I’m not a fan of the consumption-and-expectation culture, nor of the idea that love is best expressed by garish red heart-shaped dustcatchers from a High Street shop. But there are a lot of other ways to express love, and even when I don’t mark a celebration myself it’s a very rewarding thing to help others do it.
So: here’s one of the designs I’m selling this year. It’s lasercut from Gmund bierpaper (recycled using beer labels and brewery waste) and layered onto an absolutely gorgeous Japanese unryu-textured metallic brass paper. There will be a couple of others too, but I wanted to show off the luxury cards first.
I’ll also be offering package deals – card & envelope, up to three matching gift tags, and a sheet of complementary wrapping paper, all at a very competitive price.
Lleu Llaw Gyffes was cursed by his reluctant mother – he could never have weapons & armour, a bride, or even a name until she gave them to him. His foster-father, Gwydion ap Dôn, tricked her into bestowing the first and the last, but there’s nothing she could do about the second, and frankly that family was screwed up enough already.
So Gwydion and his uncle, Math ap Mathonwy, made a bride for him out of flowers. This branch of the Mabinogion is usually told as Gwydion’s story, and to an extent Lleu’s, but I’m not the only one with a lot of sympathy for Blodeuwedd. She didn’t ask to be made, or to be married to Lleu. When she falls in love with Gronw Bebyr, she tricks Lleu into revealing the arcane way he can be killed (it involves taking a bath with a goat) and then murdering him. It’s a bit extreme, but then so is everything else in that drama-laden family.
And she really didn’t ask to be turned into an owl by Gwydion.
I had a lot of fun making this. It started out by working out what kind of owl she was (I decided on the secretive and nocturnal long-eared owl, widely hated in the avian world) and as you’ll see took a lot of liberties with the design. The text panels are from the portions of the Fourth Branch that deal with her directly, in both English and modern Welsh. I’d originally intended them to show up more clearly, but this dense green works well with the brown – which I’d planned to be lighter, but the technique I’d been envisaging didn’t work out the way I’d thought it would! The rose is adapted from a jewellery design I’ve been playing with, using hand-assembled lasercut petals.
I’ve been making quite a few of these lately, from an old copy of Midsummer Night’s Dream rescued from the recycling. It’s the same technique I’ve been using for pendants, layered artists’ mountboard sealed with acrylic & varnish; the colours are Talens Ecoline watercolour inks, which I’m really falling in love with. The cheap paper (it’s a Wordsworth Classics edition) takes the ink really nicely, it turns out. Bare trees echo the play’s message that time is out of joint, and each one tries to respond to the partial quotation highlighted on it. Most have been going to friends, or as auction pieces for good causes (speaking of which: if you have a good cause, and are holding an auction, drop me a line) but I may be selling a few as well.
Not all of these are pendants – I’m experimenting with a new design of choker as well, with page fragments laminated onto ribbon. Still haven’t had them properly tested yet, though, so I won’t be putting them into proper production for a while. Always need more testers…
This one was truly horrendous to ink & print from. I ended up cutting away most of the plate rather than simply leaving the raised area, since the sheer size of the open areas means it’s almost impossible to avoid inking the cutlines and then rubbing the paper down onto them. In the end, I managed to pull a half-dozen good prints, but produced quite a lot of offprints in the process – I’ll have to find something interesting to do with them. My normal reflex for this sort of thing is to cut scraps, varnish the hell out of them, and turn them into earrings, pendants, or the like, but this ink doesn’t take varnish well. I’m going to experiment with a protective coat of spray varnish before putting the good stuff on, but that will take a warm day and more energy than I have right now.
Here are three of the pieces I was experimenting with at the beginning of February – I’ve been working on them on and off, coat after coat of paint and then varnish, and now they’re sitting on my desk waiting to go to their new owners. They’re all prototypes – I’m happy with the look of each of them, but there are lessons to be learned from them all too.
Pendant, 45x65mm, weighs 21g. Ultramarine swirled panel in an epoxy setting, with an antiqued bronze finish. One of the advantages of using two-part epoxy over polymer clay is that it cures at room temperature, rather than having to be heated in the oven, so I can use acrylic paints and (as here) inset rectangles of artist’s mountboard, without worrying about what that sort of heat will do to it. Next time I do one of these, I’ll drill a larger hole (or two holes) to loop cord through directly, rather than trying to bend a jump ring threaded through that thickness of solid material.
Brown & gold choker slide, 35mm square, weighs 8g. Sits a bit lower on the ribbon than it does in the picture – next time, I’ll centre the slide on the back a bit more. I actually made three others using the same paper, but didn’t clean the work area quite thoroughly enough and got flecks of epoxy on the front surface. So that’s another area to be careful with.
Aventurine & bronze choker slide, 20x30mm, weighs around 12g. Aventurine cabochon stone in an epoxy setting, with an antiqued bronze finish. I need to be a bit more careful about moulding the epoxy around the slide – this one ended up weighing a bit more than it had to, and I had to clear the slide holes with a scalpel after it had finished curing.
Linocut, roughly 200mm square, posted in my Etsy shop.
This was inspired by a conversation with a friend about druidry, and remembering the mountains of Snowdonia where I grew up. It wasn’t originally intended to be a night scene, and it’s turned out a lot smoother and more Art Nouveau than I’d intended – I want to revisit the sketch with another block, probably in relief next time rather than incised, and see if I can get something closer to my original vision.
I don’t normally make separate design sketches – I usually do my designing straight onto the block – but since I did this time, here it is. I copied it freehand onto the lino, since the original sketch had slightly the wrong proportions for the block I had handy.
I’d been vaguely aware of the existence of monotyping before, but until I found an old copy of The Painterly Print in a Notting Hill second-hand bookshop I hadn’t really considered trying it out. It’s a good way to use up the leftover ink I dollop out onto my glass plate after doing a batch of prints from something else (in this case, a set of 20 woodblock printed cards – they’ll be up online when they’re dry enough to scan) and it’s great fun.
The printmaking process I’ve been using so far doesn’t give much latitude for Messing Around with the ink – roll it on thinly and evenly and start smoothing away with the baren, and that’s it. What I did with the leftover ink, after doing 20 A6 cards, was to roll it out evenly across the glass plate, smear it around in wide curves with a piece of kitchen roll, mess it around a lot with a brush (artificial bristle, no. 8 or so) and then scrape a lot of loops and whorls with the stump end of the same brush.
Because there was just so much ink left over, I could press really lightly with the baren, and get a vivid black/white contrast I hadn’t expected. Black ink on glass over even a quite light surface (one of the inner pages of the Waltham Forest News) doesn’t show up much of a contrast between thick and nearly-cleared layers, so the looping white and pale grey lines I got were a pleasant surprise.
I managed to take three cognates from the plate as well as the print itself, though the fourth is mostly cloudy tones rather than noticeable lines.
Elly (my girlfriend) was watching me do some printing the other day, and asked if she could have a go just as I was thinking about suggesting it. (Especially since I’d just picked up some Ellie Poo paper…) Here’s the results. It’s turned out rather nicely.
I haven’t been posting for a while, because Various Circumstances pretty much entirely took away my creative impulse. It’s getting better now, though, and I’ve been doing some more printmaking. Partly, the impetus for that came from a visit to Falkiner’s, and the discovery of three really nice recycled art papers.
The one in the centre there is Fabriano Ecologica – it’s bright white, with a good middling texture, comes in two grades (Sketching and Drawing – Schizzi, Sketching, is 120gsm, and Drawing is heavier so I left that), and comes in A4 pads of 80 sheets for £6.50, which is a really good bargain for acid free good quality art paper. It’s made entirely of recycled post-consumer materials using renewable energy; the pack quotes “more than 50% of the energy used for producing this paper is hydroelectric”. There’s inevitably going to be some secondary bleaching of the pulp, but still.
The one on the right is Redeem 130, which is a good solid, hard-textured paper with a pleasant parchment-beige tint. It looks like it will be extremely good for computer printing. Pleasantly, it’s also extremely cheap!
The third, which I’ve been wanting to try out for some time, is Ellie Poo paper, which is as the name suggests made from elephant dung. It’s lovely tactile stuff, with small vegetable inclusions and a warm pale beige colour.