Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Celebrating a Stress Free Holiday Season with My New Friend Jack

I have a new friend and we have had a fine time together during this holiday time. I have not experienced one bit of stress, not one, tiny bit, thanks to his help. From choosing gifts to sending cards to cookie exchanges to gifts for needy community members, Jack has helped me cope calmly and gracefully. You may know Jack -- his last name is Shit. Jack Shit. As in "I am not doing Jack Shit for the holidays."

When the urge to bake hits, Jack says, "Still your mind! You do not want to go to the store to buy supplies, spend the evening baking, and run around tomorrow delivering them to your fat friends who don't need to eat them. Put on your flannel jammies, flip on the tv and watch a movie. Maybe someone will drop by with some cookies for you."

When I was asked to contribute clothing for needy babies, Jack said, "They'll take cash, you know." So that's what they got. Those babies won't know or care. They'd rather have candy anyway.

Purchasing gifts for friends and family? I was contemplating shopping trips, trekking through malls, driving long distances to get just the right thing. That smarty Jack said, "Wait around for a last minute deal to come in your email and order online." Brilliant! Took me about 30 minutes and that included typing in their names and addresses for delivery.

Christmas cards? Jack advised that I would be killing trees in the interest of sending meaningless greetings to people I talk to on the phone anyway. Everyone else would be thrilled with a lovely digital card from Jacquie Lawson. Jack knows his stuff!

Jack's wisdom includes, "All this so-called seasonal kindness is claptrap. Be good to everyone all the time and relax with a clear conscience in December while everyone else runs around like maniacs going in debt."

He has urged, "Girl, there is no Santa Claus, hell, even Jesus would not approve of Corporate Christmases. Don't do it for them, don't do it at all. That's called not doing Jack Shit!"

Jack has been a good and true friend. To show him my gratitude I am going to do something extra special. Just as he recommends, I am not doing Jack Shit for him.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Carving a Background Stamp

While shoving strolling through the 2011 International Quilt Festival shopping are, I ran across the exhibit and found this lovely Indian Printing Block. I was delighted to take it home with me, where it sat unused for about a year.

I had an idea that a solid background stamp would add some interest to the original design, and that I should carve this stamp. I was fortunate to attend, also in 2011, Jane LaFazio and Pamela Underwood's Lavender Sage Art Retreat in Austin, TX, where we carved stamps that we designed. Armed with these skills, I jumped right in.

Here's is what I used:
Speedball Carving Set (carving tool and stamp block blank)
tissue paper
oil pastel in light brown color
stylus for tracing
Stayz-on stamp pads in several contrasting colors
Muslin and paper

Original stamp on tissue paper, outlined with oil pastel
First, I stamped the original stamp on tissue paper. (above) I outlined the shape in oil pastel, which is soft and smeary, just what I wanted for this job. I flipped the design over on to a stamp carving blank block and used a stylus to go over the outline. The smeary oil pastel design was transferred to the block. (left) Using my basic little Speedball stamp carving tool, I began removing the portions of the block that I did not want to include in the image. (left)
Here's what it looked like when I finished carving it and slapped a purple stamp pad on it. It was not difficult to carve because I kept the shape simple, and the image stamped beautifully.

What I have learned about the original stamp is that it does not work well on paper (at least not index cards) because the detail is lost, but that it works much better on fabric, although not as well as I would like. I think this might have had do do with the surface upon which I was stamping. I used a dropcloth over a cutting board and it may have been too hard. 
Stamps on index cards, much of the detail stamp is lost.
Background and original stamps on fabric;
better but not as detailed as I would like.
In conclusion, I think I can get the image that I want by stamping on fabric on a padded surface, yet to be determined. If you give this a try, please comment and let us know what worked best for you.

Update: After all my experimentation, I discovered a video on the site that helped immensely: Inspired Block Printing with Jamie Malden.