I stumbled upon some etchings by Robert Bechtle last week, and was instantly drawn to them. They are so classically “California,” and really reflect the view I have of Southern California, even though they were made 45 years ago. I just passed my 2 year anniversary of moving to LA, so I find these prints to be a lovely reminder of the strange charm of California.
Have you seen this video of the Marimekko factory? I loved this glimpse into how their fabrics are made. Most of Marimekko’s fabrics are silkscreen printed, either using flat screens like the ones I use here at Cotton & Flax, or rotary screens (which you see sometimes in the video above. I enjoyed seeing printers working diligently to produce those iconic Marimekko patterns.
While only the first half of the video deals with the fabric printing and production (the rest is sort of an infomercial for Marimekko’s retail shops, and maybe Finland as a whole…), I love that Marimekko offers some transparency about how and where their goods are made, and the processes behind their creation.
The difference between production at Marimekko and production here at Cotton & Flax is astounding (it’s a one woman operation around here!), but I’d still like to follow their lead in the coming weeks by sharing more about how my work is made. Keep an eye out for that soon!
I posted a couple shots of some gift wrap I made a while back, and realized that I could easily do a DIY here on the blog. Stamping your own gift wrap is a fun way to personalize a gift, or to re-use some paper that you might have on hand already. Plus, it’s a great entry-level project for anyone interested in printmaking!
The first step is to gather supplies: I will show you how to hand carve your own stamps using a small block of soft printing linoleum (available at many art and craft stores, the Speedball EZ Cut stuff works great), but you could just as easily use a premade stamp if you want. If you want to do the full DIY, you’ll need:
- 1 block soft printmaking linoleum
- Pencil and paper for sketching design ideas
- Carving tools – Speedball makes an inexpensive set, you could also use a good old X-acto if you’re careful!
- Ink – I’m using a stamp pad for this project, but you could also roll out a little water-based printmaking ink if you have a rubber brayer and a flat glass surface handy to spread out the ink
- Paper – I use anything from regular construction paper, to old grocery bags, or a large roll of blank paper you can purchase at an art, craft, or office supply store
*Author’s note: I only recommend products that I love and use in my own studio. I may receive a small commission on sales of the products that are linked to in my posts.
Find a large clean surface to work on. I like to put down my safety cutting mat first, since I don’t want to damage my worktable while I’m cutting the linoleum. Before start cutting my stamp, I like to pencil sketch a few ideas for shapes I’d like to create. Keep in mind the size of the gift you’ll be wrapping. Perhaps design a larger shape for a larger gift, which would require more paper, and a smaller shape for a smaller gift.
Once I’ve chosen a design, I place my pencil sketch face down on the linoleum block, and rub the back with my fingernail to transfer the image. Keep in mind that the image will reverse when printed, so don’t worry if it doesn’t look quite right at first. When you are carving a stamp, the parts you carve away from the block will not print. The stamp will consist of whatever flat surface you leave behind while carving.
I begin by carving the outline of my shape with an Xacto knife, then start to carve the details with my carving tools. Carve the block by pushing your carving tools along the surface away from your body. Be careful not to keep your fingers in front of the blade, that’s the fastest way to accidentally cut yourself! Use light pressure and don’t force anything, the linoleum is soft, and will easily give way when you push your carving tool along the surface of the block. Experiment by carving larger or smaller shapes to see the variety of textures you can create.
Once you have a stamp you’re happy with, throw away any stray bits of linoleum, dust off your workspace, and get ready to print!
Cut out a piece of paper large enough to wrap your gift, and lay it face up on your work surface. Ink up your stamp by pressing the stamp to an ink pad a couple of times, then press the stamp to the paper in whatever arrangement you prefer. I like to do a simple repeat pattern, but random arrangements are fun, too. Try using a couple different colors of ink, or mix two or three stamps into one design!
The gifts I wrapped were small, so keep in mind you can go much larger with this project. You could also use your stamps to make a patterned gift tag or a small card to accompany a gift, and mixing patterns and colors can create a fun combination. I’d love to see any stamped or printed papers you make, so feel free to share in the comments if you tried this project.
Want to learn more about block printing? Check out my roundup of my favorite printmaking books!
This is the last of the linen fabric I’ll be printing for the 2011/2012 line of patterned textiles. Sad to see some of these colors go, but excited to start printing on the next batch of colorful linen. Hoping to have these last ones printed this week, I’ll be sure to post photos of the finished products.
I love linen for so many reasons (durability, how it gets softer with age…) but the beauty of woven linen fabric always makes me swoon at this magnification. So rustic, yet comfortable at the same time. It’s a joy to work with such wonderful materials.
I’m not ashamed to admit it: I’m a bit of a nerd. I forgo watching most TV shows to sit around and read about strange neurological phenomena, or to fall down an internet rabbit hole trying to figure out what exactly the Higgs Boson Particle is. This week, I’ve gathered up a few favorite snail mail items to send to your most nerdy, intellectual friends; whether they’re interested in literature, science, or just random factoids.
Vija Celmins‘ lithographs are absolutely captivating in person. I was lucky to see a solo show of her work a while back (in London, if I remember correctly), and seeing her meticulously detailed drawings of the ocean, views of the sky, and rocky landscapes left quite an impression on me.
The three prints I’ve featured this week are all lithographic prints of her drawings, which perfectly captures the incredible detail of her images. My favorite is “Ocean,” the first image above, which I’ve seen in person recently at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. The image feels so vast, but when I was able to look at it up close, I was completely entranced by the intricacies of her drawing. I couldn’t help but imagine the artist in her workspace, diligently hunched over her drawing, completely absorbed by her task.