Category Archives: Domestic arts

Another stab at organization

Magazine holder close-ups by floating ink
Magazine holder close-ups, a photo by floating ink on Flickr.

The art supplies are taking over the house. In an effort to corral some of the papers and paints, tools, brushes, books, and so on, I spent a little check I got for Christmas on some Ikea shelving. While I was there I also grabbed some of these easy to assemble cardboard magazine holders:

This afternoon I pulled out a huge roll of heavy brown kraft paper, some of my hand carved stamps and some Stayz-on stamp ink, and started working up some covers for the plain white boxes. You can see I used my official weights to hold the curled up paper in place, and the very correct pizza boxes that I use to transport my stamps:*
Within an hour or so I had three neatly covered boxes, the ones you see at the top of this post. I’m pretty chuffed about them.  I’m especially pleased with the scissors stamps, which I made by photocopying my two favorite pairs of scissors, cutting out their paper images, then tracing them onto kids’ craft Foamies (is that what those sheets are called?), cutting them out (with their original real-life counterparts), then using a dead ball point pen to make impressions of their details before stamping with them.

Anyway, I think they look great in the new shelves. If only they didn’t show up the way-overdue-for-fresh-paint walls behind them!


*Thanks to a generous donation from a friend, I may soon have a much classier way to store and transport the stamps–stay tuned.


My not so hidden agenda sort of tutorial

Last June my computer had a little snit and ate my calendar. For the second time. Not all of it–I could still access most of the years on it, but not all. But that was it. I could no longer trust it. I still keep a calendar on my computer, but my main computer is kept on stone tablets now. I sat down the day after the Palm betrayed me and made a paper agenda. It has served me well.

On Saturday of this past weekend, though, I realized I’d come to the last page of my year, which, just because of what happened when, now runs from mid-June to mid-June. Time was up. I spent the rest of the weekend making a new one. I started with this:

And took these steps. More pictures here than words, and I apologize for the fact that the shadow of my head is in some of the photos–it was a dark stormy weekend and the lighting was just weird.

Soft Kut from Dick Blick:

The carved block and the printed page:

After flirting briefly with hand-cutting and block printing the name of each month and each numerical date, I came to my senses and wrote them in by hand with Sharpie markers matching the color of the ink I’d used on each page:

Cutting scraps (they look like the homemade noodles First Child and I made a couple of weeks ago). I’m so cheap that I spent a ridiculous amount of time pawing at and trying to figure out how to reconstitute and reuse these. Common sense prevailed and they went into the trash, but it took a while and was fairly wrenching. Seriously, think there’s gotta be a use for these somewhere:

A little cover decoration was in order:

And then, maybe, a little color:

Second child likes the black and white prints better. I left a few like that. And I don’t know why I printed so many, but it’s just as easy to do a run of quite a few prints and I’m already thinking up some good uses for them (stay tuned).

I’m always seriously in love with the blocks from which I print. Would it be weird to mount and hang them somewhere? They’d have to be accessible for repeated use. I also have among my treasures some woodcut (actual wood) blocks that my dad carved many years ago. Some of them were commissioned for the covers of a magazine for which he was the art director back in the 60s and 70s. My sister has some of them, too. Hmm . . . I might actually have to print some of them in the near future.

For now, though, these are just mine.  And this, finally, is my new calendar, complete with its own sunflowery cover, its nice tabs (scavenged from some monoprints that didn’t completely work out), and its important back pocket (everything should have pockets). I’m happy to have a nice place to keep track of what day it is.

Bees in a Subaru

Well, it beats snakes on a plane any day.

A couple of days ago my better half and I got up at dawn and headed across the border into upstate New York to fetch home our new adoptees.  Four hours later we were back home with a big cardboard box of bees–five or six thousand of them. They were good on the trip (“good” in this case is defined as nobody got out of the box and wandered around in the car, and I never once had to turn around and say to the box “Don’t make me come back there!).  It was a piece of cake–we even stopped at a diner for a quick breakfast on the way back, taking care that the bees were secure and that the car was parked in cool shade with all the windows rolled down. I think I need to get one of those little yellow warning signs that says “Bees on board.”

It was an experience–the farmer (who appeared to be no older than 23 or 24) had given us his street address as “number 91-ish.”  He wasn’t kidding. Turning in at #91 took us up a long, harrowing, unpaved road, rocky and rutted and muddy, and from there to a spectacular enormous couple of partially plowed fields at the top of a high hill–best views possible of the heavily wooded and beautiful area.  And that was all–save for a little pup tent, a slightly larger tent, some lawn chairs, a number of beer bottles, and–on an improvised table–some lit and flickering candles that smelled marvelously of beeswax and honey. We knew we were in the right place.

Eventually a young woman popped out of the smaller tent and used her cell phone to call the farmer, who, she told us, had gotten up at about the same time we had, beating the heat as he plowed a field ahead of the sun, and that he was probably back at his house, a lovely old farmhouse at the foot of the hill, washing up. We could see the house from the hilltop, but had somehow missed it on our way up (it was in a forest of trees and rhododendrons in full bloom). He came up in his truck about 15 minutes later and in the meantime we amused ourselves, the better half and the young woman and I, in looking at an enormous turtle in the middle of one of the fields–huge, and exactly the color of the mud –when the young farmer came up, he hoisted it out of the bed, afraid it would lay eggs that he would then accidentally plow over, and moved it down the hill to a creek. Then we followed him back down the hill where he plucked our nuc hive (a set of 5 frames of pollen, honey, and baby bees–half what a full hive would have, with a queen and about 6,000 workers to attend her) out of a big stack of 100 or so waiting to be picked up, we shook hands, he wished us will with our new children, and off we went.

At home, we set the bee box (looking rather like a giant’s shoebox) into the cool dark garage to settle down a little bit. The better half took advantage of the break to upgrade the painting he did on our favorite hive body–it was pretty weather-beaten.

Of course, a painter can’t work without someone to comment on how he’s doing. Everybody’s a critic: I’m looking at you, Crispin dog.

Later in the afternoon, with our kids and a friend in attendance, we lifted the new frames of bees into their new home (much in the way you would move file folders in a drawer), gave them a big bottle of sugar water to refresh them, and left them to do their work.  They were a little unsettled in their new environment (I got stung once), but before we walked back up to the house they were already zipping in and out of their new abode and checking out the dappled nook in which the hive sits, with wild roses in bloom on one side of them and blackberry flowering on the other side. Now we won’t bother them for a week or 10 days, at which point we’ll check in on them and see whether they’re filling up the empty frames in the hive body and are ready for another story on their house.

Lightning quick gift bag repurposing: bag to book

{Wheee! This one got featured in the Whipup newsletter–#3–last week. Thanks, Kathreen!}

My husband suffers from a terrible fear of gift wrapping. Leaving out the gory details, suffice it to say that on his first day of work in his first after school job in a department store in high school, he had to gift wrap a set of football shoulder pads. They were not in a box.

He has never recovered. Because of this, he (thinks he) has dibs on all the holiday gift bags that come into this house. He hoards them so that, come a birthday or holiday, all he has to do is drop in a gift, tuck a piece of tissue on top of it, then go and pour himself a stiff drink to help dispel the horror.

So one of my after Christmas tasks is to gather up and store any nice gift bags that came our way. I was particularly taken with a kraft paper bag decorated with red and white snowflakes, and wanted to save it. Alas, Crispin had gotten into it after the present opening (it had originally contained some homemade goodies) and the bottom corner had a distinct bite mark. Still, I was loathe to throw it away. So last night I did a quick-and-dirty repurpose and now present to you . . . ta daaa:

Gift bag to handmade notebooks (2 thereof) in 5 quick steps

This is the quickest project ever. Gather your gift bag, a pair of scissors, a tapestry needle and some embroidery thread, and some cast-off papers to fill the notebooks with. Plop yourself down on the family room floor and just . . . wing it. I didn’t even measure anything, and eyeballed all the cuts.

Lay your bag on the floor and check it for tears or stains. My bag was great in the middle, a little torn at the bottom and, because it had paper twist handles that had been reinforced with a sort of lumpy bit of reinforcing paper, I decided to discard the section with the handles.

Take your scissors and free the usable middle section:

Stand this section up in front of you. See how each side makes a little letter M?


Cut down the middle of each M so you have two pieces. Each piece will make one notebook–you can probably see them already:

Fold the first one in half with the decorative side out. The flaps on the sides will make the notebook a little sturdier. Repeat with the other piece of the bag:

From the scrap paper, cut pages a little smaller than the size of the open notebook–10 or 12 pieces should be about right, though if your bag is bigger than the one I used you can add more. Fold them in half and nestle the spine of this little sheaf of papers into the spine of the notebook. Use the needle and a length of embroidery thread (or whatever floats your boat) to stitch the papers in place. Use your scissors to trim the thread ends and neaten any pages that need some attention.

Et voila! Here are my two. One has used printer paper as filler (so, yeah, half of the sheets have been typed on), and the other has plain paper bag paper to match the cover.

Total cost? Zippo. Total time? Maybe 20 minutes, and that’s only because my kids asked me to stop rustling papers during Futurama and I could only make cuts during commercials. And don’t you feel virtuous for recycling?



Blech, blech, blech

I often have soup for breakfast, and I appreciate really good, homemade soup. But the last time I was at the grocery store, a package of instant miso soup caught my eye. I like miso soup and it suddenly sounded like a good thing to eat for breakfast (I am not a bacon and eggs kind of girl–when I go out for breakfast with friends I order a cup of earl grey tea and a tuna sandwich–breakfast of champions). So I bought an envelope to try.

Which is still, as I write this, trickling down my sink drain. OMG, that was nasty stuff.  I didn’t make it through the first spoonful.

But now I have an unsatisfied craving to deal with. I’m tempted just to take some veggie or chicken broth, stir in a big spoonful of miso (a staple in my fridge) and add some cut up mushrooms. But it can’t be that easy, can it? Anyone have a good recipe?

Blech, blech, blech. Now I have to go rinse out my mouth with the quintessential Drain-O for humans: diet coke.

Ninja girls rule

In need of a little birthday gift (actually, a nifty bit of packaging for a milestone birthday gift for my niece, I decided to make a little pinch purse to hold the actual present (which–wink wink–is flat and green and foldable and features engravings of dead presidents).

I turned (again) to my stash of linen towels and decided to do a little freezer paper print.  Of what? I wanted it to be both a little girly and sort of urban chic.  Ultimately I was inspired by these ninja kokeshi at Temple7e. Do go and look and scroll down to see all of his fabulous takes on kokeshi (and other subjects). It looks like he does custom work, too–go see!

So here’s my ninja girl pinch purse. Happy birthday, sweetheart!

Linen covered book

Since I raided the local odd lots store last month for about 2 dozen of the linen and cotton kitchen towels they were selling for 50 cents each, I’ve been trying to use them in as many different ways as possible (I haven’t yet used them as actual dish towels, but it may come to that).

This one became the cover fabric for a coptic stitched blank journal I made for a milestone birthday for my sister. The linen was a little on the thick side–great for wiping dishes, not as great for book cloth–but I’m tickled with how it came out. The art on the cover is a watercolored print from one of my hand-carved stamps. The interior pages, which are a creamy white, are from a block of Sennelier “Le Maxi” sketching paper that I snagged on sale (the cellophane wrapper of the block was torn, but the paper was perfect) from my local Dick Blick store a while back.

I made a similar one with a kraft paper cover, red enameled eyelets for the waxed linen thread to go through and a handpainted, hand-carved stamp of a bird for a friend whose birthday was last week, but that one didn’t get photographed. In fact, I was so late in finishing it that I sat at the table in the tea shop where some friends and I were celebrating her birthday and finished the coptic stitching as we chatted over our iced teas on a hot afternoon. She was pleased–said it was like getting a present and a show.

(At least) one more to go, for yet another friend with an August birthday. Jeez, you’d think that December was a cold month or something.