Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Calligraphy update -- writing brut


One of the sources that I keep returning to for calligraphy inspiration is a book by Denise Lach.  She includes several gorgeous compositions written with a pipette or a coke-can pen, writing instruments that deliberately sacrifice control for serendipity.  I love that kind of art, so I've been trying to get something good with my own crude implements.

I have a coke-can pen, made with a curved piece of a coke can wrapped around a tongue depresser.  The necks of my ink bottles are too narrow to let me dip this pen, so I fill it with the eye droppers.  When the pen goes in certain directions it sputters and produces the most beautiful irregular lines, but in other directions the line has no character at all.  Also the pen runs out of ink too fast, so I'm always having to refill it, after which I get a long passage of too-fat, too-black writing.

coke-can pen
I've been using this pen a lot, hoping that I'll figure out how to use it better, but that doesn't seem to be happening.

I have been using a small coffee-stirrer straw as my pipette substitute, dipping it into the ink and holding a finger on top of the straw to keep it from all running out in a huge blob.  As with the coke-can pen, I can sometimes get beautiful stuttery lines, but they are outnumbered and overpowered by the just plain blah, too-black letters.

coffee stirrer
Don't know if I want to keep trying, or maybe make a new pen, or find a new pipette-type tube, or just stop.  So beautiful when Denise does it, so mediocre when I do.

coke-can pen

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Trends in cover design


I was looking to borrow a new E-book from the library and saw that they have a "collection" of more than 100 books of World War 2 fiction.  Recent fiction about WW2, that is, not fiction written during WW2.  And I hadn't scrolled very far down the page before I started noticing a trend in cover design.

Perhaps you can notice it too:


































Until now, I did not realize that WW2 fiction is so popular.  Nor did I realize that we apparently have no idea whether people in those days even had faces, let alone what they might have looked like.


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Good cause, bad execution


I got a fat package in the mail from a religious group that runs a school on one of the big Indian reservations.  Unpacked it to find:

three greeting cards with envelopes

a calendar, a sheet of stickers and a certificate of appreciation with my name






















a dreamcatcher

two cute plastic tote bags and a ballpoint pen

And of course a fundraising plea -- would I please give them $25 to help them serve the children.

You have to wonder, of course, how much it cost them to buy and package and mail all this stuff.  Not to mention how much it cost to hire the marketing genius who thought up this campaign. I'm sure it's designed to make me feel guilty -- look at all this great swag I've scored, I have to pay them back.  But for me it has the opposite effect -- if money is so scarce, why don't you spend it on the children instead of sending me plastic tote bags?  What kind of weird, stupid decision-making is going on at this institution?  Why would I support a charity with such cynical and wasteful ideas?

Direct mail is one of the most easily monitored and evaluated forms of marketing ever invented; you know exactly how many of Letter A you sent out, and exactly how much money you got in return.  If a direct mail pitch doesn't work, you rewrite the letter and try another pitch.  So there are obviously enough suckers out there who are responding to the tote bags and dreamcatchers to make them keep doing it.  But I wonder how much will go to keep the perpetual motion direct mail machine in motion and how much to the Indian school.

Oh well, the two-year-old will love the tote bags, and maybe the ballpoint pen will write OK.  The rest goes straight in the trash.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Unexpected marketing


I've always been skeptical of the"awareness" approach to marketing and fundraising.  Instead of contributing to breast cancer research or screening or treatment, people and organizations wear pink ribbons or use pink boxes or string bras in public to promote "awareness."

It's hard to think that many adults in the US are not aware of breast cancer, or any of the other afflictions that are the subject of "awareness" marketing.  But they persist.

Such as these luggage-cart tugs spotted at O'Hare, with pink breast-cancer-awareness ribbons painted on the hoods:


Saturday, October 12, 2019

Last week on Art With a Needle


After I wrote about my daily calligraphy, Helen sent a link to some beautiful embroidery by Olga Kovalenko, who starts with a calligraphed word and then executes it in stitching.  I can't tell from the detail shot what stitches she has used, but I would guess satin stitch for the long, smooth lines, maybe french knots for the little ink spatters.  The work is great -- I would be happy if I could simply do the calligraphy, let alone translate it into stitching!!

Olga Kovalenko, Uncertainty

I've finished piecing three small crossroads tops and have one quilted. Still experimenting in search of a way to display quilts in something other than the standard sleeve-and-rod format that I've been using for decades.  I'm going to wrap this batch around 14 x 14 canvases, staple them to the back, and see what that looks like.























Here's my favorite miniature of the week, beads made from air-drying clay, colored with whatever ink was left in the pen after several days of calligraphy:



Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Calligraphy update -- book reports


Every time I finish reading a book I find a representative sample passage to copy as my daily calligraphy.  Not only does this give me something new and different to write, it is serving as my reading diary for the year.  I've always sort of admired this practice in other people but never kept track of the bazillions of books I have read myself.  So this is a new and surprisingly satisfying side benefit of my daily art.

For the first nine months of the year I can report that I have read 60 books: 40 were fiction, 19 were non-fiction, one was poetry (and I cheated -- I calligraphed poems from that book on several days).  I am chagrined to report that for at least four of the fiction books, I had no recollection of the plot as I looked back to write this post, even after reading the copied passage.




Some of the book passages were almost illegible, as I was practicing a compressed italic hand that dispensed with spaces between words and line-ending hyphens (illegible, but they looked pretty).  Or letting the letters splay every which way across the page.

























Some were quite readable, as I was practicing my channeling-Julia-Warhola handwriting with lots of curlicues.























At least one was deliberately atmospheric, with wispy brush-drawn letters echoing the fog described in the passage.

If you'd like some recommendations, in the fiction department I especially liked "Fake Like Me" by Barbara Bourland, the best fiction I've ever read about artists and how they work.

Many more to recommend on the non-fiction side of the aisle.  "Educated" by Tara Westover is a memoir that some of my friends found hard to read but I had no such qualms, looking forward to the happy ending.  "White Rage" by Carol Anderson is a dense, scholarly and eye-popping look at how Americans have discriminated against blacks throughout our history.  "American Dialogue: The Founders and Us" by Joseph Ellis examines several key concepts behind the Constitution and how they play out in today's political theater.  "How to Disappear" by Akiko Busch is a collection of essays about privacy, memory, identity and mystery.

I look forward to the next three months of my reading diary, because of the calligraphy and because of the books themselves.



Saturday, October 5, 2019

Last week on Art With a Needle


On Tuesday I wrote about Carole Harris, a fiber artist from Detroit whose work I saw in Traverse City MI while visiting my sister a week ago.  Coincidentally, I was also corresponding with the program chair from a fiber art group in Detroit about teaching a workshop, and I mentioned in my email that I had seen the show and said "I wonder if you know her."

Got a response 20 minutes later that said "I was just at Carole's studio this afternoon!"  It's a small world.
























Carole Harris, Against the Wall

Idaho Beauty left a comment: "Nice to know there's another quilter out there who picks stray threads off quilts."  I confess to doing that a lot, on other people's quilts and on my own.  When I was a guest on Quilting Arts TV several years ago, I was instructed by Pokey Bolton to not pick threads on camera, it was too distracting for the viewers.  Embarrassed to say that despite the warning I couldn't  help myself.

I've been piecing this week, more crossroads quilts with very fine lines.  Decided to get fancy and add a spot of blue to the one I'm working on.

Here's my favorite miniature of the week.  I wondered what would happen if I put ink onto the not-yet-dried-out clay (because my rule is no additions after midnight of the given day), and was pleased with the slightly blotchy surface that I found two days later.