Inky paws…

Yo!

I shall start by giving you all a few minutes to play your favourite David Bowie song and sing along loudly. Off you go…
 
Right. I picked Ziggy Stardust – how about you?
 
And now to business. Wait, don’t switch him off – you can leave David playing as you read.
 
I’ve always fancied having a go at screen printing. And recently it’s become a more pressing need – particularly as I’d like to be able to produce my own greetings cards, and maybe even bags, t-shirts, and other fabric goodies. The thing that’s been holding me back though is the cost of all the equipment, and the lack of space on my desk in a tiny corner of one room, which I fondly call “stupidcats HQ” (the desk, not the room!). And then, the other weekend, whilst roaming around London on a bit of a jolly, we stumbled upon a little art shop. And right at the back, rather dusty and half hidden, was one of the screen printing kits I’d been looking at as a small, easy way to try the process out, and it was reduced to half the price I’d seen it anywhere else. Well, what else could I do except buy it?!
 
Monday being a rest day (I have one of those jobs where you often have to take all or half of your weekend on random weekdays) I bounced out of bed, all keen and eager for my first venture into screen printing. I’d done a little cat doodle at the weekend and decided to use him for my first test print:

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Here’s my doodle!

 
So I drew him in Illustrator on my trusty Mac and had a play with colour fills:
 

And here are a few variations of the computer version.



I decided to go with the bottom right one for my first attempt, and step one was to trace an image for each colour onto my screen:

I’d decided to use the drawing fluid and filler method for my first attempt, as I wanted the printed cat to look sort of wobbly – not clean and crisp like the computer version. And I liked the idea of painting directly on to the screen, and creating multiples copies of something hand drawn. So the next step was to draw the images in with drawing fluid and a paintbrush:

I had no idea if I’d put too much or too little drawing fluid on! I left it to dry for a few hours, then moved on to the screen filler. This involved using the squeegee to wipe the fluid down over the image in one stroke, and not to NO NEVER EVER TO do a second stroke or you’ll risk the blue drawing fluid starting to dissolve away…

I may have panicked a bit and not pressed down enough for the first few inches. Which meant the top image was completely covered in red goo. I may then have panicked a bit more and done a second wipe over the top image which is EXACTLY what you’re not supposed to do.
 
But I thought I’d plough on, as all experience is useful! I then had to leave the screen to dry overnight, then wait until the following evening before I could do anything else because work got in the way, humph!
I washed off the blue drawing fluid, leaving just the red filler behind…

…and got a bit more convinced that my double swipe of the filler had played havoc with his whiskers. Once again the screen was put aside to dry.
 
A couple of days later, when I had a bit of time to spare between shifts, I hit the ink! I just went for the blue ink supplied with the kit, rather than trying to mix anything lighter for my first attempt.


I ran off 20 prints, then masked off the blue inky bit, and when the prints were dry I moved onto the black.

Ta-daaaaaaaa! I was right about the whiskers! Now I’ve done it once, I know what to do differently next time to hopefully improve the results. I’m rather pleased with him though – the wobblyness is what I was after, although the cat outline is too thick and, of course, his whiskers have been in the wars! But all in all, it was a hugely enjoyable lesson and I’m itching to get the screen cleaned and start again – this time without dissolving his whiskers and mixing a lighter shade of blue. I’ve also got hold of another screen with finer mesh, which should help with finer details.
 
Keep your eyes peeled on my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds for progress pictures of my next attempt!
 
And finally, while we’re on the subject of screen printing, I stumbled upon something today that made me squeak!
 
Cobden Place is a restored heritage building in Nottingham’s Creative Quarter. In their own words, “Cobden Place endeavours to incubate and support an array of creatively driven independent businesses, and encourage growth within Nottingham’s design industry.” Together with print studio Dizzy Ink and screenprinting technician Tom Camp, they want to create a “School of Print”. Again, in their words: “With a variety of printing methods including risograph, screenprinting and mimeograph, the School of Print will facilitate and educate practitioners of print through a varied workshop programme and the option of membership to come and use the space and facilities once trained on the equipment!
 
COOL!!!
 
They launched a Kickstarter today to raise £8,000 to make the School of Print a reality, and have already been backed to the tune of just over £800! This would be a fantastic resource for Nottingham and beyond – please help them reach their target by backing them, and sharing the link with the world! Thank you!
 
Click here to watch their video on their Kickstarter page
 
That’s all for now folks!

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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!

Noofings & votes for teamies…

Well hello there! What’s new with you?

I have a few noofings (that’s Craftbritannia-speak for new things) to share with you, but first I’d like to ask for your assitance in helping a couple of Craftbritannia teamies. Both have applied for funding from Enterprise Nation, and need your votes!

Rachel Elliot is hoping to secure funding to buy a bit of kit enabling her to flock glass – vote for her here.

The Femine Touch is hoping to get funding for an electronic cutting machine – vote for her here.

Voting is quick and easy – just register on the site and click vote! Please share these links and help my teamies achieve their voting targets! Thanks!

And now onto noofings…

First off is my little sheep brooch – baaa-aaa-aaaa!

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He was originally going to have dangly bead legs, but that just looked wrong!

Then came the elephant

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This was a custom request, and he looked so cute I just had to offer him in my shop! I want to make a pink version of him too, watch this space!

And finally, my scary skull

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He has a metal loop on the top so you can attach him to your bag (or whatever else takes your fancy) to scare away monsters!

Well, that’s all for now – except to say that if you’re still searching for a Mother’s Day card, take a peek at my selection of felted cards, maybe something there will take your fancy!

Laters! x

The Craftbritannia sales fairy swap 2012!

Hallo people!

That clever old Rachel Elliot (aka FlyingCheeseToastie) came up with a rather good idea for a team challenge a while back. Us Craftbritannia bunch on Etsy are forever going on about the elusive Sales Fairy, and when one of us is lucky enough to be paid a visit by said Fairy (ie we sell something), we tend to shower our other teamies in Sales Fairy Dust in the hope that she’ll pay a visit to them too! Anyway, Rachel suggested we all make our own interpretation of a Sales Fairy, send them off to her, then she’ll randomly allocate a Fairy to each teamie and send them on. So todays wee bloglett is about the one I made…

It’s not a fairy.

The fact that it’s not a fairy can be blamed on Rachel for using the word ‘totem‘ in her brief, and Carrie for inventing the Lurker Stick (I think it was Carrie!). The Lurker Stick is a virtual stick that can be poked into corners to coax out buyers that may be hiding.

I’ll just pause here to say that us Craftbritannia lot are really quite sane and normal, despite how this sounds…

So, I wanted to make a sort of totemy-stick thing, but had no idea how or out of what. The idea came all of a sudden one Saturday afternoon, so I pootled down to the local hardware store, bought some dowl (which the nice man cut into bits for me), some double-sided sticky tape (all those childhood years of watching Blue Peter finally paid off!) then ran home as fast as I could and got started…

First I wrapped the stick in double-sided tape, and grabbed me a fibre thread pack from SpinningStreak





The next step was to peel off the coating on the tape and start wrapping the fibres round the stick…





…until I ended up with wooly-coated stick with dangly bits of spare thread at one end…





Now I was stuck. I knew I wanted dangly jingly bits, but wasn’t sure what to do next. Then Sir Terry Pratchett came to the rescue… Pratchett fans amongst you will know that good old song “A wizard’s staff has a knob on the end” – so what else could I do but attach a knob! I needle-felted a ball of merino, then wrapped it in some beautiful vegetarian silk from Sassalynne





Then I added some embellishments to the knob *snigger* (sorry!), threaded scrummy handmade paper beads from DesiredThings and little howlite skulls from BeadsYouNeed onto the remaining dangly threads and tied a little silver bell on to the end of each one…





And here’s the finished doodad!





All that remained was to write out the instructions… (thanks Rachel for this piccie! And I’ve just noticed I can’t spell ‘incredible‘!)





…then send it on its way!

After a few days, all the Craftbritannia Sales Fairies had arrived at Rachel’s place and were having a massive party…





…and now us CB teamies sit back and wait to receive our randomly picked Fairy, which all being well will bring us lots of luck on the sales front!

Massive thanks to Rachel for such a fab team challenge idea! I enjoyed myself hugely making mine – those of you that are familiar with the items in my shop will see my creation was… er… nothing like the sort of things I usually make, so thanks again Rachel for poking my old grey matter to come up with something different! And of course, massive thanks to everyone else who’s taken part in this challenge – hasn’t it been fun?! Hurrah for Team CB!

More pictures of all the Fairies can be seen on Rachel’s Facebook page.

So, there you have it!

I wonder which one I’ll get back?

Noofings and a busy weekend for Craftbritannia!

‘Allo everyone!

I’m getting rather excited – bought a felt-making book ‘cos I want to have a go at wet felting but wasn’t quite sure where to start – it arrived yesterday, and now I’m DESPERATE to have a go! Have to get a few minor bits of kit first though, bah!

I also received some 4mm thick 100% wool felt squares I’d ordered to have a play with – here’s the result:

I cut the keyrings and motifs from the thick felt, then needlefelted the motifs on each side, so they’re the same on both sides. Oh yes, I’ve also been playing another new thing – rivet pliers, yay!

On another subject, it’s been a busy weekend for the Craftbritannia team on Etsy – we started a
BNR
on Friday night, and it’s still going! 74 sales and counting! It’s open until tonight, so you still have plenty of time to join in if you like – or just stop by to chat!

That’s all for now! Maybe next time I’ll have my first attempts at wet felting to show you… squeeeeeee!

It’s the Crazy Craftbritannia BNR Weekend!

Just noticed that for some reason this appeared as a Page instead of a Post when I published it last month! Doh! So here it is as a post…

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Ooops, yes it has been rather a long time, hasn’t it… sorry!

I’m just trying out this ‘ere WordPress iPhone app so I’ll keep it brief – if it works I’ll be back later with more!

So for now… 6pm* GMT tonight! The crazy Craftbrittania BNR kicks off on Etsy! Be there or be stupid! More info here…

http://craftbritannia.blogspot.com/2010/11/christmas-payday-bnr-invitation.html

Laters! x