It has been a while since I last wrote here. I apologise. I am currently setting myself up after a move to a new location. I will post updates about that once I'm properly set up. Before I moved, I had completed another leather working project, and had meant to post about it long ago. The move was sudden, however, and rushed, and I didn't get the chance to do so before now. Until today, at least.
In any case, they're available now! New in store - hand carved bookmarks!
I have just the one design currently, but will hopefully be able to create more once I'm properly settled in my new location. For now, I shall have to be content with the Twin Birds design I created all the way back in September. I have a few ideas for more Viking designs, as well as Celtic ones, and I think I'll do a few name ones as well... once I'm settled.
With the move, I will also have to buy a few things that I used previously on loan, so creation will be a bit slow to get started. With luck, it won't be too much longer.
In the meantime, if you're looking for the perfect gift for that well-read raider in your life, I have you covered!
It has been a while since I've blogged. I apologize if anyone was waiting on an update. I've been a little blindsided by a sudden and urgent need to move house, which I'm trying to get done by the beginning of October. I have not been doing much art at all. Instead I've been sorting and packing. It's slow going, mostly because I hate moving, and I'm not particularly trying very hard to pack everything away.
I did manage to get away to the lake for a few days shortly after the shock of the moving news, and it was a good thing. I did manage to work on a new oil painting there, but I'm far from finished, so I won't be posting pics just yet.
It is my fervent hope that I'll be able to finish that painting as well as my planned October piece once I'm moved and settled. That way, I'll not be any paintings behind in my twelve month challenge, even if I didn't technically complete a painting in September.
But, I've not been idle. Since I can't really do much art currently, I've decided to open another online store. Ladles and jelly spoons, I am now on Society 6.
My prints are now available on both Society 6 and Redbubble now.
I figured it couldn't help to get my work out in as many venues as possible. I rather like Society6 and Redbubble. While I earn next to nothing (and would regardless of whether I sold a lot or not - the margins are slim), I also don't have to worry about getting the pieces printed, mounted and shipped. These sites do that all for me. I appreciate that. The less time I must fuss with these things, the more time I have to work on creating. That's a win for me, even if I don't earn much at all.
Society 6 is very much like Redbubble, but I have to say, I much prefer Redbubble offering links to specific artworks, so that folks travelling to that store interested in a particular piece are not bombarded by all the pieces in the various formats. They can just click the links provided for, say, Stormbringer, and they'll get taken to the place where all of the items with that particular artwork can be found.
So far, I've not been able to replicate that for my Society 6 shop, so visitors will have to wade through all the products and artworks to find the product they want in the artwork they want. That's a little irritating.
Granted, I've not played around in Society 6 very long. It might be that they have this functionality, and I've just not found it yet.
As of the writing of this blog, I have only three four artworks up - my paintings. All that is available are art prints and some stationery items, which is perhaps the way I'll keep it. Perhaps I'll upload my Wandsworth Bird as a kind of merch in case folks would like to support me but don't fancy any of the art pieces I have. If I do that, then I'll make it everything else - all the non-artwork related items. I can't imagine they'd sell at all, but we'll see.
In the next few days, I'll be uploading my other pieces, or as many of them as I have on this computer.
So, there we have it. Life is crazy and uncertain at the moment, and I've not been able to create much. But I've been working, still. It's not much, but it's something. We do what we can with what we have.
Wishing you all well.
I am heartbroken. This week, as I had finished my painting for the month, I decided to work on a sculpture that had been floating about in my mind for a little while. Initially, it was looking good. The sculpture itself worked out almost exactly as it had in my imagination.
The only problem I had was an inability to get the thing to stand up on its own. I came up with a pretty solution - a feature of the sculpture that both fit the theme and would serve to give the sculptured dog something to lean against and remain upright.
The final sculpture, which I neglected to take a photo of before disaster struck, looked really good! I was so pleased with it.
Having created the sculpture out of Sculptey - a poly clay designed to be baked in the oven, I decided to do just that. Following the instructions, I preheated the oven, and popped the sculpture in for fifteen minutes.
Just before the fifteen minutes was over, I heard a popping noice. I went to the oven and peeked in and... disaster. The sculpture had cracked in several places, falling apart like a sand castle hit by a wave.
I was - I am - devastated.
Here is what the sculpture looked like before I figured out how to get it to stand. I was so pleased with it.
Poor dead pupper. Not pictured here, me picking up the sculpture by the head only to have it snap off as well.
This was the first time working with a poly clay. I have to say, working with it was fun, and I enjoyed the process. It was smooth and easy to manipulate with some kneeding, and ended up not being all that different from actual clay. The end result was also decent, and I thought things were going really well. Prior to baking, it looked pretty good.
Then the oven happened.
After the baking, the clay became crumbly and brittle, and everything fell apart. Thinking I had done something terribly wrong, I took to the internet to research what I could do better. In one forum, I discovered that the medium itself might have been the problem. Someone suggested that Sculptey was terrible, and sculptors ought to go with Magi-Sculpt instead. I think the next time I have some spare change, I will buy some of this Magi-Sculpt and try that.
Right now, though, I'm really upset, and pondering how I might try the same sculpture again, but out of a different medium. I might try Monster clay, and make casts to sell, as Monster clay cannot be baked and it very sensitive to heat. I might end up buying a bunch of chisels and sandpaper and attempt the sculpture again in wood.
Actually, I quite like the idea of carving wood. I'll mull that option over more. And, you know, save up for chisels and other whittling tools.
As of now, I'm sulking, and will probably continue to sulk for a number of days. I had so hoped to have a cool new sculpture to show off this week.
It was not to be.
Last week, I stared at my pile of leather scraps, unsure of what I ought to do with them. Throwing them out was not an option. Such waste would make me incredibly sad. So, I devised a plan to sew them together and see if I couldn't make something useful out of them. A dice bag, in fact.
The design itself is quite simple. It was sewing all the scraps together that took the most time and proved the trickiest. I must say, however that I absolutely love sewing by hand. It's oddly meditative.
It took an entire day of continuously stamping holes, cutting back extra leather, and stitching to create the dice bag. It was entirely enjoyable work, however. If I had the means to make this my profession, I would have a workshop and happily spend all day in there.
The end result was quite satisfactory.
It appeared to strike a chord with a friend of mine, who saw the photos on Twitter and decided to buy it. This is my first ever handcrafted leather item sale, and it made me obscenely happy. I sent it off today, and he should be getting it in the next couple of days.
I spoke with another friend of mine, who is a seamstress, and learnt how she charges for her handmade items. I decided not to include the cost of materials for this one, and just charge for the labour. This is because for this piece and all the pieces I make in this style in the future, I used the scraps that wouldn't have been used otherwise. Even still, with just the labour, these dice bags are not inexpensive.
Given how this bag was a prototype test, and is honestly still quite rough and could have been done better, I sold it for less than half the price it will go for when I settle for a style that I like. The pattern will not change, but the manner in which it is stitched will be toyed with the next time I have enough scraps to create a second prototype.
This project was a lot of fun for me. So much so that I have another two dice bag creations in the pipeline. The basic pattern will remain the same, but the leathers, linings and possible accoutrements will be different. I'm thinking one of the dice bags will have a chainmaille exterior. I'm forming plans, my friends, and looking forward to it.
I'm genuinely surprised I got something so close to correct on the first try, and I'm really looking forward to working on my next one, which will be soon, I hope.
What an enjoyable project this was.
Thanks, perhaps, to the smaller size of the piece, I finished the third painting in my twelve painting challenge late last week; a good deal earlier than my self-imposed deadline of August thirty-first. I'm not entirely upset with the result.
When I first started the painting, I was less than thrilled with it, but as the painting progressed, I found I liked it more and more. It isn't especially close in proportion to the drawing I did, but it has almost all of the elements, and I even threw in a thing or two that the drawing does not possess.
The end result:
It honestly doesn't look like how I imagined it in my head, but it does look and feel very much like me, if that makes any sense. I'm struggling to try and describe it. It certainly isn't perfect, but I'm not disappointed in it, either.
This time painting was very different from the other oil painting I finished. Perhaps because I used less thinner (though I cannot be sure that I did, in fact, use less thinner), but this painting has taken a great deal more time to dry than African Violet did. I completed it three full days ago, as of the writing of this blog post, and it's still not even close to dry. I have forgotten this fact while handling it. Thankfully, it's suffered no real damage. If anyone decides to buy the original, it's going to be very tricky to ship.
I'm finding that I enjoy painting with oils more and more. I'm particularly enjoying being able to blend on the canvas itself, which was difficult in acrylic as it tended to dry far too quickly. This was particularly useful for lightening the leaves around the flowers, making it seem like the flowers are glowing a bit. I'm not sure that I got the glowing effect right, but I'm not despondent about the result, either.
Having read a little bit about glazing, I used a blue glaze to desaturate some of the leaves, and to cast better shadows on my nectar drake. For this, I made damned sure the paint was dry enough, as there is a real danger of the glaze mixing instead of coating (glaze, I've learnt, is a paint mixed with a lot of thinner used to highlight or desaturate certain parts of a painting).
The part of the painting that gave me the most trouble, oddly, was the moon. I tried on four separate occasions to get the moon to look a little more like an actual moon instead of a simple bright circle. As with the glowing effect, I bounce between feeling I came close to totally denouncing the effort. It was my impatience that did me in, I think. every attempt save the last did nothing but to muddle the paints together, and I had to wait for the painting to be a little dryer before my final attempt. That helped a lot.
Patience, it seems, was the theme of this painting, and a skill I am yet to properly learn. Still, I'm quite pleased by the final result. It's not exactly how I imagined it. It's not by any means perfect, but it is very, well, me.
Since completing the painting, I have spent far too much money on more canvases and brushes in preparation of my next painting. I have six planned oils, and two planned acrylics. The acrylics are, of course, for when the weather gets too cold for me to paint with oils. My mother also suggested I try watercolour painting for those cold months. I'm considering it.
Perhaps I shall.
I have yet to buy my long canvases, and so was at a loss as to what to do next. My flatmate very kindly offered a canvas she had for a long time and never used to me. I feel little guilty, but decided to take her up on the offer.
As of the writing of this, I'm roughly a third of the way through a new painting, which I'm basing on a sketch that I competed after I started the painting.
To be fair, I had the rough sketch done before I started the painting.
I turned the sketch into a proper drawing, which I'm now offering both as a print via my Redbubble shop and also as an original. If anyone reckons they might want it for their wall.
As I said I am only a third of the way through the painting. I have the tower and the moon. I'm currently sketching the foliage in, and will hopefully have that all done soon. In the coming week, I plan to have the painting mostly done. the problem of course is the detail. It took hours in the drawing, and I imagine it will take longer trying to pain it.
I'm hoping I'm equal to the task, but I do feel that I've maybe bitten off more than I can chew. Hopefully, though, it'll all work out.
I always feel that my work is childish at best, absolute rubbish at worst. I suppose many artists feel the same.
I will post again when the painting is complete. If I'm not terribly ashamed of it.
Roughly a fortnight ago, being the last of week of July, I was spurred to action in the painting department. I had, before starting this site, set myself a challenge to complete a painting a month. In June I completed Stormbringer; a large painting of a dragon, which I'm donating.
This month, I decided that I ought to tackle one of my greatest painting fears - oil paint.
Oil paint has always terrified me. Despite taking art class all throughout my high school career, I never once touched oil paint. I found it terribly thick and difficult to work with. I thought that I would not be able to contend with the medium ever.
Earlier this year, I was determined to face this negative impression of my ability and took it up on myself to learn how to paint with oils. To that end, I acquired a membership to skillshare.com, and began my first ever painting course in oils. The end goal was a geometric abstract piece.
To be quite honest, I'd rather forgotten about the painting, concentrating as I was on my leather pieces, until last week. So, on Tuesday, I sat down and completed the skillshare lesson. Part of that lesson was to sketch in a series of thumbnails, each of overlapping squares, rectangles and circles, creating geometric designs.
Abstract is not my style, but I did give it a good go. Of course, because I cannot help but to be representative, even when I'm trying to be abstract, my eye and imagination gravitated towards the one design that I had drawn an unlabelled Venn Diagram in the centre. And, with my mind being what it is, I couldn't have the diagram be nothing, so I turned it into an abstract flower was I painted.
The end result is not terrible.
Out of the tube, the paint was indeed thick and unworkable. I had to apply paint thinner, which did make the paint more workable, but it also made it dry quite quickly. Indeed, there didn't feel all that much different working in oils than it did acrylics, given how quickly the paint dried when mixed with the thinner.
Granted, the paint might have been difficult, or dried so quickly, because the paints themselves were not especially expensive, given that they were oil paints. I am not experienced enough with oils to tell if that's indeed the case. Should I earn anything from my art, I will try and invest in different oils to compare. For now, however, these will have to do.
For my next painting, I have to take a trip to my local Wallack's to pick up some long canvases. There is another canvas in the house I can use, and I have an idea what I intend to paint with it, so perhaps I'll do that painting instead of the one for which I've already done a sketch for.
It will also be an oil painting. I'm no longer quite so terrified of the medium as I once was.
Well, I have exhausted my supply of leather for the making of book jackets. I will be restocking when I get some more funds. This time, I worked with a slightly stiffer goat leather. It was still very thin, but nowhere near as elastic or floppy. This made it a dream to work with.
Granted, the leather is too thin to do any real carving. It does, however, take tooling well enough that the design isn't lost in a shallow mess. So I didn't carve at all. I did tool. I'm really pleased with the results.
The design makes me laugh (I've been giggling over it since it's inception), and I've gotten pretty decent at tooling, quickly picking up the skill I learnt more than twenty years ago. The end result is something I feel I can be proud of.
I've dubbed this the Novice Leather Jacket, and it comes in antique black and antique mahogany. Other designs are forthcoming, when I can acquire more leather. I plan on putting the designs only on the front panel of the jacket, so the price will not be as great as the current design. As it is, the tooling alone is something like twelve hours of work. My thumb is still recovering.
Working with a new style of leather presented its own lessons; ones I thought working with the soft leather already taught me. Not so.
The first is that the measurements for the soft leather do not work well for the stiffer leather. In order to get the book the fit, I needed to make the cut a little longer than I did for the softer leather. Luckily, leather is quite pliable and I could make my first attempt fit. It's snug, but it fits. The second attempt is by far the better one, though both fit and are good.
The second lesson has to do with staining and finishing. I rather enjoy the hand-rubbed antique look of the leathers I've stained, which I've achieved first by accident, then quite deliberately. The mahogany stain is, to my eye, a great deal more purple than I thought it would be, but coupled with the mahogany finishing, it works beautifully, adding a delightful depth to the colour. The same is true for the black; not that the stain was far more purple than I'd imagined, but that using the hand-rubbed stain and hand-rubbed finishing both in black adds a great deal of interest and depth to the piece. I'm glad that's the route I decided on when I embarked on this project.
The last lesson I learnt was that leather stain makes quite the mess when it spills, and that your hands will be funky-looking for a couple of days if you happen to spill the stain all over them.
This latest project was lovely to work on. I quite enjoy tooling. I find the focus needed to do it well is meditative for me, letting me put aside a good number of worries as I tried to ensure that the tooling was vaguely straight.
Due to the length of time required to cut, tool, sew, stain and finish the piece, I will likely restrict my monthly orders of the Novice Book Jacket to about ten a month. It won't be enough to make a living wage, of course, but I wouldn't be able to do that unless I charge $200.00 each for these, and I don't feel that's something I can do.
Perhaps I will be fortunate and sell enough paintings and prints to make up the gap, if I sell anything at all.
I have used all of the soft goat leather that I had bought for to make my book jackets. I think they look pretty good. The rustic nature of the sewn edged bothered me at first, but now I think it adds to the appeal of the piece. I'm quite fond of the rugged adventurer vibe these book jackets exude.
I think I have the skill down now, though it still takes far too long for me to sew each one. As I am now, I can safely say I can make one book cover a day of soft leather. That means that should I make any tooled leather, it will take me two days or so to complete the project.
I had hoped that I would be able to do two a day of the soft leather, but as it stands, I am not. That means, unfortunately, that I don't think I'd be able to make enough in a month to sustain the business. At least, not at these prices.
I'm not willing to charge more for the leather pieces. I think the price as it is now is fair, considering everything is hand done. No machines involved.
I am also unwilling to drive myself mad trying to make enough in a month to earn what amounts to minimum wage each month. All that will lead to is burn-out and my inability to make and send client orders in a timely manner.
So I'm in a bit of a bind, currently. I think the smartest way I can do things is to simply limit the number of orders of book jackets to twenty a month - whether they are tooled or plain. That way, I'll be able to complete orders in good time without becoming swamped by an insurmountable backlog.
Is that enough to live off of? Unlikely. It would be if I managed to sell twenty at the highest price point in a month. Which is exceedingly unlikely. However, if I can supplement that with original art sales and sales of prints, as well as any meagre income I might garner from book sales, I won't be starving.
Of course, there's no guarantee of any sales whatsoever, which is something that is quite likely. I am a terrible marketer, and plenty of people in this economy haven't the funds to buy handmade goods from people like myself. It's not a grand time to be starting a business.
All the same, I've really enjoyed making these covers, even when it got frustrating, and I'm hopeful that someone will like them enough to pick up one for their books. The goat leather book jackets are now listed in my new online shop. They are the only items listed, as they're the only one made thus far.
I'm currently working on a new book jacket made of slightly stiffer goat leather and hand tooled with some of my designs. The first of the designs is one that makes me giggle, and I'm quite looking forward to having that done. But that will take me a couple of days to complete.
My second attempt at a leather book jacket proved much more successful than my first.
I still cannot, for the life of me, seem to cut a straight line, and I had to make adjustments as I went. That said, both the cutting and the sewing went much more smoothly this time. I think it helped that I lifted my cutting surface up from the living room floor to the coffee table, which is where, thanks to space constraints, I currently have my workshop.
After cutting, I had worried that I made it too small. The cutting went better, but was far from perfect. Testing the jacket, however, on the same book used to test my first attempt, it turned out that I had gotten it just right. The book fit, and it fit well.
The stitching is still (I'll generously call) rustic, but I actually have grown quite fond of the look. All the slight imperfections makes it look handmade, and there's something to be said for that aesthetic. I find it appealing, personally.
With my second attempt going much better than the first, I think that I'll stick with the soft goat leather for a slightly less expensive option. When funds allow, I will be buying some cow leather to make both plain and carved options, which I'll offer at a slightly higher price point. Cow leather is much more expensive, after all.
Tomorrow, I plan to make the same size out of my black goat leather, and if I'm satisfied with it, I will upload the pictures and open my online store. There will, of course, be only one item available from my shop currently, available in two colours. That would be the plain soft leather book jackets.
Hopefully, however, I will be able to slowly add items. I don't think I'll keep any stock of these items, save for a couple which I will bring with me to any conventions or events I will sell at, and simply make them to order. That will save me a great deal of stress and space, I think.
All told, I am satisfied with my work this time around.