Samples of what I've been working on.

A Few More New Things, Getting Ready for the Cat Show

Samples of what I've been working on.

Samples of what I’ve been working on.

I usually work out one project at a time, starting with my basic visualization and working out materials, size, method and details to make sure the idea is workable, make a few and show them to friends to get an opinion. That obviously takes time and I get impatient, and with a cat show coming up I decided there was no better time than now to work on a bunch of ideas at once.

I began with ideas I’ve had for a while and also had materials on hand. Above are: “Tabbies” tiles, “Big Nap” trinket dish, “Mimi en Silhouette” cut paper on kraft greeting card, “Mimi on Silhouette” stenciled notebook, “Inscrutable” stenciled notebook, and “In Afternoon Sun” square notebook. They are all drafts of products, and out of all only one turned out as I had planned, usable with no changes. I feel lucky for that! I will be making modifications and making them in some quantity, and continuing on with creating, moving on to a few other ideas. I will be listing each of them as I make them on Portraits of Animals so I’ll not only have them at the cat show but those not able to make it can buy them from my website.

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“The Big Nap” trinket dish

"The Big Nap" 5 x 6.5 trinket dish.

“The Big Nap” 5 x 6.5 trinket dish.

When I made my initial trinket dishes two years ago I developed a ton of ideas after working with both polymer and air-dry clay. The basis of one set of designs is my brush pen sketches integrated in several ways. Finally I made the time to work out the first of one of those styles, a little larger than the original 3″ trinket dishes, and using the outline of a sketch to shape the dish. Air-dry clay feels more like real clay but in earlier tests I found that worked this thin it would lose its strength, so I chose polymer clay.

The round shape of “The Big Nap” fit well to this idea. I didn’t really want to cut around all Bean’s legs so I added a little to the shape to fill in around his legs. Because the clay is baked and it works best if the object is held to the final shape while baking the size ended up being determined by the one dish I could use to form the gentle curve I wanted that could also be baked in the oven along with the clay. After it’s baked, I use the same brush pen to draw the sketch onto the clay that I used for the original sketch. This dish is 6.5″ wide x 5″ high, and about 1/2″ deep. I plan to offer it in plain white with black, and also plan to keep the black outlines and add color. Below are details of this dish. One funny thing about my photos here is that I photographed the dish upside down from the original design!

 

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“Tabbies” tiles

Detail of the texture on the tiles.

Detail of the texture on the tiles.

I’ve had tiles in mind for a long time. I just like them for decoration, but they are also useful as coasters or a base to display something. I don’t have a kiln at the ready and don’t really want one, so I’ve been experimenting with air-dry clay to substitute. The finish has the feel and texture of kiln-fired clay and I can also build with it. I love texture so though I’ll be painting and stamping on tiles in the future, I’ve had the idea of using my linoleum blocks for the “Tabbies” series to create some texture with the impression along with color.

These tiles are made of air-dry clay rolled thin, then pressed onto one of the inked linoleum blocks from my “Tabbies” series so they are a little dimensional and a little colorful, just as I had imagined. They are about 4.75″ square, determined by the designs on the block, three of which have distinct edges that look best when cropped to the edge. I started with black and then also used orange and brown, all kitty colors readily available as ink. For gray I may have to mix the color, but I also intend to make some brightly colored ones in blue and magenta and purple, maybe more, including some just for Valentine’s Day. Because I impress the clay with the inked block while the clay is wet, and I can’t paint the clay while it’s wet, I can’t really have a colored background unless I find a way around this. I don’t really want to paint in between all the inked areas, but I do have a few ideas for after the cat show when I can take more time.

One thing I did discover is that not all air-dry clay is equal in quality and in whiteness. In my sample tiles below, you can see that some look distinctly gray, and one of the set of four printed on one of the brands of clay cracked apart in my hand. Luckily, though, I streamlined the cutting and printing method so that I can make them much faster than I did the first set of four black ones.

 

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“Mimi en Silhouette” cut paper on kraft greeting card

Cut paper on kraft "Mimi en Silhouette" card, 5 x 7

Cut paper on kraft “Mimi en Silhouette” card, 5 x 7

Last year I purchased a paper cutter to use for stencils and other designs. I wanted to be able to use my own art and designs with it and I discovered those are rare among paper cutters that use clip art. This cutter could not only use my art and designs but was also on sale for a great price. I cut several “Bella” stencils for the bags so that I could stencil the bags more efficiently, and I played around with how detailed it could cut.

But the best test is a real design, and I had a little more to learn about details. Mimi’s whiskers and details in the light areas on her back are a little too fine for this so I will need to make the smaller areas thicker so the cutter can work around them without ripping the paper or the stencil. Still, I really like how this turned out in cut paper, another technique I’ve been wanting to do for the longest time. Years ago I made interior signs from cut paper, but I did all the cutting by hand. This cutter is very quick and efficient and I can easily open my sketches directly from Photoshop.

I named this design in French because it’s an homage to Theophile Steinlen’s illustration style and I may work a little of his red and gold into it at some point. For now I really like the kraft paper blanks I purchased a long time ago because I knew someday I would use them. I intend to add more designs to this card selection too.

 

Mimi en Silhouette card detail.

Mimi en Silhouette card detail.

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“Mimi en Silhouette notebook with pen

"Mimi en Silhouette" stenciled on notebook, 5 x 7

“Mimi en Silhouette” stenciled on notebook, 5 x 7

This notebook is another item I purchased knowing I’d use it someday. I decided I’d use a stencil on it, and because I wanted to try two-color stencils I used Mimi en Silhouette and made the highlights in the illustration white. I had the same issues with cutting the design as I did with the card, above. I like the look of this. I will recut the stencil with modifications, and I have one more notebook, and on that one I think I’ll try a different color for the highlights.

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“In Afternoon Sun” 4 x 4 notebook

"In Afternoon Sun" small square notebook.

“In Afternoon Sun” small square notebook.

This 4 x 4 notebook is another find that I knew I’d use someday. I made a stencil from just the figures of Mimi and Mewsette and included the highlights as I did with the other notebook. I’ll have the same modifications to make to this stencil and I’ll probably use a different color for the highlight as well.

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There’s one product in the array that did not work at all so I didn’t include it in the write up here. I attempted to make a stencil from “Inscrutable” and print it on the cover of yet another little kraft-covered notebook. The stencil really didn’t work out very well, and I don’t mind displaying my failures, but then the book fell apart too! Total failure, and I’ll have to wait until I can start screen printing to use that design in ways like these.

Thanks to Mimi for supurrvising my photography! We had a warm day and even the snow was all melted. Mimi decided to add herself to my display because she figured prominently in several designs, and gave birth to several others.

Mimi adds herself to my display.

Mimi adds herself to my display.

Now to get started on the rest of the new things!

Mimi and me!

Mimi and me!

It’s all done under the close and careful supervision of my studio cats!

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