Spring flowers and white line prints

spring bulbs cards celebrate bottle branch

I don’t want to jinx it , but its been a mild winter here in Boston and I’m feeling like spring is in the air. So I’m celebrating with new photo cards of spring flowers in my etsy shop. I’m offering a set of five cards depicting tulips, jonquils and hyacinths in whimsical arrangements, with plans to add individual cards sometime soon.

spring bulbs bottle branch blog

I wish I could say the flowers were from my garden, but as of right now, my bulbs are just slowly poking their way up through the ground. Still, its much earlier than last year.

white line prints in process bottle branch blog

Also, as I hinted in my last post, I’ve finally added some of those white line woodcuts I keep chattering about. So far, only two designs are listed, both originals and fancy reproductions. I’m all ears if there are any requests to see others listed. I have many designs, but somehow, my motivation to list them is low.

In truth, I’m much more excited about the upcoming gardening season, so this is where I’ll be: sitting in my kitchen, drinking tea, planning and dreaming about my garden.

seeds and garden dreaming bottle branch blog

 

Goal setting, making assignments and Big Magic

notebook for big dreams bottle branch blog

I’m not exactly a goal setting type person, but I do like to assign myself tasks. I dream big, make plans, write lists in my trusty decomposition notebook. I never get around to doing it all – there are so, so many projects I’ve planned, needlework patterns I’ve imagined, and essays I’ve started that have fallen by the wayside.

Still, each week, I assign myself a few tasks related to my creative life and especially my blog and/or creative business. I may tell myself to write up a recently completed project, list something new for sale in my store, pick up some supplies, finish up a project, spend a half a day trying out a new and exciting idea, research alternative blogging platforms, or figure out twitter/periscope/snapchat. This act of assigning does not necessarily mean I get them all done but usually I chip away and keep things moving.

Other times, my progress grinds to a halt. I run into technical problems, or the task is tedious and I find myself avoiding it, or life just gets busy. I ran into all of these roadblocks in my latest task. My assignment was simple: list a few of my white line wood cut prints for sale in my etsy shop, and then write post about them from my blog. Easy.

white line wood cuts on bottle branch blog

But then I had to think about pricing and it turns out, pricing hand-painted work is not easy. Etsy sternly admonishes sellers not to undervalue their work. Not only is it not good for business, it undercuts other sellers and the market as a whole. I get it. If I am selling my work at a loss just to unload it, then I am hurting artists who want to earn a living.

It takes a couple of hours to paint and print one white line wood cut print, and then there’s the cost of designing and carving the block, plus materials. That makes this work expensive.

So, being a practical dreamer, I looked around on etsy to see what other artists were doing and decided to offer digital reproductions of my white line prints, in addition to a the more expensive originals. Thus a new assignment was born: discover the best way to create digital reproductions.

bunch of white line prints for bottle branch

With a new printer and moderate experience manipulating digital images, I felt ready to tackle this assignment, though the learning curve was steep. I poured over my printer manual, researched paper types, learned a few new photoshop tricks, and printed many, many prints of my prints. (It turns out scanning and then printing does NOT give an exact copy. Not even close.)

There were many times when I complained, gritted my teeth, groaned, or just plain avoided my desk. And all the while, I listened to Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, a reflection on living a creative life. (I am a big fan of audible.com)

listening to big magic bottle branch blog

Not surprisingly, I loved Big Magic – I’ve written before about flashes of creative inspiration and the joy of unfettered creativity, what Gilbert calls big magic, and I have lived through many cycles of frustration and faltering confidence (another topic she addresses.) But most importantly, Gilbert describes following your curiosity as a way to find your way to a creative life, which I read as taking on life as a series of self-assigned tasks and creative challenges. Suddenly my crazy tangents, pssion for gardening, and self-assigned tasks seem like they’re not so kooky after all. In fact, these humble adventures just might be the makings of a satisfying life.

So Big Magic was an uplifting accompaniment to my latest creative endeavour and thankfully, in the end, I came up with some pretty prints also. More about those in my next post.

New year, new projects

frost on window bottle branch blog

Hello! Happy New year! I love January, because it feels like a blank slate. With cold, cold, weather here in Boston, I’m forced inside and have a chance to explore the indoor projects that often get put on hold when there are weeds to be pulled, perennials to be moved, or flowers to be cut.

Right now, I’ve got lots of projects cooking happily in my creative kitchen, and I’d like to tell you a little about each of them.

white line wood cuts on bottle branch blog

First of all, I’ve returned to white line woodcuts and started trying out new designs. With a few tips from Lisa Houck and Amy MacGregor Radin, I’m feeling a little more confident in my execution so I’m working on some final, best prints to submit to an upcoming show. The deadline for submissions in February first, so wish me luck!

cosy blue embroidery bottle branch blog

Second, I’ve started a new embroidery piece. Life doesn’t feel complete unless I have something to stitch, especially in winter. But since I’ve been busy with other projects, I haven’t designed anything myself. Instead, I decided to buy this adorable sea captain design from Cozy Blue on etsy. It was one of the first things I ever pinned on pinterest in 2012, so I’ve been waiting a long time to give it a try.

garden planning on bottle branch blog

Third, after mooning over seed catalogues for a few weeks, I’ve just ordered flower seeds for my 2016 garden. I chose a few familiar stand-bys, like snapdragons, cosmos, and nigella. But I’ve also added china asters, sweet peas, and globe thistles. Pretty soon, my sunny windows will be filled with trays of sprouting seeds. So excited!

Finally, I’m working on new photo card designs. I am trying to bump my tiny new business along, even if I don’t have any flowers or foliage from my garden for inspiration. If you’re with me on instagram, you’ve probably seen some of them already, but I’m also planning to reveal my new cards in an upcoming post. So, stay tuned!

 

Hello, etsy store!

two tea towels bottle branch blog

Maybe I left you hanging in my last post. I showed you a silkscreen tea towel I made this summer, but I didn’t tell you what I’m going to do with it. Well, guess what?!  I finally got around to opening an Etsy store. I’ve stocked it with these seaweed towels and some new tea towels printed with an old silkscreen of wild grasses. I’ve also added a couple handprinted children’s T-shirts I made a few years ago – extras from a project I did for my children. (I even had to bribe my children to get them to model the shirts for me — photos on etsy, but not of the bribing, just the shirts.)

viking and cowboy t shirts

I hope you will go take a visit. Maybe even ‘like’ some items, ‘like’ my store, and share anything that seems exciting or interesting. I can’t promise it’s going to be a thriving hub of commerce, since my output is quite erratic. But I’m excited to have taken the step, and hope to add new and different printed items, now and again.

Seaweed inspired printing project

detail seaweed towel bottle branch

I’ve mentioned that last summer I was enthralled with seaweed. I collected seaweed on the Maine coast, and I fell in love with its alien shape, texture, color scheme. I like to imagine it waving and billowing under the sea. So of course, I posted seaweed photos on instagram, and made an animation of seaweed movement. (Please do click on the link to see the animation in instagram – I was trying embed it here but couldn’t make it work!)

I also used seaweed as inspiration for a silkscreen.

seaweed towel spread flat bottle branch

I used water soluble screen printing inks and a flexible film screen and printed on a linen tea towel, as I’ve done in a few previous projects. I printed up a batch and then let them rest until last week, when I decided to pull them out and iron them. I’m toying with the idea of printing them in a pale blue-grey next time around, but first I need to finish organizing and cleaning out my work area, clean up my garden, and so on. So, who knows? It might be summer before I revisit this project again.

seaweed towel with books etc bottle branch

Dahlia daydreams and a little bit of printmaking

dahlias by ephpyle

If you’re addicted to looking at flower photography on instagram like I am, you’ll know it’s still dahlia season. (See #dahliaseason.)  My own garden dahlias disappointed me this year. I picked up the plants at a local garden center without paying much attention to the variety and I ended up with these short, mottled white and magenta flowers.(above) They still look pretty enough, but I found the high contrast of bright pink and white together a bit jarring and I didn’t like the way they looked with other flowers.

dahlias of 2014 by ephpyle

In past years, I’ve grown softer pink and yellow dahlias, like these flowers from 2014 (above and below).

bright dahlia by ephpyle

So, I’m already dreaming about what I’m going to plant next year. So far, I’m thinking about ‘café au lait’, ‘apple blossom’, or some type of pompon dahlias like ‘Eveline’, all pictued below. (Photos are not mine – they’re from wikimedia commons, details and links at the end of this post.) If you have any particular favorite dahlia varieties to recommend for growing next year, I’m all ears.

My daydreams also led me to make some dahlia-inspired white line wood cuts.

dahlia white line print by ephpyle

Clearly, pink dahlias have been on my mind. I wanted these prints to be softly colored but now, when I look at them in comparison to photos of real dahlias, they look positively washed out and I’m not sure what I want… Other than to grow more and different dahlias next summer.

dahlia white line print 2 by ephpyle

Photo credits for dahlias I’ve never grown:

Cafe au lait dahlia:  Mark Twyning (Marktee1) via wikimedia commons

Dahlia ‘apple blossom’ : Mark Twyning (Marktee1) via wikimedia commons

Dahlia “eveline’ : Mark Twyning (Marktee1) via wikimedia commons

Hello, September!

new england wild flowersHello. Its been a while. Turns out, I wasn’t kidding when I said I was going to spend a lot of time on instagram, rather than blogging. I hope you had a lovely summer. Despite my silence here, I had a wonderful summer, filled with garden puttering, flowers, plenty of beach time, and a few fun projects.

cosmos wreath

I did a little bit of silk screening, and some more white line printing.

succulent white line prints

I developed a temporary obsession with seaweed.

sea weed collage from bottle branch

I enjoyed a Japanese wood block printing class, as well as a trip to Japan. I am a lucky girl, I know.

This summer also felt transformative. I spent some time thinking about where to go with my creative endeavors, and where to go with this blog. I’m still figuring those two things out, but for now, it feels good to be back. I hope you had a wonderful summer and thanks for sticking around!

lilliput zinnias from bottle branch

Summertime white line prints

white line printing

I’m so excited to share these new white line prints, and I’ll be the first to admit that they are a little outside my usual range. Usually, I’m mucking around in natural greens and brown for plant-inspired printing, so I must have been craving the simple bright colors, just as all of us have been craving sunshine after a long cold winter. IMG_0771

Working from old instagram photos, I chose two beach-related shots. Can you tell I’m ready for summer?

beach umbrella

First, I carved and printed this simple beach umbrella photo. Carving so many converging lines has some challenges, but I’m happy to say I persevered. I particularly like the mottled effect the printing process left in the sky section of the print.

white line print beach umbrella

This same effect also enhances the look of the next print I worked on, of these vintage-y, semi-rusted beach buckets. I was really happy with the way this print was coming along, and even posted my progress on instagram.

white line printing buckets

When it came the background, though, I lost my way. In the photo that inspired this print, the buckets sit on a painted step, but I wasn’t sure that would read very well in the print, so I split the background with an arbitrary horizon. Bad idea.

whitelineprint.buckets

Thankfully, I didn’t actually carve the area around the buckets, so I can change it on my next print. Still, I have to figure out how to treat that background. I have some ideas, but I’m all ears if you have any suggestions.

Hello, Spoonflower!

pinwheel flower fabric samples hanging

I know. I left you hanging in my last post. Possibly even consumed with suspense. I promised to explain how this embroidery project led me to a totally different creative venture. And now, here I am, ready to divulge.

It started with Spoonflower. Do you know this custom printing website? If not, you are in for a treat. Any user can upload their own work and have it printed on a variety of fabric, wall paper, or gift wrap. Even better, anyone can browse and shop from thousands of independent, user-created designs. If you like surface design and/or textiles, Spoonflower is pure enchantment.

lattice embroidery

After dreaming, clicking and generally wasting time on Spoonflower for years, I knew a lining fabric for this embroidery was the excuse I needed to attempt fabric design. I had a definite vision for the lining fabric – delicate aqua-colored pinwheel-shaped flowers on a white background, almost an inverse of the embroidered design on the outside.

I borrowed a few books on fabric design from my local public library, painted several designs with watercolors on paper, and got to work.

watercolor fabric designs

I used photoshop to clean up my artwork and turn it into a repeating design. (A Field Guide to Fabric Design by Kimberly Kight offers an excellent tutorial on how to turn a design into a repeat, by hand or with phtoshop.) It took some time to clean up the design, orchestrate the repeat and generally fiddle around with all the details, and in the process, I gained a new appreciation for photoshop.

pinwheel flower fabric samples 1

Once I uploaded my designs onto to Spoonflower, I adjusted the scale, and then I ordered test swatches. (I chose to print on the cotton poplin fabric.) There they are, freshly laundered and pressed. Now, I just need to choose which design I will use as lining fabric for my embroidery project. For now, I’m leaning towards the scattered, random flowers, though I’d love to hear your opinions.

In the weeks since, I’ve been tinkering with my Spoonflower shop interface where all these designs are now available for anyone to order. Please go visit – I haven’t had many visitors! I’ve also been working on a few unrelated designs. To keep up the suspense, I will tell you about those designs another time.

P.S. Spoonflower also offers a color changing feature, where you can alter the color ways of a design. Of course, I had to try it! The result: a few designs originally rendered in shades of aqua, now in shades of periwinkle. In truth, I am happier with the designs in their original color. To alter the colors, I had to reduce the number of shades. Since the charm of the watercolor depends in a large part on the subtle variations of color and shade, I found these version a bit boring. But still, It was a fun exercise.

periwinkle pinwheel flower samples