How do I love thee?

Are you getting geared up for Valentine’s Day?

Forever

I didn’t realize it, but over the past year I’ve been decorating our new
hand-me-down bedroom with some really sweet memories!

Tasha

I didn’t want to “over do” the decorating,
or just quickly fill the room with a lot of “things,”
but as special little treasures caught my heart
I tucked them in our room, sort of here and there…

Bear

Some have a REALLY special place in my heart,
like this tiny little painted rock…

Rock

…which I got for my 12th birthday…

…from Guess Who?

:-)

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Sometimes a little trinket like my rock will be
tucked away in a box or drawer for many years.

Or maybe a special card will be saved…

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We just added a few new designs to our shop…

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…Just in case you haven’t found the perfect card yet for your Valentine!

Count

Better Late Than Never?

Hubby and I have been squeezing in lots of frame-making and art-making time this past week! I’ve had a couple of special orders that HAD to get in the mail… one is on its way, and the other should go out tomorrow! That is cause for rejoicing! I LOVE it when I can turn “To Do’s” into “Did Its!”

Anyway… short blog post today… but I just wanted to let you know that I got those Valentine papercuttings up on the Shop today! After lots of scanning and uploading, they are finally online. And if I keep on “Did-It-ing” this week, we can get them to folks by Valentine’s Day!

Here are some of them…

Sweet Rembrances

And here are the tiny versions…
…The Mini Page needed some serious housekeeping!

Miniature Papercuttings

And even put some on Etsy!
Our shop there has been empty for some time…
Maybe this will revive it.

A Small Token…

I’ve been working on this year’s Valentine designs, and thought I’d share with you the process of doing a papercutting from start to finish! It takes a bit of inspiration to get ideas for a historic-style papercutting. I usually spend a few hours going through reference books on early fraktur. I rarely do exact reproductions of historic pieces, but instead, try to get a feel for the layout of antique papercuts. I’ll also doodle a bit, trying to create birds and flowers that look like they were drawn a couple hundred years ago. And, I’ll read through the translations of the German sayings to find an inspiring phrase or verse.

The Gift is Small, The Love is Great is one of my favorite resources for Pennsylvania German fraktur. It focuses on small works of art, such as the Vorschrift (writing samples), Book Plates, and Rewards of Merit that teachers once gave to their students. The Gift is Small also includes little love notes and tokens of remembrance given between sweethearts and friends, as well as other little fraktur-style drawings. None of the artwork in this book is particularly elaborate, but mostly just small tokens made by simple folk.

In coming up with new designs, other
sources of inspiration are also required…

(My art kiddos have asked about those little dishes of
chocolate chips hanging around the art room!)

And when the internal balance between visual references, doodling, coffee (or tea), and chocolate has reached the appropriate settings, I’ll start sketching. I start with a piece of paper cut to the size I need for the frame I want to use. I was trying to use two 6″ x 7″ frames that I had “ready-to-go,” so these cuttings are 4 & 1/2″ x 5 1/2″. However, there is actually a “historically correct” size that these little tokens should be! In the 18th and 19th centuries, “standard” sheets of paper were usually 13″ x 16″. Fraktur makers used either full sheets, half sheets, quarter sheets or eighth sheets to do artwork on, getting their finished size by simply carefully folding and tearing the paper. These tiny tokens were usually done on an eighth of a sheet of paper.

I almost always start my sketches from the outside in, establishing my borders by measuring carefully. Did you know there’s a correct way to make a square or rectangle? After years of being a frustrated young artist, I learned a few technical drawing skills in a college cartography class. Drawing “square” was one of them… Maybe that would make a Really Helpful Upcoming Post!

This will be the back of the papercutting. I have to keep reminding myself that everything will be backward on the finished piece. My originals will also get pretty smudgy from all the graphite dust, but it’s a necessary evil to designing. I keep trying to sketch on my Wacom tablet or my iPad, and I’m starting to get the hang of it, but there’s nothing like a real pencil and a kneaded eraser! Once I have the sketch close to how I want it, I start cutting…

I use a rubber-coated X-Acto knife with #11 blades. Any sort of padding or rubber on the handle is a HUGE help when doing lots of papercutting. Hand fatigue happens very quickly without it. I also go through blades like crazy… I cut mostly with the very tip edge of the blade, and curvy designs seem to snap them pretty quickly. Buy them in bulk! My knife… or my pair of scissors… are sort of like a second pencil to me. That’s what I use to straighten out my sketch lines and create the final design.

Once I have the original cut, I make a copy of it and use the copy to make a pattern for duplicate cuttings. As you can see, this is a relatively simple design… much of the artwork will be added in the painting process. But first, I’ll stain it to add some age. I make a strong solution of instant coffee and boiling water, and apply it to the papercutting with a natural sponge.

I’ll actually soak up the excess coffee with the sponge so the paper isn’t sitting in puddles of water. I let the paper dry naturally (Usually… sometimes impatience gets the best of me!) and then iron it between two sheets of white paper to smooth out any wrinkles. Here are the two new Valentine designs once they are stained…

And… although I had every intention of showing the painting and inking process, I got into painting and forgot to take pictures. So, here’s what they look like AFTER they’re painted…

I went with rather bright colors on these, which believe it or not, is quite true to history. The Pennsylvania Germans LOVED color. The colors in most of the antique artworks we see today have lost a lot of their original vibrancy due to sunlight and time. So I sort of compromise a bit… adding staining to make them look old, but also pumping up the color to make them look new. Artistic license.

Once they’re framed, they look like this…

I should be adding them to our shop’s Sweet Remembrances page very soon… Keep an eye out for them! We’re going to make a limited supply of each for this year due to time constraints, so if you need one let me know!

Feeling Flaky.

Things have been a little “flaky” around here lately! It takes just the right amount of frosty weather and just the right amount of baking myself by the woodstove to get in the snowman mood. It takes trips to the library for inspiration. Sometimes it even takes some hands-on research. But the Snow Folk of 2010 are finally ready, and are submitting themselves to the framing process. This year, they’re generously giving their hearts away… and are perfect for Valentine’s Day! Keep an eye on our Currently for Sale Page as we add them the next few days.

American Folk Art updates today at noon…
I Give You My Heart

Inspiration.

Kate and I left a little early for one of her programs yesterday… it’s not every day that we go to the big metropolis, so we thought we’d hit the craft store and the fabric store. We realized that it was a Day Off for much of the world when we tried to go the the bank and post office on our way out, but didn’t think that would affect anything else in our plans. Turns out, however, that craft stores and fabric stores are favorite destinations for folks that have a Day Off. We homeschoolers are used to empty stores on weekdays, where one  can amble around aimlessly. There were so many people in the stores that we couldn’t even think, and one must think in a craft store or a fabric store in order to consider buying things, so we came home with little to nothing. Except we did buy some black fabric to line some curtains, and a copy of Artful Blogging magazine, and took turns soaking in the tub and reading it! There are some really neat blogs featured in there… Hubby even looked through it early this morning and thought it was a neat magazine! (And Hubby’s choice of magazines usually involves construction equipment or firearms, so that was a very good compliment!) 

Kate’s programs went well, although she nearly had no voice left by the time she finished! It was at an assisted living facility, and she decided she wanted to live there. We had mostly ladies attending, although there were a few gentlemen. One of them fell asleep, another kept saying “I thought this was about War!” and a third said “I’ve had enough of this.” And left.

Poor guys… I guess corsets and petticoats aren’t their thing! The ladies had a grand time, though, and we loved talking to them. The lady that sat beside me had been a seamstress, and another lady was 97, and didn’t look or act a day over 70! I hope I have that much energy at 97!

Well, I’m off to do something constructive! Before I go, let me share with you a tiny treasure I received on Saturday…a little tiny Valentine from across the country! I put it next to the happy little Mint Snowman to show how small it is! I think next year I’m going to have to start a miniature Valentine Tree!

 Thank you Mrs. Staggs!

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I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.
Philippians 1:3 

I. Am. Impressed.

Take a look at what our store ladies accomplished! These are only the papercuttings that ended up being framed here… there were quite a few more! I am so excited about how they turned out! Great Job Ladies!!!

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And this wonderful surprise came in yesterday’s mail… I was expecting it, but didn’t know what to expect! The papercutter’s trade group decided to do a Valentine book, and a bunch of us cut a bunch of Valentines, and a very dear lady bound them into a book for us! It was so inspiring to see everyone’s contributions! Thank you ladies for sharing!

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Schnip, schnip, schnip!

Yesterday we had twelve ladies (including Mom, Kate, and me!) playing with paper in the art room! It was our first ever, “store ladies” scherenschnitte classes, and I think they all did a great job! Everyone created a small coffee-stained papercutting to take home, and we all had a grand time! As usual, we forgot to take pictures in the thick of the creative process, but we’re having another back-to-back snipping session tomorrow, so if you’re coming, be sure to brush your hair! But, we do have pictures of some of the results…

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We had such fun with the two groups yesterday… the first group was larger, very chatty, and funny! We snipped and glued, drank lots of tea and coffee, and I was very glad to have Mom & Kate to help. They took turns with the staining & ironing area and snacks, and also kept one table of ladies on track. And we only had one tiny wound, which was quickly treated with a band-aid and antibiotic ointment. (Note to self: give more instruction on the sharpness of X-Acto blades!) Our second group was much smaller, and very serious. These ladies got down to business and were very quiet papercutters! As soon as they finished their work, then they started chatting, and we all schemed our next project… flower pounding! After laboring intensively with a craft knife, I think the idea of whacking something with a hammer was quite appealing! (Joyce, I showed them your beautiful quilt!) There was quite a bit of interest in doing some more papercutting classes, though, so I guess it wasn’t too intense!

Now I’m off to add some new Valentine pictures to our Currently For Sale page! Check it out!

 

 

Pretty Penmanship and Sweet Remembrances…

We’ve been working on a few things here for Valentine’s Day… some for sale, and some just for gifting! And they have a story…

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A long time ago, I asked for Michael Sull’s Spencerian Penmanship Kit for my birthday, and my sweet hubby ordered it for me! And, being the over-extended homeschooling Mom that I was at the time, I just never found the time to really delve into learning Spencerian penmanship. (It’s still on my list of things to do when life slows down a bit!) However, my then 15 daughter, Jordan, having used Mott Media’s penmanship program for several years, was able to pick up pen and ink and take off with it! A couple of weeks ago, I was cleaning out a drawer and discovered some of Jo’s penmanship flourishes and gave her a phone call! We planned some cross-country craft collaboration that will combine papercutting and paper weaving with her sweet penmanship sayings! 

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And guess what! My Mom came in this morning with Martha’s February Issue, and what do you think was featured? Spencerian Penmanship, framed up nicely for Valentine’s Day! I was planning on black frames, but they used white in the article, which looks equally pretty. How funny! 

And then Mom told me to turn a few pages, and guess what else they featured? Puzzle Purses! I adore those little things! Sukey Harris taught a group of us how to make them at GAP’s Collection last May, and here are some of hers on a table in her little log cabin…

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And so far I’ve made exactly THREE. Sukey was the recipient of the first one, Kate got the second for her birthday, and I’m still working on the third… they are definitely a labor of love! Here’s a peek outside…

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… and inside…

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Aren’t they wonderful little treasures?