Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Postal Trout

Jessica Gowling at Nature's My Friend put together a collaborative project dear to her heart.

The idea is for participants to use the trout as a tool to inject something natural back into a man-made and urbanized space, so that the power of nature and animals can again be a part of the lives of those roaming within the urban landscape.

 I was lucky enough to be a recipient of one of these fish and set out to find a good home for him. I don't think there's a more accurate description of 'man-made and urbanized space' than the suburbs. While the 'burbs aren't everyone's cup of tea, I love where I'm living and this particular town embraces nature much more than other areas.

I noticed that my local post box could use a little touch of nature. For selfish reasons I also liked the idea of having him close by so I can check up on him and see people's reactions once he's been spotted. I was also hoping he'd be the good luck charm to forgo a postal strike... but I guess he's not a powerful enough charm.

... J

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mail Art Monday

I was beginning to feel as though nearly all my posts were about mail art. Not that that's a bad thing, but I want to diversify and make sure I'm writing about other projects. So, I'll save up the posts for every Monday and show what I've received and what has arrived at its destination.


This past week I was the proud recipient of a sweet little package from Katie Whittington. Katie is a printmaker and textile designer in the U.K. I found her via Anika on Twitter and was instantly intrigued by her Doilie drawing. I love finding blogs in which I suddenly find myself on the 10th page and desperately want to keep exploring. I noticed her I wanted to tell you page in which she left her contact information in order to exchange mail art. I am often shy when it comes to asking for an exchange, especially from individuals who's art I admire. I'm glad I sucked it up and went for it, because look at the beautiful package she sent to me:

The Goods:

- A felt Chihuahua who needed a name. I have named him Frederique. Actually, he told me his name was Frederique and I wasn't to shorten it to anything silly like Fred or, God forbid, Freddie.

- A postcard with a pair of very dignified looking deer. She mentioned she was sad to part with it, so I'm honoured she felt as though I would give it a good home.

- A bag of buttons for a button swap because I mentioned in a comment that I have similar childhood memories of rooting through my mother's button jar.

- A star applique as well as a piece of silkscreened fabric and a magazine clipping, both containing a lot of pink. It's true, I do love hot pink.


Sumi Senthi told me on Twitter that she was feeling a little sad that her mail offerings were consisting of bills and other not so fun items. I remedied this by telling her I'd send her a little something to brighten her day.

I started our art conversation with a clipping from the New Yorker depicting a woman at a thrift sale, sunning herself. It had a very spring-like feel to me when I spotted it. I included at mixed media piece of a watercolour and stamp cut-out squid on an ink background. A set of sparkling butterfly stickers, an origami crane and a 'woody's' cut out round off the package. I will readily admit to being so immature that I find it hilarious that I am sending my mail art friends 'woody's' in the post. 

... J

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Happy Accident

I've been ogling the cityscapes, large bowls and sketchbook drawings of Russelle Adams, who runs Heedless Ceramics, for nearly a year. Recently, she sent me this lovely ceramic pin as a thank you for consistently commenting on her Facebook page.

I wanted to send her a little thank you mail art gift as a reply and put together a small package. I felt particularly inspired by my cork stamps one night and made a set of four small prints.

Wheat, eraser stamp.

Water, cork stamp.

Bamboo, cork stamp.

Tomato, cork stamp.

I also included a colour print from a children's book and a pressed leaf from my garden. I wrapped the leaf in some green foil origami paper and the postal system created another piece of art. The leaf left the most delicate and beautiful impression on the foil. Heedless wrote a nice post about my package and included a photo of the happy mail art accident.

Inspired by my wheat print, she created an animated gif just for me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

That Goofy-Giddy Mail Art Feeling

When I walk across the street to get the mail and find a mail art package I am giddy. There may be some jumpy-claps involved and I invariably have a large, goofy smile on my face while I'm opening the letter. I get the same kind of goofy-giddy feeling when I find out someone has received my letter and it makes their day a little bit happier.

I recently received a very prompt reply from Michelle Ashton in response to the letter I sent her a short time ago.

My spoiling included postcards of buildings, map, letter & building stickers, a few sheets with green and blue washes of colour, some cute bear images and one of her photographs of a side street in Belgium.

On a related side note, the picture of Belgium reminds me of the lady I saw when we were there. She was walking along the cobblestone streets with one, 4" heel and one, knee-to-toe cast. I will forever have the impression that Belgian women are SERIOUS about their footwear.

I can't remember if I mentioned in my letter to her that I adore typography. If I did, she put together some perfect items and if I didn't, she read my mind (or maybe, blog) and knew exactly what I love. It's impossible for me to pick just one element that I love the most, but I think it's a close race between the colourful building stickers and the map-star stickers.


I took a bit longer to put together Jessica Gowling's response to this sexy-epic package. I wanted to make her a few special items I'd been thinking about lately.

I created a set of four postcards with pictures from my grandmother's antique globe. I used an image transfer method to get the photos onto thick, textured watercolour paper and to give it a worn and weathered look. I included a cutout from an old children's book that was rescued from the garbage and a few stickers to add to her collection. Lastly, a little veggie propaganda art in which I'm forcing her dislike of mushrooms against my (great) dislike of brussels sprouts. On the back I wrote:
"In the epic battle of brussels sprouts vs mushrooms, who will win? The one that grows in poo or the one that smells like farts?"
I really like the way the veggie-propaganda turned out and I think I might work on a small zine with that theme in mind. I shall distribute it to the masses to rally against the evil, foul-tasting sprout!

Sending and receiving all this amazing mail art reminds me that I need to get crack-a-lacking on the large cork board I have planned for my studio. I want them to be out on display and right in front of me while I work so I can keep that giddy feeling around as long as possible.

... J

Monday, May 23, 2011


This past weekend was a long weekend in Canada. We have Monday off to celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday. May Long is often associated with the kick-off to gardening or camping season and is either the first holiday or the first busy house project weekend of the summer. We were the latter, choosing to pack our weekend full of projects and errands. Having spotted some cool-looking thrift shops in the area last weekend, I specifically planned an outing this weekend to scour those shops.

Upon walking into the first shop, which I can only describe as an extreme hoarder who decided to try to sell a few items, I realized I had forgotten to bring my camera! You'll have to be satisfied by my description this time and next time I'll take some pictures.

Hoarder's Heaven

- Stuff piled upon stuff in a small front room with a cubby-hole with a TV & chair set up.

- A nice, older man running the shop with a sweet and curious little dog.

- A small doorway led to a possible add-on which contained two-stories of stuff piled upon stuff. The larger area reminded me of a garage or warehouse. It isn't properly sealed for rain or weather and only windows for light. I'll bring a flashlight next time.

- Up the rickety stairs to spot many shelves and boxes of old books. Some can't be accessed for the piles of other stuff in front of them.

- Narrow passage ways in loops, I spot three antique Singer sewing machines and wonder how on earth someone would even get it out if they wanted to buy it.

- I am feeling slightly terrified... what if this floor gives out while I'm rooting through boxes of books? There is a LOT of stuff on this upper level. Slightly disgusted... I walk by a wall of rows of 10-20 mattresses stacked on top of each other. Some look like they may be 20+ years old. Slightly thrilled... it's like a treasure hunt and there must be hidden gems in here somewhere.

I scored three books; an illustrated children's encyclopedia and two wildlife encyclopedias.

When I paid for the books the gentleman gave me a hard time for not buying the entire set of wildlife encyclopedias (I think there are 20+). I said I had to limit myself to what I could carry. He told me I was to come back soon for the rest. I just may. Next time I'll bring a camera, flashlight and ensure I have a sound will & life insurance plan at home.


When I arrived at my next stop the fellow who runs the place was just opening and bringing out the outside items so that people could get in and move around his shop. He apologized for the mess and I had to refrain from informing him where I had come from and that this was immaculate in comparison.

After a bit of looking and only a small amount of rooting, I was able to score a big, fat German atlas. The outside has seen better days, but the inside pages are pristine.

Salvation Army

I was a little surprised to see how busy this place was. I skipped the rows of clothes and headed straight to the appliances, books and tchotchkes at the back. I was delighted to find a charming little cardinal pepper shaker (alas, no salt partner) and a box of rolodex paper.

I've placed the books on my shelves in my studio and the box of paper is on my desk, as I've been busy illustrating on the sheets already. The cardinal is on my shelf where I put all my favourite things. I think it will keep Chantal Vincent's print company and watch over me while I work.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gifts & Rescues

I love that the people closest to me read my blog. My Mom told me that she read my cork stamp post the other day and decided to send me a box of corks. They had been saving them for a friend's craft project but it was cancelled or didn't work out.

I thought it would be a small box of 20 or 50 but had no idea it would be THIS BIG. This box is 6" x 6" x 9" and it's FULL of corks.

Now, before you begin to think my parents are winos, I have to admit to contributing to this supply during our visits. Plus, it's also from entertaining and they've been saving them up for quite some time.

I see a lot of stamps in my future.

While I stayed in Regina during our move west my mom and I had chatted about used books and the charity book sale where she volunteers. During this year's sale, she rescued a book from the garbage and sent it to me to be used for mail art or general collecting. It's an old book and the binding has disintegrated, but the illustrations are still in pretty good shape.

I've already sent two of the colour plates to Heedless Ceramics and Jessica Gowling. I feel guilty chopping up the pages of a book, but considering it was likely to be shredded, I think I've given it a new life by sending its pages off to be admired by others. 

Thanks for reading my blog and sending these treasures, Mom. xo


I have far too many corks to keep for myself. How about I make a little contest out of this?

- Make your best guess as to how many corks are in the box in the picture above.
- Put your guess in the comments in this post. One guess per person (so make it a good one).
- Closest person to the actual number by Friday, May 27th at noon PDT wins 6 hand-carved stamps like these.
- Open to anyone.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Zine About Bees from Hollie McManus

I love bees. I really do. Although I love bees in general, my favourite are the big, fat, fuzzy ones that seem almost too big and awkward to fly and collect pollen. Lovelies like this one make me tempted to pat them when I spot them on my flowers. Doesn't he look all fuzzy and cuddly?

I was the very fortunate recipient of the cutest mini-bee-zine EVER from Hollie McManus. Hollie is yet another hookup from my mail art godmother, Jessica Gowling.

The mini-zine, measuring in at only 2.5" x 3.75", is a combination of hand-drawn and digital illustration with information about bees (and how very important they are to us) along with activities like a wordsearch and a colouring page. According to Hollie's note, this zine is only a snippet of a larger book she created while in university.

Two perfect details to top this all off are the bee sticker sealing the envelope:

and the flower stamp:

... J

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Untitled Mixed Media

I have been working on this mixed media piece for several months. Not that it took me many (wo)man hours to create it, but I would tuck it away for weeks at a time until some inspiration hit me. It's ready to be revealed and I'll write a little bit about it.

I started out by layering watercolour with a palette of olive green, electric blue and neon pink. After the first stage was dry, I darkened some areas with another layer of paint and added salt for texture. I added the network of triangles with white acrylic paint, drew the trees at the top with pen and stamped the raindrops and wheat. I finished off with the pair of cuddling owls, also done with a pen.

All along the way I never had a perfect vision as to what I wanted to appear. I just went with what came to me upon seeing the shapes the watercolour wash made. While I was taking pictures I liked a few close ups of certain areas and now I think I have an idea for a new set of paintings. Here are my favourite close ups:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Eraser Stamps

After completing my first round of cork stamps I was eager to try something else. I hit up my local dollar store and found a pack of rectangular erasers. They weren't as large as I had hoped I would find, but it's a small town dollar store and I'll take what I can get.

The first stamp I carved was wheat! Very appropriate for this prairie girl.

I love the look of the layered colours and yellow and black.

What's next? I have a few more ideas for cork and eraser stamps and I've been playing with creating cards and patterns with those stamps. I think my next step will be to invest in a batch of soft lino, more ink pads, and paper.

I have carving-printing-stamp fever!

... J

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mail Art to London

If you've been reading my blog consistently you know that I owe a debt of artistic gratitude to Jessica Gowling for reintroducing me to mail art and having it become a semi-regular project. Via Jessica I met Michelle Ashton from London. She wanted to exchange and I was excited to take her up on the offer.

I spent some time reading through her blog and discovered that she has a real passion for bears. She adores them in art form, photography and in the wild. One of her hobbies is photography and she has some really lovely shots on her blog. Take a little time to browse!

I like to create a package that has a bit of my likes and is customized to the recipient. I created two cut outs, one of a bear and one of a camera silhouette. The image in the bear silhouette is a picture of my grandmother's antique globe (one of my beloved possessions). Michelle loves to travel and so I thought she'd enjoy a bit of an antique map. The camera is my old manual camera I dug out of a moving box and I used the imagery from one of my watercolour washes. It fits in well with this series I've been working on.

I created these cut outs with a little tech magic and a little hands on work. I took a picture of my camera, the watercolour wash and the globe. I used Photoshop and Illustrator to print out my reversed image onto transfer paper. I used a technique from the Print Workshop book to create the soft, worn look. I sprayed the transfer paper with rubbing alcohol and quickly placed it onto my heavy watercolour paper. I burnished it with a bone folder and my nails and peeled it back. Then I used my X-acto knife to trim along the image and leave a bit of a border.

Michelle had mentioned that she really liked the row of Dutch houses I had made for Jessica so I made her a set of NYC inspired houses. In the note I wrote her I explained that a trip I took to NYC turned out to be one of my favourite trips ever with lovely memories and felt as though I was passing my good memories onto her.

I wrapped all the items up in some really shiny origami paper and decorated the envelope with a combination of stamps, ink and houndstooth pattern duct tape.

I forgot to take a picture of it, but I placed some bug stickers on the origami paper since the colours matched almost perfectly. Michelle was kind enough to write a post about my package to her and included a picture of the stickers.

I have two separate mail art packages to put together on my to-do list and a post to write about the most adorable bee-zine that just arrived. It's a very rewarding cycle that I hope to keep up for quite some time.

... J

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sketchbook Project 2012 - The Arrival

One of the things that fills me with joy and excitement is a fresh sketchbook. It holds so much promise as to what will fill its pages. The sheets are clean and crisp and (maybe it's just me sniffing books) it smells SO GOOD!

I have joined the 2012 Arthouse Coop's Sketchbook Project and my sketchbook arrived just the other day. I had so much fun on the last one and met some really wonderful people so it was a no-brainer decision to participate again this year. I've signed up a lot earlier than last year so it actually feels as though I only just stuffed the last one in an envelope. I'm wondering if this extended period of time will result in procrastination or more experimentation. 

Before it is touched it is so thin, sleek and perfect. 2011 on the left and 2012 on the right.

I chose the subject "Ask me how I can help" because it jumped out at me. At the time I was thinking of an idea for a zine or a small series of illustrations along that subject matter. I have been jotting down ideas as I think of them and I think I'll be including some patterns from stamps I've been working on lately. I'll be documenting my progress on this blog as I did with the last one.

One of the most exciting details is that the tour will be making a stop in VANCOUVER! Since I live in the Victoria area I think a road trip will be in order... and perhaps a meetup of some Western Canadian Sketchbook alumni.

Let me know if you've signed up, I'd love to follow your progress.

... J

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Printmaking - The College Years

I attended a 3-year design program in Alberta. The first year helped develop a strong foundation for colour theory and design fundamentals while also allowing us to experiment with fine arts. The last two years were spent trying to excel at the software, hone our design skills and work with other mediums. One of my favourite classes was printmaking. It allowed me to work with a fantastic professor who inspired us to play with the mediums, tell stories through our art and push our comfort zone a little.

Since graduating over 10 years ago, I haven't done any printmaking. I've started a few things here and there and never really finished them. Now I'm excited to get back into it. I have been playing with inexpensive material for stamps such as cork and erasers for now and plan on progressing to lino and perhaps woodcut.

Thought I'd share a bit of my college work with you starting with Woodcuts:

I remember really enjoying woodcuts. The ideas, drawing and process came to me pretty easily. I know I liked thick lines, rough cuts and some wood grain showing. There was also something satisfying about carving the block and tossing the mess on the floor (to vacuum up later) while watching TV.


This process was harder for me to fine tune. It takes a lot of work to have a level, smooth stone and there's not a lot of room for fixing mistakes. Going through my work I had a few other prints, but they weren't as strong as these two.


This was also a tricky one for me but perhaps because it came with less physical labour than lithography, I didn't mind taking a while to get used to it and figure it out.

The faces were omitted on purpose on the top print. I remember missing my home town friends desperately at that point and feeling like they were disappearing. Remember, this was before email caught on and WAY before Skype.

I really loved being able to go back into an artist's proof with watercolour, as I did with the last piece.

There are a few other pieces and perhaps I'll post them another day. I've been feeling nostalgic for the time in the printmaking studio and definitely the access to free supplies and large presses. It's sparked a keen interest to work with printmaking again and I'll get there, slowly, but surely.

... J

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mail Art with 70's Sex Appeal

Jessica Gowling warned me that I was going to freak out when I received her mail art package. In fact, she thought I'd do a bit more than freak out:

Please! Who wouldn't mess themselves a little when they receive a box chock full of amazingness all wrapped up in a package with two open-shirt, bare-chested, shaggy-haired, high-waisted pants hunks like these two:

"Mail-Order Fashion Hunks" I'll take half a dozen as long as they come with uncomfortably tight jeans and gold chains.

Whenever I need a giggle I just gaze at this box for a while and imagine the looks on the faces of the postal workers wondering what could be inside the box. Speaking of INSIDE the box:

There are all sorts of amazing things in here. Another gorgeous bear print, a bunch of stickers, a really cool stamp and a couple of inside joke items to make me chuckle -- the ant and fruit loop cut out. The best of this picture is the owl button. It's so lovely and I've been trying to figure out which jacket to pin it on so it'll receive the most exposure.

In a lovely reply to my 'get to know you better' cards, Jessica wrote a few pages about herself. This reminds me of how much I miss proper letter writing. Before email, I wrote friends and family long letters and eagerly waited for their replies. While I could never give up the internet, there's something truly satisfying about reading a hand-written letter. You get more personality by feeling the paper and seeing the handwriting.

The absolute show stopper for me in this package is the set of three button earrings:

I feel so fortunate to be exchanging mail art with Jessica. You can tell she has a genuine passion for mail art and it's pushing me to REALLY bring my A-game on the next letter to her.

... J
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