Sunday, November 2, 2014

Show Sneak Peak!

It has been a crazy few months! I returned to graduate school for my last year (hooray!) and it has been a whirlwind. I apologize for the radio silence, between my internship and my schoolwork I have been a busy lady. If you would like to see what I have been up to, check out the Indiana Historical Society's blog.

Despite the abundance of wonderful museum work I have been doing, I have not forgotten my art. I am excited for the upcoming From Our Hands show on November 15th in Peninsula, Ohio.

Peninsula is a town embedded in my childhood and in my heart. We spent hours in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and my mother used to have a different show in the same venue we will be in for From Our Hands. In those days, my twin sister and I used to sell our own art--the culinary kind--in the form of lemonade and cookies. This year I am selling art once again, but alas cannot sell it with the childhood cuteness my sister and I used to sell most of our wares (cute kids and cookies is a killer combo). So I thought I would give you a sneak peek of what I have been working on this year. Some holiday themed items will be available, and lots of other fun things! Can't wait to see you all there!
I couldn't show you all of the good stuff, but I wanted to give you a few snippets of some of my favorite pieces that will be at the show with me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Pen to the Page

I still write letters.

Pens and paper, stamps and envelopes, the whole nine yards.

It’s better than an email. I am grateful for email, as it has made life infinitely easier. But there are some friends, some family, for whom an email cannot tell the whole story. The ink on the page says as much as the words that it forms. The page itself, once in your hands, gets placed in another’s, and there is an authenticity about it.

We are a culture which loves the authentic. Abraham Lincoln’s slippers, George Washington’s tea set—why do we obsess over these?

Because we value the touch of a human hand more than the object that is touched. Slippers are slippers until someone important, someone long ago, or someone we loved held them and wore them and loved how comfortable they were.

In this way, it is like getting a hug, or feeling the comforting touch of a hand to my shoulder when I find a treasured letter in my mailbox. It takes time to sit down and write to someone. It takes time to stamp it and send it off. Our culture values that time, and so it becomes so much more meaningful when someone stops their busyness to mail a letter.

This is why I wanted to design fraktur cards in the first place. I still love handwritten notes, and when a letter is in an interesting card it becomes that much more special. I hope you enjoy using these cards to send a little bit of comfort and care to someone you love. See them here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dipping Into the Past

You can see the depth of color the ink provides on the paper, especially in the dots.

I recently decided to be more historic by using a dip pen to draw my frakturs. Dip pens are inconvenient, messy and difficult to use. So why would I torture myself, you ask? Well, I actually enjoy it. More importantly, the look this medium creates is beautiful. The depth of color achieved by letting the ink seep into the page gives a more permanent look. The lines look etched into the page, not simply drawn on. The ink runs a little as it soaks into the paper, and the final product looks so much older than I could have anticipated. 

The old tools and the new, looking down on a work in progress. 
 I would love to say I cut my own nibs (pen tips) from a feather and dip it into a nice old well full of ink I made by crushing berries and other various and sundry items. The historian in me desires historical accuracy in all things historic. My sanity, on the other hand, desires other things. And so, in an effort not to send my already overworked brain over the edge, I have conceded to use a modern plastic handle, metal nibs, and store-bought ink. 

Though I have made these concessions, the process is hardly less adventurous. After working with a dip pen and ink I begin to look less than beautiful. Like I described with the paper, the ink runs down the pen and soaks into skin. It also stays on the surface, allowing me more opportunities to smudge it with my hands and arms. Sometimes the pen gets a life of its own, and drops ink wherever it would like on the page. This is usually remedied by adding polka dots to the rest of the fraktur to disguise the accidental spot.

Finished piece using a dip pen to outline

To me, the unpredictability of the ink is what makes the piece unique and a bit more folky. Why let a mistake get to you? Making it work in the design is half the fun, adding an extra challenge to my task. My lines might not be exactly straight, and I may have smudged this leaf over there. But that's what folk art is about: making the most of the materials and talent you have, and aiming toward something lovely, not necessarily perfect. And so, charming mistakes and all, my frakturs come to life. The color runs deep and adds a touch of the past to the present day.

"Ring the bell that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in." ~Leonard Cohen


Friday, July 11, 2014

The Perils of Preparation

Tomorrow I will be at an event called Historic Art in Historic Places, a series of workshops held in conjunction with the Peninsula Foundation. The Foundation is dedicated to preserving Peninsula’s history and sharing it with the public. My mother, Rebekah L. Smith, along with several other talented ladies in textiles, will be doing the workshops tomorrow. I am here.
always excited about events that promote folk art and museums. You can find out more information

Now, you may be wondering what this has to do with frakturs, as textiles and frakturs are quite unrelated as far as media goes. I do not get along well with sewing machines or string (as you will see in a coming paragraph). So no, I am not taking the workshop. I’m working it. The store, that is. These lovely ladies will be selling a few things along with teaching, and I will be manning the store and selling a few things of my own.
Preparing for this event has been, if nothing else, chaotic. Mom’s process seems so effortless. I do hope some of her grace comes with age. There is wool spread across tables in neat little piles, and copies in neat stacks. I have a pile of string and paper tangled in a box overflowing with more paper. It is not like I am taking a booth full of stuff, you see, and yet the preparation seems to have consumed a great deal of my time.
It all began at the printer. I took my little flash drive up to the counter and asked for assistance. The lady assisting me, after a quiet greeting, waved and grunted at me to move to the computer. Her Neanderthal walk took several minutes. I learned after several more minutes of going round and round that she did not understand what “off-white cardstock” actually looked like. Thankfully the prints came out well on a nice ivory and mostly correct. When I went back later, they could not find my order because it was filed under my first name.

Now, again, I must remind you, I am not bringing a car-load of frakturs. That would be a terrifying ordeal in itself, but I am not even bringing more than one little box of items to sell. It is the small ones that cause the most trouble apparently. Literally, the smallest items I am bringing have wrought the most frustration.

I decided in a moment of insanity to do some very tiny frakturs in some very tiny frames to make into necklaces. The tiny fraktur part was most enjoyable, as I love minute details and very skinny pens. It was the assembly process that got me all tangled. This is where the string makes its stage debut. There is some old saying about measuring twice and cutting four times, or is it measure five times and cut twice? Whatever it is, it is supposed to be wise and useful. I did not go that route. I measured once, which is the root of the problem. Somewhere between the measuring and cutting the inches shrunk and I ended up with necklaces that can’t fit over your head.

But, after some burnt chicken (which occurred during the string fiasco) and several other mishaps, I think I am ready to go! I am looking forward to what preparation for the From Our Hands and Hearts show in November will be like… Hopefully less perilous, and more productive. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Website for Mom, A Webpage for Me

A past fraktur.
I really enjoy graphic design. I think it’s why I so love frakturs. A combination of letters and words, more stylistic than realistic. I have never taken a class on design, but I have read a great deal. I try to keep up with what's new in design, and I have several boards on Pinterest devoted to design for inspiration. It often influences all of my art, and comes in handy when something like a flyer, a business card, or a website needs designed. 

The website has been my latest project. My mother, Rebekah L. Smith, has been working on getting together a website for her work. My job was to design the site. I am not a coder, and do not plan on ever being one. When my dad found Wix, a site that allows you to design your own website without coding, we were thrilled. I was able to design the website basically from scratch without ever even seeing code. Click and drag, that is much more my style. They have great templates, all of which can be easily adjusted or used as a blank slate for your own design. 
My page on Rebekah L. Smith's website, designed by me.
When we set out to design her website, we decided on a very neutral palette to highlight the colors in her work. I did a lot more tweaking than the average person might do as far as layout and color to give it a very unique feel, one that went with Rebekah’s work. We have been quite pleased with the result, which you can see here:
A fraktur for sale.

My mother has graciously allowed me to put a page on her website. I have my information and a gallery of past work, as well as a place on the store page. We will continue to put more pieces up as they become available. I am currently selling original frakturs, bookplates and notecards. Check it out when you have a chance!!frakturs-by-kas-/c1p4q

Monday, June 16, 2014

Literary Love

A few volumes of my own book collection.
From a very young age I have loved books. There are pictures of me with book in hand before I could read. Once I could read, I did it with vigor. My sister and I would get up early just to read before school. I read all summer long, traveling to places far and not so far, real and imaginary. 

If all of my childhood reading was not enough, I studied history for my undergraduate degree, reading a plethora of books and articles. I delved into the past, peering at what those who came before us left behind. I have moved on to graduate school, where reading is a large part of my work. Then I began collecting books, adding to my modest collection of remnants. Some books I chose for their looks. Such beautiful designs, swirling colors, smooth leather. Some I chose because they are old friends. I love the comfort of living with familiar books on my shelves. Some were gifts, some needed a home; some are new and some are old, but all are treasures. 

Many readers these days are shifting to electronic devices. They have their place, I admit. That place just happens to be far from my bookshelves! I happily remain old fashioned and refuse to give up my printed books. Nothing can replace the feel of a spine, the turn of a page, and the smell of paper aging thoughtfully and slow. 

Fraktur book plates for sale.
In the past, those with the urge to draw would do so on the very pages of books. Paper was a precious commodity then, and hard for most to obtain. Old tomes usually had blank pages, and so many frakturs have been found etched into the very life of a book. These artists incorporated their names in some cases, and others just illustrated the extra paper with vivid color and designs. 

Fraktur bookplates for sale.
My delight in hard copies of books led me to design my own fraktur bookplates. You can put your own name on these and place them in books to claim them as your own. Or use them as part of a gift-I always put my friends’ names in the books I give them. I have always enjoyed seeing a record of past owners in my older volumes. These and several other designs will be available online for purchase soon. I will have a page on Rebekah L. Smith’s new website with work for sale. I will let you know when that launches. In the meantime, you can contact me if you are interested in purchasing something.

“Writing your name in a book and the date upon which you acquired it is more than just an assertion of ownership. It is a milepost in time,” says Julia Keller, in a delightful article that can be found here. These bookplates are a way for you to tuck your own name into the pages of history.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The World of Fraktur

A flower from one of my frakturs, inspired by a historic piece.
Fraktur—an early German American art which remains obscure to many, but beloved by those who have discovered the beauty of its worn pages, swirled and splotched with ink and age.

How in the world did a girl in her twenties become an imitator of this historic art?

Ancestors begin the story. Those immigrants from Germany settled in the blue mountains of Western Pennsylvania. They brought their color and designs along with their worldly possessions, trekking through Penn’s woods to find a home in the heart of the Alleghenies.

Their broken lettering, fractured into straight lines and bold curves, is where the name is drawn from. But frakturs were not just filled with letters to proclaim births and marriages, document families and other records. They are covered in birds and trees, tulips and hearts--motifs of their world. 

My grandparents, still living in these peaceful mountains, collect remnants of the past, caring for and passing along antiques to those who also treasure pieces of days gone by. They do not confine themselves to collecting, but practice arts of old. My grandmother’s hands work with wool and thread, hooking rugs and stitching samplers. She passed along the love of historic art forms to my mother, who works thread and wool in different ways. She also brushes paint across wood and walls, bringing Pennsylvania German motifs to new life in people’s homes and hearts. I once helped her in this effort, learning the curves of tulips, the symmetry of urns, and the style of birds. 

In the end, wood and walls were not my calling. I discovered that the feel of ink on paper gave me the most satisfaction, and that watercolors were the hues that fed my passion for folk art. My hands were created to work the pen on the page. 

The time has come to share my work. Here you will find pictures of what I do and musings on what inspires my fraktur art. I will be selling my frakturs online soon, so watch for updates! I hope my works gives you a little spark of joy and an appreciation for the art of my ancestors.