiday projects I made this season they're the last to make it out the door. I'm checking my list (and addresses) twice. Soon my holiday greeting and paper tree will belatedly arrive at doorsteps.

When designing this years card I kept in mind the limitations of my small table top letterpress. I also wanted to incorporate my calligraphy to illustrate the card. I knew I wanted to send out a folding Christmas tree so the design of the card evolved from that concept. Of course it should be presents for under the tree. I'm very pleased with how it all printed.

It was not possible to keep a heavy inking consistent for the green of the packages so I knew I'd be letting the ink naturally fall off as I printed my cards.

It was not possible to keep a heavy inking consistent for the green of the packages so I knew I'd be letting the ink naturally fall off as I printed my cards.

Put the presents under the tree! To keep things less complicated I drew a pattern   that could be printed back to back without worry of registration. And I cut all these trees out by hand (with x-acto) so I needed the pattern to be forgiving for that as well.

Put the presents under the tree! To keep things less complicated I drew a pattern that could be printed back to back without worry of registration. And I cut all these trees out by hand (with x-acto) so I needed the pattern to be forgiving for that as well.

I added gold elastic to turn some of my pop-up trees into gift toppers.

I added gold elastic to turn some of my pop-up trees into gift toppers.

Have a wonderful Christmas! I'm hoping to have one more post before taking a little break to enjoy the festivities.

Costume randomizer and inspiration

If you can't tell, I love Halloween. As an adult who hasn't gone tricker treating door to door in years there's a few reasons I love it so much. It's a time of year that brings out the creative maker in even those who don't categorize themselves as a craftsperson. For the all year crafter it can be an opportunity to make something with a material not normally used or stretch a little further beyond comfort zones. With costumes there's a lot of forgiveness of imperfection because ultimately it's about fun.

While I don't trick or treat I still celebrate at an annual bar hop with friends. While the bars are a natural social setting there's something different about Halloween. Being dressed up creates an easy way to connect. You can run up to a complete stranger on the street and shout with excitement that you get their costume. You get to witness peoples creativity and there's lots of conversations about how something was made. There's conversations of all sorts. Stimulated by pop-culture and of the moment news stories.

With all the potential fun to be had it can still be stressful to come up with a costume in time. For that I've got some exercises to get the ideas flowing. First I present to you:

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Sometimes it can be helpful to think about new twists on traditional Halloween themed characters. Or combine two of those ideas to make something new. A friend of mine once dressed as a Vampirate. I'll always remember it's punnyness and how she created something new out of two common go-to costume ideas.

Another brainstorming method is to start with a prop you already have. Think of all you can do with it. I love to start with a hat and think of all the costumes it could be incorporated into. You'll recognize some of the hats below from my past costumes.

Sometimes inspiration is instant. When I found the kids helmet at a yard sale I knew I had to be a 49er and the Ranger Hat was calling for me to dress up as my fav mascot Smokey Bear. The pirate hat however I bought on a whim because it was two bucks and found a unique costume twist for it later on.

Lastly I've got some rather strange ideas right here for you. In creating this seasons calligraphy practice list I had to go to the dictionary for some costume inspiration. I made up some character combinations you're unlikely to find in the Halloween aisle. These are costume words that run the A – Z gamut for practicing your calligraphy or if you feel inspired dress up as one of these!

Thanks Gritchelle Fallesgon for the photography of me in funny hats!

Calligraphy chalk for Chiotras

I recently had the opportunity to take my first stab at chalk pho-calligraphy for Chiotras Grocery. They're my neighborhood corner store and sandwich shop (note they're not actually on a corner). They had a huuuuuge chalkboard perfect for making a menu board. If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen some of my progress images. I'm happy to say it's complete! Well except for a couple sandwiches being added to the menu. How could I forget one of my favs; eggplant, pesto, mozzarella!?

I'm really excited to see how this helps out the business. Before the sign was even put up on the wall one of my neighbors remarked "Lox bagel! I want that!" I told him it's always been on the menu. This highlighted perfectly why I wanted to work on this project. I love my little market. It's always a great experience being a customer but I wanted it to be even better for everyone.

Because this chalkboard is so huge it actually wasn't made of slate. That would be hella heavy. That made it a little more difficult to erase mistakes but for the most part windex helped do the trick. In this process I discovered a new tool. Bistro Chalk Markers are just like paint pens but with chalk ink! Erasable! Mind blown. 

Before starting in on the big menu I did some color tests on a mini chalkboard I had and then created the above specials board to start. For the larger menu I sketched the bigger words with pencil along with the dividing lines. You can see some of the pencil marks in the pics below but when looking from a distance you don't see them. The graphite can be removed with windex as well but involved more elbow grease than I had available. 

If you're ever in Potrero Hill and in need of a sandwich take a visit to Chiotras! A great store and great neighbors with yelp reviews to prove it.

Thank you Gritchelle Fallesgon for getting a couple pics of me working on the sign early in the process.

Celebrating a year of calligraphy with a summer word list

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It's my calligraversary! Myyy ca-llig-ra-ver-sary. And now I have an awful song in my head. Regardless I'm happy to say I've been practicing calligraphy for one year. The first 6 months was spent diligently practicing a few hours a week. And the last 6 months I've been less disciplined. I've mostly trotted out my new skill for creating notes for well wishes. I am so thankful that I did spend that chunk of time early on practicing. It felt like learning a foreign language. At times I needed to reference my notes to get my hand to translate the letter forms. But now I feel much more fluent and it flows pretty quickly even when I haven't practiced in awhile. 

If you've been thinking of taking up calligraphy and need some reasons to take the plunge I've got five for you.

It gives you a super power. You can instantly make something special for someone. Not that many people know how to do it, so, those who encounter your calligraphy will be wowed. 

It gives you a disguise. While on the topic of super powers my basic grocery list handwriting has not improved BUT I can quickly disguise that fact when I cloak it in calligraphy.

No spell check. Why is that an advantage? Well it's a good way to just practice good ol' fashioned spelling. I know I am very dependent on spell check but when I'm writing calligraphy I'm writing slowly and there's plenty of time to recognize if a word doesn't look right (sometimes). 

Endless possibilities. It's a skill. Like learning the basics of how to sew or knit you have a new medium to create from.

It's Cheap! You certainly can spend some dough on it but as hobbies go the basics are incredibly affordable. Paper, ink, pen nib, and holder won't cost much more than $25. Get a good book and if you can afford it take a class. A class will get you up and running more quickly.

It's been helpful for me to have go to word lists to practice from. Because summer is around the corner and Memorial Day weekend is on our heals I've created a new list. It's a summer day dream because we don't get much of the season in San Francisco. I hope it helps everyone to keep practicing!

Since google can't read calligraphy (yet) I'm also typeing out the summer word list for calligraphy practice:

August Fruit, Beach Umbrella, Ice Cream Excursions, Skinny Dipping Youth, X-Games, July Heat, Lake Kayaking, Maps, Naps, Ocean Wave, Twilights Quiet, Vacation Reading, Pool, Zou-bisou-bisou.

As you can see I have to get creative with the X an Z words. And oops, spelled kayak wrong.

I have much more practice ahead of me. To see how far I've come in a year check out my first calligraphy post and my six month followup. Both include word lists.

Christmas calligraphy

It's been six months since I started practicing calligraphy! Calligraphy has made it's way into my crafting world. I use it weekly in writing celebratory notes or just purely for practice. I'd been using a set of practice words I picked out which span the alphabet to gauge my progress. For the holidays I switched it up a bit by pulling words from 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. The poem doesn't include words beginning with every letter from the alphabet so I took some creative liberty to add some words that fit the story. This was a good opportunity to write in a color other than black and use different types of inks.

If you're curious about my progress take a look at my original calligraphy post.

Red ink on the left is a fountain pen ink by Winsor & Newton. The green on the right is an India Ink by Dr.PH.Martin's. I preferred working with the red because it held a consistent saturation as it flowed from the nib.

Red ink on the left is a fountain pen ink by Winsor & Newton. The green on the right is an India Ink by Dr.PH.Martin's. I preferred working with the red because it held a consistent saturation as it flowed from the nib.

The green on the left I mixed with gouache. Perhaps a bit too watery but I preferred working with it over the green India Ink from the first image. To keep a standard measure I generally practice with black ink, shown on the right. I've recently started using Higgins Eternal. I've actually found it a bit easier to work with than the Pelikan ink I was previously using. I was surprised since the HIggins is half the price.

The green on the left I mixed with gouache. Perhaps a bit too watery but I preferred working with it over the green India Ink from the first image. To keep a standard measure I generally practice with black ink, shown on the right. I've recently started using Higgins Eternal. I've actually found it a bit easier to work with than the Pelikan ink I was previously using. I was surprised since the HIggins is half the price.

I created some  catnip toys  labeled Merry Catnip and Fleas Navidad. 

I created some catnip toys labeled Merry Catnip and Fleas Navidad.