My little booky-wooks…

Hello! Remember me? I’m the one that hasn’t blogged for ages!  

In my last post I showed you a sneak-peek at a notebook I wanted to make. Well, this post carries on from that…  

I’d chosen the card I wanted to use for the covers (from GF Smith‘s Colorplan range – a hefty 270gsm for the outer covers, and 135gsm for the inner covers), and after much sampling I settled on Fabriano Bioprima for the inside pages, because… well Fabriano papers are delicious to write or draw on in pencil, pen or ink! 

Next I needed to find some waxed bookbinding thread that matched the colours of the inner covers as closely as possible, and after getting samples from various places I was pleased to eventually find the perfect matches – and they were from an Etsy seller in Nottingham. Nice to keep things in the Etsy family, and also shop local! The thread is beautiful. It’s made in Ireland by Crawfords, who are reknowned for their high quality threads. It’s heavily waxed, which helps to keep the colours bright, makes stitching easier, and ensures that it holds its shape well so knots won’t come undone. 

  
So. I’d selected my materials, bought bookbinding needles, a bone folder, an awl to make the holes in the spines, a circular cutter to make the round windows in the covers, and a heavy duty corner cutter to round off the corners. And I’d done hours of research and reading about bookbinding techniques, and made a lot of practice notebooks. 

Then I ordered The Guillotine. 

Meanwhile, I was folding, punching, stitching and pressing… 

  
   

I “made” a makeshift press from two bits of wood and some g-clamps – it doesn’t look very sexy, but it does the job perfectly!

  
And The Guillotine arrived.  

Broken. 

And the seller was a nightmare. Not in the UK as they’d stated on their site, barely spoke English, and they just kept repeating that I had to send it back to them for repair or refund. Which they’d do or issue on receipt of the damaged one. But they wouldn’t provide a return address…  

And the craft fair I’d booked was now less than a week away – my stall would look pretty bare without the notebooks! 

So I activated Plan B. Forget the guillotine – trim the books the traditional way. A quick trip to our local hardware store provided a carpenters square and a very sharp, titanium bladed knife.

  
As it turned out, I’m glad the guillotine thing fell through. Trimming the three edges of each book by hand is very therapeutic, and much more rewarding. Just look at the edge on that!

  

After folding, stitching, pressing, and trimming, the books are ready to have the holes cut in the outer covers and the text and images stamped on. That might seem a little backward, but I didn’t want to cut or print the covers first as there’s always a slight variation in size after the hand trimming, and I didn’t want them to look off-centre.

  
And once the ink has dried, the final touches are added – the corners are rounded off…

  
…and the coloured packaging strip and the badge are added.

  

     

  
Ta daaaaaa! Here are the four finished designs…

  
They’re all available from my Etsy shop here

And finally, here they are on my stall at the local craft fair – it was the first proper one I’d attended, and went really well!

  

So there we have it! After Christmas I’ll be starting on cat designs for a new badgebook, and four more notebook designs. I was hoping to do a Christmas badgebook, but unfortunately the full-time job got in the way. At least I have some festive designs ready for Christmas 2016 though!

Oh, and I did eventually get a refund for the broken guillotine. Phew!

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Like a rolling stupidcat…

Way back in 1965, Bob Dylan went electric, which upset some of his fans so much that they booed him at the Newport Folk Festival.

Fifty years later, stupidcats went digital – please don’t boo me!

I’ve wanted to re-create some of my cats digitally for ages, so I can put them on button badges and other things. Recently I was able to invest in a professional badge making machine after a run of sales of my drawings (thank you!) so I sat down at the computer, opened Adobe Illustrator, and started playing.

I started with a design based on a stupidcat original that was bought by a chap in America – he’s been nicknamed Sir Reginald (the cat, not the chap) and here’s the very first badge I made on my shiny new press:

  
The next cat to get the Illustrator treatment was my sad black one – here’s an early badge test of the two of them:

  
I began to think about packaging – most badges tend to be put in plastic bags with a folded card stapled on the top. I wanted to do something a little different. Here are a few things I tried:

  
   
 

I loved the idea of the matchbook-style packaging…

  
…but it was a bit too slow and fiddly to make, and the visible staple irritated me a bit. Around this time I started referring to them as “badgebooks” and then had a thought – I was already planning on making stupidcats notebooks, so why not just make a simple, folded book-cover type thing with the badges inside?

Here are some prototypes, with mock-ups of the notebooks:

 
The added bonus of giving the badge packaging a bookish theme meant I could give each set of designs a “volume” number. I’d now added two more designs based on old drawings – the alien, and the other stupidcat, inspired by Neil Gaiman‘s book “Coraline“.

I still had a problem though – I didn’t want to use a plastic bag in the packaging, and cutting little flaps or punching holes was fiddly, time-consuming, and looked messy on the back. So how could I attach the badges to the card?

Then I received a new bank card in the post.

So I looked up “glue that sticks bank cards onto paper” (or words to that effect) on the internet, and my little problem was soon solved! I posted a set of badges to myself, and was relieved to find that despite travelling through the postal system, the badges were still attached to the card when I received them. Success! 

After much research I’d settled on a range of card from GF Smith called Colorplan to use for my notebook covers and badgebooks, and I matched the colours used on the artwork as closely as I could to the card, then went to visit my friendly local printer (the same one that does my Giclée prints) and he printed out the badge artwork on his posh laser printer. You can really see the difference between my fuzzy inkjet prints and the vibrant, crisp laser prints (the top row):

  

Here are the badges against some of the cardstock – not a bad match at all!

  

Once I’d finalised the design for the badgebook covers, I had a rubber stamp specially made, and also one for the back with my logo and website address that I’ll be using on my notebooks too:

  

And here’s the finished badgebook! I asked Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for help choosing the colour for volume one and blue won, so I promptly chose orange which came in second place!
   
   
The final touch was making teeny brown paper bags that just fit a badgebook and a business card:

  

So there they are! I already have four new designs in progress for volume two – but before I release that, I’ll be launching my notebooks – here’s a preview of the first one, which explains why I didn’t go with blue for volume one of the badgebook. As you can see, I’ve dropped the text on the cover that I had on earlier mock-ups to draw more attention to the cutout and the thinner, contrasting card of the inner cover. They’ll be handstiched, using thread that is colour-matched to the inner cover.

  
Volume one of my badgebook is available now from my Etsy store, and if all goes well my notebooks should be ready to go on sale in a couple of weeks time.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you haven’t booed me! 😸

ps – I still love the matchbook idea, so will probably use it for one-offs or something later!

Custom cats…

Hello fellow cat-people! And non-cat-people too!

Back in May last year, I doodled some cats…  
Then in July of this year, after re-opening my Etsy store, I tried the doodle in a stupidcat style because I rather liked his cheeky face:

 

I liked it so much, I did a proper version in grey:

  

Cheeky ain’t he! He’s available to buy as a print from my Etsy store.

Shortly after re-opening my store, I was approached by a customer who I’d drawn a couple of custom cats for a few years ago – “Could you do a drawing for my other half’s birthday?”

After agreeing on colours and style (I felt that somthing in a similar style to the doodle-based-grey would suit, and the customer agred), out came the oil pastels and ink. I haven’t been able to show you this drawing until now, because I was waiting to hear that the gift had been given, and this morning – hurrah! – word came! So here he is…

  
I’m hugely fond of this one! I kept finding myself pulling a similar face to his as I was working on him! 

Whilst I don’t currently list custom drawings in my store, please feel free to contact me if you’re interested – with plenty of notice and if my work schedule allows it, I’ll be happy to accommodate you if I can!

Pretty in print…

Greetings!

Those of you that follow me on social media will know by now that I recently started making my illustrations available as Giclée prints – this is something I’ve wanted to do for ages, mainly because I get a bit upset parting with my originals, and also because I wanted to make my illustrations available to more of you.

Last week I added a new print to my Etsy store, in the form of Cousin Louisa Gentlepaw – you might recognise her from my previous post:

stupidcats

There she is looking pretty in a frame, and here’s a close-up:

image

She’s printed on 240gsm archival quality Archelles Aquarelle Rag paper – the texture is beautiful, and I think it really adds to the character of my illustrations.

I spent a lot of time researching the different methods of reproduction, and finally decided to go with Giclée printing, as it would give folk a gallery-standard, archival quality print – and the examples I’d seen looked beautiful. Yes, it’s more expensive than other digital print processes, but I wanted quality rather than quantity. Digging more into the Giclée printing lark, one of the first things I discovered is that it’s pronounced zhee-clay. I also learned that there are three main things that make a Giclée print a Giclée print…

1. The resolution of the original. It must be created at a minimum of 300dpi to make sure that the output print is sharp.
2. The paper it’s printed on. It must be of archival quality, which means it has to be acid free and either cotton or rag based.
3. The inks and printer used to print it. The inks must pigment-based rather than the dye-based inks you find in your standard inkjet printer. Pigment inks will last 100+ years without fading (providing you don’t hang a print in direct sunlight, which to be honest you should never do with a picture – even an original oil painting!). The printers used are generally large format printers with 8 to 12 different colour ink cartridges – as well as CMYK, it also has different shades of each colour to make the prints look even smoother than is achievable with just CMYK.

Further research led me to a company in Nottingham who specialise in work for artists and galleries, which meant I could keep things local – even better! I’ve now visited them twice with work for outputting, and am so impressed with their attention to detail and willingness to spend time with you making sure that the finished results are perfect. I took this picture on my first visit and can’t tell you how excited I was seeing all my cats creeping slowly out the printer!

stupidcats

One of the best things about now selling Giclée prints instead of originals is that at last I’ve been able to offer for sale prints of a large picture I drew way back in 2001 – I’ve been loath to part with it, but now it’s available as a print and looks absolutely smashing!

stupidcats

I have plenty more cats in my sketchbook, so keep your eyes peeled for new prints!

Finally, you may or may not know that I’ve finally set up a website – it’s rather basic at the moment, but has links to my Etsy shop and this blog. Head over to stupidcats.co.uk for a peep!

A quick tip….

Somebody on Twitter recently asked me how I transfer my sketches from tracing paper to the proper-paper-for-drawing-on without them coming out back-to-front, and I had one of those little “Ohhhh, I thought everyone knew that!” moments – and I was also transported back to primary school, when I was having the same problem with a squirrel whose tail came out on the left side when I wanted it on the right, like the drawing in the book I was trying to copy. My teacher at the time showed me this little trick and I reckon it’s quite possibly one of the most useful things I ever learnt at school!

Step one: Trace your image. Or draw it on tracing paper – with my cats, I do a sketch in my sketchbook, then trace it onto tracing paper that’s marked up with the borders of the finished piece:

  
At this point I’ll work on tidying up the drawing, and making any final tweKs and changes until I’m happy with it. Note that her eyes are looking slightly to the right!

Step two: Turn the tracing paper over, and go over all the lines with your pencil on the back of the paper.

  
See how her eyes are now looking slightly to the left? That’s because we’re looking at the back of the trace. Make sure you don’t miss drawing any lines!

Step three: Turn the tracing paper over so that you’re looking at the front again. Now position your tracing paper on the paper you want to use for your finished drawing, and start going over all the lines again with your pencil. It’s very important at this stage that you don’t move the paper – you might want to tack the paper and the tracing paper down, just in case!

 
See the thicker black lines, where I’m going over lines I’ve already drawn?

Step four: When you’re sure you’ve gone over every line, lift off the tracing paper.

  
If you’ve done it right, you should be left with a copy of your drawing on your paper, in the correct orientation. Ta daaaah!

Of course, you could scan your image, flip it on the computer, trace it and transfer it that way, but I prefer to do it the old-fashioned way!

So now you know – if you didn’t know this trick, I hope it comes in useful. And thank you Alice (aka @sequinnedsheep) for reminding me of the squirrel and prompting this post!

A first attempt at something new…

I’ve done a thing!

Bookbinding has fascinated me ever since I went to a craft fair in Chelsea* in the mid-nineties and watched a chap from Rook’s Books patiently sewing pages together to go in the most beautiful leatherbound journals I’ve ever seen.

“One day,” I thought, “I’ll have a go at that.” *

Today, after a chance bit of free time in Manchester, I discovered Fred Aldous (the most amazing arty-crafty shop EVER!) and came out eagerly clutching an awl (note spelling – not the hooty kind), some waxed thread and a chunky needle. Amongst other things.

And I’ve made a little book! Nothing flash, just an A7 (cat-sized!), stitched notebook, but I’m so chuffed with it! Obviously I need more practice, but hopefully sometime I’d like to be able to offer a few perfected versions in my shop. You’d love to own a little stupidcats notebook, wouldn’t you?!

So without further ado… here it is!

   

Okay, so I smudged the lettering a bit in my excitement, but we don’t talk about that! 😁

What I’d really like to have a go at is Coptic binding, but I think I have a way to go before I should attempt that…!

Right, now I need to clear all this mess up and go to bed!

Nighty night!

*Well, apart from the teeny tiny books and holiday photo albums made for dolls and teddies when I was wee!

That felty feeling…

Morning!

Following on from yesterday’s post about some of the random things I’ve been trying my hand at lately, here are a couple more…

Firstly, teeny tiny bunting. It really is tiny too! The triangles were cut from 4mm thick 100% wool felt, and the letters needled felted on in merino wool. I then hand stitched each triangle onto baker’s twine:

  
I made this to decorate the packaging for my nephews 1st birthday present – here it is on the parcel:

  
Fiddly to make, but possibly something I could develop and include in my shop…!

And next, those of you that follow my alter ego on Twitter may recognise this little fellow:

  
He’s my avator, and I’ve grown very attached to him! He developed from this little doodle:
  
I decided to try and bring him to life in felt – again I used thick 100% wool felt, lightly stuffed his body, and needled felted his eyes and nose (and a tiny tail):
  
He’s now a permanent feature on my bag, and matches my phone case (which I had made by one of those online places – pricey, but I love having one of my own designs protecting my phone!):

  
I’d like to perfect his design and add a range to my shop – probably a teensy bit smaller – here are a few more animals I’ve doodled in the same style that would all work well in felt:

   
     So, who knows what noofings will pop up in my Etsy shop over the coming months…? 🙂