Of Make-Believe, Paper Boats, Dorothy and The Seasons.

Gentle reader,

Down here in the southern hemisphere, spring is upon us. Now, Melbourne notoriously hasn’t quite made her mind up about it and a few sunny days will quickly be ousted by blustery breezes and a mild nip in the air and vice versa. Which is perfectly fine by me because, as a ginger, my relationship with spring is a love and hate affair. I enjoy the crisp days and fresh breezes, and I completely adore the blossoming of gardens and the trees returning to green, resplendent in their leafery (heh). But, it also means that summer is next up to bat, and I HATE summer. It’s sweaty and icky and gross, and whenever I leave the house I can practically hear the sun saying “Good day, Raynie! How about some skin cancer today? No?” and my fair, freckle-tanned skin feels like it’s been slapped nastily all over. I hate, hate, HATE it! But, it’s only three months of the year, and I accept that while I delight in the chilly austerity of winter many are cussing the season under their billowy, misty breaths. It’s only fair.

I think perhaps I enjoyed spring a lot more as a wee bairn, because spring meant one thing to me: adventure. As soon as I could start smelling the jasmine begin to flower along the back fence, I knew follies were afoot. On the sunny days, I’d jump a few fences into Mrs. Gardner’s massive, forest-like property. She was a wonderful old lady with the most apropos name ever because she gardened like a BOSS. The beds and terraces around her house were the most beautiful, chaotic-yet-ordered gardens you’ve ever seen. But, at the back, it was all wild and wonderful, and my cousins and I were allowed to play in there to our hearts’ content.

In the overgrown foliage, we found an old, sealed well and leading along an embankment the bushes had grown into a tunnel. This just made the most perfect place to play! Can you imagine? We could hide and climb, and we could pretend it was anything we wanted. My cousins were more boisterous and exuberant and prone to real-world imaginings like army bunkers, forts and hideouts, while my more fanciful mind would turn it into a hidden world, a secret passage or a spaceship.

You could often find bits of pottery and small glass bottles upturned from the dirt around the well, and a neighborhood urban legend held that a whole house was buried in the embankment behind the well. This captivated me and I would often set up little “archaeological digs” and bring my kid-sized set of garden tools to see what I could dig up. I would turn each treasure over and over in my hands and wonder how old it was, and who may have used it when the fragments were still whole.

Spring also brought the rain in my hometown. I’ve always loved the rain. One of my earliest memories was of being completely obsessed with the movie, Return To Oz (I still am!). Well, in it, Dorothy escapes a mental hospital (!) during a storm and, floating on a broken chicken coop, she is washed away to Oz. I think I’ve always loved the rain, storms and miserable weather because my inner four year old hopes I’ll be washed away to Oz too.

Often when a storm would finish, I would make little origami paper boats and rush out to the gutters of my street which would be gushing with water. I would launch the boats into the stream at the top of the hill and follow them all the way to the bottom and watch them plunge over the edge of the cement and into the storm drain. Then, inside my head, I would imagine myself onto the decks of my little paper boats, navigating their way through subterranean wonders, both man-made and, of course, supernatural.

It’s so easy to lose those silly childlike ways of approaching things. Spring doesn’t spell adventure to me as effortlessly as it used to, but there are still hints of it. Even now, when I smell jasmine, my step quickens and my stomach gets butterflies and Kate Bush starts singing in my head: “I just know that something good is going to happen!” (To be fair, when is Kate Bush not singing in my head?).

Perhaps we have to work at wonder when we’re a bit older, but I don’t think it’s ever too late to have some imaginary adventures or a bit of a play and make-believe. I want to approach this spring with some excitement and silliness, instead of disdainfully steeling myself for the oppressive blah-ness of summer. Next time it rains, perhaps I will make a paper boat and send it for its maiden voyage along my street’s gutter (but, I shall stop it before the drain. It didn’t occur to me then that it was kind of littering! What a silly-billy).

What fond memories do you have of spring? (Or fall, for you northern hemispherians!). Will you join me and try to have an extra spirit of playfulness this year? 

Of Oz, Clogs and Linocut Prints!

Gentle reader,

When I finished high school in Australia, I went on student exchange to the US to do the last half of senior year all over again. Glutton for punishment, right? ^_~ Not really, it was the best thing I’ve ever done in my whole entire life, and I met some of the most awesome peeps ever. And, I also got to learn how to do linocut prints! I wish for the life of me I could remember my art teacher’s name, she was so amazing, and I feel like a jerk that I can’t remember. But, that class was so amazing, and I learned more about art and craft in the six months than I did in the two years I took art at my Australian school.

Anyway, recently my super lovely friend, Amy (who blogs at Mildly Crafty, so you should give her some love!), gave me a whole bunch of linocut bits and bobs – all stored in a delightful old cardboard suitcase – and a book about different DIY printing processes. I already had some linocut stuff, but I hadn’t touched it in years so this got me all fired up about linocut all over again!

Amy’s Awesome Gifties.

I didn’t use the clean, new blocks that Amy gave me, because I wanted to save those for when I was more practiced, so I used some lino scraps I already had. The fabric paint didn’t work very well on my lino – it balled up and didn’t print very well – so I used the regular block ink that I already had. I can’t wait to do some fabric printing though!

My first carving went straight into the bin because I’d forgotten to mirror the letters so they printed the right way, but after that I did a Wizard of Oz print which came out really well! I was very happy with that one. Beginner’s luck. The next one I did was of the clogs. It’s somewhat of a tradition for bloggers to take pictures of their feet, I guess, which I’ve always thought was quite funny and cute. A bunch of the lovely ladies whose blogs and Instagrams I follow seem to love their clogs, so I asked GourmetGirlfriend if I could use one of her Instagrams as a reference and carved a tribute to bloggers who clog. ^_~

It’s slow going, but super satisfying!

I’m still finding the best amount of ink to use. The first time, I used to too much, and tried watering it down a little. I got the best prints from thicker ink though, and having a lot of ink had some trade-offs. I got better prints, and more prints from one application, but I also got more waste prints at the beginning from the ink squishing around the edges too much. So, the second time I used less ink, and got good prints, but not quite as good, and only one or two prints per application. I need to find the happy medium.

The roller is called a brayer. The more you know!

I did prints on brown paper and some canvas cartridge. I think I liked the brown paper best. I have lots of love for brown paper… brown paper bags, brown paper parcels, ah! I love it all! So, I was really happy with my brown paper prints. I found that I liked the Oz design a lot more when the print wasn’t completely even, and the paper showed through in places with the ink. But, for the Clogs one, I liked it more when the print was very crisp and even.

No Place Like Home, and Clog Lovin’

The canvas was more of a mixed bag. I think it was just a little too textured, and the Clogs design went right up to the edge so it was tricky to line up. I think I’d like to try printing on some other textured materials that aren’t quite as rough, like watercolor paper or something. I still liked them! Just not quite as much.

Click your Silver Clogs three times… (or Ruby Clogs for the movie peeps).

All in all, I’m properly happy with the carvings, but I still have some experimenting to do with the printing process. They’re definitely not Etsy-ready, but hopefully soon. Experimenting is the fun part, so I’m well keen to get on with it!

Meanwhile, I should have a finished sock to show you soon! ^_^

What other kinds of designs would you like to see? Have you done any printing before?