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.