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I have been largely absent from this space in 2016… perhaps I’ll try and be a more regular blogger in 2017… only time will tell. I have been slightly more active on Instagram these past few months and I’d love it if you’d come and say hi over there.
In the meantime here’s a pic of my furry best buddy Gira doing his regal, festive thang! Wishing you all a peaceful conclusion to this (ofttimes frightening) year & all good things in 2017.
… and blue.
Winter (sun)light captured on a December afternoon’s wandering in Den Bosch (birthplace of the late, great Hieronymus Bosch).
wishing you peaceful days
ink & watercolour ‘floral mandalas’
This time last year I was a bit snowed under by the many ‘to dos’ associated with moving to a new city so I took a break from my annual handmade festive greeting card manufactory… and I thought I’d be doing the same again this year (it’s December already??! where did 2015 go!?!) but then I got caught up in the colourful fun of painting a series of small ‘floral mandalas’, first as doodles in my sketchbook and then in a somewhat more ‘considered’ way on watercolour paper off-cuts that I’d been hoping to find a good use for…
I soon realised that I seemed to be making cards, and almost as quickly realised that hand-painting cards for all the friends and family I’d like to send festive new year greetings to would be
completely insane quite unachievable in the time available. So I decided to try out the greeting card printing services of MOO (I’ve had business cards & stickers printed by them in the past and the quality is great… btw, this is not a sponsored post, just my personal opinion ;-). A unique (as far as I’m aware) and very appealing feature of MOO’s service is that you can have a different design printed on every card in a pack at no additional cost… so the possibilities are almost endless!
I scanned some of my ink & watercolour ‘floral mandalas’ and played around with them in Photoshop to arrive at five festive designs to have printed by MOO. These are they…
‘floral mandala’ cards
Unable to resist the ‘multiple designs’ feature of MOO’s service I also had some creature cards printed (with designs based on these limited edition ‘animal diorama’ silkscreen prints made a few years ago).
‘animal diorama’ cards – octopus & owl
Not traditionally ‘Christmassy’, for sure… but I say good riddance to the jolly, fat man in the red suit and all hail the red-eyed kraken! ;-)
This year I thought I’d include a ‘how to’ (of sorts) because they were fun & simple to make and you might like to make some for your friends and family too (everyone likes receiving a handmade card, right?).
I’ve also made a few more than I’ll use this year and they’re available now in my etsy shop. Edit: no longer available!
Spoiler alert:If we’re “friends & family” and you don’t want anything to do with these cards until one lands in your letterbox, then scroll no further :-)
Papercut snowflake cards ‘how to’:
What you’ll need:
- blank cards
- mulberry tissue paper (or something similarly lightweight, translucent, and interestingly fibrous – the fibres running through the paper look beautiful when backlit)
- scalpel / blade (this one works a treat)
- bone folder
- double-sided tape
(1) Start with a blank card (a square format works well with the circular snowflakes).
(2) Make a stencil on stiff-ish card for the ‘petal’/’wreath’/’rosette’ motif that will be cut out of the front of the card (I’m not sure what to call it… let’s go with ‘petal’).
[Useful tip, courtesy of trial and error: Make sure the inner and outer diameters of this motif and its placement on the card are not such that your petals, when folded out, extend beyond any of the edges of the card – if they do it’ll be impossible to get the cards into the matching envelopes you bought!].
(3) Place the stencil in the desired position on the front of the card (it’s useful to hold it in place at this stage with removable tape) and (4) lightly trace your motif with a soft pencil.
(5) Using the pencil lines as a guide cut your motif out of the card with a scalpel. Use an eraser to gently remove any pencil marks that may be left on the card after cutting out the motif.
(6) Score the base of each petal with the bone folder (if you don’t have a bone folder any bluntly pointed tool would do here – like the tip of a butter knife, or knitting needle tip if not too pointy!).
(7) Cut circles from your lightweight (mulberry) paper, ensuring the diameter of the circle is slightly larger than the diameter of the motif you’ve cut out of the front of the card. (This is a very handy tool for cutting paper circles).
(8) Fold the circles into eighths (fold in half, in half again, and in half a third time), and cut some paper snowflakes. I deliberately tried to include a few heart shapes in each snowflake (‘spreading the love’ and all that) but you can cut any shapes that take your fancy.
(9) As already mentioned it’s addicitive, so you’ll have no trouble cutting lots…
(10) … and lots.
(11) Stick small pieces of double-sided tape on to the outer ‘scalloped’ edges of a paper snowflake. Remove the tape’s backing.
(12) Place the snowflake in the centre of the card motif and press down to secure.
(13) Gently fold out the petals of your card motif. The scored lines made earlier (in step 6) make this a breeze.
(14) And you’re done!
(15) The paper snowflake looks purdy on the inside of the card too.
(16) Make some more…
Happy card making!
I used this year’s festive card making as an opportunity to experiment further with my meagre block printing skills. I have had the bug since printing the ‘verdigris’ fabric a few months back but haven’t had any big chunks of time to practice further on fabric (and I learnt from that first effort that big chunks of time are required!). The cards offered a perfect opportunity to practice cutting the lino and printing with it (albeit on paper rather than fabric), while also getting in to a festive frame of mind. A million meandering-line doodles in my sketchbook, which suggested snow filled furrows to me, formed the basis for the block’s undulating hill motif.
lino block awaiting cutting | inking up | print production line
I had originally intended to blockprint the lone tree as well but wanted it to be a really fine, delicate thing (fragile and skeletal as so many trees appear to be – in the Northern Hemisphere – at this time of year) and didn’t think I’d be able to achieve this with my limited lino cutting skills (and my annoyingly blunt tools – must find whetstone… also, must refrain from blaming tools). I decided instead to hand paint each tree with watercolour. The trees became progressively more complex the more I painted – a perfectly absorbing activity for the obsessive-compulsive in me. Once painted the tree branches were adorned with a dusting of frosty glitter (to give the cards a ‘festive’ edge, rather than the dead-tree-on-a-bleak-post-apocalyptic-hill edge!). And finally single stars were cut-out from the front of the card (using a nifty star-shaped hole-punch). The star cut from the front of the card was pasted in to the expanse of snow laden sky above the hills on the back of the card (nature abhors a vacuum :)
the end of the production line
‘quality control’ piles – the good, the bad, and the ugly
(I don’t think I managed to pull a single ‘perfect’ print! I know the ‘rough spots’ on a poorly printed linocut would not pass muster in a professional printmaking studio but I quite like the ‘antique quality’ these rough spots give an image)
Sidenote – ‘happy accidents’:
While lining the cards up to dry after painting the trees I found the hill shapes created an interesting ‘knotted’ repeat pattern.
It is not a ‘perfect’ repeat, in that it wasn’t originally designed to repeat and so doesn’t tile seamlessly, but I think I quite like the effect and am tempted to try it on fabric. I’m in two minds as to whether I should cut a new block that does tile seamlessly or whether I should just print up some fabric using the existing block and see where it takes me… I’m leaning towards the latter option but I know I’ll be disappointed for not taking the extra time to cut a new block if the results are iffy. Oh, the dilemma…
(Also, apologies for the gloomy light in most of these photos… the sun is obviously having way too much fun down South and hasn’t shown its face around here for a while).