Featured Maker: Jill Maldonado

Featured Maker interview with Jill Maldonado Today we are excited to talk to Jill Maldonado of Material Rebellion! Jill specializes in using reclaimed textiles to make bags, pouches, journals, blanket fort kits and more all with the goal of encouraging kids to discover the power of their own creativity. She is also passionate about fighting the problem of textile waste in the fashion industry and has built a sustainable product line and business using all reclaimed textiles. We are so excited to learn more about her creative path and how she has grown her own creative business.

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What is your background?

I grew up on an island in the lakes region of Maine. After going to, then dropping out of college, I moved all over the country studying dance and choreography. Inspired by the moments contained within the dance, I picked up photography. That led to an interest in film, so I went back to school and got my BFA from NYU (and also met my husband). After graduating, I jumped into web development because there were practical matters to attend to and it was the beginning of the dot.com boom, so it was easy to enter the tech world and build a career there.

Most of my creative impulses were set aside until many years later when my children attended a Waldorf school. With an emphasis on educating children through their “head, heart and hands” the school had a wonderful handwork program. In each grade, the children mastered a new way of creating with their hands – from finger knitting in kindergarten to stained glass in their senior year. It was my great joy to help teach first graders how to knit (I learned right along side the kids since it was new to me.) Teaching and learning with the kids reawakened my creativity. That’s putting it mildly…it’s more like my creativity woke up like a hungry bear that had been in hibernation. It needed to be fed! Around the same time, someone gifted me with a used sewing machine. After spending three days (and many hours on YouTube) learning how to thread the machine, I taught myself how to sew. It didn’t take long before my creative drive outstripped my budget for fabric and I turned to my children’s outgrown clothes as a source of material for my projects. From there, I spent several years refining my techniques for repurposing materials from clothing.

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What do you make and sell?

I make thoughtful playthings that encourage kids to discover the power of their own creativity. My favorites are rainbow pencil rolls, blanket forts and covered journals.

What made you decide to take the leap and start your own creative business?

I was unhappy with my job and giving a great deal of thought to making a change when I met an amazing artist (she later became a good friend) who inspired me to get serious about my creative work. I really wanted to be a living example to my children of how we can forge our own destinies if we have the courage to step away from the path of least resistance.

How did you get started and when did you launch your business?

When the stars aligned in such a way that I was able to leave my job in January of 2013, I got serious about creating a product line. As I got deeper into that process and began developing production techniques, it became obvious that my old hand-me-down sewing machine wasn’t going to be able to keep up. I was hesitant to spend money on a new machine since I wasn’t entirely sure this was going to be a viable business. My dear, sweet, supportive husband secretly organized dozens of friends and family members to chip in and purchase me a new sewing machine for my birthday. It was an incredibly poignant moment for me…the show of support, the care and effort involved…it encouraged me even more so to make a go of it.

My first workspace was my dining room table. It wasn’t long before I moved downstairs and took over our basement. Three years later, with a name change and rebranding along the way, I have just moved into my own studio space. It’s a big step, but the business needs room to grow. Once again, my family is right there with me in making this important move. The support of my family has been a consistent theme in the growth of my business. They are always cheering me on from the sidelines and step in to provide important feedback every time I come to a cross roads about what I should do next.

Do you have any philosophies or ideals you try to represent with your work?

Yes! There are two philosophies that form the WHY of what I do. One relates to the materials I use and the other to the products I design.

I initially started using reclaimed textiles to serve my own need for inexpensive materials, but the more I learned about the textile waste crisis, the more committed I became to being part of the solution. The environmental impact of the fashion industry is immense. For example, it requires 2,900 gallons of water to produce one pair of jeans. That same pair of jeans, at the other end of its lifecycle, will produce as many as 3 pounds of CO2 as it breaks down in a landfill.

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I am very fortunate to work in partnership with Goodwill Industries. They sort, bag and deliver t-shirts and jeans for me to use as my raw materials. The price that I pay per pound supports the Goodwill job training program and I use almost a thousand pounds of materials a year that aren’t fit for Goodwill retail outlets.

The philosophy that drives my designs is the value of open-ended play for children. I love creating things that inspire the imagination and encourage creativity. When I create new designs, I’m thinking about making something beautiful, durable and flexible in its use. I want everything I make to open a world of possibility for the child (or adult!) receiving it.

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Where do you look for inspiration?

My inspiration is drawn from the two philosophical elements that drive my business. First, I find inspiration in the materials I use. Denim is a wonderful fabric to work with. I’m always awed by the variety of washes, the different textures and the way each pair of jeans wears differently. I also love playing with all the bright colors and soft knits of the t-shirts.

I am also inspired by my experience with Waldorf education. Sometimes we forget that the most powerful element in a child’s play is their own creative force. I want everything I make to be an instrument of the child’s creativity rather than supplant their creativity.

Waterfront view from Jill's studio.

Waterfront view from Jill’s studio.

What does your workspace/studio look like?

After three years of working in my 120 year old, unfinished, windowless basement, I’m so excited to finally be in my own space! My new studio occupies a very unique place on Main Street in Great Barrington, MA and opens out onto a nature trail alongside the Housatonic River. It was important to be close to home, since I make it a priority to be available for my kids, and my view of the river refreshes my senses every day. I can’t wait to grow into this new space and do things I never could have done before, like teach workshops!

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What are some of your favorite tools or techniques?

I absolutely LOVE my Accuquilt Studio Fabric Cutter. It’s essentially a die cut machine. I have some of their “off the rack” dies and have had some custom made for my designs. The cutter allows me to cut pattern pieces quickly, accurately and efficiently, plus it saves my wrist from the repetitive strain of cutting everything by hand. My OTHER favorite tool is a power rotary cutter that my husband gave me. It’s not something I would have thought I needed, or spent the money on myself, but it truth, it makes quick business of breaking down a pair of jeans into usable pieces.

Is your business your full time job? Or do you have a day job?

Yes and yes. My business is my full time job AND I have a day job. In order to grow my business, most of my profits get rolled right back into things like equipment, show fees and marketing, so I have a part time job at the Berkshire Market Co-Op. I chose to work there because in many ways, it’s a center of the community and aligns with my values of supporting local producers. I truly enjoy my co-workers and find that it balances the long hours of quiet that go into my creative work.

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What does a day in the life of Jill Maldonado look like?

I get up super early in the morning. It’s a great time to get a couple hours of “computer work” done – checking orders, emails, web traffic and social media stats or planning out what I’m working on in the studio that day. After my husband and kids head out, I take the dogs over to my studio (we have three rescued Pomeranians) and get busy making. At 2:30, it’s time to walk the dogs and meet the kids when they get home from school. If no one needs homework help, I have another couple of hours to get administrative tasks done (more computer work) and make a plan for the next day before I start dinner.

Visit Jill’s website, Material Rebellion, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Thank you so much Jill for sharing your story with us! Do you want to be our next Featured Maker? Visit our Contribute Page for more info!

FEATURED MAKER: Kristy Jane

Please welcome our newest Featured Maker: Kristy Jane! Kirsty is a freelance graphic designer and jewelry maker from Byron, New York. She fell in love with sea glass while living in South Florida where she learned metal smithing, pottery and began making jewelry. We are so excited to learn more about Kristy’s life and work today and we hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as we have!

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Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What is your background?

I am a small town girl at heart. I grew up in Byron, NY (pop. 2,500) which sits just south of beautiful Lake Ontario. I am also a creative at heart. As a kid, my favorite thing was putting pencil (and crayons) to paper. This love of creating stuck with me through college where I studied graphic design. Fast forward 22 years of jobs, loves, and life lessons. Being freshly divorced, it was time to spread my wings and head to South Florida (West Palm Beach) where a grade school girlfriend lived at the time.

How did you get started and when did you launch your business?

Well it didn’t take long to completely fall in love with the sand and the sea and the inspiration it offered (not to mention great soul-searching). I began sea glass hunting as a daily hobby (one that I am still addicted to) and my collection grew so much that I knew I had to create something with it.

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What made you decide to take the leap and start your own creative business?

Working as a freelance graphic designer has always offered me the freedom to create and dream up new ideas. As fellow creatives know, this can work against us at times! I decided to take some metalsmithing and pottery classes at the local art center. I was just kind of searching and wanted to broaden my skill set. I really wanted to create something unique and sea-inspired and I knew I wanted it to be jewelry. I soon made my little garden shed into a workshop where I spent countless hours being creative (and drilling sea glass). I bought my own kiln after the pottery class I had taken and that’s when I discovered my design. You see, I had so much sea glass that wasn’t jewelry grade and I wanted to do something with it. With the help of my teachers at the art center, I came up with my kiln-fired sea glass on porcelain line (Coastal Chic Collection). This was it…I had my idea and so I launched Kristy Jane in 2012. I built my website and created business cards, etc. and entered some retail art shows (some successful and others not so much). I was getting lots of positive feedback from people about my jewelry but they just weren’t willing to pay for it. I knew my ideal client was out there but I just wasn’t in front of them. That’s when I dove into the wholesale world and did my first show in Boston.

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Do you have any philosophies or ideals you try to represent with your work?

We all love to go on vacation. We daydream about being at our happy place. My customers will wear a piece of my jewelry and when they look at it, they’ll be reminded of that place. Sometimes a tiny soothing thought like that can help us through our every-ordinary-day.

What’s your process for coming up with ideas for new products?

Oh my gosh, I never know when or where I’ll be when a new idea pops into my head. Sometimes it’s even in my sleep! I will wake up with a new design idea in my head so I jump up and sketch it out on paper so I don’t forget it. I also absolutely love perusing [Robert Redford’s] Sundance catalog for inspiration.

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Where do you look for inspiration?

I moved back to Western New York to be close to family (life by the ocean couldn’t hide my home sickness) in 2014. I looked to the beautiful shores of Lake Ontario to remind me of my love for the sea. The first day back I went edge walking near my parents cottage in Fair Haven (Little Sodus Bay). Much to my surprise, I found the most perfectly worn heart shaped piece of beach glass! I think it was a sign…I found it because I was back where I’m supposed to be. Being happy and surrounded by the ones you love brings clarity in all other aspects of life.

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What does your workspace/studio look like?

I must say, my little garden shed turned jewelry workshop in South Florida was my favorite. Lots of tropical inspiration all around me. Now it’s in the basement but I have really cool antique furniture that I use for my bench and storage cabinets. When I go there…time just goes by and before I know it hours have gone by. I also like to set the mood with music and maybe a glass or two of wine. Life is good.

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What are some of your favorite tools or techniques?

After taking both the metalsmithing and pottery classes, I bought my own kiln so I could build inventory. I absolutely love to open the lid of the kiln to see all the beautiful pendants of which no two are alike. The way the glass flows with the glaze and crackles and creates little miniature seascapes….I feel like a little kid on Christmas morning! I want to play with glass slumping and metal clay next. The creativity never ends!

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Is your business your full time job? Or do you have a day job?

I have been a graphic designer at some level since I graduated college in 1992. Since about 2007, I have had an in-home design studio and work with a handful of great clients. It has given me the freedom to explore the jewelry world, which I am grateful for.

What does a day in the life of Kristy Jane look like?

I split my days up between my freelance graphic design and my jewelry business. When I get tired of looking at the computer screen, or am waiting on client approval, I can change gears and go edge walking to collect more beach glass or go to my workshop (now in the basement) and create beautiful things, or one of the other thousands of things to do to market both of my businesses! It’s a definite labor of love and I couldn’t be happier.

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Visit Kristy’s website and follow her on Facebook!

Thank you so much Kristy for sharing your story with us! Do you want to be our next Featured Maker? Visit our Contribute Page for more info!

SHOW+TELL: Spray Paint a Briar Rug

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There once was a girl named Alison who had an awkward entry space and no good options. She went searching for a rug to protect what was left of her ugly carpet. She went to store after store with no luck, instead bringing home a rug that was so bland it made her cry.

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No really. I could find NOTHING that I liked. Everything was either too small, too bold, to “contemporary”, or too “tempting for a cat to destroy.” I decided that bland was better than something that was REALLY not me, and I grabbed a can of spray paint in case I got inspired.

This month’s theme was a great chance to embrace my inner subtly-secret-goth-girly-girl and decorate the rug with a few briars (á la Sleeping Beauty, or Briar Rose.)

 

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I used Con-Tact paper to make a mask for the rug. I cut a bunch of free-hand curved pieces, and laid them across each side of the rug in a random arrangement. When each piece was in a location I liked, I stepped on it to adhere it to the rug firmly ( are an awesome tool, too!) Once I had the stems all lined up, I began to decorate each with triangles of thorns.

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When I was happy with everything, I sprayed a thin layer of white all-purpose spray paint across the rug, paying special attention to the edges of the mask. Then I tortured myself by leaving the whole thing to dry a few hours before removing the mask and seeing what it was going to look at.

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After those couple of hours, I gently peeled the mask material off of the rug…

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and had the big reveal.

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After airing the rug out overnight, I put it in place in my entry space.

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No more bland rug!

 

Here’s a word of warning: This was so fun and transformative that I want to spray paint everything in the house now.

I’ve got my eye on you, dining rug… what do you think about circles?

FEATURED MAKER: Stephanie Rose + “Garden Made” Book Giveaway!

Please welcome our newest Featured Maker: Stephanie Rose! Stephanie is a Master Gardener, author and creative mastermind behind her blog, Garden Therapy. Stephanie and I started working together in the blogging world almost five years ago and I am so excited to learn more about her life and work today. She has also graciously offered us a signed copy of her new book, Garden Made to give away to one lucky winner! See details on how to enter at the end of this post…

stephanie-gardentherapy-a5-1600x0Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What is your background?

I’m a Master Gardener, author and the creator of the crafty-gardening blog, Garden Therapy. I make garden projects in my small, urban Vancouver (Canada) garden to show the world that everyone can get a little garden therapy, no matter what your knowledge, skill, ability, or garden size!

What do you make and sell?

I mostly make crafty garden projects as I love to be out in the garden all year long. I also make all my own natural beauty products and soaps, plenty of handmade gifts, and a bunch of healthy recipes from the garden. I don’t sell the products I make, but instead share the DIY instructions so that everyone can learn to make them too. I have over 700 projects on my blog, Garden Therapy that you can browse through, as well as a print book, Garden Made: A Year of Seasonal Projects to Beautify Your Garden and Your Life, and three eBooks:

What made you decide to take the leap and start your own creative business?

In 2006 I had to stop working at my corporate job due to sudden illness. I was hit hard and suffered from crippling pain for many years. After a few years of being confined to bed, I was able to slowly start moving. I used gardening as a way to heal my body and strengthen my mind. I learned to use gardening, photography, and writing as a way to add joy to each and every day.

How did you get started and when did you launch your business?

I began blogging as a way to reach out to others and ease the isolation. I met plenty of lovely people like me and began to share not just what I was making, but HOW I was making it. When I started to feel like I could begin working again, I decided not to go back to the corporate world, but give blogging and writing a shot as a full-time gig. I’m happy to say that it has worked out better than I had hoped! I’m able to work from home, spend time with my family, and do what I love for a living.

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Do you have any philosophies or ideals you try to represent with your work?

I’d like the projects I make to inspire others to try making themselves. While I do really love all the beautiful handmade creations around my home and garden, I love it more when I see that someone has made it for their own home or garden. I know that they are spending their time feeding their creativity and enjoying the garden.

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What’s your process for coming up with ideas for new products?

Generally I have a long list of things I want to make so I gather the materials in my studio and get to them when the time is right. Sometimes that is days, other times it can be years. I may find a birdcage and keep it for 2-3 years before one day turning it into a succulent planter. Or I could see a candle planter at the garden center and rush home to make one that day!

Where do you look for inspiration?

Because I craft from the garden, I look for inspiration on garden tours, garden centers, catalogs, and in parks. I collect materials wherever I go and keep them in my studio until they become something.

What does your workspace/studio look like?

I have a garden full of creative projects and a studio space to store all of my stuff. One day the studio will be set up for more than just storage but until then you can find me out here in my play garden.

Hopscotch Stepping Stones featured in Stephanie's Play Garden

Hopscotch Stepping Stones featured in Stephanie’s Play Garden

What are some of your favorite tools or techniques?

I love to work with outdoor succulents which are colorful and ornamental. I also like to work with lighting in the garden. I’ve made citronella candles out of tin cans, solar lanterns from mason jars, and a little solar chandelier out of a hanging basket.

Tell us about a challenge you’ve overcome in your business? Or something you tried but didn’t work the way you planned?

A few years back I started an Etsy shop to sell some of the things I made and quickly learned that it wasn’t for me. I didn’t like packaging, shipping, and all the non-creative work involved. I enjoyed making the crafts and writing about them so I wrote a number of books to sell instead.

What does a day in the life of Stephanie look like?

About ¼ of my time is gardening & creating, ½ is writing and editing, and ¼ marketing and website housekeeping. I try to spend a little time outdoors or gardening each day to ensure that I continue my recovery and stay healthy.

Visit Stephanie’s blog, Garden Therapy and check out her YouTube Channel!

Thank you so much Stephanie for sharing your story with us! Do you want to be our next Featured Maker? Visit our Contribute Page for more info!


Enter to Win A signed copy of Stephanie’s book!

We are so excited to be giving away a signed copy of Stephanie’s new book, Garden Made: A Year of Seasonal Projects to Beautify Your Garden & Your Life. The giveaway starts today, April 6th and will end on Wednesday, April 13th. We’ll announce the lucky winner on Thursday, April 14th. Just click on the link below to enter. Good luck everyone!

Stephanie's book, Garden Made

Stephanie’s book, Garden Made

CLICK HERE TO ENTER TO WIN!

SHOW+TELL: Hanging Basket Gnome Home

Gardens grow, and so do ideas, so this month is a great time to sit back and realize that some projects keep growing with you, they aren’t just done in one sitting. Some can be done a bit at a time, though, and this fairy garden (AKA Gnome Home) is a great example of a quick project that uses a lot of imagination and a little time.

The inspiration for this garden was a hanging basket that I let wild, which filled up with all sorts of awesome moss. I loved all the textures and colors, and decided that I would express a little whimsy.

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I started collecting bits and baubles from the yard and house. Copper penny steps, a gravel riverbed and a small sparkling glass pond. Piece by piece I placed them into the basket, using a small spoon to pull the moss away as I went.

I put the basket aside for a week, then came back to it when I had time, adding more detail to the door with paint, a button, and some dremel carving.

I also added a swing, because no house is complete without a swing. (My personal motto.)

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All the while I was imagining the little guy who lives in the house, and swings each afternoon- because sometimes it’s fun to let your imagination run wild.

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What’s your most whimsical project?

 

SHOW+TELL: Growing Garden Journal Kit

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I don’t really have a green thumb, so I’m always trying to learn more about my garden in hopes I can make it flourish. This year, in anticipation of spring planting, I am going through my notes and compiling it all in a garden journal. I made a ring-bound set of cards with a thick chipboard cover that can grow with me and with my garden!

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In addition to helpful information fields on the front and the back of each card, I left a little space for a plant doodle or collage.

IMG_5664_growinggardenjournalSince each card is decorated differently, it’s easy to sort through the book and quickly find the plant I’m looking for, plus it’s fun to illustrate the plants. (It would be a great project with the kiddos.)

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I decorated the book cover with scraps from my seed packets and collage materials. (Waste not, want not!)

I’m excited to add more layers and more pages as I go along, and I thought I’d make up a few kits in case anyone wants to follow along with their own gardening adventures.

You can find a kit on the Adventures-in-Making etsy shop – here
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April Growing Garden Journal Includes:

  • Punched Chipboard Cover pieces (labeled “Growing Garden Journal”)
  • 15 front/back printed and punched plant cards on assorted cardstock
  • 1 binder ring
  • Additional plant cards are available as a refill.

Garden Journal Kits and Refills available here.

All you need is a pen and some plants to write about!

Show+Tell: Printable Color-in Birds and Postcard Kit

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I’ve been trying to do a little more illustration lately, and the bird theme this month was a perfect opportunity. I had a ton of fun making these whimsical feathered friends and thought I would share them as a free printable sheet.

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Click here to print a free coloring sheet!


Even better! These guys make lovely postcards, and if you’d like a set to color and share, you can pick up a set from our Etsy Shop. Each postcard set is printed on thick, durable 110# smooth white stock. The sheet is perforated into four postcards with a a space for a message and address on the back. All your purchases go to help us continue sharing our creative adventures and yours!

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Just color in as much as you’d like, and send them to a friend to finish.

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Pick up a set to share!

SHOW+TELL: A Rainbow of Faux Embroidery

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I have spent quite bit of time working on my studio lately, and in the process have embraced a few truths about my personality. 1-I like to turn chaos into order 2-I love clean visually simple spaces with little subtle details 3-Rainbows are the best.

With that in mind, I set out to turn this basic curtain (that hides the closet that houses the clutter) into something a tiny bit more special.

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I have an absolute wealth of Sharpies, and I decided to use them to doodle a faux-embroidered rainbow trim across the curtains.

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First I cut strips the length of the curtains and about 8″ wide to doodle on.

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I ironed under the raw edged, and put a seam down the middle as a reference point for the decoration.

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I then gleefully sorted my Sharpies by color (to understand my glee, see points 1 and 2 above) and chose the best colors for my rainbow.

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I divided the length into a small portion for each color, and made a light mark where each color began and ended.

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Overlapping those marks a bit, I began to draw shapes with small dots and dashes– mimicking the stitches on decorative embroidery pieces. I used a lot of botanical shapes (cause I love ’em) and tried to break up the space with a lot of variety.

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When I had the strips all filled up with decoration, I pinned them to my curtains, and used a simple zig-zag stitch on my machine to attach them for good.

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I really like the little touch of color this added, and it was tons of fun to doodle inch-after-inch of floral rainbow.IMG_4545_fauxembroidery
One day I’ll show you some of the other rainbows I’ve captured in here…

Cause they’re the best.

SHOW+TELL: Easy Tiered Cardboard Display

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Whenever I write a post about my favorite tools or methods I often get this wistful feeling; imagining someone inspired by the step-by-step instructions. I’m always so interested in figuring out how to use new tools, how to make everything myself– and I picture a couple of people taking some of my ideas and really making them their own. Changing up the steps, making use of their materials, and generally going crazy.

Viva creativity!

In the vacuum of cyberspace, I don’t get a chance to see too many examples of this, so while these little scenarios exist mainly in my brain, I thought I would share a simple display project inspired by my friend Tara (who LOVES spray paint), using the method from the box tutorial.

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I’ve been wanting a nice tiered display for my Doodleware glasses, and finally I decided to build one. It simply consists of two boxes and a back flap that I painted black…

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so that the etching detail can stand out.

Easy peasy, and basically free. It’s the perfect dimension to display the glasses in the cube I have available.

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Now it’s that much easier to find the letter you’re looking for!

If you’ve done one of our projects, we’d love to see your finished piece! Email us at hello@adventures-in-making.com to tell us how it went.

Have something you’re dying to know about! We love questions. Send them to us and we’ll see if we can figure it out!

SHOW+TELL: A Look at the Letterpress

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With the weather turning gloomy it’s becoming less practical (and pleasant) to work outside, but I have had more chances to work more with my lovely letterpress. It dawned on me (while I was listening to the clunking and whirring of the machine) that I haven’t ever shared my adventures with this 126-year-old guy, even though he takes up a huge space in my heart (and my bedroom.)

I thought I’d show you a couple of behind the scenes shots, and talk about my printing process.

An old etching of the letterpress model I work with, in the amazing American Wood Type book my mom passed down to me. Synchronicity?

There are a lot of great resources for learning about the history of printing (I’ve listed some resources below) so I won’t get too much into a subject that I’m learning more about all the time.

My first experience printing was at the University of Texas, on a Vandercook press using antique wood type (from the Rob Roy Kelly collection) and modern polymer plates. I eventually acquired a small table-top platen press (a Craftsmen Imperial) and started printing greeting cards and more using the same method I use today on my floor-standing platen press.

Nearly two years ago we moved the one-ton California Reliable into a corner of our bedroom, and it has become a my go-to for printing with love.

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Polymer plates before they are aligned on the aluminum base for printing.

While I still use lead type and wood type occasionally, I mainly print with polymer plates on an aluminum base. I draw up the artwork, scan it, clean it up and prep it for the plates, then send the artwork out to have plates made. The plates are somewhat similar to the clear sticky stamp sheets some people use with a clear block; however the material is much harder which allows for much more detail and lets it stand up to the high pressure of the letterpress. The height of the material has to be just right to bring it up to type high on the aluminum block and allow for the ink rollers to roll, and the printer to print.

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Hand carved linoleum blocks being printed on a small tabletop press.

Occasionally I get a wild hair and print from hand-carved linoleum blocks. There’s less perfection in this mode, but you can end up with really great results with lots of character. There’s a trick to raising the blocks up to the right height, but it’s definitely possible.

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There’s a long list of things I love about letterpress printing, but color is at the top. I love how each color I print is one solid color instead of being made up of a pointillistic nightmare of Cyan/Magenta/Yellow/Black. (There’s no room in my blue for little pink dots.) Each color on a letterpress print is printed separately; each color has its own plate. I’m a somewhat inexact ink mixer, but I always seem to end up at the right color (and I try not to get ink everywhere.)

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Printing the first color of a leafy card.

Alignment (registration) is something that has taken a little getting used to, but I’ve come up with a method that works great for me. Here you can see a couple of polymer plates on my aluminum base, printing the first color of a two-color card.


The opening and closing action on this Gordon-style press is powered by a flywheel and a foot-powered treadle. There is a single magical dance that inks the rollers on the ink plate, rolls them across the printing plate, then presses the paper into that plate to make a print. (I’m learning a little more all the time about the mechanics of this magic, but the first lesson was DON’T LEAVE YOUR HAND IN THERE.) I’m responsible for pumping with my foot/ankle/hip and feeding paper.

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Printing on paper handmade from the scraps of other cards.

One of the nicest things about the letterpress is that with a little ingenuity you can print on just about anything flat. Most of my pieces are printed on thick cover stocks, often 100% cotton. I’ve started printing more and more on sheets of handmade paper that I make from the trimmings of those other cards. I love the texture and softness of the paper I make, and I adore the fact that it means I’m contributing less to the landfills. (Want to know more about making paper? 1 2 3)

I’ve also just started to experiment with printing on fabric…. I have ideas….

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So that’s my old guy. Our love is still new, but I think it’s made to last.

Time will pass– I will get more ragged and he will get less, and he’ll always have new things to press.
I’ll keep learning.

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Resources and Links

Briar Press: A never ending resource for letterpress parts and printers
Letterpress Commons: Developed by Boxcar Press with articles and resources
Boxcar Press: My usual source for polymer plates and some other materials and supplies
Reich Savoy: One of the papers I print on.
Van Son Rubber Base Plus Ink: My preferred ink