Thursday, January 31, 2008

An Etsy Find Lady's of the Letterpress

From time to time I like to showcase a few of the gems I find on Etsy - your place to buy and sell all things handmade. Let's face it I spend a lot of time on Etsy, and a fair amount of cash. So when I find something I'm thrilled with I figure I should share it with y'all.

The Lady's of the Letterpress badge was designed by and purchased from Heroes and Criminals Press. In the funny world of coincidence Jessica, the letterpress printer/artist happens to be a student of one of my dearest friends, at the University of Iowa Center for the Book. I guess the world of letterpress is a small one indeed.

This recent gem was actually a gift. My fella new I loved my Patagonia fleece vest that I've had for years and years, he also knew I never wore it. Why not? because it was a wrap present from a film I worked on back when I was working as a production assistant, and it wasn't a very good film, in fact I never bothered to see it, and they gave us the vests with a badge. The badge was a silly inside joke having to do with Lutherans and gun clubs, not really my cup of tea. Anyway, I never wore the vest.

Until now! I pointed out Jessica's shop, pointed out the badge, and fondly reveled in the small world warm feelings. My fella took it upon himself to order the badge, and - and this is the best part - he sewed it to my vest right over the top of the old icky badge. Perfectly, and meticulously hand-sewed it.

All stitched up

Now I wear my vest a lot. And each time that I do I am warmed not only by its wind proof fleece, but also by thoughts of my fella who sews, and my friends in Iowa, and the tiny community of Lady Letterpress Printers.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Gocco - A- Go - Go

I haven't done a lot of printing lately. I no longer have the access I used to have to letterpress equipment. I also have limited studio space. But I got the urge to print and so I dug out and dusted off the old Gocco and am fully embracing the low tech nature of it and have fallen in love all over again.

What is Gocco? Gocco is a Japanese screen printing system designed for home craft use. It has a small table top press, exposes the screens with battery powered flash bulbs, and uses water soluble inks. What that means is it's perfect for a studio with a limited amount of space, like my spare bedroom. There are no brain sizzling solvents, or inky fumes, which keeps us happy and healthy. And it's pretty versatile in what it can do. When you're exposing your screens your source image needs to be carbon based, that means photocopies work, and many drawing pens. When working with text that I don't want to hand write I do it up on the computer and then take it to the copy shop for a quick copy. Otherwise I draw all my originals. Lucky me my favorite drawing pens are all carbon based - Zig Millenniums, and the Staedtler Pigment Liners. Lead pencil also works, and you can order Riso pens from suppliers of Gocco accessories.

It's limitations - size. Size is the number one limitation with the Gocco system. The model I use has a print area of approximately 3.5" x 5" perfect for postcards, and smallish prints, but otherwise you're out of luck. There are larger systems, and I've got my eye on one. But mostly its small size suits me, I tend to work towards smallish anyway.

The other major limitation is availability. When I got my Gocco 5 or 6 years ago they were still available in the United States and I could get replacement inks and screens at my local art supply store. Since then there have been a lot of crazy rumors that they were not going to make them any more and that they would quickly become extinct. There was practically a movement on the internet to save Gocco. Near as I can tell the Gocco is still very popular all over the world - this means new models, replacement inks and accessories are still available off the internet. Places like Northwoods Studios, Felt Cafe, and Print Addict Japan all sell supplies on the internet, making availability pretty much a non-issue.

Want more? There is a community of Gocco users out there on the internet. There are yahoo groups, bloggers, flickr groups - (Gocco and Loco for Gocco), and Etsy shops - some of my favorites - Magic Jelly, and Jan Allsop.

I love my Gocco - Mostly I love how low tech and non-toxic it is, making it possible for me to print in the spare bedroom.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Sort of Metaphorical House Cleaning

At the New Year I seem to find myself setting goals, making lists, and performing a sort of metaphorical house cleaning. I suspect that I'm not alone. I also suspect that other artists and crafts people find themselves setting similar goals, making similar lists, and performing similar tasks. Perhaps this post will resonate with my fellow crafters. Perhaps this post will bore the pants off everyone else. Or maybe they'll get a sort of voyeuristic glimpse into the business of crafting. In any case it's what's been on my mind and taking my time lately and so it is what I should post about.

First off there is the really rather tedious and mundane, but no less necessary tidying. I speak of things like updating your website, updating the sidebar of your blog, updating your various online profiles. And giving the Etsy Shop a makeover. If you snoop around you'll notice I have most of these done. Thank goodness.

Then there is the goal setting. You know, things like deciding which grants you'll apply for, which shows you'll do or apply for, which new venues you'll pursue, and developing new marketing strategies. My favorite part of these tasks is getting a brand new daily calendar and carefully plotting out the whole year. I write in due dates and deadlines. I write in reminders to myself well in advance of those due dates and deadlines. I write in which shows are when, making mental notes of my busy months online, that way I won't be caught short of inventory, in theory anyway.

I also make lists and take copious notes on projects I want to do. This year I've included 4 new artists books (at least two of which are carry overs from previous years), a letterpress printed broadside, a calendar project (for 2009 of course), and a whole mess of screen printed tidbits, cards and other assorted ephemera. Most years I don't get as much done as I think I will, but every year I have high hopes, and that's what counts.

This year I have made a few crafting resolutions as well. The big one is I have resolved to learn a new piece of software. I asked for and received Adobe In Design for Christmas with the intention of putting it to good use. I admit I'm intimidated. I have resolved to not neglect marketing. I have resolved to be productive and love what I make. I have resolved to stick with this dang blog.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Final Finished Object of 2007

Here it is - the last finished object of 2007. I finished the One Row Scarf from the Yarn Harlot on New Year's Eve - a little late as a Christmas gift but loved all the same. I did this in Noro Silk Garden and love it.

If you've got an itch to knit a scarf go for this one - The pattern is free, simple to memorize, fun to knit, and the texture looks great. Just be sure to do it with a yarn that has some interest, like a hand spun. I plan to do another with some hand spun I got on my trip to Minneapolis and have been saving. Perhaps it will be the first finished object of 2008. Looking back it was a pretty darn productive year when it comes to knitting. Happy New Year! We'll see what awaits us in the new year.