Letterpress Fantasy Baseball Posters

>> Monday, August 30, 2010

Not much time to blog as we're in high gear last-minute costume preparations for Dragon*Con this weekend, but I didn't want to get too far away from my Letterpress class experience before posting some pics! I used my time to create some meta-posters from Fantasy Baseball, my new middle grade novel coming out next spring. Each of these posters is either directly referenced in the book, or references something specific in the book.

A Keep Calm and Carry On poster, in the fashion of the British propaganda posters prepared in advance of an anticipated German invasion. The posters were never used, but were rediscovered decades later and have become popular in the UK. In mine, I've replaced the crown at the top with an image of the Big Bad Wolf, the villain from Fantasy Baseball.

Toad from Wind in the Willows is the shortstop on my team--and is also running for Prime Minister of Ever After, the world in Fantasy Baseball. "Vote Toad" is a constant refrain. I meant to print up some Vote Toad business cards, but I ran out of time. Perhaps if I rent the studio over the winter...

A game day poster for the big game at the end. Click on the image to see it larger. Pretty thrilled with the way this one turned out, and I printed like 200 of them, so I should have plenty to use as giveaways in advance of the book coming out. The big date of the game is the pub date of the book.

Maybe my least successful poster, even though it was the most complicated. I carved three different linoleum blocks and had to print over three different days to do this. Probably an idea best left to screen printing, and I wasn't thrilled with how the colors came together. Still, it was a minor victory: it taught me a lot about image registration. Worse, this poster was the one nobody understood, as you really need the book to help you out with it. Alex, my hero, wants to get out of Ever After, so he goes to a travel agency. In a punny, Phantom Tollbooth kind of way, the agency offers, among other vacations, "Day Trips" to days of the week. Hence the "Visit Sunny Wednesday."

Me hard at work on one of the Vandercook presses! Poster giveaways coming soon. If you haven't registered to receive my e-newsletter before, now is the time to do it! Check out the clunky link all the way at the bottom of this page.


WWII on Facebook

>> Friday, August 27, 2010

Check out this hysterical version of World War II expressed via Facebook...


Chewie and Han as Calvin and Hobbes

>> Monday, August 23, 2010

Wow! @barryholdblatt and @curiousmartha tweeted this image this morning. I went digging to see who the artist was and I found out IT'S AVAILABLE ON A T-SHIRT! want want want want want. . .


What We're Reading

>> Saturday, August 21, 2010

Here's what we've all been reading this week. . .

Goddess Girls #1: Athena the Brain by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams - can't wait for our next trip to town to get the next few in the series

The Sherlock Files: The 100-Year-Old Secret by Tracy Barrett - currently reading and can't stop speculating about the mystery of the girl in the purple hat.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling - now that we've finished reading the book together we've given her the CD set for her endless listening pleasure. And what a set it is! 17 CDs! Jo swooned when she saw how many.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones - not much time to read while he takes a letterpress class at Penland

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher - finished and loved it!

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - started it last night - fabulous beginning!


Dragon*Con - Wendi's Wizard Cloak

>> Wednesday, August 18, 2010

If I lived in the world of Harry Potter this is exactly the cloak I would wear. I showed the start of the work on it here. Now it's just about done - it just needs some topstitching to help hold the layers in place.
I love the pattern on pattern. I'm going to be wearing it with a patterned shirt, too. The outside of the cloak is pieced black fabrics - anything I could find that was black or dark gray - velvet, narrow and wide corduroy, some gorgeous flocked sort of fabric with a baroque swirly pattern, jacquard and patterned cottons. I'd guess about 2/3 of the squares are straight-up cottons and the rest are "fancy" fabrics. The lining is a beautiful brocade. Now Jo wants one too - but I told her she has to wait until after Dragon*Con.

For anyone interested this sort of thing - I used Simplicity 9887 (view D) with no changes. Good pattern.


Dragon*Con - Mitsumi Gets Some Boots

>> Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Jo's been busy working on her Mitsumi costume (earlier work here and here). For the second piece she chose what will probably be the most complicated thing to make - the boots. Instead of trying to draft our own boot pattern we used Butterick 5233. Jo has almost no experience working with commercial patterns - so all the cutting. . .

. . . tracing. . .
and other working with the flimsy pattern tissue was new for her. We couldn't find a pink leather - and she wanted the boots to look sort of puffy anyway, so we fused together a suede-like fabric, a layer of quilt batting, and a layer of cotton twill for each pattern piece.
Then she got to start sewing - which made her very happy.
Fun pressing using my sleeve insert (she calls it a salami to go with my tailor's ham).
And now modeling. I don't know what's up with that pose. She doesn't usually do that, but as soon as she had on the short skirt and the boots and I pointed the camera at her she started to really pose with her hands on her hips and one hip cocked out. Is she taking cues from Project Runway?

I ran out of velcro so one boot still doesn't have a closure - and we're going to add rubber soles to the bottom of them - but other than that they're done!
She's also been plugging away at the scarf.
A bit of crocheting here and there really adds up!
Still more work to be done. Up next - Mitsumi's hat.


Ed Emberley Is Following Me on Twitter!

OK - I started following him about a week ago and I know he's just following everyone who follows him - but that subject line in my inbox still made me absurdly happy. I LOVE Ed Emberley. We've blogged about playing around with the Picture Pie books here. I made a purse featuring appliqued Ed Emberley birds here. I used his designs as a starting point when I designed some little felt hens to take to Japan with us. I think we own every one of his drawing books and I would dearly love to go to The Center for Cartoon Studies where (I'm told) they use his Make a World book as a textbook.

And have you seen this? I'm already a fan of Nate Wragg and I love this Emberley-inspired sasquatch he drew. He even did Emberley-style step-by-step instructions so you can draw one too! Take a look!


Letterpress at Penland - Images

Images from my first day of Letterpress class at Penland School of Crafts!

One of the workhorse Vandercook press machines we'll be using.

The huge automated vents we'll use to clear the air when we clean the presses with solvents.

The alley between two type cases. Something I learned: the terms uppercase and lowercase come from where those fonts were stored in print shops! Never really thought about that before.

Wood "furniture" used to fill negative space in prints.

One of the massive paper cutters.

The view out the corner window.

Some previously made image plates.

Type case handles.

Bembo is the "house font" here at Penland, though they have other collections as well.

Good advice!


Dragon*Con - Mitsumi Gets a Skirt

>> Monday, August 16, 2010

Jo finished her Mitsumi skirt for Dragon*Con (started here). Isn't it cute? I think she did a great job! I especially love the pleated ruffle at the bottom.
I showed her what gathers would look like, and what pleats would look like. She thought pleats looked more like the original so I showed her how to measure, mark with pins, and fold them into place - and she was off.

This week we'll be working on her shirt, hat, boots and bag. For now she's getting a start on the crocheted scarf - perfect for working on while listening to Harry Potter and/or watching Mythbusters - two of her favorite things right now.


Back to School Fiction: Boarding School Slave

We recently bought a Sony Touch eReader, primarily for use while traveling, to cut down on the number of paperbacks I always load my bags with. Sony has its own bookselling site, and when I registered I started getting weekly e-mails with ebook specials in them. This week's special feature was the Back to School theme you see above.

I have yet to buy an ebook, but I always scroll through these e-mails with interest. Most of the books were of the non-fiction, how-to-survive/self-help variety, but I was pleased to see a "Fiction at School" section at the bottom, including three MG/YA school titles: The Year of Secret Assignments, The Fabled Fifth Graders of Aesop Elementary School, and Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. The problem was the fourth book selected in the feature:

Boarding School Slave, which, in case you think the title is meant to be ironic or humorous, is listed as being by "#1 bestselling erotica author" J.W. McKenna.

I've got nothing against erotica as a category. I just think it's pretty hysterical to put these four books together in the same recommended books list. Love that cover too!


What We're Reading

>> Saturday, August 14, 2010

I don't really like writing book reviews. I can talk about books for hours on end (and I did just that for many years as a bookseller and sales rep) but when I try to write what I would say it feels stiff and wrong. So I end up not blogging much about books, even though they're a big part of our lives here at Gratz Industries. So this week I'm trying something new - inspired by some posts over at Melissa Wiley's blog where she simply listed what everyone in her family was reading, with little or no comment. So here's what we all read this week. (All links are to www.indiebound.com - support your local indie!)

Family Read-aloud
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire We just finished this and Alan's getting ready to take a two-week Letterpress class at Penland so we have to wait until he's finished to move on to the next one. :-(

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life Fun! We just ordered the next two in the series.
Sapphique This is the sequel to Incarceron and doesn't actually come out until December. Thank goodness I have connections because I don't think I could have waited that long. Sappique is amazing - even better than Incarceron and I'm about halfway through it right now. If I didn't have to make a kajillion costumes by Labor Day weekend I'd read this through in one sitting. It's killing me every time I have to put it down.

Howl's Moving Castle In progress. He likes it so far and says he can't figure out why it's taken him so long to read something by Diana Wynne Jones.

Wonder Woman: The Journey Begins reread
One Piece: The Legend Begins (volume 12) Jo loves this manga series. I think they're lots of fun - and also very WEIRD. I'll have to ask her why the title for volume 12 is The Legend Begins.
Goddess Girls: Athena the Brain Just started yesterday. She's pulling it out of my hands right now so I think she's liking it. :-)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban We read this together a few weeks ago and now she has the CD on whenever she's in her room. I don't know how many times she's listened to it already.
D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths We're reading this together for homeschooling.
The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes Jo's been on a real Calvin and Hobbes kick lately. I think that's a Very Good Thing.


Fabulous Fairy House - With Spa!

>> Friday, August 13, 2010

Jo came to work with me a lot this spring and summer. I work in a great old building with a nice porch for reading and a terrific backyard - so that's no hardship. She spent a solid week completely absorbed in building/improving/expanding on the most awesome fairy house ever.

I love this little ladder. Where does it lead?

To this breezy little platform - a piece of bark, wedged between two trunks and covered with soft moss. I love the pretty "curtain" of upside-down flowers tied to an overhanging branch. See?
And here's my favorite part. Around the corner of the building is a little tree fort that the kids love to play in. The centers of some of the oldest support posts are rotting out. Jo built a little shed over one.
Take a look at what's inside!
Half a scallop shell filled with water! Jo told me it's an onsen (a Japanese-style hot tub). You have no idea how much I wish this was sized for me - the perfect quiet, mossy, woodsy getaway.


Scott Pilgrim Trailer vs. The Graphic Novel

I'm looking forward to seeing Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, which is based on Bryan Lee O'Malley's fun graphic novel series in which otherwise dopey Scott Pilgrim must defeat his girlfriend's seven evil ex-boyfriends in order to date her. For those curious about how faithful the movie remains to the comic, check out this fan-generated recut of the movie trailer, using scans from the graphic novel to stand in for scenes in the movie. It's amazing that pretty much the entire trailer came, shot for shot, from the graphic novel. I have high hopes for the film!


Neil Gaiman's "I, Cthulhu"

>> Thursday, August 12, 2010

Here's a great free short story by Neil Gaiman on Tor.com: "I, Cthulhu." Gaiman describes it as fan fiction he wrote when he was 22 years old, which is both really impressive and really demoralizing, as at 22 he was already better than I am now. Ah well, enjoy!

(The awesome art from the piece is by Brian Elig.)


American Cornhole Organization

>> Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The American Cornhole Organization, and its rival (?) the American Cornhole Association.

Because cornhole needs two official organizations.


Janet Fitch's 10 Rules for Fiction Writers

>> Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Janet Fitch, the author of White Oleander, recently shared ten writing rules with the LA Times Jacket Copy blog. I love lists like this, because it's sort of the way I approach fiction--I take whatever I've learned, and I try to think of it in checklist style. Have I leaned too heavily on adverbs? Have I remembered to weave the beginnings and ends of my chapters together? Does my story begin and end in the same place, or with the same idea?

Fitch's list is great, and includes some things I already try to work on each time. Here's a favorite:

3. Kill the cliché.
When you’re writing, anything you’ve ever heard or read before is a cliché. They can be combinations of words: Cold sweat. Fire-engine red, or phrases: on the same page, level playing field, or metaphors: big as a house. So quiet you could hear a pin drop. Sometimes things themselves are cliches: fuzzy dice, pink flamingo lawn ornaments, long blonde hair. Just keep asking yourself, “Honestly, have I ever seen this before?” Even if Shakespeare wrote it, or Virginia Woolf, it’s a cliché. You’re a writer and you have to invent it from scratch, all by yourself. That’s why writing is a lot of work, and demands unflinching honesty.


Happy Birthday, Jo!

>> Monday, August 9, 2010

Today is Jo's eighth birthday. Woohoo! And here she is wearing her birthday present from us: fencing gear. It comes with fencing lessons at the New Studio of Dance in Asheville, beginning the week after Labor Day.

Jo has been asking to take fencing lessons for two years, but the only class we could find won't let you join until you're eight. She's been counting the months...

En garde, and happy birthday, Jo! Our lives are far better for having you in it.

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