Thursday, February 3, 2011

Zombies on Etsy!

I have set up an Etsy shop to sell my zombie cards.  I decided to sell them as a set of 3 notecards (rather than postcards), with three designs.  They say: i love you to pieces, eat your heart out, and i love you to death.  My Etsy shop is called MyPursuitofCraft and here is a link to the cards:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Iron Craft Challenge 5: Zombie Valentines

This week's Iron Craft challenge was to make some sort of Valentine's Day treat to give to someone else.  My husband and I have never really celebrated Valentine's Day and the traditional holiday paraphernalia makes us gag a little.  Really, how many cherubs and roses can a person be expected to stomach?  I wanted to fully embrace this challenge and have some fun with it, though, so I decided to make Valentine's Day postcards-- sweet, creepy, slightly morbid postcards.  And before you begin speculate that we don't have a loving relationship, let me just say that true love is not asking any questions when you come home after a long day at work and your wife asks you to pose like a zombie while she takes pictures.  I've been dying (no pun intended) to try block printing or stamp carving.  I've had a thin sheet of linoleum mounted on a 4x6 wooden block sitting in my desk drawer for the longest time, but I was having trouble committing to a design to carve on it.  Bingo!  Nothing says love like memorializing your zombie husband in carved linoleum.

I used Gloria Page's excellent book Art Stamping Workshop as a guide for this project.  I seriously love this book and highly recommend it to anyone who's thinking about hand-carving stamps.  Anyway, I started by uploading the pictures I took to my computer and selected the best one.  I used my computer's photo editing program to make the image black and white.  I played with the contrast and highlights to try to get as much bright white and black blacks as possible, with fewer gray areas.  I printed the photo and traced over the outline with a black inkpen.  Then I traced the image onto a clean sheet of paper and used a pencil to fill the picture in.  I tried to simplify the image while maintaining something that would still have a dramatic black/white contrast when turned into a stamp.  Granted, I took a little artistic license, but ultimately Jeff conceded that it still looked like him.  Interestingly, strangers frequently tell Jeff that he looks like Jason Segel, so if you've ever wondered what he would look like as a victim of the zombie apocalypse . . . .  When I was finished with my pencil drawing, I put it graphite side down onto the block and rubbed it vigorously to transfer the image. 
The transfer was very light, so I filled in a little with the pencil directly on the block.  I drew the design in a way that any linoleum that was not marked would be removed.  Also, I drew the image exactly as I wanted it; it reversed when I transferred it to the block, then it reversed back to the original during printing.

I used my Speedball linoleum cutter to carve out the image.  I used a No. 2 V blade to carve most of the body and face.  I used a larger V blade to remove the background material.  It was pretty delicate work on the sides of the body and the fingers, where I just wanted a dark outline to be printed.  When my image was completely carved, I did a test print.  I used a rubber brayer to apply black printing ink to my block.  I found that the prints came out MUCH cleaner if I left the inked block facing up on the table and pressed the paper onto it.  After I did a test print, I could see areas that needed to be carved down a little more.  When it was how I wanted, I printed 4x6 postcards with my image.  It took me a few prints to get a feel for the right amount of ink to apply and how much pressure was necessary to transfer a complete image.  When my postcards were dry, I stamped a phrase on the face of each postcard.  Phrases included: I love you to death, Eat your heart out, I love you to pieces, and I want your body.  I am not well-practiced (meaning not practiced at all) at using letter stamps and it was probably the most difficult part of the whole process for me.  I used a red marker to add a little color to the wounds, heart, and mouth of my zombie prints.

My cards are a little sloppy, but I like that they definitely look like they were printed from a hand-carved block.  And, I was pleasantly suprised to find that the carving was actually a lot easier and more fun than I anticipated.  The blocks are pretty inexpensive (I think my 4x6 block was $2.99).  For anyone who has ever bought commercial stamps, carving your own is clearly a deal!  No matter what medium you choose, I hope you'll try carving your own stamps.  And of course, happy early Valentine's Day.  Be creative and enjoy!

P.S.: Thanks to my friends at Wash U for your help with the zombie love phrases (Jane, Tyler, Elizabeth).

Update: Due to the interest in these cards I received on Flickr, I am hoping to have sets of 6 on sale on Etsy within a day or two.  I'll update again when it happens.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Fitting a Sloppy Sweatshirt

When I was in high school, my aunt and uncle gave me a sweatshirt to commemorate my Bob Marley phase (I'm still in it, by the way).  I always loved the design and super soft lining of the hoodie, but it was a boys' XL and it was so baggy that I felt a little self conscious wearing it in public (think Bob Marley bowling ball).  Also, I don't like wearing shirts that come right up to my neck--like crew necks--but I couldn't cut a split in the neck of the sweatshirt like I do with all my other ones without destroying Bob's image.  So I decided to turn it into a sort of fitted, boatneck sweatshirt.

I started by carefully removing the ribbed waistband and cuffs from the bottom of the shirt and sleeves, respectively.  Then I cut off the hood, leaving as much room above the printed image as possible.  I wanted the shirt to have baseball-tee sleeves so I wasn't terribly careful in removing the sleeves since I would be re-cutting them rather dramatically.  Once the sleeves were off, I took in the side seams until the shirt had the fit I wanted--still a little loose, so I could wear a shirt underneath, but fitted enough to get rid of the distinctly spherical shape it gave me before.  With the shirt taken in, I started the process of reattaching the sleeves. 
 First I cleaned up the neckline, making sure it was symmetrical.  I didn't necessarily have the final neckline I wanted, but it needed to be the same on both sides before I could set the sleeves.  I cut each side of the shirt on a diagonal line extending from the armpit to the neckline.  Then I positioned the sleeve under this diagonal line with the top corner of the sleeve resting at the neckline, and rotated the sleeve as needed to get the bottom of the sleeve to just meet the armpit end of the diagonal line.  Once the angle of the sleeve was just right, I used the cut along the shirt as a guide to cut the sleeve on a diagonal as well.  This made 3/4 length baseball-tee sleeves.  I attached the sleeves, then cut the neckline to my desired shape.

With a few more adjustments, taking in seams here and there, I was ready to finish the shirt.  I sewed the ribbed material back on the the bottom of the sweatshirt and the cuffs.  Then I finished the neckline so the raw edge wasn't exposed.  I'm so excited to be comfortable in my Bob Marley sweatshirt; I only wish this had occurred to me a few years ago!  I have a sloppy zip-up hoodie that I might try something similar with.  It's so satisfying (and cost effective) to create like-new clothes out of what's already in my closet.  Be creative and enjoy!