Category Archives: Tips & Tools

My Inspiration Wall

The two things in my studio that got the most attention during the Ashland Open Studio Tour this past weekend were my art supplies packed into a “bar” and my magnetic cords that I use for my vision or inspiration wall. I’ve already showed my art supplies “bar”, so today I’m sharing my inspiration wall.

My Inspiration Wall is three magnetic cables with tiny magnets to hold my paper art and ideas.

My Inspiration Wall is three magnetic cables with tiny magnets to hold my paper art and ideas.

First, I have a confession. I clutter. However, I don’t like clutter. So, my clutter tends to be down on the floor while my walls and the area I look at regularly look pretty good. The thought of having a bulletin board that, knowing me, would turn into a mass of clutter, wasn’t something I could live with. So I lived without an inspiration wall for years. Until, I found these wonderful magnetic cables.

Close up of chiyogami paper samples that remind me of autumn.

Close up: chiyogami paper samples that remind me of autumn.

I have 3 of these wonderful cables in my studio, right next to my drafting table. I hung my magnetic cables on white cup hooks. They are so easy to change out whatever inspires me at the moment, or something I don’t want to forget to do, like correspondence or a project I’m mulling around in my mind.

Used tea bags. I have no idea what these will turn into, but I just love the stained, muted colors and textures.

Close up: used tea bags. I have no idea what these will turn into, but I just love the stained, muted colors and textures.

The cables come in blue, pink and lime green. They have heavy duty little magnets that really grip the magnetic cord. You can also buy extra magnets if you like. One little magnet easily holds a regular sized manilla file folder, so they really are powerful little magnets.

I found them at Paper and Ink Arts (online). They were $8.00 each, plus shipping. Paper and Ink Arts just updated their website and although they were on their website two days ago, I can’t find them today. I suggest calling them and asking about them if you are interested in buying some.

For photos of my “art” bar: Studio Organization

Enjoy, Candy

Pilot Flex Extra Fine Fountain Pen

I have been looking for a flexible fountain pen for a long, long time. I have tried many fountain pens, and purchased a number of them. I used them, but kept looking for one that fit me. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with being a leftie, but the perfect fountain pen seemed elusive, until now.

I love my new Pilot Flex Extra Fine Fountain Pen.

I love my new Pilot Flex Extra Fine Fountain Pen.

Whenever I see someone selling fountain pens, I always ask if they have a flexible fountain pen with a pointed nib, not a broad nib. Greg Minuskin of Nib Retipping was the first vendor who said, “yes, try this.” No fountain pen I have tried has ever come close to this much flexibility. I fell in love with the pen as soon as I tried it out.

My Pilot Flex Extra Fine Fountain Pen.

My Pilot Flex Extra Fine Fountain Pen.

I bought the pen 23 days ago and have used it every day since. It’s been the perfect tool to practice my pointed pen calligraphy. With the fountain pen, I can sit anywhere and not have to worry about spilling ink. When I use a dip pen, I always sit at my drafting table in my studio. It’s easy for me to spill ink, so I am careful not to have open bottles of ink anywhere but in my studio. I learned this from experience and a few unintended spills.

My favorite way to practice with my new fountain pen is to sit in my chair in the living room with my Rhodia dot pad and just write whatever comes into my mind. It’s so relaxing, it doesn’t even feel like I’m practicing.

I love the Rhodia dot grid pad for practicing with my new Pilot Flex Extra Fine Fountain Pen.

I love the Rhodia dot grid pad for practicing with my new Pilot Flex Extra Fine Fountain Pen.

A plug here for the Rhodia pads. They are my favorite practice pads. I use the dot pads most often and sometimes the unlined pads. Rhodia pads also come in lined and grid patterns, but my favorite is the dot pad. The dots help me keep my writing in a straight line, but they don’t feel like they’re confining my writing. I like my calligraphy to have a little spring, more like a dance than being confined between lines.

I was told that with my Pilot Flex fountain pen, I can only use fountain pen ink. I was told not to even use Higgens Eternal or Noodlers inks in my pen. So, that is one limitation you need to be aware of. I am currently using Pelikan 4001 fountain pen ink. My local art store only had it in blue. I’ll be purchasing some Pelikan Fount India ink from John Neal Bookseller with my next order.

Happy writing, Candy

Learning Experiences (a.k.a. mistakes)

My personal motto is: “If you can’t learn from your mistakes, there’s no sense making them.” Well this past week was apparently set aside for learning from my mistakes as I had a few problems with my custom order for 16 accordion card books.

Cracking when folding. From now on, I will be very careful of mixing acrylic inks in my watercolors when I know I'll be folding the paper.

Cracking when folding. From now on, I will be very careful of mixing acrylic inks in my watercolors when I know I’ll be folding the paper.

I thought I had everything under control. I wrote out a schedule to make sure I was going to get the order completed in a week. Everything was going fine until Saturday when I folded the 12 Thank You’s just prior to attaching their covers. That’s when the color cracked on most of the folds.

Another example of cracking on the fold.

Another example of cracking on the fold.

What happened? I was recreating a color combination that I had done about a year ago. The colors looked fine, so I didn’t run a check of one completed book. I just did them all together. Apparently I mixed too much FW Pearlescent Liquid Acrylic into my watercolors. Oops!

Another learning experience – don't rush! Here I rushed and got just a drop of glue on my paper. I didn't notice it and put it under weights. The paper tore when I opened the book. Another oops!

Another learning experience – don’t rush! Here I rushed and got just a drop of glue on my paper. I didn’t notice it and put it under weights. The paper tore when I opened the book.

And to add insult to injury, as I rushing to replace the card books that had cracked, I made another mistake. This time I wasn’t careful with my glue because I was trying to get as many accordion card books finished as possible so I could get them to the Post Office before closing time. Note to self: You will probably get more done if you don’t rush. Just breathe and do what you can.

One of the card books open, the rest closed. The two in front are finished and have their gold ties with beads.

One of the card books open, the rest closed. The two in front are finished and have their gold ties with beads.

The good news is that I have a wonderful client who didn’t mind that I only sent out part of her order today. I’ll send the rest out later this week.

These are the accordion card books that went out today. I have placed a protective paper in them so any moisture from the glue won't warp the opposite page.

These are the accordion card books that went out today. I have placed a paper as a barrier for any moisture left over from recent gluing.

Lessons learned. Run a check before making multiples of anything. Don’t rush. And maybe, add a little more time on projects for the unexpected. Hopefully this will help you from making these same mistakes.

Happy creating, Candy

Tips & Tools – How I Use Beading Needles For Paper Crafts

As I was adding beads to my ribbons last week as closures for my Truffle Boxes (see Studio Snapshot – Making More Truffle Boxes), I realized many people may not know about the beading needles I use to get beads on ribbons.

Look closely at the ribbon and see how it goes through the large hole in the needle.

Look closely at the ribbon and see how it goes through the large hole in the needle.

These needles are very thin. The “eye” of the needle is actually in the center of the needle. It opens wide so the ribbon can slip in easily. It makes the process of slipping the beads on the ribbons so easy.

I also use these beading needles with thread and seed beads and other small beads when I make my paper garlands. It makes adding beads so easy.

If you look closely, you can see the beading needle is open in the middle. In this case it's not that important, what is important is how small it is and how easy it is to string seed beads on the needle.

If you look closely, you can see the beading needle is open in the middle. In this case it’s not that important, what is important is how small it is and how easy it is to string seed beads on the needle.

I got my beading needles at my local bead shop. I’m sure they’re readily available elsewhere as well. They’re not very expensive, which is good because they’re easy to lose and do occasionally break when I use too small of a bead for the ribbon. I try and always have an extra pack or two in my supply drawer.

Enjoy, Candy

Tips & Tools – My Favorite Scissors

If I was only allowed to have a single pair of scissors, this is the pair I would choose. My friend and fellow bookbinder, Melody, gave me these scissors about 15 years ago. They have been my favorite scissors ever since.

If I could only have one pair of scissors, these little ones would be the ones I would pick.

If I could only have one pair of scissors, these little ones would be the ones I would pick.

I have had people ask me what scissors they were, but I only knew they were Friskars. This past week, however, I found their original packaging. I had put it in a file folder to save it because I thought so much of the scissors. Now I can finally tell you the name of these wonderful scissors. They are Friskars No. 5 Softgrip Micro-Tip Scissors.

My scissors are over 15 years old, but they are still my "go to" scissors when I'm working with paper. Here is the original packaging.

My scissors are over 15 years old, but they are still my “go to” scissors when I’m working with paper. Here is the original packaging.

I’ve used these scissors a lot and have not yet needed to have them sharpened. I’m sure they’re overdue, but they still work just fine.

Happy paper cutting, Candy

Tips & Tools – Organizing Tombow Brush Pens

I use Tombow brush pens a lot for quick, colorful pointed brush calligraphy. There are a number of different brush pens on the market, but where I live, Tombow has the largest variety of colors.

My spreadsheet helps me organize my Tombow Brush Pens.

My spreadsheet helps me organize my Tombow Brush Pens.

I was constantly buying colors of pens I already had until I came up with a way to organize my brush pens. Each color has a three digit number. I entered the numbers on a spreadsheet and told the spreadsheet to organize the numbers in ascending order. Voila! I have a list of colors in numerical order that I keep in my purse.

I not only keep track of my Tombow Brush Pens on my spreadsheet, I also write the color combinations I use on sample sheets.

I not only keep track of my Tombow Brush Pens on my spreadsheet, I also write the color combinations I use on sample sheets.

When I go to the craft store I can add another color or two that I don’t have. I just look at the number on the pen and can see immediately if I already have that color. That’s exactly what I did yesterday when I purchased some more brush pens. To help me even further, I have brushed the color next to each of the numbers on my spreadsheet. This helps me see which colors I may be wanting to add. I’m thinking blues for my next shopping trip.

It's now easier for me to repeat colors that I like together. My sample sheets are a big time saver.

It’s now easier for me to repeat colors that I like together. My sample sheets are a big time saver.

I also have started writing sample color combinations. Next to the calligraphy sample, I write the number of the pens I have used. Now I don’t have to wonder which colors I used to get the effect I want. It has saved me a lot of time.

Organizing my Tombow Brush Pens has saved me a lot of time.

Organizing my Tombow Brush Pens has saved me a lot of time.

Organizing doesn’t come naturally to me, but I sure appreciate the results. I find I work better in an organized environment, so I struggle to find ways to organize my environment and my art supplies. I so appreciate being able to have a quick look to decide which colors to use for a project.

I love having a quick reference guide to my colors.

I love having a quick reference guide to my colors.

I will be writing names for a fund raiser later this year. I will be using my sample color sheets for people to pick their colors. It will allow me to spend more time writing and less time trying to figure out color combinations.

Organizing doesn't come easy for me, but I do like the results.

Organizing doesn’t come easy for me, but I do like the results.

Happy Organizing, Candy

Tips & Tools – Slider Writer Laser Liner Review

This past Thanksgiving, I purchased a gift for myself, a tool called the Slide Writer. It’s a tool that makes a line with a laser light. I tried it out when I first got it, then forgot about it.

The Slide Writer uses a laser light as a visible line on which to write.

The Slide Writer uses a laser light as a visible line on which to write.

Now, after realizing that my calligraphy for my envelopes was sloping a bit, I pulled it out and tried it out again. I love it! It’s perfect for getting my calligraphy straight on my envelopes!

I can slide the laser up and down and align it with the ruler on the right.

I can slide the laser up and down and align it with the ruler on the right.

I really don’t like drawing pencil lines on my envelopes. Sometimes my ink smears when I erase. When I use a colored brush on ink, the pencil lines still show. But now, it’s super easy to write in a straight line.

The light isn't quite as bright on the right side of the envelope, but it's quite visible in person. I had no problem seeing it and writing in a straight line.

The light isn’t quite as bright on the right side of the envelope, but it’s actually quite visible. I had no problem seeing it and writing in a straight line.

For anyone interested in purchasing one, I bought mine through Paper & Ink Arts. It is also available through John Neal Bookseller.

Enjoy, Candy

Making Time For Art

Sometimes life gets in the way of making art. That’s where I’ve been for the past few weeks. Now I’m looking for ways to sneak in small periods of making art into my hectic schedule.

For my new "No Expectations Journal" I used my new favorite paper paper pad from Rhodia. It takes my inks with little or no bleeding.

For my new “No Expectations Journal” I used my new favorite paper paper pad from Rhodia. It takes my inks with little or no bleeding.

I’m helping my dad downsize and move. My studio at the Ashland Art Center had to be dismantled and temporarily moved while new carpeting was installed on the entire second floor. And then there was painting prior to the carpet being removed. Then there was the lighting that needed to be replaced with new track lighting.

Needless to say, I have not had much time to be in my home studio. I’m not sure I even know where it is any more. I come home exhausted and crawl into bed. I need to do art in order to recharge my batteries, but I’ve been too tired at the end of the day.

Today, however, I carved out an entire hour to claim as my own. I think that is why I have been much more productive today. It’s amazing. I need to remind myself that by giving myself time to do my art, I can accomplish much more in the non-art time of my day.

I also started a new journal called my “No Expectations Journal.” I have it sitting by my bed. Now, instead of checking my email and such, I take a half hour or so before retiring each night and just do something in my journal with no expectations for it to be any good at all. It’s lifted a weight off my shoulders. I can do art and not try for any sort of perfection. I love it!

I’d love to hear from you as to how you make time to do art when your days become increasingly busy.

Here’s to creating time for creating, Candy

Studio Snapshot – Ink Jet Magnet Sheets

I have not been working in my studio this past week. Instead, I’ve been helping my dad downsize. While there have been difficult decisions to make, I’ve also come across lots of wonderful memories in the process.

I was able to print out 28 of the bird designs on each magnet sheet.

I was able to print out 28 of the bird designs on each magnet sheet.

One of those memories was finding a magnet I made with one of my mom’s Chinese brush painting birds on it. I made hundreds of these little magnets to give away to everyone who attended my mother’s exhibit of her Chinese brush paintings. I scanned the image of a bird she had painted and printed 28 images per page of it on an 8.5″ by 11″  ink jet magnet sheet. I then cut them out carefully with a craft knife.

I was able to print 28 of these little magnets out of a single 8.5" by 11" sheet.

I was able to print 28 of these little magnets out of a single 8.5″ by 11″ sheet.

It was my mom’s first showing of her work. She considered herself a student, not an artist. However, the show was a success and she received lots of positive feedback from those who saw the show. Even now, over 10 years later, friends still comment on how they still have and treasure the little bird magnet.

These sheets of magnet paper are fairly thin and easy to cut. They are great for refrigerator decorations, school lockers and metal doors. I’m sure there are lots more creative uses for these sheets than I’ve not thought of.

Enjoy, Candy

How To Score And Fold Paper

Next week I will be sharing how to make this paper star ornament. I love this star, however, because I want you to have success making it, I am first writing this blog post about how to score and fold paper. There is a lot of folding to make the star, but it’s not difficult if you know how to score (first) and then fold.

I will be giving instructions for making this star next Thursday. First, however, it's important to know how to score and fold paper so you can have a success folding your star.

I will be giving instructions for making this star next week. First, however, it’s important to know how to score and fold paper so you can have success folding your star.

I like to use a bone folder to score the paper. If you don’t have a bone folder, you can use the non-serrated portion of a plastic knife (which I am using in the photos below) or a credit card. If you sew, you may have a tool called a point turner that can also be used.

Here I am scoring the paper with the back side of a plastic knife.

Here I am scoring the paper with the back side of a plastic knife. While I prefer using a bone folder, other tools can also be used to score paper.

Place a metal ruler (or straight edge) at the location you want the fold. Hold the ruler firmly with one hand. With the other score the paper by running the bone folder against the metal ruler.

Keeping my hand on the ruler, I slip my folding tool under the paper and use it again to push against the ruler from under the paper. This makes it so much easier to get a good fold.

Keeping my hand on the ruler, I slip my folding tool under the paper and use it again to push against the ruler from under the paper. This makes it so much easier to get a good fold.

Key point: Keep the pressure on the ruler and raise the paper and pull up with the bone folder against the ruler, but from the bottom of the paper. This is how I get the best possible folds when using card stock. If you just score the paper and then fold it, you may not get the crispest folds possible.

After scoring, carefully fold the paper along the fold. Using the flat surface of the bone folder, press down on the folded paper to help make the fold crisp. There are times when I want a “crisp” fold and other times when I want a “loose” fold. If I want a “loose” fold, I hold off doing this step at this time. I might want a “loose” fold if I will be wanting to make a final adjustment to the fold, as in folding over another fold. In that case, I will wait until I have all the folds complete before smoothing the fold with a bone folder.

This photo shows two "mountain" folds with a "valley" fold between them.

This photo shows two “mountain” folds with a “valley” fold between them.

Sometimes I will want a “mountain” fold and sometimes I will want a “valley” fold. These “mountain” and “valley” folds are traditional origami terms and their names are descriptive of the way the folds look (as either mountains or valleys).

As you can see, there are lots of mountain and valley folds required to make this lovely star.

As you can see, there are lots of mountain and valley folds required to make this lovely star.

Not all folds need a bone folder. I usually don’t use a bone folder with text weight paper if I am folding with the grain of the paper, that is with the way the paper likes to be folded. (For information on paper grain, check out my blog post: Understanding Paper Grain Direction.) However, I almost always use a bone folder when folding card stock. It makes for a much more professional finished project.

Enjoy, Candy

Paste Paper Envelopes & Gold Brush Pen

I really enjoy Jean Wilson’s blog, Pushing The Envelopes. Jean is a fellow calligrapher who is an avid mail art enthusiast. She regularly hosts mail art envelope exchanges. This is what I send out for September’s exchange.

Envelopes made from paste papers in autumn colors. Gold brush pen on bottom right.

Envelopes made from paste papers in autumn colors. Gold brush pen (bottom right) was used to write the names on envelopes.

I made my envelopes out of autumn colors of paste papers I made in August. After cutting and folding my envelopes, I used my new Kuretake Gold Metallic Brush Pen. I purchased it from Paper and Ink Arts last spring, but had never gotten around to trying it. Now that I have, I’ll be using is a lot more. I love it!

Paste paper envelopes with names and stamps. One of the envelopes goes to France and one to Australia.

Paste paper envelopes with names and stamps. One of the envelopes goes to France and one to Australia.

I really am going to have to play with different colors of backgrounds for my gold brush. It’s obvious that it shows up better on some backgrounds than others. I love trying new tools and this one is obviously a keeper.
Enjoy, Candy

Japanese Hole Punch For Adding Ribbons To Bookmarks

One of my favorite tools is my Japanese Hole Punch (also called a Japanese Screw Punch). It comes with bits that can punch holes from 1mm to 5mm in diameter. It makes punching holes so easy.

I punched holes in 1000 bookmarks and cut 1000 colorful ribbons 8" in length to go in the holes.

I punched holes in 1000 bookmarks and cut 1000 colorful ribbons 8″ in length to go in the holes.

Last Thursday I received 1000 bookmarks that I designed to promote our neighborhood’s Arts, Crafts & Collectibles Holiday Sale. They were printed professionally, but I decided to add various colored ribbons to the bookmarks. They look so festive with ribbons.

This is my Japanese hole punch. It has interchangeable bits. I used the 2.5mm bit to punch the holes in the bookmarks.

This is my Japanese hole punch. It has interchangeable bits. I used the 2.5mm bit to punch the holes in the bookmarks.

To punch holes in 1000 bookmarks, I immediately got out my trusty Japanese Hole Punch. The hole punch is spring loaded, so it cuts through paper almost effortlessly. I have a number of different sized bits. I chose the 2.5mm bit for the bookmarks as I wanted a fairly small hole so the ribbons would stay put.

1000 Bookmarks ready to be distributed. The information about the Arts, Crafts & Collectibles Holiday Sale is on the reverse.

1000 Bookmarks ready to be distributed. The information about the Arts, Crafts & Collectibles Holiday Sale is on the reverse.

I had a ribbon inserting party and 6 of us inserted the ribbons while having a great time. We were thinking this must have been what it was like to have a quilting circle. We had a great time and I now have 1000 bookmarks with multi-colored ribbons. They look great!

We had a tea party while we inserted the multi-colored ribbons in the bookmarks.

We had a tea party while we inserted the multi-colored ribbons in the bookmarks.

Enjoy, Candy