Category Archives: printmaking

Sand and Sea Art Quiltlet

For the past several weeks, I’ve been working on two little sewn things. I think you could call them art quilts. They are quilted, and not from a pattern, and use various techniques. I shared in-progress photos on Instagram and kept thinking I’d do that here, too, but instead here I am with a couple of finished things–the first in this post, and the second in an upcoming post of its own. Before I made these I’d never made a quilt, even a tiny coaster-sized one, so I tackled many New Things while making these. I can’t wait to make more.

sand and sea art quiltlet at

I began making this sand- and sea-inspired image because I miss the ocean like it’s oxygen. There is nothing near here, absolutely nothing, that can compare to the Atlantic coast beaches of the town I left behind. I miss our local salt pond, chock full of critters we loved to respectfully observe. More than once, we have followed behind a horseshoe crab until it buried itself in the sand. I set out to sew an ocean.

sand detail (fabric) at

This portion of “sand” was created using Jan Mullen’s “stack, slice, switch” method (my inspiration books are listed at the end of this post). I gathered fabric scraps in sand colors–and remember, sand is a combination of so many components–and mixed and matched until I had a cobble that abstractedly reminded me of sand.

horseshoe crab detail at

This segment of “sand” is one block of linen printed in the center with my horseshoe crab linocut. Top and bottom is a bubble wrap print. For the bottom half of the quiltlet, I joined pieces of blue scraps cut on a slant. For this first attempt, I quilted more or less using straight lines and gentle curves, with the feed dogs up. Here’s a view of the back.

back view of small art quilt at

It’s not perfect! And I added the embroidery around the horseshoe crab after quilting, as you can see. This was my first time binding a quiltish thing, too, and check out these mitered corners!

mitered binding corners at

The finished piece is about 13.5 by 19 inches, and I need to decide how to hang it, and where. The second quiltlet is also of something I miss from Rhode Island, and you’ll see in the next post that I tried new things with that one, too.

Books I used for technique and/or inspiration for both quiltlets:

Reverse Appliqué With No Brakez by Jan Mullen
Art Quilts at Play by Jane Davilá and Elin Waterston
Fresh Quilting by Malka Dubrawsky
Stitch Draw by Rosie James

How-To: Block-Printed “Hope” Flags

community hope flag activity.

My son wishes his school had a library. My daughter likes when everybody is friends. And I enjoy a community in which children and adults strive to be kind.

I’m helping organize the arts + crafts booth at the school fair this year*, and one of the projects is to contribute to a Community Hope Flag display. These are, of course, inspired by Tibetan Prayer Flags, which are hung in the elements until they disintegrate, releasing the prayer or hope. Fair visitors can depict a hope for themselves, their family, their school, town, or world and add it to the school’s display. Because prayer flags were traditionally block printed, we decided to use a method accessible to all ages and skill levels: scratch-foam printmaking.

Our fair isn’t until next weekend, but I thought I’d share the method and samples here now. I prepared both the flag blanks and the printing plates. The “flags” were made from donated sheets, which I washed, dried, ironed, and cut into 7″ x 9″ rectangles using my rotary cutter with a pinking blade, cutting mat, and a ruler. This made the cutting go fairly quickly. I then pressed a fold at one end to create a 7″ x 7″ square (or thereabouts) and ran a quick line of stitching to make a casing.

The printing plates are Styrofoam trays with the raised edge sliced off, then cut into quarters. Again, using a craft knife, metal ruler, and cutting mat made this go quickly. Other materials are pencils, sponge brushes, and liquid acrylic craft paint. Onto the method!

1. Think about what hope, dream, or wish you’d like to share, and how you can represent it with a simple image.

2. Using a pencil, draw the image onto the smooth side of a Styrofoam rectangle. You want to indent the Styrofoam, but not make holes in it. Your image will print in reverse, so keep that in mind while drawing. Words are probably too tricky at this point unless you are very good at mirror writing.

scratched image onto Styrofoam.

3. Paint a thin layer of acrylic paint onto your scratch-foam drawing. If it’s too gloppy, your image will get obscured when you print.

painted scratch-foam image.

4. Take a look at a blank hope flag. The casing (the folded over and sewn bit) is at the top, and the fold is towards the back. Lay the front of the flag over your painted foam and firmly smooth it to transfer the paint. Don’t wiggle it around or your image will smudge. Just firmly press. Then peel it off.

hope flag placed over printing plate.

pressing the image onto the flag.

finished foam-printed hope flag.

We plan to have permanent markers on hand so people can write any words if they wish (as my kids did in their samples in the top image). We will also have white t-shirts so that kids can make another print of their image on a shirt to take home; the plates can also be taken home and used again and again. It’s definitely hard for some kids to leave their artwork behind, even as part of a community display, so these other options are nice to have.

I think this is a great activity for a community big (like our school) or small (like a family). It’s nice to display hopes, wishes, and dreams, I think, and keep them in view.

*Yes, I’m doing this the same spring I’m moving a 5-person household six hours south. What can I say? Sometimes I’m illogical.


I can only keep so many balls going at once, and lately the one I’ve been letting sit is posting here. See, there are so many things I like to do. That’s why when I decided to participate in The 100 Day Project on Instagram, I didn’t choose to make 100 of one thing alone. I decided to make time for drawing, painting, or carving every day. Because if I’m making a drawing a day, when would I have time to carve any of them? If I’m painting every day, will I still have time to run? How about sewing and knitting? (And of course any of those things have to be fit around mama duties.) Any time I’ve tried to do one thing every single day for any length of time, other things I like get squeezed out. I could look at it as a lack of focus, but I prefer to view it as the product of an interesting and interested mind instead.

At any rate, if you’re interested, I’m posting photos like these on Instagram.

linocut test print at

Testing a tree linocut to see what still needs to be cleaned up.

Besides drawing and carving and sewing and knitting, I’ve been making sure we get outside. Oh, we are so happy for spring. We recently visited the local pond after dinner to watch the sun go down and listen to the spring peepers.

sunset at the pond at

Photo by my husband.

We were hoping we’d see the beavers come out for a crepuscular swim, and we finally did! And then–then we realized the creatures wheeling and dipping over the pond as the sun fully set were most likely bats. How exciting! They moved too fast to get a good look at with binoculars. Their wings fairly vibrated. I’ve never seen bats outside of a zoo before.

We also have horses in our neighborhood, which is convenient, since my 10yo mentioned he wished he were better at drawing horses. Excellent–let’s go right to the source.

Drawing horses at

After that, we crossed the street to walk the path through the meadow (not very meadowish yet) and the woods, on some open land property owned by the town. My youngest is delighted that it’s spring.

happy spring at

She’s wearing a mama-made dress, natch.

My favorite bird, the towhee, has been singing his heart out. I heard a barred owl again last night. I feel so grateful for where I live during the spring and summer, for this patch of land we share with so many critters–birds and insects, reptiles and amphibians, mammals too. For close access to farms, ponds, seashores, meadows, and woods.

Which is why it’s so ironic we still haven’t sold this house. I’ve been cleaning again lately too. It’s been six months since I deep cleaned and decluttered, and several areas need another pass, and yes I’m a little resentful I’m still cleaning this house. Also stressed out. So many houses are for sale. My advice is never to try to sell a house in an economically depressed state that is losing population. We’re going down to Maryland in a couple of weeks to look for a rental, and most likely my husband will be down there while I’m up here with the kids as the school year finishes. This is exactly what I didn’t want, but what can I do? That’s where we are. So I will open the windows when temperatures allow and listen to the birds I love and enjoy my deck while it’s still mine–while crossing my fingers every day that the house sells soon.

Printmaking Love: Printing With Kids

printmaking love at

One of my gelatin prints.

The theme for Monday’s after school Art Together class was printmaking, so I decided to share gelatin plate printmaking. It was glorious chaos. Eighteen kids, eight gelatin plates, brayers and sponge brushes and palettes that needed to be shared. Bits of texture and stencils for playing with were strewn about, paint on tables and dripped on the floor and on hands. Thirty-six hands that had a really, really hard time resisting the tactile temptation of thick slabs of gelatin, even though they’d been told that touching it and, even worse, picking it up would degrade or even break it. With that many kids, it’s hard to get around to everybody who might need one-on-one help. I gave a demonstration and encouraged them to experiment and remember to share, because we had about two kids to a plate. Then I tried to check in on everybody.

It was great. Printmaking almost always is. It’s magical. Best to let them experiment and discover as much as possible on their own, with a little guidance if necessary. Some kids made collaboration prints all together and worked out who would take them home. Kids helped other kids. Some felt done after just one, and others made twenty.

Sampling of kids' gelatin plate prints at

Just a small sample of the kids’ prints.

They layered prints and colors and textures with abandon, fearlessly, fabulously. I did not sit down for hours. One parent told me that she was grateful her son–one of the kids who printed right up until we were out of time–has taken to the activities in this program. He is put off by drawing, she said, but he has found inspiration here. Oh! Oh. When you find something you love to do that also brings a spark to others–how lucky is that? I need to figure out how to make this happen more often. Right now trying to do that is a casualty of being in limbo–I can’t lay the groundwork to broaden this work here, and I don’t know exactly where we’ll be next. But when the time comes, I’ll figure it out.

paint on my hands at

Paint-y hands are happy hands.

I cleaned and wrapped the gelatin plates to bring home and store in my cold garage. Tuesday, I picked three of the better-looking ones and G, N, and I made some prints ourselves. N and I were too busy to make our own prints on Monday afternoon, and G was home sick with a fever both days.

One of N's gelatin prints at

One of N’s gelatin prints.

Gelatin plate printmaking is so much fun, and the plates are easy to make, too. Art Together Issue Three: Printmaking has all the instructions on how to make a gelatin plate and get started printing with it.

Custom Printed Tea Towels

A while ago now, I was asked if I could print tea towels with the rock crab linocut. I poked around, got suggestions, and decided on Moda toweling, ordering some in white and natural. In the meantime I experimented with printing a linocut on fabric using different paints and inks, but I couldn’t get a result that I was happy with. I decided the best choice was to carve a new rock crab stamp; I have always gotten good results printing my hand-carved stamps on fabric. When the toweling arrived, I experimented some more. Finally, these are the results.

Custom printed tea towels at

The towels are approximately 16″ wide by 24″ long, and the natural is even softer than the white. They wash up beautifully, and the images are printed with heat-set fabric ink with a crab at each end. I packaged them up with a tag that includes washing instructions and the inspiration behind the image.

tea towel ready to gift at

I enjoy working with people for custom orders, especially when it’s an idea that hadn’t yet occurred to me, such as printing on tea towels. (I’ve printed on them before; it just hadn’t occurred to me to print them with my own hand-carved stamps and offer them for sale.) It’s really gratifying when somebody loves an image I’ve imagined and created, and envisioning it in another form is excellent. It makes the final result a collaboration, and that’s very cool.

If you’re interested in any custom work, I’d love to hear from you!

Working That Serenity

My youngest child turns six today. So of course I made her a new number shirt (using a freezer-paper stencil).

freezer paper birthday shirt at

I used a different textile paint, a matte liquid paint that I suspect is just liquid acrylic, re-bottled and up-priced. She wanted purple, and it’s hard to mix a good pure purple with the textile inks I usually use. I think it came out really well (although I haven’t washed it yet).

I love these shirts.

As for the serenity I’m working? I chose that word as a reminder for 2014, in a nod to the work I’ve done being okay with uncertainty. And oh, 2014 has presented so much uncertainty! For a good chunk of the year, we weren’t sure if my husband would accept a job offer that had come his way, unsought. It was a process, and the decision-making needed the time it needed, and during that time, it was a possibility, but not a given. And now, of course, we’ll be moving. When? Who knows. Where? Not exactly sure. In the remaining days of October, my husband has two business trips, we’re hosting our daughter’s school friends for a birthday party, and we’re putting our house on the market. (That third thing takes place only four days after the party, and my husband won’t even be in town when the sign goes up on the front lawn.) We have all the regular things–school, karate, appointments. Halloween and costume planning and trick-or-treating. It seems like a lot for less than two weeks. I’m just working that serenity.

And the party! She wanted a Frozen theme, and we have some fun things up our sparkly ice-princess sleeves. That’s my main focus this week, along with photographing the various rooms in the house so the photos are ready for the listing date. I have my lists. I have Gilmore Girls to re-watch while my husband is away. I don’t have to conduct frantic pre-party cleaning/hiding stuff because I’ve been cleaning and decluttering for almost two months now. It seems to work best if I just focus on the day I’m in, and maybe a little bit of the next day or two. Things tend to fall into place. What it’s taken me all my life up until this year to really understand is that that’s true whether I twist myself into a nervous wreck about things, or not. So. I figure we’ll sell our house and find a house and maybe it will go seamlessly or maybe we’ll have to rent or stay in a hotel or who knows? I have a party to plan first. Hopefully I’ll post about our treats and trimmings later this week–but maybe it’ll take me until next week. We’ll just have to wait and see!

Making + Listening::15/2014

A return to the making and listening link up hosted by Jen… this past week I printed a horseshoe crab linocut I recently carved.

horseshoe crab lino print at

We found some horseshoe crab sheds on the beach earlier this summer so we took them home and I drew them and drew them again and painted it and finally carved one. A bit of testing and refining, and these are the final prints, drying. I’m using soy-based permanent ink, so when it finally cures and sets, I’m going to experiment with adding watercolor to a few of these. It’s incredibly satisfying to see how I’m getting better with lino carving.

Beyond that, this week my kids and I returned to some of our favorite places–rock tide pools and the salt pond beach–one last time before the oldest and youngest began school today. We’ve listened to gulls and lapping water, birds and katydids (they’re so loud at night!), shrieks of fun and splashing kids. I miss it already.

Making + Listening::13/2014

This week I finished 13 zip pockets, to add to the pile to take to a craft fair later this month.

stack of finished pockets

It’s so satisfying to finally get to the point of turning them right-side out and seeing them complete.

stamped + embroidered zip pouches at

Some nautical-themed pouches and two more trees.

I like to have a mix of stamped and embroidered, and I like to change up the colors.

embroidered pouches at

Chickens! Flowers!

And it’s nice to have some varied sizes.

stamped and embroidered pouches at

Once the fair is over I’ll update the Etsy shop and pay it a bit more attention. Dust off the shelves and whatnot.

As for listening…birds, World Cup, Pandora, and my kids. How’s your week been going?

Making + Listening::11/2014

Making this week…we had some sun, so we made sun prints. I pulled out our package–I keep it in the light-proof envelope it came in, inside the cardboard box it was shipped in, inside a closet (overprotecting, much?)–and saw the advice to use within six months of opening. I’m pretty sure we’ve had this package two years, but we gave it a try. Below you can see some of the sun prints on the old paper, which is smaller, versus the new paper I went out to buy that afternoon because somebody was a little disappointed.

sun prints (old paper vs new) at

The blocked areas aren’t as bright white, but otherwise, it works. I like using sun prints in collages. Now that we know we have to use it all up this summer, we will.

N and G have been making maps, some in collaboration and others separately.

kid-drawn maps at

Collaborative maps, mostly drawn by N with idea input by G.

kid-drawn map at

One of G’s maps.

Unable to find the bleach pen I know I have somewhere (time to clean out the studio, perhaps?), I bought another one and played with some denim scraps that Jen gave me.

bleach pen on denim at

As for listening, Tuesday night Jen and I got together and listened to each other–adult talk!–for a couple of hours. That was a treat and a joy.

Linking up with Jen again this week…

Creating Every Day

Without really thinking about it or planning it out, I’ve been creating every day. It’s wonderful. The kids and I have been immersing ourselves in trying out ideas for the next issue of Art Together, which focuses on mixed media and collage. Here’s a sneak peek of the title.

mixed media title at

The featured artist this issue is Joseph Cornell, and I’ve just finished reading a nearly 400-page biography on him. I suppose this is a bit more than I have to do in order to include him in the zine, but I like biographies, and going that deep certainly doesn’t hurt. The kids have enjoyed learning more about him and his artwork as well. Issue Four will be available in June, as close to June 1 as I can make it.

Along with making art with the kids, I’ve been making art for the upcoming fair.

items ready for the fair at

This is what I have beyond the sewn pouches. I have just a few matted linocut prints, on the left. I have a half dozen stamped small Moleskine notebooks, and below those, a sampling of hand-printed or -stamped cards. The white ones are mixed media cards and work well with the linocuts; the brown ones are kraft cardstock, so I used my stamps on those. I have about ten of each. At the bottom right are large stamped Moleskines, and above those is a box of rocks.

box of painted rocks at

I kind of just like saying “box of rocks!”

In between the making I’ve been writing–a draft of an article for Home/School/Life, and the zine too, of course. It’s a good sort of busy, with all this creating going on, and with enough variety that I can switch between different sorts of creative muscles. And of course, any day that includes art-making and creating is automatically a Very Good Day.