Monthly Archives: May 2009

Important Trip

Sorry I was silent for a while. I was out of town on a very important trip for these crazy kids…

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This is my mom & dad. Aren’t they cute? This was their wedding day. Mom’s dress was a very, very, very pale green, appropriate as she was becoming a Greener. The dress was also cocktail length. How hip were Mom & Dad?! Three popular things right now, colored wedding dresses, cocktail length wedding dresses and grooms in suits instead of tuxedos. They’re such a handsome couple. Even grandma was hip! Check out that graphic print on the wallpaper in her home!

I just got back home last night so I hope to be back in regular flow Monday. See you then! Everyone have a great weekend! I’ll be makin’ another book, among other things.

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A ‘Yes’ Person Makin’ Books

Are you a ‘Yes’ person?¬† I can be at times, which is why you didn’t see me much last week. This past Friday I took a short, but very much, little break in my day and read this. For me, the money doesn’t even matter when it comes to saying yes to things. I may need it or I may not, but I still end up saying ‘yes’ most of the time to something that I just don’t have the time for. I believe it’s mostly because I don’t want to disappoint someone when I say ‘no’.

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When it all collides I end up dropping anything I have planned for myself and/or my personal life. All for what?! I end up worrying more than concentrating and more than enjoying the opportunity to create something new. I get a bit stressed and find myself skipping meals. And it’s not uncommon being alerted to the fact that even though I’m no longer a teenager does not mean I won’t get zits from certain stresses!

So it’s time for a little change, a sit down for some goal setting and to assure myself that saying no, especially to pro-bono service, is okay. How about you? What do you do when you find yourself saying ‘yes’ to too many things, whether service or work related? Do you have any tips or suggestions that have been helpful?

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The past year or two I’ve studied more and more about book binding. Above is a photograph of part of my Mother’s Day gift I made for my mother. I love the pattern on this paper. I’m seeing patterns like this everywhere! I’m seriously considering designing a new invitation with a similar pattern. I believe it was first seen as an exterior design pattern on cathedrals, churches and abbeys. If I recall correctly from my architectural design class at university, it’s called quatrefoil. Even though I didn’t study graphic design at BYU, at least I can say I’m using something artistic I was taught there in my current job.

My favorite way of book binding so far has got to be coptic binding, which is the style of this book. I always thought it was a Japanese technique, but when I took the class I was surprised to learn¬† it was actually developed by the Egyptians. Amazing that a technique used as early as the 2nd century is still being used today! Talk about an undying art! I’m so happy to have learned this technique and hope to learn more.

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At the end of each extended calligraphy class I’ve taken the students would have a project they worked on for the class term and we would all put a book together with shrunk down images of our art. But my interest into book arts didn’t hit me until I took my first book binding course at my local Paper Source. After one class I was hooked. I can’t recall the instructors name for the life of me, but I’ve taken additional classes from her and I love her teaching style. Her style is to work with you, not just tell you what to do step by step. She actually makes a book along with you and waits until you’re ready to continue. Seems pretty basic, but you’d be surprised how rare it is that some instructors follow this way of teaching.

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Here is a picture of the inside front cover of the book. The calligraphy on the right was written with my folded pen nib. I think the calligraphy sucks. I’m hoping in the future I’ll see progress from the sorry site of this.98004003Later this month I’m taking a Basic Bookbinding course. I’m sure that will be fun, just like all the others I’ve taken from Paper Source. I’ll be sure to update you on the results.

Later this week I’ll be away on a very important trip. To all those at the National Stationery Show right now, I’m so envious, but very excited to hear and see all how it went. They say the first couple days are the busiest.

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Filed under book binding/book arts, calligraphy, invitations

Letters Of Joy (Part IV)

Books, cards and even more books. Michael Jacobs not only knows how to make ’em, he makes them into pieces of art. They’re almost like puzzles or origami.

My third and final class at LOJ was titled ‘Triangle Book’ taught by the extremely talented artist, Michael Jacobs.

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This is how the conference brochure described the class:

“You’ll be asking “How many ways can it open?” when you make this unusual book project. Triangle book is versatile, sculptural, and fun to operate, with a huge variety of ways to insert pages. View lots of samples for inspiration.”

I had been looking forward to this class all day. I’ve taken a few different book binding classes and absolutely love learning the art. I’ve found that many calligraphy artists also dip into book arts and even letterpress printing and vice versa.

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Once Michael began to talk about making the book, the class became fast paced. He’s very particular about measurement and spent a lot of time in the beginning talking about that and other tips. I haven’t tried this yet, but as an experiment take two different 12″ rulers. They can be from the same company or different. Lay one out on the table with inches going 0″ to 12″, left to right. Now take another ruler, going from 12″ to 0″ left to right and line the two rulers side by side with the o” from one ruler lined up with the 12″ mark of the other. Notice how different they are. Apparently most rulers can be all over the place. Again, I haven’t tried this, but it sounds interesting. Michael mentions his favorite ruler, pictured above, here. Despite it costing around $20, for him it was well worth it. I, myself, am not this particular, but it’s interesting, nonetheless.

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There were various other things discussed in length before we got to the book. Some important, like the grain of paper (even though we were making a triangle book, so didn’t make much difference) and you can read some more tips he shared with us on his web site here. It’s all interesting and he’s got a load of information to share.

The class was intended to be able to make two different triangle books, maybe three. Once we got to making the book on our own, it felt like a race to try and get as much done before 5 o’clock came. A few people zipped right through it, but the majority of us were at a more normal pace. I was able to make one book and had almost all the pieces cut out for the second, more complex book and had to finish that at home. I’m not sure, but I don’t think anyone made three.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of taking pictures of his samples. I even had my camera with me! Duh!!! I don’t think I put the second more complex triangle book together correctly. I mean, it works and it opens and all that, but visually, in my mind, I pictured it a different way and I don’t care for how this one opens. This is why there aren’t many photos in this post. Sadly, there were no printed instructions for his more lengthy and complex triangle books either.

However, I’m not finished trying. I have an idea in my mind for an invitation, in fact. Whether it be for a birthday, wedding, shower, announcement, anniversary, or just a fun random party, I think this could be an unforgettable invitation to an unforgettable event. Once I have it all worked out I’ll have the photographer take pictures and share it with you here.

One teaching style unique to Jacob’s, and I really liked this, is how he refers to his students. Most of the time you hear teachers refer to their students by name or calling the class to attention with ‘Class, pay close attention to…’ or ‘Everyone come up to the front and…’. Michael refers to all his students by calling them artists. ‘Artists, pay close attention to…’ or ‘Artists, come up to the front and…’. It got me thinking about that very word, artist. When does it feel right to title yourself as an artist? Is everyone an artist? Do you have to have a degree of some sorts? Do you have to be a selling artist to feel entitled to the title? Should you have studied ‘x’ amount of hours? Should you have active membership in some sort of association? I’ve thought about this before regarding the title ‘calligrapher’, but the same applies here. What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your comments.

Michael Jacob’s has many, many other artistic talents and if you would like to see more of Jacob’s work check out his web site and gallery.

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Jacob’s also has a couple books published.

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They’re both available for purchase here or here.

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Filed under baby announcement, book binding/book arts, calligraphy, invitations, weddings

Letters Of Joy (Part III)

My second class was a bit different from any others I’ve taken. Enliven Your Italic taught by Gina Jonas. Although very different from what I thought it would be, it still was enlightening.

Before we even started with our pens Gina talked much of the importance of meditation, focusing on your breath and stretching a little. For just a second I felt like I had been teleported to an ashram back in Bali.

There is the need for practice before you just dive right in. Just like a dancer, an athlete, a musician, practice is needed before the actual performance. The same is necessary for calligraphers too. I knew warm up was important, but this class really, super emphasized it and at a certain point within the warm up things sort of clicked. I definitely need to spend more time warming up.

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Find the rhythm, sense the touch or feel the flow of the push & pull in relation to your thumb & forefinger. Move your hand and arm in a circular motion, then up & down and side to side feeling the weight of your arm. Then do the same putting pen to paper.

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Once we got to putting pen to paper, I saw where the breathing exercise came into play. At times, while writing copperplate with pointed pen, I’ve noticed myself breathing in on the light upstrokes and breathing out on the heavier down strokes. The same thing applied to the italic letterhand.

One good point that stuck out in my mind was her comment that calligraphy is different, it’s an art of movement, so it should be different from just handwriting. The way your wrist hits the page, the pace at which you write, even the angle you write at.

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Which leads me to another point, using a drawing board with a padded surface. Gina rests the bottom of the board on her lap and rests the top against the table (I hope that makes sense). I’ve never tried this before until this class. Gina used a large piece of foam core board. She may have used a couple pieces because her board looked so thick. Over the top she attached some suede fabric. I’ve often used foam core board too, but never thought of laying fabric over the top too.

The class was far too brief. It should be at least a full day course…maybe even two. Once we got to writing the only letter we got to was the letter ‘l’! Yep, far too brief. I wish we had had more time. Even Gina wished we had had more time, but I still learned a lot from her in such a short time.

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One last comment about the class. On the supply list was a Brause 3mm nib. I’ve used Speedball & Mitchell, but never a Brause for edged pen work. I liked it a lot! There was a lot of give and flexibility in the nib, but not too much. I think I’ll keep using that nib for a while to see if it grows on me.

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Gina has written a couple books. This book above goes very well in conjunction with the course. Gina’s books are available here, here, or here.

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Check out Gina’s web site here and be sure to check out her beautiful ketubah’s, especially if you’re planning a wedding. They’re gorgeous!

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Letters Of Joy (Part II)

My first class of the LOJ conference was taught by Katherine Malmsten. She’s a very good teacher. If you ever go into the Kirkland Trader Joes store, check out their chalkboard ad’s.

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She does the lettering for their chalkboards! When I heard her say that I about gasped! I’m so in love with chalkboard lettering. They have a really nice one right here in town at the Duvall Grange Cafe. I wish I had a photo of it to share because it’s awesome and I’ve no idea who did it.

Anyway, my morning class was about ruling pens, folded nibs and ruling writer style pens. If you know or appreciate the style of pointed brush lettering you are going to love this. One reason, for me at least, is that it’s so much quicker to catch on than pointed brush. Still not enough time for a two hour class, but enough to get an idea and be on your way to play.

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But first thing’s first. What is a ruling pen? Available at many art supply stores. They’re great for getting super skinny straight lines, when dipped in ink. The screw at the tip adjusts the width of the two blades, which also adjusts the width of the line. I believe they were commonly used in drafting and architecture, but the computer has sort of phased that need out. If you sand down the point at the tip, you can really get some cool lettering. Follow the italic style letter forms and then just play.

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The folded nib, which was my favorite. I got mine through Paper & Ink Arts. Just go to their search box and enter ‘folded nib’. Slide that into your pen and you’re ready to play. The nib holds a good amount of ink. When applying just the tip of the nib to your page the thinner letters you get. Apply more of the nib to the page and the thicker letters you’ll get. That pretty much explains how you get the thick & thin of the letterforms. There’s a little bit of rotation that occurs with your pen/nib to go from thick to thin. That’s a very basic explanation.

Although we weren’t taught this, there are ways to make your own folded nib. It reminds me of something I saw in a book once. Someone made a nib from a soda pop can! If I hear of another longer course taught by Katherine I’ll be signing up as fast as I can. She is a wealth of knowledge and a fantastic teacher.

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{top: ruling writer; bottom: folded nib & holder; image from here}

Ruling writer style pens are the most rare. They’re also the most expensive, but you can buy a new one still through Paper & Ink Arts. I never had a chance to use this pen, but it’s one of Katherine’s favorites to use.

Many of these pens you can find at flea markets, I found one at the Fremont Flea Market last summer for about $3, garage sales or even eBay. From what I hear, often people don’t really know what it is they’ve got so you can find some deals out there. Just get creative with your descriptions if you’re searching online. And if you find an extra ruling writer style pen let me know!

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With lots of practice, the image above is what a folded nib or ruling writer pen can do. Go to Katherine’s web site here to see more of her incredibly talented work.

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Letters Of Joy (Part I)

My weekend at Letters of Joy was so much fun! It was so nice to have so much time to study, learn and see so many friends of mine and meet new ones too. I also learned that my awesome and talented instructor will be teaching a sort of advanced copperplate calligraphy class starting Tuesday. I may have to adjust some things around in my schedule and one week I’ll miss due to an important trip I’m going on later on in the month, but other than that I’m so there! I’ll be sure to share about it here with you too.

Last Friday was the lecture given by the special guest of the conference, Lisa Englebrecht.

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I loved Lisa’s work before and I love it even more today. Not only that, but she is the most wonderful person. Later on in her lecture she spoke about her desire to find young artists and how she tries to bring them into the fold of the lettering arts community. She embraces certain graffiti art, not tagging but graffiti art.

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She also embraces tattoo artistry. It’s a permanent art and while beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there’s still nothing worse than walking around with a very permanent, visible tattoo that looks like it was done by an amateur with horrible letter forms. It just makes you feel sorry for them. For so long I too have appreciated viewing such art and it felt good knowing I’m not the only one who does within the calligraphy community.

She was very inspiring. And when it comes to experiencing an artists block, she had some wonderful tips. One which was, do what speaks to you. If hearts seems to speak to you and comes back time and time again, like it’s been doing for a while for her, then use it. Go with it and make something out of it. For some other tips from various random artists click here.

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At lunch time, on Saturday, I had the opportunity to sit with her for a little while as she signed copies of her book for others while we ate. In my previous career I worked for an international wireless company and on a daily basis I would speak to various vice presidents, presidents, the CEO, COO, attorneys, leading council, etc. and never have I been tongue tied or nervous to do so. But Saturday sitting right next to Lisa felt like I was sitting right next to Oprah frickin’ Winfrey! I’ve felt that way once before when I took a class once from Jocelyn Curry and I’m sure I’ll feel that way if I ever meet Sheila Waters, her son Julian Waters, Denis Brown and perhaps a few others. I mean, imagine you’re a struggling director of short films and you have the chance to sit down next to Steven Speilberg. That’s how these people are viewed within the calligraphy community, or maybe it’s just me, but I doubt it.

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Despite my initial nerves, my friends and I had a good conversation with Lisa as loads of people stopped by praising her, myself included. She definitely made me feel very comfortable talking with her because she’s so darn nice! At the end of the day she must be walking on cloud nine and a heart 6 feet wide knowing how much and how many people love and appreciate her work.

I’ll share more about my classes later on in the week.

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Filed under calligraphy, watercolor art/paintings