Tag Archives: linoleum block prints

Tortie Girls Block Print Tee Shirts

The Goddess block-printed t-shirtCookie, “The Goddess” block print © B.E. Kazmarski
detail of "the goddess" face

Detail of "The Goddess"

I’ve had several requests about my tortie girls t-shirts lately, so I thought I’d add the ones I have back to my Etsy site. While I am low on sizes I had put them all aside until I could print more and have all sizes available. But considering I print these in oil-based ink and clean up with turpentine I usually wait until I can have the windows open or I can print outdoors, which is March at the earliest. So for now, they are either very large or very small.

As you know, I am unendingly inspired by my houseful of felines, especially my Tortie Girls. I initially designed these in 2001 because I wanted something I could print myself on a variety of things to offer inexpensively for sale and for donation; at the time high quality home printers and inexpensive digital printing were a few years in the future and all I had to offer was original art and expensive giclees.

How the designs came to be

I looked at Cookie on the kitchen floor, on her back with her toes curled, a defiant look on her face, and it happened—that moment of visualization. I could see a linoleum block print in black ink on white rice paper, hand-tinted with oranges and yellows for the patches in Cookie’s tortoiseshell fur and green for her eyes and pink for her nose. I would call the print “The Goddess” for the many women depicted with generous figures in sculpture and painting through the millennia.

With an inspiration that strong, I probably would have done it anyway. I’d worked with small linoleum block prints for years and always enjoyed the medium, but this time I decided I wanted something larger and I might actually create a series—which led to “The Roundest Eyes” depicting my other tortie, Kelly, a few months later.

Capturing all Cookie’s freckles and spots and stripes was indeed a challenge, especially when I went to actually cut them out of the surface of the linoleum block. Below, compare the reference photo and the print.

tortie cat on back

Reference photo for "The Goddess"

Cookie, "The Goddess" block print © B.E. Kazmarski

“The Goddess”
Well, everyone knows a fat cat who knows she’s beautiful, and Cookie would tell you that a woman with a round shape was once most desirable and an object of worship. That’s why I call her “The Goddess”.

From the time I first described it to someone, who chuckled at the idea of the image, I knew Cookie was a winner. And through the years she has continued to bring people and stories to my display no matter where I am—everyone knows a cat who looks like Cookie!

block print of tortoiseshell cat

The Roundest Eyes, linoleum block print © B.E. Kazmarski

“The Roundest Eyes”
Sometimes when I look at Kelly the only feature I can distinguish in all those tortie markings is her extremely round eyes.

detail of the roundest eyes block print

Detail of "The Roundest Eyes"

In designing the set, I didn’t have a signature photo of Kelly as I did Cookie lying on the floor, but I did know how I thought of Kelly—sitting at attention, paws and tail neatly placed, a little uncertain and with very round eyes. When I pictured her, this was what I saw.

I began with a few photos of Kelly sitting in this position—in the days before digitals so I had to wait for film to be developed—sketched it out, then filled in the details by observation. It was a real trick since Kelly never sits still for too long. And I actually wanted two different orientations so Cookie was the horizontal image and Kelly the vertical one.

The design of “The Roundest Eyes” doesn’t have a long and detailed story as does “The Goddess”, but between the two, while Cookie gets more notice and stories, Kelly sells more t-shirts and prints…we just don’t let Cookie know that.

Where to find the tees

I have all the tees available in my Etsy shop under T-shirts and Apparel.

About Block Printing

I really enjoy working in this medium and I can free myself from the traditional media and a greater realism in rendering. Linoleum block printing is a technique wherein the artist carves the surface of a piece of artist’s linoleum, leaving raised areas which will become the image. Ink is rolled onto these raised areas, then a piece of paper is pressed against the block and when it’s lifted away the ink remains, leaving the image on the paper.

The resulting work isn’t a one-time thing, but meant to be printed multiple times–and I do, on just about anything I can think of. They all start out on paper, but they’ve been printed on t-shirts and dresses and aprons and curtains, to name a few things. I nearly always add color to The Tortie Girls with watercolor or dyes since that was part of the original design, and I’ll often add color to other designs to give them extra interest. I do like the look of The Tortie Girls just in black on white paper, though, and I’ll be printing up a few of those soon. The resulting work, even though they are all printed from the same block, is a unique print, still handmade by the artist.

Because of the nature of the medium, each print is unique and ink coverage is not always perfect. Most artists consider this random activity to be part of the process of creating an individualized print, and along with the hand-painting makes a unique work of art.

The designs without color

See what you think about what these designs look like without the color added. I love the simplicity of black on white, it’s what I love about a block print. I have a few shirts without the color as well, and they look really sharp matted and framed with a rich red mat (sorry for the wrinkles in the wrap, below) and a black frame.

block print of cat

The Goddess, linoleum block print © B.E. Kazmarski

matted block print of cat

The Roundest Eyes, linoleum block print without color © B.E. Kazmarski

Matted and framed

framed block print of tortoiseshell cat

The Goddess

framed block print of tortoiseshell cat

The Roundest Eyes

Each image is 8″ x 12″, with mat and frame outside dimensions 14″ x 18″, horizontal or vertical as shown in the photo.

They are double matted with a warm cream on top and 1/4″ pumpkin orange as a liner.

The frame is 1″ wide, solid matte black; these vary as the moulding is available, but it is always wood and always has a matte black finish.

Find the girls in my Etsy shop under “Prints”.

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Feline-themed Holiday Cards

illustrated holiday card

Can We Get That Thing?

The feline silhouette once again! In addition to two new silhouette designs, I’ve also designed a few art cards and revived holiday cards from the past decade, including a couple of block prints. I’m featuring the feline-themed cards here, but I also have new nature-, winter- and back yard bird-themed designs using my photographs, illustrations and artwork; I’ll post a link to the articles when I post them on my Marketplace blog. This year, all my cards are 5″ x 7″ to save myself the trouble of running all over creation to find envelopes in eight different sizes.

cat looking at star

Star of Wonder

I’ve been planning illustrations with silhouettes such as these ever since I realized the Fantastic Four were meant to stay with me. If you’ve read other articles about their history with me, you may remember that I kept them for their first year, but being a family of black cats they were difficult to adopt out—shelters already had enough black cats! But I’d been watching them since they were tiny fuzzballs, and as I watched them grow into curious, lithe and active cats I also thoroughly enjoyed observing their changing silhouettes, taking many reference photos along the way.

I did decide they needed to stay with me for art reasons, and anyone who doesn’t believe me in that only needs to look at my designs such as these cards!

I had two ideas for this theme, the illustration at left being the first idea to come to mind. For “Star of Wonder” I used the photo of Mr. Sunshine I posted on Independence Day and more recently on “Look at That Menu!” I do like the look of smooth kitty silhouettes, but I also love their whiskers, and the texture of their fur, so I used all the details when I made the silhouette for this.

kittens at window

Three of the four at the window.

kittens at window

The other joins them.

For the illustration at the top, “Can We Get That Thing?” I used reference photos I’d taken of the Curious Quartet when they were still just kittens watching birds at the big window where they still watch birds. I took each figure independently to create the silhouette, then put them back together in the order I wanted.

I created the star motif years ago for another holiday design project for a customer, and I’m glad to use it for my designs this year.

These cards have a wordless message, nothing on the front or inside. Both are available on Etsy.

cookie holiday card

Cookie really is a cheerful little kitty!

Photo Cards

Cookie is a star. Despite her sour expression, she enjoyed this photo shoot—I certainly wasn’t holding her in place! It all began when a friend sent these very holiday toys to us and I set them out for the household to enjoy, and in fact, she sat there as I stacked things on and around her and took a series of photos to create my holiday card for 2006.

And she gave me permission to use her card again.

“You’ll Pay For This.”
Photo • 2006

“This is not how I want to be remembered.”
It all started when I set the silver sparkle ball on Cookie’s head, and she gave me the tortie look, but stayed put. Cookie isn’t really wild about modeling for her mom’s stupid pictures. But you don’t see her running away. Too bad for Cookie.

This card has a message inside: Wishing you bundles of holiday cheer!

This card is available singly and by the dozen on Etsy.

photo of cat with cut paper snowflakes on window

An Old Memory

This card, An Old Memory, was my holiday card two years ago, from a photo I took all the way back in 1983, before I was doing anything I’m doing now. I had a vague memory of it, but until I began looking through old photos for old artwork I had no idea where it was, and I was so happy to find it and reconnect with Kublai, my first black cat.

An Old Memory
Photo • 1983

Cut-paper snowflakes taped
to a wavy glass window reflecting
the big front porch from an apartment I lived in long ago,
and a cat I will always remember from when he and I were very young,
just beginning,
me just getting to know my camera, and my art;
how did I capture a perfectly blended image to reflect those times?

This card has a message inside: Wishing you wonderful memories this holiday season and new year.

You can find this card on Etsy as well.

Hand-drawn illustrations

illustration of cat looking at ornament

Sophie Gets a Look at Herself

Sophie was a little goofy, and did at one time look at herself in a glass ornament on the tree…for my holiday card in 1999 I decided to illustrate that memory in a quick little sketch. I’ve always offered this card, but the illustration is actually rather small and I drew it on white paper. I never really liked it on a white background, it just looked unfinished, so I fooled around with it until I came up with something I liked, the warm yellow textured drawing paper I often use in the background with the caption below.

Sophie Gets a Look at Herself
Pastel • 1999

Whether or not Sophie thinks she is all nose with tiny eyes and ears or that every ornament has her image on it, I don’t know, but she certainly looked a little disconcerted at encountering her reflection in this way. In any case, she provided the inspiration for a bright, cheerful piece of holiday artwork!

The message inside reads: “Hope your Christmas is full of wonderful surprises!”

cat and dog and peace on earth

A Cat Named Peace, a Dog Named Earth

I’m glad to have found this one again! I thought I’d lost the illustration but it was here on my computer all along.

Look a little closer at those markings on the cat and the dog…what do you see?

A Cat Named Peace, A Dog Named Earth
Pen and Ink Illustration • 1997

For my holiday card in 1997, I was puzzling out yet another way to say “Peace on Earth”. I saw an illustration that had each hemisphere of a globe on either side of a Christmas tree ornament, and thought the idea of using the globe was clever. Creating portraits of spotted dogs and spotted cats at the time, something in my brain put it all together for me. While I regularly create linoleum block prints, I decided to draw this one out instead of cutting it! Don’t know why…

This card is blank inside, but like all the others can be custom imprinted with your greeting or logo with the purchase of at least four dozen.

Linoleum block prints

meowy cats mess

Meowy Cats Mess

What array of my designs would be complete without a linoleum block print?

This card is a linoleum block print I designed for my holiday card in 1996. It’s printed in red ink on smooth cream-colored card stock.

meowy cats mess in green

Meowy Cats Mess in green.

I like to do something different for my holiday cards every year, and in 1996 I decided I’d do a linoleum block print. The design is derived from hand-lettering and playing around with fonts, plus tiny cat silhouettes I had designed for various projects; I added a border just to be decorative.

Where most of my other cards are printed commercially, each of these cards is hand-printed by me on my little Speedball printing press. I usually print a run of 48 cards at a time, so each set is in its own way a limited edition.

Block printing is a technique wherein the artist carves the surface of a piece of linoleum, leaving raised areas which will become the image. Ink is rolled onto these raised areas, then a piece of paper is pressed against the block and when it’s lifted away the ink remains, leaving the image on the paper. Because of this process, each print is slightly different and therefore unique.

Meowy Cats Mess” is printed in water-based ink on cream card stock, hand trimmed and folded and includes a matching envelope. Cards are blank inside and can also be framed.

kitty window block print

Window Kitty, Snowy Night

And from 2001, “Window Kitty, Snowy Night” recalls all those nights I came home from work to see one of my kitties, usually Sally, waiting for me in that big side window. It’s printed in cobalt blue ink on smooth yellow card stock, then overprinted with iridescent glitter in a clear base to simulate the sense of falling snow at night.

I like to do something different for my holiday cards every year, and in 2001 decided to take my block prints a step further by adding a glittery finish, but it didn’t work well until newer glitter-based finishes were available. I’m very please with how it turned out, but it doesn’t photograph or scan well!

Where most of my other cards are printed commercially, each of these cards is hand-printed by me on my little Speedball printing press. I usually print a run of 48 cards at a time, so each set is in its own way a limited edition.

Block printing is a technique wherein the artist carves the surface of a piece of linoleum, leaving raised areas which will become the image. Ink is rolled onto these raised areas, then a piece of paper is pressed against the block and when it’s lifted away the ink remains, leaving the image on the paper. Because of this process, each print is slightly different and therefore unique.

This 5″ x 7″ card is printed in water-based ink on cream card stock, iridescent glitter finish hand-rolled onto the paper, and hand trimmed and folded. It includes a matching envelope. Cards are blank inside and can also be framed.

And finally, Feline Gifts

painting of cat at window

Winter Window Christmas Card

You may recognize these from the art cards I’ve published in sets of 12 based on my paintings of my own cats and portraits of others’ cats. These four in particular, though, are designs I created in order to use for my holiday cards from what I’ve always called my “daily sketches”—where I see one of my cats at some activity, grab a sketchbook and something to draw with and get to work. Each of them depicts the winter light I love so well, and the warm feeling I get from seeing happy kitties.

Cards have a message inside: Wishing you and your fine felines a peaceful holiday and a happy new year

gray cat with pink sweater

A Rosy Glow

I’ve added some other elements to the design—a background pattern of snowflakes and pawprints in a rich green since green is a prevalent hue in all of my full-color animal artwork, plus an embossed border and a decorative bow for the holidays.

ABOUT THE ARTWORK

Winter Window
Pastel • 2002
Kelly pauses in the stark pastel light of a winter afternoon through the big north ­window in my studio, absolutely still in contemplation as she watches birds flit about at the feeders or Buddy the squirrel making a fool of himself. Kelly is petite for an adult cat, making the window seem vast, and the light is so diffuse that nothing has a hard edge. It is a scene I remember even in the heat of summer.

A Rosy Glow
Pastel • 1997
She found a warm spot to sleep in the sun on that old pink sweater of mine, and the look of contentment on her face was my first inspiration, especially since Miss Moses (we all thought she was a boy) had been a feral kitten and all her life hesitated to walk across the center of any room, finding security in keeping close to the furniture. But there she is in the middle of the room looking rather smug—I can almost hear her purr.

cat with books

Warm Winter Sun

Warm Winter Sun (which you might recognize as the header image on this blog)
Oil Pastel • 2000
Nothing is so clarifying as brilliant early morning sun, and nothing chases away the chill of a winter morning. Here, Namir was lulled to sleep by the natural warmth and comfort. While the main body of this work is lit by direct sunlight at that beautiful, long angle, the rest of the work is lit by reflected light.

cat sleeping on bed

Afternoon Nap

Afternoon Nap
Pastel • 2002
An old cat, a gentleman,
he has found a quiet spot, upstairs in the afternoon,
and has so perfectly placed himself a little off-center
on the expanse of white bedspread,
illuminated by stark winter light
through the window.

(Stanley finds all the best places.)

You can find all these cards right now in my Etsy shop. I also soon be posting my designs with my photos and paintings of nature, snow and back yard birds. For now, please enjoy looking!

________________________

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.

See also:
Holiday Cards: Greetings From Our Backyard Birds
Holiday Cards: Nature’s Peaceful Beauty


Open House October 22 at Portraits of Animals and Carnegie Antiques

panoramic image of shop

About one-third of the shop!

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22
Judi and I will join forces and open early, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and will both have discounts for visitors!

I’m offering 10% off your entire order of items from my Portraits of Animals shop including greeting cards, crocheted pawprints, tee-shirts, tote bags, unframed prints and anything else you can find there.

As a bonus, I’m offering 25% off framed artwork over $25.00, both originals and prints! I’ve been framing even more prints of my feline, wildlife and nature art as well as photographs, including views of Pittsburgh. I’ll be bringing in a few originals as well, so if you’ve had your eye on something, now is the time to get it! If the cost is less than $25, the 10% discount still applies.

ETSY PURCHASES
You can see a good bit of what’s in my shop in my Etsy shop. And for recipients of this post who can’t make it to the open house, I’ll also extend FREE SHIPPING for any items in my Etsy shop through the end of October. It will be as if you bought it in person! Enter “OPENHOUSE1011” in your shopping cart and it will automatically deduct the shipping.

Carnegie Antiques

In addition, Judi has been packing her shop with so much new merchandise I can hardly keep track of it all, and she’ll be offering discounts as well. There’s new furniture large and small, sets of dishes, hand-painted china, novelties, jewelry and more. Make sure you take time to visit Carnegie Antiques too!

Carnegie Antiques and Portraits of Animals are located at 423 West Main Street in Carnegie, PA 15106.


Kelly’s Morning Bath 1 with Autumn Leaf Rice Paper

matted framed linoleum block print of cat

Kelly's Morning Bath 1 on leaf paper in tan.

Kelly gives herself a complete bath every morning after breakfast on the table in front of the window in my studio, her every move full of purpose and industry.

I print Kelly’s Morning Bath Nos. 1 and 2 on various handmade papers to simulate the morning light outside the window, sometimes with tints of yellow from marigold petals, sometimes shades of green from fern leaves. This print captures an autumn morning, when the leaves on my maple trees have colored and filter the sun, speckling the table with splashes of sun and shadow.

matted framed linocut of cat

Kelly's Morning Bath 1 on leaf paper in ecru.

detail of print

Kelly's Morning Bath, detail of autumn leaf paper

I really loved this paper with the big tan maple leaves imprinted in a random pattern. I purchase papers at a variety of art stores and at festivals where artisans make and/or decorate the paper, and sometimes even do a little papermaking myself. When all the prints on that paper are gone that’s all there is, and these are the last two prints left that were printed on this paper.

This print captures an autumn morning, when the leaves on my maple trees have colored and filter the sun, speckling the table with splashes of sun and shadow.

linocut only detail

Just the print.

Each print is double-matted with a either the tan black core mat or the ecru black core mat. The image size is 4″ x 10″, the frame size is 7″ x 14″. The frame is matte-finish black composite wood.

Block printing is a technique wherein the artist carves the surface of a piece of linoleum, leaving raised areas which will become the image. Ink is rolled onto these raised areas, then a piece of paper is pressed against the block and when it’s lifted away the ink remains, leaving the image on the paper. Because of this process, each print is slightly different and therefore unique.

I usually print a series of six prints, preparing my papers ahead of time, then offering them matted and framed, matted only, print only, hand-tinted and sometimes incorporated into another type of work.

I carved and printed this one according to my first idea, then decided I might like each scene to have a border and a little more detail, so you’ll also find Kelly’s Morning Bath 2. In addition to this matted print, they are available as a print alone or matted with no frame. In addition to the printing them as wall art, I also print them on other items such as curtains, placemats, tablecloths and other household items.

You can find this set of prints in my Etsy shop under Kelly’s Morning Bath, Linoleum Block Print in Tan and Kelly’s Morning Bath, Linoleum Block Print in Ecru, or if you are local to me I actually have these on display in my shop in Carnegie, in the back room at Carnegie Antiques, 423 West Main Street.


Block Print Tabbies Set, Fawnball and Wrinkled Pajamas in Autumn Colors

framed linocut

My Stanley as "Wrinkled Pajamas", block print

Printed in hand-mixed rust or warm brown water-based block print ink on purchased handmade paper, these prints are matted with acid free mats, backed with acid free foam core, and framed in natural finish or painted oak wood frames with premium quality glass.

The stripes made me do it! The clarity of tabby cat stripes as they outline a cat’s features and define its shape has always been an inspiration for more graphic designs in this four-part series.

framed linocut of cat

My Fawn as "Fawnball", block print

These two designs were inspired by my cats. “Fawnball” illustrates how Fawn always kept an eye on me—though she is curled up and apparently sleeping, note that her is open and looking at you. “Wrinkled Pajamas” is how Stanley looked when he slept, as if he’d just gotten up from bed and his pajamas were all wrinkled.

Block printing is a technique wherein the artist carves the surface of a piece of linoleum, leaving raised areas which will become the image. Ink is rolled onto these raised areas, then a piece of paper is pressed against the block and when it’s lifted away the ink remains, leaving the image on the paper.

All are printed with a variety of colors and purchased handmade papers then matted and framed entirely by me. All are in 5” x 7” wood frames including glass and acid-free mat and backing.

You can find these two as well as other ink, mat and frame combinations of each printin my Etsy shop.


Just a Few Aprons Left!

two ladies wearing aprons with cats

The Tortie Girls aprons make their debut, modeled by Maggie and Diane!

When it comes to the handmade goods you see on the internet and at shows and festivals, did you ever wonder how the artist developed that item from an idea into a product you can purchase? The path is often less than direct, but most people who make things have the incentive of sharing what they’ve made with people who would enjoy it.

block print curtain

Detail of The Goddess curtain

I won’t go all the way back to the genesis of these block prints. I designed them and cut the blocks about 12 years ago, beginning with prints on paper but always intending to move out to other products, like the t-shirts I recently sold to benefit Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami; I’ve also printed them on curtains, tablecloths, place mats, scarves and other textiles to pleasing success with each—and I can’t wait for this summer’s printing sessions, now that the weather is good.

printed aprons on hangers

Cookie aprons drying out on the deck.

But I always wanted to print on an apron! A nice full apron with ties around the back of the neck. I don’t know why, but it may have been the popularity of the other kitchen items with the girls on them that encouraged me, or it may have been the cat-themed aprons I received as gifts.

Sometimes I’ll make my own products to print on, as I did with the place mats and table cloths and a few curtains, but those were unique sizes and shapes. The apron, well, I’ve made aprons in the past, and I knew I really didn’t want to make a dozen aprons for this project.

printed aprons drying on hangers

Kelly gets her turn.

So that left me to shop the market for blank aprons. I considered looking for one or two in local stores, but retail items are prepared for display and sale and always have a little—or a lot—bit of sizing in them which is difficult to print on and impossible to paint on with cold-set fabric paints, as I discovered when I purchased a package of tees and tried to print on them. I had to over-ink the block, and the dye rolled right off. This also happened with most tablecloths and curtains. I could wash it, but then I’d have to press it out completely to look like new, and while I actually enjoy ironing, that was a little more time than I wanted to spend on a t-shirt, in part because I also noticed they weren’t as heavy or as well-made as the blanks I usually purchased. I considered it a disaster and decided I wouldn’t waste my time again.

tortoiseshell cat image on apron

The Goddess on an apron!

But there are companies that sell blank items for just this purpose; my favorite is Dharma Trading Company. I always look for fair trade items made from organic materials by someone who was paid a living wage to make the thing; I don’t mind paying for that and generally my customers don’t mind paying for it, either, and we all support each other. Dharma always has these fair-trade options, but the aprons were always a little more than I wanted to pay and I decided I’d wait until they came down in price.

tortoiseshell cat image on an apron

Kelly already watches everything I do in the kitchen.

Just in the past year, the aprons came down in price, and a customer going out of business handed me a half dozen blank aprons that were more than acceptable saying, “I’ll bet you can do something with these!”

Indeed! The white cotton duck aprons were pretty close to what I would have chosen, and you can’t beat “free”! The only thing was to wait for good weather since I still need to use my oil-based ink on textiles, and the smell of the ink (smells like an oil spill) and turpentine (even the “safe” stuff smells) is not something I want to fill my basement with, not to mention it’s flammable. So for safety’s sake, I wait for a day that’s at least 50 degrees and sunny, and print as much as I can.

We had one of those days in March, and I had everything ready as the temperature began to rise; I also had to print a few Tortie Girls t-shirts people had ordered in sizes I thought I had but did not, and I was nearly out of prints on paper which I also need to print in oil-based ink to resist the watercolor I paint into them.

ghosted printed image

Detail of the ghosted image.

So I started with the old familiar rice paper and got the block all warmed up with those, then went to the tees and got the block ready for the fabric. I knew the cotton duck was a little stiffer than fabrics I usually used, and if I washed it to soften it I’d again have to press it out and make sure it looked like new, so I took the chance to print on the fabric as it was.

painted tortie cat image

Coverage not dark enough, and it takes too much ink!

Block printing is a technique wherein the artist carves the surface of a piece of linoleum, leaving raised areas which will become the image. Ink is rolled onto these raised areas, then a piece of paper or other surface is pressed against the block by hand or by a press—in my case it’s by hand, and I use a “baren” and my fingers to press the surface against the block, rubbing gently against each of the details of the block and can sometimes even see the ink soaking into the fabric.

Still, I don’t know if it’s all evenly inked until I lift the surface from the block. When it’s lifted away the ink remains, leaving the image on the surface. Because of the nature of the medium, each print is unique and ink coverage varies by the surface. Most artists consider this random activity to be part of the process of creating an individualized print, and along with the hand-painting makes a unique wearable work of art. Even with this, I want even coverage with no filling of the tiny details and no doubling or ghosting of the image.

fabric dye spreading

Cookie aglow. That won't work!

I had three aprons for each of the two Tortie Girls. Even with the best of preparation, there is still the chance for difficulty, and it took me two of the aprons to get the amount of ink correct, and the pressure to print until I got one good impression. With each of them, one print wasn’t inked enough, and the next print ghosted, or produced a slightly doubled image because the fabric shifted after I had impressed it on the block. Oh, well.

tortie cat on apron

Kelly's edges are spreading too.

Then came the painting of the aprons, and seeing the tight weave of the fabric I decided first to use fabric markers since I could press the marker against the fabric and the pigment wouldn’t chance rolling off. It really didn’t cover the fabric well, just the surface, unless I really pushed, and I’d have to purchase a new fabric marker for each apron at this rate.

Then I tried dampening the fabric to see if the fabric marker settled in a little better. Usually, when I paint the tees and other lighter-weight products, the ink has settled into the fibers of the fabric and acts as a barrier to the water or paint; not so with the aprons, as you can see by Cookie’s and Kelly’s “glow”.

So I went back to the cold-set fabric dyes and carefully painted a priming layer of dye that lightly soaked into the fabric but dampened it enough that the next pass of the brush colored the fabric just about right with a minimum of runaway dye, producing two “good” aprons.

I secretly showed them to the tortie group when I went to the book-signing in Washington. They seemed to pass muster.

That leaves just a few for me to use or pass along to friends to product test in the kitchen and in the laundry. But I got one good print out of each of them, and I have those for sale on Etsy.

women clinking glasses wearing aprons

I think they enjoy modeling as much as I enjoy printing! Perhaps it's the glasses of wine...

They are also modeled here by Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall Executive Director Maggie Forbes and Library Director Diane Klinefelter. Thanks for taking the time to model for me!

I think after this little experiment I’ll get a few of the softer natural-colored canvas aprons I had seen at Dharma Trading, and now that the weather is consistently warmer I won’t have to wait for the two hours in an afternoon to print.


Developing a New Product: Aprons

two ladies wearing aprons with cats

The Tortie Girls aprons make their debut, modeled by Maggie and Diane!

When it comes to the handmade goods you see on the internet and at shows and festivals, did you ever wonder how the artist developed that item from an idea into a product you can purchase? The path is often less than direct, but most people who make things have the incentive of sharing what they’ve made with people who would enjoy it.

block print curtain

Detail of The Goddess curtain

I won’t go all the way back to the genesis of these block prints. I designed them and cut the blocks about 12 years ago, beginning with prints on paper but always intending to move out to other products, like the t-shirts I recently sold to benefit Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami; I’ve also printed them on curtains, tablecloths, place mats, scarves and other textiles to pleasing success with each—and I can’t wait for this summer’s printing sessions, now that the weather is good.

printed aprons on hangers

Cookie aprons drying out on the deck.

But I always wanted to print on an apron! A nice full apron with ties around the back of the neck. I don’t know why, but it may have been the popularity of the other kitchen items with the girls on them that encouraged me, or it may have been the cat-themed aprons I received as gifts.

Sometimes I’ll make my own products to print on, as I did with the place mats and table cloths and a few curtains, but those were unique sizes and shapes. The apron, well, I’ve made aprons in the past, and I knew I really didn’t want to make a dozen aprons for this project.

printed aprons drying on hangers

Kelly gets her turn.

So that left me to shop the market for blank aprons. I considered looking for one or two in local stores, but retail items are prepared for display and sale and always have a little—or a lot—bit of sizing in them which is difficult to print on and impossible to paint on with cold-set fabric paints, as I discovered when I purchased a package of tees and tried to print on them. I had to over-ink the block, and the dye rolled right off. This also happened with most tablecloths and curtains. I could wash it, but then I’d have to press it out completely to look like new, and while I actually enjoy ironing, that was a little more time than I wanted to spend on a t-shirt, in part because I also noticed they weren’t as heavy or as well-made as the blanks I usually purchased. I considered it a disaster and decided I wouldn’t waste my time again.

tortoiseshell cat image on apron

The Goddess on an apron!

But there are companies that sell blank items for just this purpose; my favorite is Dharma Trading Company. I always look for fair trade items made from organic materials by someone who was paid a living wage to make the thing; I don’t mind paying for that and generally my customers don’t mind paying for it, either, and we all support each other. Dharma always has these fair-trade options, but the aprons were always a little more than I wanted to pay and I decided I’d wait until they came down in price.

tortoiseshell cat image on an apron

Kelly already watches everything I do in the kitchen.

Just in the past year, the aprons came down in price, and a customer going out of business handed me a half dozen blank aprons that were more than acceptable saying, “I’ll bet you can do something with these!”

Indeed! The white cotton duck aprons were pretty close to what I would have chosen, and you can’t beat “free”! The only thing was to wait for good weather since I still need to use my oil-based ink on textiles, and the smell of the ink (smells like an oil spill) and turpentine (even the “safe” stuff smells) is not something I want to fill my basement with, not to mention it’s flammable. So for safety’s sake, I wait for a day that’s at least 50 degrees and sunny, and print as much as I can.

We had one of those days in March, and I had everything ready as the temperature began to rise; I also had to print a few Tortie Girls t-shirts people had ordered in sizes I thought I had but did not, and I was nearly out of prints on paper which I also need to print in oil-based ink to resist the watercolor I paint into them.

ghosted printed image

Detail of the ghosted image.

So I started with the old familiar rice paper and got the block all warmed up with those, then went to the tees and got the block ready for the fabric. I knew the cotton duck was a little stiffer than fabrics I usually used, and if I washed it to soften it I’d again have to press it out and make sure it looked like new, so I took the chance to print on the fabric as it was.

painted tortie cat image

Coverage not dark enough, and it takes too much ink!

Block printing is a technique wherein the artist carves the surface of a piece of linoleum, leaving raised areas which will become the image. Ink is rolled onto these raised areas, then a piece of paper or other surface is pressed against the block by hand or by a press—in my case it’s by hand, and I use a “baren” and my fingers to press the surface against the block, rubbing gently against each of the details of the block and can sometimes even see the ink soaking into the fabric.

Still, I don’t know if it’s all evenly inked until I lift the surface from the block. When it’s lifted away the ink remains, leaving the image on the surface. Because of the nature of the medium, each print is unique and ink coverage varies by the surface. Most artists consider this random activity to be part of the process of creating an individualized print, and along with the hand-painting makes a unique wearable work of art. Even with this, I want even coverage with no filling of the tiny details and no doubling or ghosting of the image.

fabric dye spreading

Cookie aglow. That won't work!

I had three aprons for each of the two Tortie Girls. Even with the best of preparation, there is still the chance for difficulty, and it took me two of the aprons to get the amount of ink correct, and the pressure to print until I got one good impression. With each of them, one print wasn’t inked enough, and the next print ghosted, or produced a slightly doubled image because the fabric shifted after I had impressed it on the block. Oh, well.

tortie cat on apron

Kelly's edges are spreading too.

Then came the painting of the aprons, and seeing the tight weave of the fabric I decided first to use fabric markers since I could press the marker against the fabric and the pigment wouldn’t chance rolling off. It really didn’t cover the fabric well, just the surface, unless I really pushed, and I’d have to purchase a new fabric marker for each apron at this rate.

Then I tried dampening the fabric to see if the fabric marker settled in a little better. Usually, when I paint the tees and other lighter-weight products, the ink has settled into the fibers of the fabric and acts as a barrier to the water or paint; not so with the aprons, as you can see by Cookie’s and Kelly’s “glow”.

So I went back to the cold-set fabric dyes and carefully painted a priming layer of dye that lightly soaked into the fabric but dampened it enough that the next pass of the brush colored the fabric just about right with a minimum of runaway dye, producing two “good” aprons.

I secretly showed them to the tortie group when I went to the book-signing in Washington. They seemed to pass muster.

That leaves four for me to use or pass along to friends to product test in the kitchen and in the laundry. But I got one good print out of each of them, and I have those for sale on Etsy.

women clinking glasses wearing aprons

I think they enjoy modeling as much as I enjoy printing! Perhaps it's the glasses of wine...

They are also modeled here by Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall Executive Director Maggie Forbes and Library Director Diane Klinefelter. Thanks for taking the time to model for me!

I think after this little experiment I’ll get a few of the softer natural-colored canvas aprons I had seen at Dharma Trading, and now that the weather is consistently warmer I won’t have to wait for the two hours in an afternoon to print.


Open House December 18, 9 to 4!

panoramic image of shop

About one-third of the shop!

One more open house before Christmas plus gift ideas for the animal and nature lovers on your list for any holiday! Click here to find my December e-newsletter on the internet.

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 18
Hard to believe Christmas will only be a week away! Judi and I will join forces and open early, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and Judi will be offering deals on all the beautiful things she has in the shop. Carnegie Antiques and Portraits of Animals are located at 423 West Main Street in Carnegie.

I’m offering 10% off your entire order of items from my Portraits of Animals shop including greeting cards, crocheted pawprints, tee-shirts, tote bags, unframed prints and anything else you can find there.

As a bonus, I’m offering 25% off framed artwork over $25.00, both originals and prints! I’ve been framing even more prints of my feline, wildlife and nature art as well as photographs, including views of Pittsburgh. I’ve brought in several larger originals as well, so if you’ve had your eye on something, now is the time to get it! If the cost is less than $20, the 10% discount still applies

10% OPEN HOUSE DISCOUNT EXTENDED TO ETSY PURCHASES
You can see a good bit of what’s in my shop in my Etsy shop. And for recipients of this newsletter who can’t make it to the open house, I’ll also extend the discount to items in my Etsy shop! I’ll apply the discount after your purchase.

Enter “HOLIDAY10MERCHANDISE” in your shopping cart and it will automatically deduct the 10%.

Enjoy! Perhaps I’ll see you at one of my events this holiday season.


Have Both “The Goddess” and “The Roundest Eyes” Curtains

block print curtain

Detail of The Goddess curtain

the roundest eyes curtain

The Roundest Eyes block printed curtain.

Even though they aren’t quite the same size I’ve always considered these curtains a pair, in part because my two torties aren’t quite the same. Kelly is a little taller and more slender, so her curtain is a little longer than Cookie’s, who is pleasantly rounded and rather short.

I’d be happy to extend an offer to my blog and Facebook readers to sell these as a set for $40.00 plus $10.00 shipping.

The curtains are normally $25.00 each plus $10.00 shipping and handling, but it’s just as easy to package them together and ship them at the same time—they weigh practically nothing!

The Goddess is 50″ x 70″. Image is printed twice at the bottom in black ink.

The Roundest Eyes is 50″ x 80″. Image is printed twice at the bottom in black ink.

Both curtains were purchased commercially, sheer white cotton with a woven pattern of varied vertical lines, paired tab top to fit just about any curtain rod.

shop window with curtains and valance

Curtains on display in shop.

Use them for an odd window, as an accent shower curtain, a doorway or closet opening. I usually tie them back or blouse them at the top when I have them in a display, as you see here in my shop. I have them gathered up with ribbon which is looped around the end of the curtain rod. That way, you can adjust them however you want—both the same length, or different lengths as your decor requires.

Oh, and then there’s that tan valance across the top with “Kelly’s Morning Bath 2”. I haven’t featured that yet in part because I need to get a curtain rod that really fits the window so I can take an adequate photo of it, and for now it’s just tacked up above there!

block printed curtain valance

Kelly's Morning Bath printed valance

This valance is commercially purchased as well, a tan/ecru poly/cotton blend, 30″ wide and 12″ deep including the header pocket. “Kelly’s Morning Bath 2” is printed twice in black ink near the bottom so the light shines through the print.

Let me know if you’d be interested and I can include that in the package too!

If you’d like to take advantage of this offer, please e-mail me since all the items are listed individually on Etsy. You can find these things in my shop on Etsy or if you are local to me I actually have these on display in my shop in Carnegie, in the back room at Carnegie Antiques, 423 West Main Street.


One Last Print of Kelly’s Morning Bath

image of block print

Kelly's Morning Bath, linoleum block print only

I found a few things I didn’t realize I still had when I packed for the festival this weekend, and this single print of Kelly’s Morning Bath 1 was one of them.

The print is an odd size, and while I’ve found a pre-made frame to fit now and then it’s usually a custom fit, which can get expensive even for a small print like this one. This way you can customize the print yourself, though.

One last print of Kelly’s Morning Bath from the older sets. This is just the print, unmatted and unframed, on the peach patterned paper

Kelly gives herself a complete bath every morning after breakfast on the table in front of the window in my studio, her every move full of purpose and industry.

This print captures a sunny spring morning when the leaves are new, as this window in my house faces my lilac and a number of trees which filter the sun, speckling the table with splashes of sun and shadow.

detail of handmade paper

Detail of orange rag paper.

It is printed on handmade rag paper embedded with bits of cloth and recycled paper in various shades of pale orange.

The image size is 5″ x 10″ and is packaged in plastic with an acid-free foam core backing.

I’ve provided detailed images each of the frames and of the paper.

Block printing is a technique wherein the artist carves the surface of a piece of linoleum, leaving raised areas which will become the image. Ink is rolled onto these raised areas, then a piece of paper is pressed against the block and when it’s lifted away the ink remains, leaving the image on the paper. Because of this process, each print is slightly different and therefore unique.

I usually print a series of six prints, preparing my papers ahead of time, then offering them matted and framed, matted only, print only, hand-tinted and sometimes incorporated into another type of work.

I carved and printed this one according to my first idea, then decided I might like each scene to have a border and a little more detail, so you’ll also find Kelly’s Morning Bath 2. In addition to this matted print, they are available as a print alone or matted with no frame. In addition to the printing them as wall art, I also print them on other items such as curtains, placemats, tablecloths and other household items.

You can find this set of prints in my Etsy shop, or if you are local to me I actually have these on display in my shop in Carnegie, in the back room at Carnegie Antiques, 423 West Main Street.


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