Sometimes things just fit together and you get a glimpse of the big picture:

Although I didn’t absolutely need a break from study and work, today — or, at least, didn’t think I did — it’s been nice to disengage from the career/training thing, for a bit.  Tonight I took a cue from what I had been writing about in an earlier draft of this post, and set to work on a few earrings I’ve wanted to repair for months, if not years.  I had stashed them away, and chose not to work on them, for one reason or another — even though in one case, the repair was incredibly easy (switching out sharp, steel earwires, for higher-quality silver ones).

What I’ve realized — and I’ve just earlier this week read a really, really interesting paper on Intellectual Property (IP) which in effect told me that I wasn’t violating anyone’s IP — is that the beadwork thing that I’ve been involved with is relatively…well, it’s niche.  It’s kind of like lacemaking, just not that niche (…I don’t think?).  🙂  It’s a craft and creative pursuit where the things that are made are not necessarily groundbreaking, and as such are relatively unaddressed in IP law.

Since I stopped making and selling beaded jewelry largely because I did not understand where I stood in regard to this…and now I know it’s OK to use techniques I’ve learned from books (just not to use patterns from books if I’m selling them for profit, re:  community regulations), and have a sense of a framework and where I stand (as part of a community of practice)…it’s kind of spurred off an enthusiasm that I haven’t felt in a long time.

Another reading I did, further back in the semester (I think we’re about halfway through, now), stated that most costs in manufacturing could be attributed to labor.  This was another thing which gave me some heart, because creating beaded objects is relatively inexpensive so far as materials go.  The vast majority of the cost is taken up in the time and skilled labor needed to produce these objects…and then there is the time taken up in managing a small (tiny) business.

And as a craft jeweler based in the U.S., I can’t compete in the same market as people who make beaded jewelry in other countries, and sell their jewelry in the U.S. for what is, in effect, below cost here.  If I make beaded jewelry, I’ll need to be strategic about it — and be willing to sell it for what it’s worth, meaning that I’ll need to make sure that my jewelry — in quality and added value — merits the cost I’ll be charging.

So…there’s this, and also the fact that my experiments in suminagashi, plus my recent experiment (one, so far) with linoleum block printing, plus my training in Digital Imaging, is paying off in my Web Design course:  I own the rights to files I’ve produced, to use as graphics in my Web pages — and those graphics are not born-digital, which I feel gives me a certain advantage.

I’m starting to see a theme, here:  I think it’s highly likely that I would be best off in a job in which I get to be creative.  Thus, Web Design is highly viable, as is Web Development with a Design component.  And, I can do it in a library setting, if I really want to contribute to a Public Good.  That is, I don’t have to leave Art and Design behind for Librarianship or Information Science:  there are ways to merge these paths, particularly where it comes to Info Science, plus Art and Design and technology.  And it is worth it to continue the pursuit of Art and Design, because creativity is what I’m actually “about.”  (I’ll need to work on that phrasing for my Elevator Speech.)

Right now I’m working on a new earring design which I came up with a couple of nights ago.  I can see where it needs to be tweaked; I can also see where the beads I’m using are inferior.  I don’t have photos now, but I should be able to take some, soon.  Essentially, the bright metallic coating on some of my glass beads (SuperDuos) rubbed off in the short time I was handling them in order to weave the pattern!  Kind of disappointing…unless they’re meant to be fatigued (like stonewashed denim)?  I’m not sure.

There is an upcoming bead show, but I’m uncertain as to whether I’ll actually be able to have the time to do it.  That’s all in the future, though:  for now, I’ll focus on what’s in front of me, and try not to deny myself too many opportunities for creativity.  ❤

 

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Okay, I think I’m feeling a little overburdened…

…Thank all the people who worked so hard for ADA accommodations…

I’m not entirely sure what’s going on except that I’m getting tired of treading water and am starting to sink, a little.  Well, that; and I had surprise group work for one of my classes, which feels like it took up two free days.  I can’t tell exactly, though, because I’ve been too occupied to keep records.

I do remember, however, that Sunday I had a teleconference; then next day (Monday) I had surprise study time because of surprise group work from the teleconference; that same day, my glasses broke and I had to get them fixed; then the next day was a group meeting (Tuesday), after which was grocery shopping plus fabric and lace stores (see below), and coming home to bed.  Today (Wednesday) was work plus sleeping.

It doesn’t help that the death in the family which I spoke about some time back is still being worked through — I had surprise family obligations after work on the previous Saturday night, and worked on Friday, which I shouldn’t have done, as I didn’t have energy to do much when I got home.  I also shouldn’t be working into my breaks and lunchtime at work — this cost me time I could have used to get caught up on homework, today.  That left…what, Thursday to do a week’s worth of actual solid-deadline assignments?  (I was working last Wednesday, and Tuesday I had likely spent working on last week’s Web Design homework.)  I also spent some time in there trying to plan out classes for the next three semesters.

Realistically, writing here (conversation, not so much posting) has been one of the only things I’ve been doing for myself — although I did manage to snag some stuff for a sewing project, which I should not forget:  my fabric and pattern are stored with my yarns.

So, the fun thing:  I visited a lace-making supply store for the first time, yesterday.  That place is a wonder!  We were in the area, so I dropped by a local fabric store to pick up a pattern (which they didn’t have).  I was able to find out that the lace store carried the pattern I wanted, by going to the pattern homepage and finding out all the places that carry the brand.

The person who helped me was very kind.  I’ll be going back, if I have the option.

I think a big issue that I’m having is that I have commitments and deadlines that others in my household don’t have to deal with.  And I know it’s my job to keep on top of them, but when most of your down-time has been spent, literally, asleep (because you’re worn down) — meaning you have had little time and energy to do anything you actually have wanted to do (and you feel guilty for doing things you want to do, which makes it easier to spend time asleep) — sometimes you don’t want to actually look at your obligations, and then it becomes too late to do the prep work so that you can respond appropriately.

So I am behind, a bit.

I am, however, optimistic that even if I can’t be a Librarian (I am questioning my ability to keep up and not drop below a 3.0 GPA right now — albeit somewhat foolishly [I have good grades and accommodations in two of three classes — I haven’t touched the third yet]), I can be a Web Designer.  (I doubt I need a graduate degree, for the latter.)  It isn’t that hard for me, even though we are moving quickly.  Right now I’m in the middle of learning HTML5 and CSS3…which is like…magic.  😛  I had an introduction to XML via my Metadata class last semester, and these are, so far as I know, the three things one needs to make functional web pages and sites.

I still need to work out what to do for the next two semesters, at least:  some of the classes that I was told to work into my schedule are no longer required; and there is at least one new class which is “foundational.”

Seriously.  Right.

Anyhow…I went to bed earlier tonight because I couldn’t concentrate on my reading.  Tomorrow I should work on my Web Design homework (I think I should be able to get to it after the reading), plus the reading and lecture for my Usability course.  It will probably be much easier for me to work on it if I do it in a place where there is not a TV on.  Meaning, not in the kitchen…and not around family.

It’s kind of a surprise to find getting lonely to be a problem, for me.  Usually, I’m OK.  Then I work too hard and miss people…

Sewing…? who knew I’d have fun at that…

I’m still getting used to the practice of writing in multiple different places, online.  It’s kind of hard to keep track of everything.  It seems that I’ve been able to keep up decently, but I’ve still got a lot of work to do within the next two days, for one of my classes.

Anyhow, this is the art and design and creativity blog, so…yes.  Well.  What have I been doing as regards art and design and creativity?

Recently, a lot has fallen by the wayside.  Out of all the things I listed before which I wanted to do, three four things have I continued doing:

  1. Sewing/Embroidery
  2. Homework
  3. Work
  4. Blogging (not so much, here, but for classes)

And I looked up the statistics on income levels for tailors and dressmakers, which has again…gotten me a bit ticked off with the economy.  It seems that people who do work which actually is important on the level of survival and necessity, in this country, are the people who are least compensated for their labor.  I have a feeling that if I investigate why this is, I’m going to come up with something ugly.

But I’ll try not to get into a diatribe.  It’s too late/early for that.

One of the things which I really enjoyed doing, over the weekend, was re-teaching myself how to sew by hand.  I found a good source on sewing methods…and have found some of the differing behaviors exhibited by different needles and threads to be — actually — interesting.  For instance, fine perle cotton thread — like the kind used for lace — makes an edging with a really nice sheen, when worked as a closely-spaced blanket stitch.  (Cotton embroidery floss, on the other hand, makes a dissheveled mess.)

And hand quilting thread plus a Between needle pulls through fabric (muslin, in this case) much more easily than embroidery floss plus an Embroidery needle.

I did both blanket stitch, and an actual buttonhole stitch, early Saturday morning (say 1-3 AM).  I find copious misinformation about buttonhole stitch, online; and even in some books.  I’m not entirely sure why, except people haven’t learned in person from someone who knows what they’re doing, who has in turn had the skill passed down to them…in any case, I can try and post a tutorial at some point (and/or a review of my source), but right now I’m running low on steam.

What I did find interesting, though, was that constructing something (edging a crease, which allowed me to envision seam allowances) seemed to be more engaging than just decorating something (though that’s fun, too)…

I should really get some rest…

Needing to work with my hands:

So…I did only work a half-day today, but when I got home, I seriously did not want to dive right into schoolwork.  Tomorrow, I’ll see what I can knock out, though it looks like my main (school-) work days will be Sunday through Tuesday.

Tonight…I really needed to do something with my hands.  I guess it’s something that I’ve been relatively away from, after having migrated away from beadwork and macrame.  Not that I don’t like to do it anymore, but it has to be a hobby.  I can’t make a decent wage at it, unless I design things and then sell multiple instructions and kits (which has occurred to me more than once).

The labor cost is just too high, and that’s because of the cost and standard of living here.  (There’s something called “opportunity cost” in Economics, which is basically the money lost by doing one thing which could be gained, by doing something else.)  Patreon and Etsy, together, might be able to help me here.  Being able to create digital video recordings, and/or animations, would also help — though I stayed far away from film, when I was taking Art classes.  I do think I know someone who could help me or put me into touch with someone else who could, however.

Then there’s actual serious torch-and-pickle-and-power-tool jewelry making…which I have not been comfortable enough to attempt in my home.

Anyhow, wanting to do something with my hands, I thought back to when I had been engaged with crochet, sewing, and knitting.  Knitting really isn’t easy for me, but crochet is.  The largest problem I can see with crochet, however, is how to make things so that they’ll really insulate and have a function, other than looking nice — the larger holes in more lacy patterns can render a piece useless, except aesthetically.  That’s not to mention that cold air blows right through acrylic yarn, and quilts…I’ve never made a woolen quilt, but I imagine it to be expensive both in terms of materials and labor.

(I can knit things that are functional, but I think the repetition makes it easy for my mind to wander.  I could…do something like a seed-stitch muffler, however.  I do think I have enough cotton yarn [although what I have is all I have.  I think Mouzakis {Butterfly} yarn went out of business after I bought my stash].  I don’t know why I’d do that, though, except to challenge and/or frustrate myself.)

And I started looking around for my hand-sewing instructions, which — HA! — I actually did find.  After years!  I took that class back in 2009!  Someone else must have found my binders and put them away.  I’m just glad we didn’t throw them out.  I was thinking I might have to take a couture sewing class, again…

Anyhow…along with this, I also found two embroidery hoops.  One of them was set up and ready to go, with a threaded needle already tucked away in there…and M had already asked me about embroidery books…so they were readily available, and I was set.

There’s just something different about manipulating a needle and thread, you know?  I mean, as versus drawing or painting…though the end result can be things like color fills and lines, which are like drawing and painting — only, on a dynamic (and sometimes useful) surface.

I’m fairly certain that the needlework portion is what got me hooked on beadweaving, in the first place.  But this…is different:  for one thing, what is made is something that can be used and worn and functional, as versus…something that’s just for decoration.  Decoration can be great, but sometimes I’m trying to look at a more practical angle (which I’m trying to avoid using certain keywords to describe).

And yeah, I know that embroidery isn’t altogether practical, but knowing how to hand-sew did extend the life of one of my favorite shirts.  And if I wanted to, I could likely use sewing skills to make my own clothes — although in all likelihood, this would end up being more expensive than buying them.  The benefit would simply be a customized wardrobe, and possibly an adjustable-size wardrobe, at that…which actually might — at least a bit — begin to pay for itself.

What I would do if people asked me to sew for them, like people asked me to bead for them–???  I have no idea where that would lead.

My play for tonight isn’t really much to look at — I’ve got to gain a bit more skill and knowledge before I won’t be embarrassed to put my stuff online (!), but it was calming.  Repetitive fine motor movements do that, right?

Alright, so:  tomorrow is another work day.  I’m certain I’ll be taking something in to work on, during lunch…I haven’t decided whether it will be reading or embroidery, though.  The sheer dirt of working in a Library does give me a bit of pause, when combined with the possibility of pricked fingers:  but I’m using an embroidery needle.  How bad can it be?

Researching Caran D’Ache aquarelles:

I’ve just been looking around online at Caran D’Ache watercolor pencils. Apparently, there are now two kinds:  the Museum variety, and the Supracolors.

Museums look as though they are transparent, while the Supracolors have higher opacity (hinted at by the terms “covering power” at the Caran D’Ache site). It seems I’m a bit late to the game, here, as the WetCanvas link I’ve given above marks these as new for 2013…but I’m not an early adopter, so there you go. 🙂 Accordingly, I’ve read that Supracolors can be used light-over-dark if the lower layer is dry or has dried. I’ve also seen photos to this effect.

This…kind of gives me something to think about. I’m used to colored pencils not being terribly opaque (unfortunately), but then, I’m also used to Faber-Castell Polychromos, Blick, and Prismacolor brands (the last of which is a collection which runs back prior to 2000, as I think I’ve mentioned before). What I forgot to add is that I’ve been adding to that collection over the years; the font differences on the sides of the pencils tell me which ones are ancient and which are not. 😉

I’m…actually, still really interested in the Supracolors. The Museum pencils are fairly expensive, at ~$4 per pencil, while the Supracolors are a bit less (at around ~$3 per pencil in open stock). I would be buying my pencils, as well, to complement my watercolors — not to replace them.

When I tried the Supracolor I did, the pigment dispersion was very, very fine, as I had only used a little of the lead to see what color I would actually be getting (which was a bright violet-red, very different in appearance from dry pigment). And I didn’t have any black lines drawn on my test paper to see if the pigment would block out an underdrawing.

My major concern is wiping out those lines, which is why I even gave the Museum pencils consideration (I could get 12 for around $30…they may be what I’m looking for; I just hate to shell out that much money for that little product…although all signs say they’re high-quality). But what are in practicality, gouache pencils, do seem very interesting. And I have Derwent Inktense and watercolor pencils already. I don’t want to duplicate them (which is why I again started to re-swatch them, in addition to not recalling what they would do).

Despite having been out sick — I do think I’ll use my sickleave. (I’m not often sick, even when others are.) I’m hoping to do some sort of celebration of having completed Summer Session — on my mind is the 30-pencil set of Supracolors (which would be ~$2/pencil), which…wait…that would be twice the cost of the Museum pencils alone. It could be nice to get the Museum pencils and then a few open-stock Supracolors (particularly, light tones and greens), for the same price or less. (I’m intending to spend ~$60 at most, for these.)

Although — now that I look at it — how I’m going to use the pencils really caps all of this. I see a review which states that the Museums are not suitable for tight work, because of their softness — and I wanted to get them to tighten up the watercolor. Maybe I should get just a few colors in each style, and see how they’re usable. I already know that the colors in either style will be good.

What I had envisioned doing was laying down an initial layer of watercolor paint or acrylic ink to eliminate the white background, then going over it with aquarelle — like the Supracolors or Derwents — to add sharper details and fades (gouache could also serve, here), and then going over that with regular colored pencil, for texture.

Of course, though, this is all in my head, right now. I’m sure things will come up that I can’t predict, which will send me down one or another path, as regards workflow. You know what that means? That means I shouldn’t go to the art store yet, because I don’t yet know what I need. To find out what I need, I need to work on some drawings! In the process, I can see what hues I’m missing in my current collection. It may be that I don’t even have to buy a set. It may be that I don’t have to buy any new aquarelles at all.

One certain thing, though: I need to get a back-up pack of Derwent Graphik Line Painters (in case my “Snow” decides it can’t stand holding its paint anymore — it’s seriously messed up, as it was the first Japan-nibbed pen I ever tried to use, and I was not gentle enough with it).

I think I’m finally getting the hang of this art store thing. I mean — I’m actually doing research, as versus going in there and buying way more than I need, or items whose properties, I’m unsure of. Now — now, I’m wondering about taking a course on Web Searching…it hadn’t been on my mind, before, but it could prove very useful…and possibly, necessary…

Publishing less, doing more

Today, for the first time, I went to a Japanese tool supply shop with an extensive selection of woodcarving tools.  Although it was partially to fulfill the requirements for a UX exercise, and took about 10 minutes (not counting commute), I was excited to be able to go in there.  I have known about this place since high school, and apparently know the owners (somehow), but today was my first chance to look at their wares.

Another chance to use my Japanese skills.

Or, it would have been, had I enough kanji and word recognition to be able to actually piece together meaning, here.  Basically, the clerk’s first language was not English, there were a number of people seated in the back eating and speaking in Japanese, and just about everything in there was in packaging (mostly cardboard boxes) which were labeled in Japanese.  Helpfully, price stickers were language-neutral, though!

It was fairly dim, which is something I’ve learned to expect from…somewhere.  I think I remember it being part of a Japanese cultural aesthetic, to have the insides of rooms be enclosed; close, dim; womb-like.  But I can’t remember exactly where I read that, now.  I just know it’s a specific aesthetic which I’ve seen applied mostly in restaurant environments.

What I was after was a slip stone (sharpening stone), particularly the kind used to sharpen gouges with water-only as a lubricant.  While I do have Western-type gouges myself (I got them before woodblock printing was ever on my mind, easily before 2010), I’m not familiar with sharpening techniques using oil (which seems to be the predominant method in the U.S., but I can’t be sure).  It’s important to keep these sharp, because a dull tool can easily slip, which can easily lead to a fairly nasty stab wound, in turn.

I had found something like what I was looking for, online — however, this was from a large corporation which does not specialize in Asian tools (I was getting the slip stone to hone tools for woodblock printing — which I wouldn’t even be interested in if it weren’t for the Japanese history and tradition and aesthetic of these:  that is, I’m interested in mokuhanga, specifically).

Also, it seemed that I would then be using materials I was unfamiliar with (said setup included a bar of polishing compound, whereas I’m more familiar with blocks which are made of things like ceramic or aluminum oxide, themselves.  I have used polishing compound before, but that was in relation to jewelry production, and that in relation to compound-impregnated cloths, and rotary tools).

I’m not even sure if what I was looking at online was a slipstone or some kind of leather tool, or made out of wood, or what.  Nor was I certain whether or not it was a Web-only product (I’ve run across trying to buy these in-store, before).

And anyway, I’ve wanted to go to this shop for a while, so while I was out, I dropped by.  The clerk wasn’t too friendly (possibly because the first thing I did after walking in was ask if it was OK to bring in my gouges from home — I needed to make sure they would fit over the slip stone), but he did help me.  (I’ve had my share of being interrupted by people who have just walked in the door and the first thing they do is talk to me, so I can sympathize.)

After returning home, D found my old aluminum-oxide waterstone, which I had purchased to sharpen a high-carbon steel vegetable knife that my grandmother bought me sometime earlier this century, or late last.

High-carbon steel is supposed to keep a sharper cutting edge than stainless steel.  Its brittleness, however, combined with its lack of rust resistance, means that it needs more upkeep (particularly, drying, oiling, and honing), which (except for honing) is not an issue with the more popular stainless-steel knives.  And none of that would be an issue with a knife I prized and wanted to baby.

However, I realized that this knife’s blade was chipping (metal fragments in the food?!), which caused me to stop using it, lacking confidence that the place we bought it from sold quality goods (this was a large Asian supermarket).  If I had bought it from Soko Hardware, or Hida Tools, or something, it would be different.  But I bought this from 99 Ranch Market.

And I don’t even know where my waterstone came from, but it’s really pretty coarse.  I didn’t know just how coarse it was until I unwrapped my 1000-grit slip stone and felt it in comparison to this other waterstone.  The other stone really feels like coarse (maybe 350 grit) and medium sandpaper, which is fine if you’re working chips out of a blade, but — as I found online, today — if you want a fine edge, it isn’t what you need.  In addition, this was a Chinese waterstone, with labeling in English, and no grit number marked anywhere.  Not…really confidence inspiring…

On the other hand, the 1000-grit stone feels really smooth, in comparison (and that is not even the finest manufactured by the company NANIWA, in this form).  I’m trying to recall if I’ve ever felt 1000-grit carborundum paper; I’m not sure I have…and I’m not entirely sure exactly where my sandpaper is, now, for that matter.

Publishing less, doing more

I have been writing, only part of that is simply having broken back into fiction writing.  The other part of that is having to write for school, which isn’t really…fun?  But it’s time that I have to spend at the computer; and I seem to be beginning to ration computer time, in order to save my neck and back.

I’ve run across a good number of cases of people with disabling injuries lately, which I would suspect are Repetitive Stress Injuries.  I haven’t verified it with everyone, though.  In any case, I’ve been trying to use my tablet more, though that thing is really cheap…I didn’t realize the impact that its weight would have on me, long-term.  (And I know it isn’t going to help if I keep using it in bed — scrunching my shoulders up is the main thing that bit me last time.  [Speaking of which…*relaxes shoulders*])

Then again; it was my first tablet computer, other than my e-Reader.  I’ve been thinking of trying to find something better, but haven’t been certain which company to go with.  I suppose I should read some reviews.

And also:  I’m pretty much over the “convenience” (novelty) of a touch-screen computer.  It’s just way too easy to touch something that you didn’t want to, and every time that happens, there’s a risk of getting infected with something.  It works with an e-Reader…but really, something to read from is a much different tool than something to write with.

It also (somewhat) works with Mobile — but that’s because the screen is so small that a keyboard is not feasible.  In addition, smartphones and e-Readers can be easily reformatted and repopulated with essential apps, as there isn’t a lot of irretrievable information stored on them.  Something you’re using to write with (outside of cloud storage), though…?  That’s an entirely different thing.

It’s an entirely different thing which may be better handled in hard copy, as well.  But I’ll have to wait before forming a definite opinion, on that one…

Anyhow, I have begun to write again, and am having to resist the urge to publish my rough drafts.  Intending to share is the major drive to write any of this story down, at all, but there’s also the secondary benefit of having it in some concrete form where I can play with it and edit it and work out story continuity, etc.

When I was a kid, I was adamant that no one read my writing.  Now, I’m reaching the point of realizing that the main reason to put the story into language is to share it.  Otherwise, it’s just a living part of me…which, like so much else of my experience, most people don’t see, or even suspect exists.  If I didn’t want to share it, that is, then there is no reason to write it.

But that is getting into philosophy.

Speaking of which…

If art isn’t meant to be seen…is there reason in making it?

I went against my normal tendencies today and did try carving a basswood slat to see what the experience (of working up to woodblock printing) was like.  Ironically, I think I should have done this before I went to the Japanese tool store.  I knew that I would not be able to carve with dull tools, but I hadn’t given thought as to whether I would even like carving into wood.

Quite plainly, I don’t know what I’m doing, yet.  😛  Particularly, I’m unsure how to get tiny bits of wood out of the matrix without lifting splinters…I’m used to wedging things out, which may have worked with plaster and linoleum, but it really doesn’t work with basswood.  I’m going to have to figure out how to do this, if I want to print with my gouache (which has been the main goal of all of this, secret [or unstated] as that may have been).

And it’s very, very much more apparent to me, now, that the level of skill which I’ve seen examples of in my books is basically master-craftsperson stuff.

I did try some more freehand cuts, as versus slicing into the wood and then carving around the line — what I can see is that anything remaining flat will print.  This kind of goes against my aesthetics (oboy! flat!), but…I didn’t have a design or drawing worked out ahead of time, but I do now have kozo paper, nori glue, and sumi ink — and a baren — so I can…if I want to…actually try working at this for real.

I’m thinking of doing something with koi.  I’ve been playing with sinuous lines which remind me of fish.

Also, registering (aligning) the prints is something which I think I will have to work at via trial-and-error.  It’s certainly out of my comfort zone as things stand, but then, it should be:  I’m a total beginner.

And I hope you all will forgive me if I write less, here, and work on gaining more quality experience — and generating more quality content — to bring back to you.

Japanese language study

This has basically stalled.  I’m fairly sure that it has to do with trying to relearn katakana.  The rows read, moving from left to right and top to bottom (it just seemed easier to format it this way because of the directionality of the text on this blog):

KANA TABLE

I’ve stalled at NA.  It’s just frustrating to have to relearn this stuff over and over again.  This will be at least the fourth time I’ve tried to memorize this.  (Once in Middle School, once in Beginning Japanese at University, once when I first tried to relearn Japanese outside of University, and then, now.)

And a lot of it is memorization — which is hard for me to wrap my head around as something which will assist me (of course it will assist me!  I can’t read if I can’t recognize the characters!).  But I have also found my “Kana Workbook” for the Japanese for Busy People set, so maybe I should look back at that, if I’m just burning out on copying katakana.

In other words, I’m just frustrated at not knowing as much as I want to, and it’s putting me off.  Maybe I should just move forward with the Kluemper text, even though I haven’t yet memorized all the katakana (I can still read most of it — katakana are not frequently used, and as in English, there are certain kana which are rarely used, meaning that less-used syllables [lookin’ at you, “NU”] will be harder to remember).

And I’m going to choose not to write too much about school or work, right now.  But I have taken on extra hours…and school is doable, even if unpleasant.  It’s just what I’ve got to go through if I want to have a chance to work in an American library…or so, I’ve been led to believe.  Hawaii doesn’t even require an MLIS degree to work in the public sector.  Then again, the cost of living is high, there…and if it’s anything like the San Francisco Bay Area…well, I don’t have a husband or children to support, that much I can say…

At least I have a full life…who knew that would happen, eh?

(almost the) First linocut done since high school!

I am trying not to title this post “Bahaha,” though I’m sure you’ll be able to sense my excitement!

I was able to take a trip out to the little art store I wished to go to.  Amazingly — I got out of there with a bunch of linocut supplies for under $25.  It probably has to do with the fact that I got a bunch of little tiny linoleum blocks — the one I’ll show here is one of the smallest, at 2″x2″ — and the fact that they were having a sale on the hard pastels I bought — which were the most expensive thing, at under $5 for a set of 12.

Last night after getting home from that trip, I honestly felt like going to bed, but I interrupted myself.  I didn’t want to go and get the art supplies and then never use them, so I started looking through my cheap little notebook at my designs.  I realized fairly quickly that the way I had been sketching was suited to linework, but that printing would probably require a different approach, utilizing blocks of color or tone.  With that in mind, I started sketching — in pencil, albeit in 8B pencil.

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My initial design is at the top of this photo.  Below are iterative versions of it, on tracing paper (center), translucent marker paper (left), and Saral (carbon) paper.

I actually surprised myself with my initial design, as I’d somehow managed to draw a diamond shape which had a little less than 60º as the angle of the inner corner, making 6 petals totaling 360º.

This is the actual first transfer of that image to (translucent) marker paper, on the right:

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I used marker paper because I felt it would hold up better under fineliner (I used a 0.1 mm pen, here), and I intended to fill in areas with black to see what the design would look like in high contrast.  As I was doing this, I remembered some examples in a Dover book on the principle of Notan (balance between positive and negative space), and was curious about what would happen if I introduced shapes pushing from the negative space into the positive space — this is why the petals are notched.  I also realized in this iteration that I needed to pay attention to the center of the star, because if the petals didn’t have a coherent center, it could throw the design off.

I also realized that I didn’t have to echo the almond shape throughout each petal, and wondered what it would look like if I added a recurve to the outer edge of each white area.  So I traced over this shape with the tracing paper (first image, below center), using this idea — and trying to fix the center of the design.  I did this first in 2H pencil. Then on the tracing paper, I went over the lines with fineliner again (so I could see them) and traced over that on the marker paper (first image, below left).  At this point I could color things in without losing any precious underdrawing, so I did.  I had intended to divide the outer rim of each petal into two and let the white space part the outer edge, so that the petals were implied but not fully stated — but when I filled the space in, this detail was not visible.  I also joined the positive space on the outside of the petals to save myself a headache.

Once I was happy with the design, I traced over — I think the tracing paper copy — over carbon paper (Saral paper) with a 2H pencil, on top of my 2″x2″ linoleum block.  On the first image, lower right, you can see what this did to the Saral paper:  it’s translucent where I transferred the carbon onto the linoleum.

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I did not take a photo of my block before carving, but I was very happy with the line transfer.  What I was less happy with were the performances of the carving tools I mentioned before, which are from my high school sculpture and relief-printing days.  Because they didn’t perform all that well, I ended up using an X-Acto craft knife with a #2 blade to do most of the image cutting.  The area around the image was cleared out with a large shallow gouge, however.

One thing I did find to my surprise was that the little subtlety of the curvature of the white area was not immediately apparent in cutting.  I also found that small circular cutouts are difficult to do in linoleum, and that I would have been better off doing something like I did in the outer petal ring and just cut out an almond, without trying for a circle.  When I did try for circles, I ended up cutting out more positive space than I intended to.  This will change in the next iteration of this project:  almonds all the way!  😉

After the cutting was done, I started looking around for my acrylic plate and the hard rubber brayer.  I couldn’t easily find that plate, though — I know where one used to be, but since we’ve cleaned up, I’m no longer sure where it is.  But apparently…we had extra picture frames, and I was able to take one apart and use the glass that would have protected the picture, to roll out my printing ink with the brayer!

This is water-based Speedball printing ink, which came in a small tube.  I’m really thankful that I didn’t have to buy a 1 lb jar to get any ink at all — at first, all I could find were the jars, but then I found the little packs of ink hanging up in the same area.  I picked up a black, then later realized at home that I probably should have gotten white or a color in addition to the black, so I could experiment with duochrome.  But — next time.

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One of the nice things about this ink is that it cleans up very easily with water; on top of that, it seems to be nontoxic.  It also has good tack, meaning that when I put the paper on top of it (I used Stonehenge, which is designed for hand printing), the paper did not move, even as I burnished the back with the back of a spoon to transfer the image from the carving to the paper.

There were barens at the store to accomplish the same thing, but I felt they were overpriced for something that is basically just a flat surface.  Of course, if I’d used a baren, it would be less likely that I would get those surrounding marks on my print (see above) which resulted from both tipping the inked brayer as I rolled it (it’s a tiny print, okay) 😉 and pushing the paper down into the background with the spoon during the burnishing process.

In high school, I think we accomplished the pressing by rolling a clean brayer over the back of the paper.  And, of course, if I used something like a small press, I wouldn’t have to worry about the stray marks at all…although one of the reasons for starting out with block printing is that you don’t need a press.

And, well, now — I have a good bit more insight than I did before on how to do this, and want to retry the carving process.  I have one more little 2″x2″ block of the same type, and found an old opened (throwaway) linoleum block today (it feels like an eraser).  Seriously, though, these things aren’t expensive, something I had to remind myself of before I started carving!  I think the block I carved today cost $0.66 or something like that.

It is pretty cool to see your work result in something, though!  And that’s not a bad try for being (almost) the first time I’ve worked with this technique in 17 years…(and yes, the BAHAHA moment when it works is great…!)