Friday, January 8, 2021

Blue Rhythm Linocut

A dear friend of ours recently lost his Mom to Covid and he had the difficult task of starting to clean her house.  When he texted me to ask if I would like his Mom's dishes my first reaction was to say no because I have A LOT of dishes. But then he texted a photo of the plates.  They were the most perfect shade of light blue with a lovely flower pattern in the middle; plus they had a beautiful scalloped edge.  I tried to resist, but I really did love the plates.  So without much arm-twisting I accepted. 

"There are connoisseurs of blue just as there are connoisseurs of wine."
— Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette

When he dropped them off I saw they were made by Harmony House and the pattern was called "Blue Rhythm."  I did a little research and they are not easy to find. said the pattern was discontinued around 1959.

I wanted to send my friend a condolence card and thank him for the plates.  Then it dawned on me that I could make a print of the plate pattern.  I liked that he would still have an image to remind him of the plates and his Mom.  


I started by photographing the plate, shrinking the pattern in Photoshop, printing it out, tracing the pattern, and then transferring to my plate.  I was also very excited to try out my new Japanese screw punch to make the tiny circles.


For this project it was important to match the color as closely as I could.  As you can see, my first attempt in the lower left hand corner was too green. 

Below you can see a video of me burnishing and pulling a print.

I still have square translucent envelopes left over from my wedding almost twenty years ago.  They have come in handy many times since then and I knew I wanted to use them for this.  I love the look of the print coming through the envelope.

I felt deeply honored that my friend gave me these dishes and I look forward to having him for dinner served on "Blue Rhythm" plates when this pandemic is over.

"O moon
Mingle our quiet tears
With the tail of comets. . . 
For so the soul begins."
—Jean-Marc quoted in Hidden Journey by Andrew Harvey  

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Laser-engraved Hand-painted Coptic-bound Book

"If you hide your weirdness, how will your weirdo kindred be able to recognize you?
Be your strange, imperfect self. That's your gift to the world.
Always let your true colors show - Always let your true colors show." 

A few years ago I was in a meeting of local entrepreneurs and we were going around the table briefly telling what we do.  My ears pricked up when a person named Tiffany said, "I make... Curious Goods."  When I went to her website, it included items like, "Hogwarts Invitation Letters, Mad-eye Moody Pocket Watches, Narnia Maps, Pokeweed Ink, Wand Boxes, Alethiometers, and Polyjuice Potion, just to name a few items. "Who is this person?" I thought, "I am going to like her."  And sure enough we became friends. 

Tiffany is who I think of when I hear the word "maker."  She is truly one of the most clever, intelligent, creative people I know and she can make just about anything she wants.  Here are some of the places where you can see her creations:

Examples of Tiffany's laser-engraved coptic-bound books available at CuriousQuails on Etsy

Tiffany recently taught a course on making coptic-bound books that had custom laser-engraved covers (above).  I loved the books that she made and thought maybe I could make one for my brother-in-law Jim.  He recently started a new native plant business, and I designed the logo and website.  So I sent the logo files off to Tiffany and she sent me the laser-etched covers with Jim's logo on it.  


After I received the covers I thought I would stain or paint the engraved boards to match the colors of Jim's logo.  I ended up thinning acrylic paint down with water and it worked perfectly.  I liked that you could still see the grain through the paint.

“Because she was looking down and focusing her attention so precisely, Alice lost track of time and of herself. She wouldn't be able to put it into words, except to say she felt removed from the world. Or just at its edge. At the edge of the wild and beautiful world. She felt small, too. But part of something large. She was happy.”
― Kevin Henkes, Junoniaz


I decided to use nice, thick Stonehenge paper for the interior of the book.  I have quite a bit leftover from printmaking and it is a great paper because it can take watercolors.  In bookmaking, a signature is a group of sheets folded in half and sewn into the binding as a unit.  Because the paper was so thick my signatures only had 3-4 flat sheets (before folding).   I ripped the paper down to size so that it was an 1/8 inch less than the boards on the top, bottom and right.  The left side snugs up tight once sewn so you don't have to leaved space on that side.


The next step was to poke holes in the signatures.  I used the holes Tiffany drilled in the boards and made the signature holes the same distance from the edge. I used an awl to poke through the paper, but you could also use a needle. 


There are several different ways to sew the binding and many different YouTube videos. Tiffany sent me this video to follow, but I struggled a bit and ended up going rogue.  It might be best to take Tiffany's class and to have proper instruction.  But I made do, and it turned out OK.

"We don't accomplish anything in this world alone ... and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something." 
— Sandra Day O'Connor


I made the following video that shows the process from start to finish.  I took photos as I painted each butterfly and it is so fun to see them popping up and to watch as the cover turns green with plants.  Turn on your volume!


Below you can see the final book.  I sent it off to Jim, and the package circled Pennsylvania for 18 days!  I was so relieved when he finally got it.

I am a bit of a control freak and don't often collaborate on projects.  But this was a great experience and it was so fun to work with Tiffany to make the book.  Thank you Tiffany!!!

I also want to give a shout out to Jim and his amazing endeavor.  If you live near the Finger Lakes please spread the word about Jim's new native plant nursery,  Their goal is to to populate local landscapes with native plants to create pathways for pollinators and local wildlife.  If we all planted native plants in our yards, can you imagine the positive impact we could have on our environment? 

“We are all connected to everyone and everything in the universe.
Therefore, everything one does as an individual affects the whole.
All thoughts, words, images, prayers, blessings, and deeds are listened to by all that is.”
— Serge King

If there is one thing I learned this year, it is that we are all connected.  I have a habit of working in my own little bubble and rarely coming up for air to see what is happening around me.  Being a part of a creative group of people has shown me the importance of supporting each other and that magic can happen when we come together. 

As 2020 comes to a close I want to wish everyone a safe, connected, and happy new year.  Good health and joy to all of you in 2021! 

“And now we welcome the new year.
Full of things that have never been.” 
Rainer Maria Rilke    

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Peppermint Print

"Don't feel guilty about being happy during this difficult time.
You do not help at all being sad and without energy.
You help if good things emanate from the Universe now.
It is through joy that one resists...

—excerpted quote from White Eagle of the Hopi Nation,  (full quote here)


I don't know why, but I have an obsession with folk patterns and design.  When I was thinking about what to do this year for my holiday print I knew I wanted to combine a plant image with a folk pattern.  I started by looking back at my old files and came across an image I made in 2011 of Hansel and Gretel next to a gingerbread house.  At the bottom of the image was an alternating pattern of gingerbread men and peppermints.  (You can see the image here).  When I saw the peppermint, the idea came to me to do a peppermint flower!  It not only combined plants and folk patterns, but had the added bonus of holiday cheer.  


I designed my image in Illustrator and printed it onto paper.  I then traced the image and transferred it to my block by rubbing the back with a credit card.

After transferring to the block,  I carved the design using Flexcut carving tools.  This print took me somewhere between one and two hours to carve.  I also really like photographing the plate before it has any ink on it.  I love how the image is only seen through light and shadow.  It reminds me of icing and I want to eat it up!


Once I was satisfied with the carving I moved to the studio to print.  Below you can see my printing setup.  
For this particular print I devised a "high tech" wood frame and cardboard registration system. I used double-sided tape to stick the plate to a piece of cardboard that was 1/4'' bigger than the plate.  Then I glued two pieces of wood together to form a corner that my paper could rest against as I placed the paper down onto the plate.  My system worked OK.  After a while the plate shifted a bit and I had to peel it off and place it in the proper position again. 

The video below shows the process from start to finish.  Although if you look closely, you will see the video is of me pulling the test print before I devised my fancy registration system.   

(Music: "Jingle Bells" by Scott  Holmes, Free Music Archive)


The bulk of the printing took me four days (plus an extra half day when I realized I didn't have enough).  My original goal was to print 144 peppermints.  I tried to limit myself to about 30 to 40 prints a day to save my wrist and hands from too much wear and tear.  
As usual, I ended up carrying all of the prints upstairs on long sheets of cardboard and laid them on the radiators to dry.  
Once everything dried, it was so fun to lay them all out on the big table in my studio.  
If you look at them from a distance they look like a red and white carpet.
“Unravel my magic carpet.
Shake the gold dust from my trips to the sun
& take it for a spin, to the center of your universe; Within.”

― Curtis Tyrone Jones

In addition to photographing the prints together, I like to take close-ups of a single print.  The cats and I went out to the back porch one day and we had fun playing with the peppermints.


After the photo shoots I went through each one to see if there were any problems.  There were the obvious rejects that had fingerprints or large smudges.  But sometimes a print was perfect except for a little "string" of ink or a blob in an unfortunate place.  For those I attempted to carefully use an X-Acto blade to scrape off the offending error.  Sometimes I was successful, but sometimes I ended up ruining the print.  I had about a 60/40 success to failure ratio.  It was probably better to just leave them alone but I couldn't help myself.  Overall I ruined about 11 prints from fingerprints, ink "strings", messiness, crookedness, and my "corrections".  I did have to go back after I thought I was finished and print 6 more in order to have enough for my Christmas list.  In the end I ended up with 139 prints.    

In addition to making corrections, I also numbered, titled, and signed each print.   


The past year or two we have been including a poem describing our year.  I wasn't sure how this year's poem would pan out with the pandemic, but George picked up where I left off and we wrote it fairly quickly.  I also decided to include a sliver of one of my "pandemic" sketches (you can read more about them here).  In addition to being a nice recap of the year, I like that the folded poem provided a nice way to protect the print when pulling it out of the envelope.


This year has been a difficult one in many ways.  The main way I was able to stay sane was to concentrate on doing my art.  When I would start to feel stressed I would redirect myself to my work and it felt like an oasis in the desert.  The work is not just a distraction but a joy, and I am so thankful for it.

I wish I could send everyone I know a hand-printed peppermint card.  You know I would do it if I could!  But what I can do is wish each and every person good health, happy holidays and a new year filled with wondrous possibility and peppermint joy.  Thank you for going on this wild, delightful ride with me!  And remember, "When life gives you a global pandemic, focus on the peppermint!"
“The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives
and everything to do with the focus of our lives.” 
—Russel M. Nelson

Monday, November 30, 2020

Stepped Gable House Sketch


A few weeks ago I sketched a house in Norwood that I really liked.  I had such fun with that one I decided I would start photographing any house that caught my eye.  A couple weeks ago I was walking with George in Walnut Hills and was basically taking pictures of every single house because the architecture is amazing.  As I was photographing this particular house (and pointing at the lovely brick detail) the owner got out of his car.  I was a little embarrassed to be caught red-handed and blurted out, "I like to sketch houses and your house is beautiful and I am going to sketch it."  He instantly replied, "I'll buy it!"  I then told him he had better see it before he agreed to that and promised to be in touch.

Normally, it could have been months (or years) before I got around to sketching a house I liked on my walk.  But after my interaction I thought I had better get right to it.  Below you can see the inked black and white line drawing. 

After inking, I add watercolor to the drawing.  This is my favorite part of the process.
The next image shows the entire sketch.  When I posted this on Instagram my architect neighbor told me I should look up Flemish architecture (Thank you Roy!).  One of the main characteristics this house shared with the Flemish style are the stepped gables.  "A stepped gable, crow-stepped gable, or corbie step is a stairstep type of design at the top of the triangular gable-end of a building. The top of the parapet wall projects above the roofline and the top of the brick or stone wall is stacked in a step pattern above the roof as a decoration and as a convenient way to finish the brick courses." (Wikipedia) 
Last week I printed a tiny copy of the house and left it in the mailbox with a note for the owners. They contacted me and yes, they indeed wanted to purchase the sketch!  I usually like to add the address and mat the sketch if I have a mat that fits.  Below you can see the final drawing (with their address photoshopped out for their privacy).        
“There isn't any questioning the fact that some people enter your life, at the exact point of need, want or desire - it's sometimes a coincidence and most times fate, but whatever it is,
I am certain it came to make me smile.”
― Nikki Rowe

In the future I will try and be a little less obvious when I am taking photos. But my serendipitous encounter with the owner turned out to be such a lovely exchange.  And every time I do one of these sketches I fall a little more in love with the architecture of Cincinnati.  When I think about how and why this sketch came about I really don't know the reasons.  But I do know that life is fascinating.  Although the twists and turns are beyond my comprehension, I am slowly learning to let go of control and let life show me the next step (even if it is a corbie step!).

Thursday, November 19, 2020

"My Favorite Things" Watercolor Cards


Do you ever feel like there are certain parts of your house or objects in your house that you really like?  This spring I decided to sketch those parts of my house in order to calm my nerves.  Instead of thinking about the pandemic I focused on sketching the peaceful and the lovely...and it really helped.

"Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad"
― Rodgers and Hammerstein


Below you can see four of these scenes.  "The Magic Carpet" is a sketch of my bedroom.  Everyday Bubo can be found napping on the bed and Otus is usually looking at something out the window.  I also love the way the wooden carving fits perfectly into the curve of the wall.  And I totally lucked out and got the carpet from Everything But the House a few years ago.  I would be remiss not to mention how much I like the bulbous, bumpy legs of my nightstand which I found in an antique store in Geneva, New York.

The focus of the next card was "The African Violet" which can be found in the kitchen.  The African Violet was from my Dad's retirement ceremony.  In addition there is an air plant my friend Jyoti gave me and a young purple hyacinth bean plant that I grew from seed.  I thought it was adorable the way it wrapped itself around the shade pull.  If you look closely you can see a mottled purse crab and a sea urchin shell I collected in Charleston.  You can also see the bottom of the roman shades which is made of fabric with a beautiful orange and green pattern that I love and that makes me happy every time I walk into the kitchen.
"The Rocking Chair" can be found in the computer room.  If Bubo is not asleep on the bed, he can often be found curled up on the rocking chair.  And Otus seems to prefer his bed on the radiator.  The scene would not be complete if I didn't include my Japanese Midori calendar.  I love the scene of the Japanese warrior Kintaro riding a koi fish.  

And finally, "The Begonia" lives in the dining room next to the hanging pothos plant.  I have always loved the way the red backside of the begonia leaves mimics the color and shape of the flowers in the roman shades.

In case you couldn't see Kintaro on his fish.

This month I was looking back at the sketches and decided I would experiment with making notecards.  I thought I would give them away as Christmas gifts and/or sell them on my website.

I printed the cards at and was pleased with the quality of the paper.  One of my goals is to experiment with different printers so if I re-order I am going to try a couple other places just to compare paper quality and textures.


I decided to make matching Bubo tags to complete the packaging of the cards.  Below you can my paper cutter getting a good workout. 

And I am always excited when I can use my hole punch and miniature hammer.  It really does make a perfect hole.

I debated about how to package these.  I thought I had the perfect solution and dug out my fifteen-year-old see-through, plastic A4 card sleeves.  But for some reason the envelopes didn't fit.  It was a lucky misfortune because it then dawned on me to simply wrap them in paper and tie with twine.  I was so pleased with the simplicity of this solution and seeing them altogether like this made me immensely happy. (Funny Addendum:  I wrote this post yesterday and woke up at five o'clock this morning with the Sound of Music song in my head.  It dawned on me that Julie Andrews was singing about her favorite things as a strategy to get through difficult times and so I added the lyrics to the post and added "My Favorite Things" to the title.  Then I noticed that my post contained "brown paper packages tied up with string" and I had to laugh out loud.  The mind is an amazing thing!)

I keep finding that I am in love with the small details of life.  I like to look closely and to spend long amounts of time on the minutia.  Sometimes I try and force myself to pull out and look at things from afar, but then something will catch my eye and I am pulled back to the delightful detail.  I guess my love lies in the wee particulars.  

“The Lord likes small things best, especially those done with love.”
― Mother Teresa

If you would like to order the "Watercolor Cards" please visit my website, and click "Notecards" at the top.