Friday, November 21, 2014

Instant Graticraftation

I'm excited! Really excited. Today Moote Points kicks off a new line. We are calling it Instant Graticraftation.

We know you want great instructions for interesting paper arts projects and we know you want them NOW! You don't want to wait for the post, it is just too slow, to say nothing of too expensive. We've dipped our toes in the electronic waters over the past year with our eBook Tangled Garden series and we are thrilled with your response. We know it is time to jump right in and we've been waiting for just the right project and just the right time. Today is the day!

Our first project is called PAX Dove. Pax is a wonderful 3D bird that can be made by anybody who can use a pair of scissors, and I do mean anybody! No complicated folding! This bird can be assembled in the blink of an eye and then it can be disassembled to fold flat for storage or mailing. It is truly amazing what one piece of paper can do when you know the simple trick. Imagine what you can make with all those wonderful papers you've been creating once you learn how to make PAX! The pattern includes full instructions, photos of ideas for how to use the bird and three patterns for different sizes and shapes of birds. The PDF is seven pages in full colour and prints on standard letter size paper. You will find the pattern here on our Projects page:

Oh, and there is one more thing. Today I have started a Facebook page called Instant Graticraftation. I want to build a community of paper artists on this page where students who have taken classes with me, customers who have purchased our books and our new project PDF's and like minded artists can post images of their work to inspire and delight us all. Check it out. I'm hoping by the time you read this that Dorian Eng and Alice Hendon have posted the PAX birds they made when they so graciously took time to test the instructions.

And without further ado, PAX!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Bodacious. The year I turned twenty someone used that word to describe me. I had no idea what it meant. I looked it up. I certainly didn't see myself that way.

Fast forward to 2013. Colorado Springs. The Summit, the international calligraphy convention. It is book signing night and I am sitting adjacent to Lisa Engelbrecht. In addition to signing her books she is offering to write calligraphic tattoos on the arms of fellow calligraphers as a tribute to Georgia Deaver who had started the tradition of 'inking' her friends years before. Everyone was on an emotional high that night. There was great laughter and camaraderie as is so often the case at our conventions. It took me a while but I finally warmed to the idea of some ink on my arm. But what to have her write? I though on it for a bit and suddenly the word appeared: bodacious.

Lisa loved it and she did a phenomenal job of lettering such a long word on such a short arm.
The next morning I was careful to keep my arm dry in the shower because I wanted to preserve my ink to show to my class. There was much fun to be had explaining what it meant.  I was safely in the midst of my tribe and laughed along with everyone.

The next morning I wasn't careful in the shower. I was heading home, it was time for the ink to disappear. But for some reason the ink didn't budge. Off I went to the airport with a very splashy, very real looking tattoo. I'm used to being practically invisible out in public, happily flying about under the radar if you will. Not that day! Ticket agents, security guards, the pourers of coffee, fellow travellers....everybody noticed me. The wait for the plane was endless - in fact after many hours the flight was cancelled altogether. I found myself looking for alternative ways to get to Denver for a newly ticketed flight to Toronto the next day. The United agent didn't know how I was going to get there and truly didn't care. There were about a dozen of us from the conference who found ourselves in the same situation. So I channelled all that bodaciousness I had been feeling because of my tattoo and called a limo company and talked the dispatcher into finding a van that could drive us to Denver. I asked my sweet husband to find a budget hotel where we could sleep. I even asked to ride shotgun on the trip into Denver!

The next morning the ink stayed in place despite vigourous scrubbing in the shower. Again I got lots of attention at the airport. Again my flight was late and by the time I was finally heading for home the only thing that was feeling bodacious was the skin under that ink.

The tattoo lasted a full week. My favourite part of this whole story happened in a little fruit market in a small town north of the city. The store employs a handful of young teenage boys who stock shelves, clean the floor and carry out groceries. I rarely even notice them. But this day one of them was trailing me as I shopped, finding ways to stay near my cart while he straightened signs, reformed piles of lemons, picked up random leaves around the lettuce...Just before I headed for the check out he spoke to me. He wanted to know about my tattoo, where I'd had it done, who had designed it. He thought it was the coolest tattoo he had ever seen and he was saving to have one done when he was old enough. I gave him my business card and told him to contact me if he ever wanted to have Lisa design one for him. I've never heard from him and now if I do, well, sadly I won't be able to follow through.

I want to thank Lisa for helping me claim my bodaciousness after all these years. Even after the tattoo faded I was left with a little more pluck. I've added it to the list of internal descriptors that I use to pump myself up when I'm feeling low. It helped me add "she who swims with penguins" to my list of accomplishments. But that story is one for another day.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Lest We Forget

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. 

As a child this sentence held such resonance and magic. It was laden with meaning even if I didn't really understand what it meant. No matter who said it I heard it in a with overtones of Churchill. It was biblical, epic, understood deep in the bones.

My mother was an only child but her father came from a family of thirteen. I called them all uncle and aunt, no need to say great. They were all veterans of the war having either fought or worked gruelling shifts, with war-rationed bellies, in factories that supplied the men at the front.  Having survived the Depression in a family that had nothing, they gave everything to the war effort. When Remembrance Day came around each November 11th it had real meaning for them. We had the day off from school and I remember watching them march to the cenotaph, remember men who were tough and robust with tears in their eyes.

Their service took its toll. What we now call PTSD was obviously a factor in their lives, I can see that now, looking back. I was shielded from most of it, but by and large they treated the symptoms with alcohol. The shame is that today we offer few other choices to our vets. It is a national shame here in Canada and elsewhere. The young man in uniform in the picture was my Uncle George. He was in the division of Canadian soldiers that liberated Holland and then some of the camps. He stayed on in Europe after the war was over, serving for an extra few years with restoration forces. He never married. He fought his demons the only way he knew how. He died when I was in high school, still a comparatively young man, a victim of PTSD.

I've travelled to the battlefields and cemeteries in Europe. I've taken my children to the museum in Ypres and tried to help them understand the risks of letting human behaviours get out of control, dissolve towards violence as a solution. None of it is easy to explain. How could that war, the second, have been avoided? How could we not have gone? And yet I so wish we hadn't needed to. All around us we see wars brewing, battles on the verge of breaking out. The causes are noble. Oh that we could find other solutions, some alternative to trying to counteract violence with violence.

Many years ago in a calligraphy class Reggie Ezell gave us an assignment called "Best Voices". He challenged us to think about the people in our lives who had been examples and role models, who had influenced our thinking or challenged us to be more. Today I remember my uncles and aunts who form part of the chorus of best voices in my life. But I also today think about all those who have been advocates for peace and pray that humanity can someday find its way forward without weapons.

Since the attack on Parliament Hill I have written out a simple poem, a simple prayer each day. At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day this year this poem, written by Rabindranath Tagore, will again be my prayer:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

Monday, November 03, 2014

Born Under A Lucky Star

I intended to write about something completely different this week but the universe had other plans. Actually I could have called this blog "I Intended To..." but that seemed so defeatist. And I'm not that, not most of the time, but this morning I came close.

This story starts weeks and weeks ago. It starts with the slow decline of order in my office. I'm really blessed to have the luxury of space, actually spaces. I have a big studio in the basement plus storage for all the books I sell, an office on the main floor and a fibre arts room in one of the bedrooms upstairs. When my kids were small my husband would give them a big hug as he left on business trips and make them solemnly swear to not let me take over any more of the house while he was gone. Tidiness in my studio is all relative to what I am working on, the office has to meet the stranger standard and the sewing room doesn't get seen much but it tends to not be a problem. You may wonder what the stranger standard is. For me this means that if someone drops in or we have a workman in the house they should feel that I am really busy in the office, not slovenly. And I like that room tidy. I like to be able to sit down to work and not feel that piles of things are shouting at me to be put away. I like to be able to sit down at the antique, slant top writing desk and not wonder when the avalanche is going to blow me away. Alas, every week for the last few months I have been saying "Today I intend to get this room back under control." But I didn't. And today, well today the universe decided it was time.

On Friday night I took on the featured tangle on Square One which was Chainging or Punzel. (See if you want to learn how to draw it and while you are there make a contribution to keep the site up and running. You get a great PDF of the tangles for donating and none of us would be where we are with tangling without this wonderful resource.) Truthfully these aren't my favourite tangles but I did a bit of warmup and some sketching with them and decided to jump in at the deep end. I sketched out a string with Fengle and then filled that in with Chainging. That having gone remarkably well I decided to further press my luck by filling it in with black and using highlights as the main decorative element. I was really happy with the way the tile turned out. (My resolution for this year is to actually admit that when it happens, and it is rare!)

The community in Square One was really generous in their comments and several people contacted me directly or in the comments for more information about how I created the star. I'd promised to do a sketch to post and this morning, my other writing having gone well, I thought I could steal a few minutes to do just that. I set the card on my slant top desk and started to look for a piece of tracing paper. The desk has a couple of lift up compartments on top which are a pain to access if you have a lot of other stuff balanced on the slanted top but over the years I've become pretty adept at accessing them. Of course the tracing paper wasn't where it belonged and I looked in the drawer underneath the  part of the slant top that folds up when the desk isn't in use. Again I've become pretty good at balancing whatever is on the desk while I do that manoeuver. Tracing paper wasn't there either. So I moved the stuff off the top onto the storage drawers on the left. Finally found a piece of paper that would do for drawing out the steps and then realized  the card was no longer on top of my desk! It was gone.

I looked for an hour, slowly going through portfolios standing beside the desk, throug all the drawers and nooks and crannies. As a last resort I called in my husband to look, the man who often can't find the milk carton in the fridge. But he is a love and he was really helpful. He got a flashlight and we looked under the storage drawers, even moved them out from the wall. He went back through the desk. After a half hour of this I conceded defeat. Went and poured myself a coffee and took a time out.

Then I decided it was time to do what I should have done weeks ago. I set up a card table and started to sort out the various piles of stuff I had moved looking for the tile. Since there is no use doing half a job on this sort of thing I decided to go deeper and sort and reorganize my desk contents. So I picked up the board that covers one of the compartments and reached over to set it against the wall. My hand made contact with paper on the bottom of the cover. The tile had stuck itself to the bottom of the board with a wadge of kneaded eraser!

As a little appeasement to the universe I decided I better make a proper job of setting out the steps for making this very Celtic looking star. I even decided to take the time to do a little video about how I have begun to highlight, which has always been a problem for me and also how I shade which I know is a problem for some of you. There are lots of ways to do both of these things but these are the ways I find easiest.
I hadn't decided on a name for it until all this happened but it was obvious. It had to be called Born Under A Lucky Star.

And my office? As soon as I get this posted I intend to....

Step One:
With a pencil draw Fengle with rounded ends. Draw as lightly as you can as the string needs to disappear after the star is drawn.

Step Two:
Draw the first step of Chainging slightly differently than the original tangle. Round the end and continue into the second stroke. Use the string to keep your strokes rounded and full. I find it easier to do tiles like this if I think of them like parenting. What you do to one section you must also equally to all the others. So I do Step One in all the sections making sure to turn the tile as I go so that the flow of the strokes stays the same.

Step Three
Continue to draw the tangle. Take notice of the fact that the "ribbons" are flowing under and over each other and that the points where they go under should be similar to the point where they emerge. Also note that you stop your stroke when you come to the string.

Step Four
The basic star is completed. Now you have to decide how to decorate and shade. The video below the diagram shows how I approached my highlighting. I really struggled with highlights and only recently realized that if I start with a 005 Pigma and then use a 01 or even a 03 for the filling in and finishing I get a better result. The video also demonstrates shading with a soft pencil and a stump or tortillon.