I’m working out a design I’ve had in mind for a while—since just about a year ago to be exact! This was to be September 2017’s new introduction, starting with a tote bag then possibly moving to other things, and the concept would lead to a line of items with this design and others, using photos as well as art. This stencil isn’t ready for prime time—in fact, stenciling is just not going to work for this—but I had a plan for that. It’s the idea that counts!
In the photo above, the first bag is definitely a nice sky blue. Once they dry a bit more and I can take them outside into natural light to photograph them I’ll get good closeups of all three colors. And any others I find! Below is the original stenciled bag. I have to let the ink on the newly-printed bags set for a few days before I can heat set it, but at some point I’ll be able to safely take good photos of them.
About that word, “Ailurobibliophile”. Yes, I made it up. It popped up in my design consciousness about a decade ago when I was photographing my cats in the cat book library, on the books, in the books, napping, bathing, posing, and I held it there until I had such time to really work it out. Finally, I can let the world know about “ailurobibliophiles”!
What does it mean? Just what it says. My initial idea was just “lover of cats and books”. Then I photographed Basil last August 2017…
…and knew the time had come. This was why it was to be introduced last September, back-to-school, that sort of thing.
As with all my designs, this one is based on a real cat, a cat you know, a cat just being a cat. Just after my Panhandle Trail show last August I started playing around with this photo and others I’d taken that morning at my desk. What I’d really like is to simply screen print it, but adding one more element to my studio in terms of materials and equipment and I’d be falling out the window. I decided I would be stenciling this design to start, much as I dislike stenciling more than a word or two of text, so it had to accommodate the strengths and weaknesses of stenciling. That would mean that the area “inside” a letter, for instance, needed a cutout to connect it to the greater background of the stencil or I’d end up with all the “a”s and “o”s and others filled in. It also meant that things like Basil’s eyes would need to be done separately. I can demonstrate, but I’ll leave it at that for now.
I worked up a few designs, and in doing so found more fun things to add to the text because Basil was “on” the books, and several of the books were “on” cats. Likewise with my photos of cats in the cat book library, and I was just beside myself with the possibilities. I finally managed to edit it down to three statements so I didn’t go on and on.
I settled on one design for layout and used several text variations, then chose two that would work well for stenciling. I couldn’t decide, and I especially wanted to be certain the “new” word was understandable, and the text clarified it, and nothing made anyone think overly hard so it lost its fun and whimsy. I sent it out to several trusted friends for feedback.
We came around to spring when I’d intended to finish off the design and start printing and I had the feeling I had more work to do than it seemed. I really did want to work them out for my open house in July but had way too much work in getting my house ready. In August I played around with designing my little signs instead of working on this, and I’m not unhappy with that. Then came my Panhandle exhibit, and here we are.
And I was right, I had more work to do to get this ready to stencil. I spent some focused hours working it out over a couple of days. I knew it would take more time, but hadn’t anticipated all day, and that it’s cute, but not ready to go.
I preferred the heavier font. I think it balances Basil’s dark shape well. I added the little cuts into the closed letters and cut the stencil. It ended up having too many thin areas between the letters and inside the letters to print clearly so I decided to try my other option, which worked a little better. But I also fund that things like the stack of books would be very difficult to work with because all those white areas are little slivers of clear plastic material with just enough tacky adhesive to make them all stick together in a cluster like a sticky burr, and twist around. And all sorts of other things that made just getting the stencil set up very tedious and would eventually cause me to tear the stencil. So I worked out all the little details that were problems and came up with this final design.
You can see how I reworked the books so I didn’t have all the little plastic flaps, and also the little cuts in the letters. You can also see what happened with the text, fine in the large size, but it just didn’t work smaller. But I really like to see it on a tote bag. From a distance it looks great!
All these little issues are cleared up with the screen. See “Working Out the Details” to see one attempt, and then know that I finally found a company who would actually make a screen for me. They are wonderful, affordable, and have a cat rescuer on staff. So I have the screen, and I haven’t fallen out of the window for lack of space! I’m actually printing in the basement because I need access to water while I’m working and Mariposa is in the bathroom still, I can’t work in the kitchen because my cats would be all over it, and I’ve been intending to turn my basement into a print shop for these reasons and more.
Purchase a tote bag, or two
Ailurobibliophile tote bag is screen printed by me in black ink onto a canvas tote bag. Bags may vary slightly in size, but are just about 13.5″ x 13.5″.
(I am posting this for pre-order using the photos of my stenciled design and some photos from printing them. They need to dry a little before I can fool around with photographing them.)
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