Monday, December 18, 2017

Re-running Top Pinned on Pinterest

Pinterest used to tell us how many times an image had been pinned. They no longer share that information and I'm glad. I spent too much time tracking what was just a silly popularity contest. However, they have a page called analytics where I can see Top Impressions for the last 30 days. This image is at 18,000+. So, it is winning the Dec 2017 popularity contest.

These are envelopes that arrived in 2015 and that I saved to post in Nov of 2016. Top one is from Lynne and bottom one is from Rachael.

Congratulations - you beat me by a lot. Chuck has both 2nd and 3rd place. I finally show up in 4th and 5th place.
Roughly 5,000 plus 4,000 for Chuck's and 3,000 plus 2,000 for mine.

Below is the regular scheduled post for today.
It was off topic. I'll post Chuck's and mine in a day or two.

Eclipse Photo - by Nancy (off topic)

My sister-in-law snapped this photo during her trip to the path of totality. It would make a very cool envelope.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

AnYtHinG goEs to B.sKott & jaNeT

This style of writing appeared on about 20 of the outgoing exchange envelope in Sept. The goal was to schedule October through December (92 days) of posts and take a break.

Then I had to decide if I would show the progression of what happens when I take one style and start playing around. It's impossible to know if anyone even likes this style - so I am just going to sprinkle them here and there.

For some reason the letter E kept popping up in *kindley.* I think I did it on 8 envelopes. On several, I did not notice it. On this one, I did notice it before I even wrote the name, but decided to go ahead and just make several spelling errors for the fun of it.

I also used up a half sheet of Paul Newman stamps. When I ran out, I switched to Andrew Wyeth. The colors are very pleasing to my eye.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Gina's Eclipse Mail to Natalie

Back in early September, Gina sent me an email and these images. She had seen my request for mail to be sent to Natalie.

This is from her email:

My husband and I were in the Path of Totality at Alliance, Nebraska and were stunned and amazed. Of course, I had to make the cards and envelopes ahead of time, but our family and friends were quite pleased to receive them.

There were 2 very nice postal worker ladies at the Alliance P.O. who carefully hand-cancelled each stamp, catching it just on the lower corner. Mailing them was a very satisfying end to a rare experience.

And---the photo of the couple is Gina and her husband.
In my last class we had a conversation about arranging the elements on an envelope. I advise people to stay away from arrangements where there is focus on the corners - and strong diagonals - unless you are looking for a lot of movement. This might be the all time best example for why you would want to create a strong diagonal and put the strongest focal points in the opposite corners.

I also like the way the lettering creates a backdrop.
It is the right scale and fills the right amount of space - by creating a suggestion of a horizon.
Very cool.
Thank you so much for send this, Gina.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Random Scribble to Limner

Something I saw inspired this. I feel like I might have blogged about this already - but maybe not.

So here it is.

I'll flag it [FOLLOW-UP] and hopefully get around to some variations.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Bonus Post - Neiman's Catalogue

Bonus post today because the regularly scheduled post is so boring.

I remember the first time I saw a Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog which they call The Christmas Book. It was at the ad agency where I worked after college. They always had a few big splashy over-the-top items that sometimes made the news.

Recently,  a piece of fabric (from my dwindling stash) that I had hoped to make into something for my granddaughter resurfaced, but, sadly, she is cut off the same bolt as both her mother and myself. The fabric is Pendleton wool and it is very similar to the Burberry plaid. I thought I could knock off a cute Burberry jumper for her. But it is basically camel with black and white and a bit of red. She would recoil in horror. When her mom was 3, her daddy came home from a Grateful Dead concert with a brown t-shirt for our daughter. She threw it on the floor and stomped on it. And when I was little, there were epic battles when my mom tried to get me to wear navy blue anklets with those little red May Janes. The horror.

The fabric is really pretty and I figured I could knock off something from Burberry for myself. Yowza. If you want to see some wild stuff, go look at the current items that Burberry has online. There are some coats that I would wear in a minute. But the actual clothing is way too avant-garde for Des Moines. Neiman's popped into my head when I didn't see anything appropriate at Burberry.

At the Neiman's website, I saw that their Christmas *Book* is available online, so I flipped through to see what they had as their over-the-top gifts. They have a section called Fantasy Gifts (pg 124) - which makes me wonder if anyone ever buys them. On pages 138-139 they have some origami ornaments that are supporting an organization that brings water to people in need of water. You may buy one ornament for $50 or 250 ornaments for $50,000 + you get to choose two locations where they will drill wells + you get an origami master to come to your home and give private lessons and make 5 more ornaments. Interesting gift. I know Mr. Wilson will be very disappointed that his gift budget will not allow him to get this for me.

Link to the catalog - if you think you need those ornaments.
The Christmas Book

Regular post is below.

That Lingering Border Idea (Bumped)

This was left in my stack from the May exchange.

It's funny how crazy I can be for an idea and then a while later it offends my delicate sensibilities. What was I thinking.....

I should learn that when nobody leaves a comment - the idea is a dud.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Exchange Straggler from August - by Eric

Eric sent this in August. It would be fun for me to do a digital design someday...not sure how I can arrange to do that...but Eric's envelope always make me want to at least give it a try.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Lynne's Kraft Flowers

I took a picture of this envelope when it was a muddy mess and I was not sure I could save it. I thought of using this kraft sticker paper and ended up liking it.

However, I can't find a stamp that I like with it....

Below is the icky muddy mess - before I covered it up.

 Here is an off topic tidbit that I like to run during the holidays in case any of you are introverts and need good excuses to decline invitations to holiday gatherings. I did try to find out who wrote it so I can give credit - but, alas, Google has let me down. There are tons of activities that you could insert - in place of the "climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro." Some of us are compelled to tell the truth, so we need to come up with activities that seem plausible. Or actually do things.

 I am somewhat sorry to say that I will be unable to attend your haute holiday gala. I will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and thus compelled to miss out on the warmth and joy that always fill your parties. Once the holidays are past I hope to have a good long visit with you and find out all the party highlights. Please give my sunniest, "Hi there and hello," to your party guests. My best wishes for a happy and utterly Norman Rockwellian holiday.

Remember to wear your mittens.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Dino-dots to Jeanette

Nothing says holidays like a dinosaur.

This is not my favorite of the series. Maybe it just needs some snowflakes. Yeah. That's the ticket. Snowflakes.

Again - there is another post right below - and it is partly or entirely repeat from November when I was having one of my lapses. Or more accurately, when I was in my normal state of chaos.

July Exchangers Rachael, Amy and Nanski

It's fun to see how people arrange stamps when they are using up vintage postage. It is so difficult for me to center the writing that I hardly ever go for the centered arrangement, but IMHO centering makes a very nice envelope. Rachael above, Amy below.

Below, Nanski did some nice centering, too.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Dec Exchange to Smash

Another one that has probably not arrived. I was liking this one - and then did a wretched job on the tiny street/city/state/zip - that is in black ink directly on the envelope under the white bar.

 You'd think that by now I would remember to test any pen or marker before writing on the final envelope - but you would be wrong.

I suppose I should tell the story about how these wacky December envelopes evolved. After a 4 week ordeal of travel/illness/more travel/more illness/houseguests/family obligations/sensory overload....
I seriously contemplated skipping the December exchange. Then, I came to my senses and remembered that puttering at my desk is the antidote for everything. My desk is in the guest room and there was a guest for several days - so I could only sneak in and work when the guest was off doing something. There was no time to do roughs or figure out something that was going to work. I grabbed random envelopes, a tube of gold gouache, a junky paintbrush used only for mixing, and proceeded to do the most random, wonky lettering. I figured I'd do something wacky - like painting myself into a corner - just to see how creative I could be in my effort to get out.

I could care less if anyone likes what I ended up with. I like some of them. A few are a bit weak. But (sorry - I gotta shout here) IT'S NOT THE CONTENT, IT'S THE PROCESS. And I would put some expletives in there if I were an expletiverator. I don't care if anyone agrees with me. I am committed to the concept that Kurt Vonnegut put into these words:

Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

This is just our opinion, but we are right.

July Exchangers KateR, Kristin, and Faye

These might be repeats from November. There is another post for today with something new.

A pretty purple envelope from Kate with dots - very pretty *real* calligraphy done with nibs and ink.

Below Kristin collaged actual strips of fabric. Faye used tape. Below those two is an envelope off Pinterest that gets pinned a lot.  I thought of it when I saw these two and thought you might like some ideas from another blog.

Here is a link to Jillian Schiavi's ideas for envelopes.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

An Absurd Book

I usually avoid stores during the holidays but I needed to find a kid's cookbook and figured it would be better to go to a real store where I could flip through the choices.
Browsing through the books was fun and easy. But then I had to stand in line to check out.
It was painful.

There are very few perks to living in an aesthetic wasteland like Des Moines. The main one is that there is hardly any traffic and you never have to stand in line for anything. So, I was in shock when there were 7 or 8 people in line. Most of them had their phones out to amuse themselves. I try to avoid the screen as a tool to kill time. Instead, I glanced around at items that were for sale.

I almost yelped when I saw this book. Instead, I thought I would just snap a photo and share it with my pen pals. Even though many of you are not calligraphers - I would hope than anyone with a shred of common sense would see the absurdity of this title. I will refrain from further comment. I'm just shaking my head.

There is the matter of the author. I had a fleeting thought of finding out who he is and where he lives and what his background is - but I snapped out of that misguided thought very quickly. And now I will return to my exchange envelopes. Six left to do. I might post a few this month to make up for the pitiful mess that I see popping up.

I had an envelope scheduled to pop up today - but it already ran in November. I have a whole bunch of repeat posts scheduled. What a mess. I'll try to fill in with some new stuff....  Whew. I found time to put in something new. It is right below. One of the rare times when an exchanger will see their envelope before it arrives. Although - I might add something before it gets out the door.

White Space to Rachael

Yesterday in a class, we critiqued exchange envelopes and on a couple we all agreed that the envelope had too much white space at the bottom.

It's challenging to talk about exactly how much space is the right amount. I have a whole series of crazy envelopes in the December exchange and most of them will appear in Feb or March of next year. Obviously I was using up random stamps and experimenting with wacky lettering. Some of the envelopes are way better than this. But, I don't consider this a dud at all. I like things that line up - and fill space - but also leave space.

I am so tempted to add something along the bottom - but I think I will resist the temptation. Since none of my exchange envelopes have anything *holiday* going on - maybe a row of evergreen trees would be fun. Decisions. Decisions.

Friday, December 8, 2017

July Exchangers Smash and Lynne

Two black envelopes arrived in July - Smash on top and Lynne below.

Smash left some space while Lynne filled up all the space.

As I keep saying - the pairing of the exchange envelopes is a bonus to the exchanges. I put myself on all of the lists, which is why I get 20-25 envelopes each month.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

July Exchangers Maggie, Jannie, and Debbie

These three were the plant based designs that arrived in July. I paired the two trees. Maggie's envelope is featured all by itself because I am wildly crazy about her lettering and plan to steal it.

Below, Jannie's envelope is on top and Debbie's is below. They both had clever inspirations from the stamps.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

July Exchangers Kathy and Eric

The pairing of these two is a bit of a stretch. They don't have a lot in common, but I like them together.

Someone asked me to do an exhibition of my work. Years ago, I did a yearly exhibit - but have not done one in years. It was a ton of work because everything had to be framed.

My response to this latest request to do an exhibition was, "Hmmmm. I would consider doing an exhibit on just mail art." I have no idea if they will follow up with me on the idea. But, I am putting these two in my new stack of - *Exhibition pieces if I there is an exhibit.*

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

From Limner - July

The Limner does not participate in exchanges, but we do exchange notes, letters, etc. I like how she labeled her design.

The Limner and I are kindred spirits on a few different levels. And polar opposites on some others. Sometimes I think we are participants in some kind of virtual support group for obsessive-correspondence-disorder. Yes the *other-ocd.* The one that's technically really healthy.

Every time I get a new sample of her penmanship I grab paper and pen and start copying it....

I have no idea how she feels about being called The Limner. I hope she's OK with it - if not, she can let me know and we'll see if I can remember to stop it.

Monday, December 4, 2017

July Exchangers Chuck and Troy

A nice pairing from Chuck (top) and Troy (bottom). Highly annoying that the PO scribbled all over the pretty WPA stamp.

Chuck has been a dedicated exchanger from the very beginning. He usually gets all his borders done by the end of each month so that when he gets his list, all he has to do is fill in the name and address.

If you would like to share some of the pages from your sketch books, Chuck, I'd love to post a few on the blog. I've known Chuck for close to 20 years. I'd have to dig to see exactly when I met him. He was a member of the local calligraphy guild and it was always fun to peruse his sketchbooks at the monthly meetings.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

July Exchanger Alison

Alison gets a solo post for a couple reasons. Color-wise, there was nobody else who worked with the color palette. And the envelope is HUGE. It would dwarf any other envelope. It looks like she folded a piece of scrapbooking paper.

The layout is super stealworthy. It reminds me of the binge I was on when I was filling up the envelopes with mixed borders. It's a great way to use up a lot of vintage stamps. I see myself doing this as I continue on my GSP: Great Stamp Purge.

Or should it be GPS: Great Purge of the Stamps?

Saturday, December 2, 2017

2016 Holiday Mailing from Susan

Happy December.

Susan is a pen pal from the days when we had a local calligraphy guild. Her holiday *cards* are always spectacular. The flip side of the tag that says O Tannenbaum has a personal greeting in her tiny little writing.

That same tiny writing is on the envelope. You'd need to see it in person to really appreciate just how cool it is.

Every little detail is so perfect. The little loop that holds the tree together. Even the spacing on the numbers in the address is way-cool.

Gotta go with a stealworthy label on this one.

She sandwiched the wire ornament between two pieces of that thin foam-paper - plus there was a note enclosed. So there was enough packing to protect the wire, but not so much that it exceeded the postal requirements.

Friday, December 1, 2017

December Exchange Sign Up - scroll tip to Kate

Very faint, still has pencil lines. I found a scroll tip nib in my stash. It's old - came from an estate. People tend to leave items on my doorstep. Mostly they are old and worn. Now I have to get some new ones because it was so much fun to write with it. I had trouble finding the right stamps to go with my indigo ink.

Time to sign up for the December Exchange;

Beginners are welcome. You will get a list of 4-5-or-6 people to send envelopes to. One of them may be out of the US and international mail requires $1.15 postage.

No theme, any medium, digital is welcome. Enclosures are optional. This is an envelope exchange.
Please put your return address on the back and write OPEN if there is an enclosure or EMPTY if there is none. It is also nice to write DEC.2017.PTEX on the back of the envelope for those who may participate in more than one exchange. PTEX stands for Pushing the Envelopes Exchange.

To sign up -even if you have signed up many times- I need name-address-email typed, in upper and lower case. Please follow this format:

John Doe
123 Oak Street
Ames, Iowa 50010

Non-US exchangers - please follow the format that your postal system prefers.

Email the above information to me at;
jmwilson411 (at) yahoo (dot) com

If you are having a birthday in December, let me know. Exchangers have the option to send a birthday themed envelope.
If you are agreeable to be on two lists, let me know. It is nice to have a few people willing to do ten envelopes in order to make all the lists come out even.

Deadline to sign up is December 4. Lists will be sent on Dec 5th or 6th. Please get your envelopes in the mail by Dec 31st. If you are going to be late, please email the people on your list so that we know your envelope will be late.

Any questions - email me.
Beginners welcome. You do not need to be a skilled calligrapher.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

My Tea Set - off topic

I get so mushy when I see this box. There is no date on it, but I received it as a gift when I was 3 or 4. Probably 4. I demanded to learn cursive before I was in kindergarten. From a very early age, the alphabet fascinated me.

When my granddaughter was visiting in October, a month before her 4th birthday, I pulled this out for her to play with. The box is more of a keepsake than the tea set.

It was fun photographing it and I took one photo to use as the base for an envelope. The close up of the lid shows how I was trying to add a fancy swash to the end of my name. I can't imagine why I would have done that. Maybe I had seen swashes in ads in magazines or on logos. The world is full of alphabets and design. Some little kids are noticing those details. Other kids are noticing other things. I wish we had a wide range of school options so that kids could hone in on the very specific details that fascinated them at an early age. It saddens me that so much of our education is cookie-cutter.

I'll print this on a regular paper and turn it into an envelope.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Un-mailable to KateR- Aug Exchange

This was a postcard in the pile of stuff-to-be-sifted. I just can't make myself mail postcards.

Below was a test run on an idea that I still like. I like the top idea, too.

These two will go in another envelope -

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

WIP to Susan - Test Pattern

New idea. Since so many of my envelopes go through different stages and layers, it might be interesting to post them as they progress.

This one started when I needed to test a bunch of markers to find the ones that were still juicy. So the colors are completely random.

At this point I actually like it and would be happy to send it along. The address would go in the space at the bottom.

Next step will be to ponder stamps. Since it is square I think I need 70-cents. The PO keeps changing the rates so it is difficult for me to remember. If I had any sense, I would post the rates on a a Post-It on the front of my computer. Or is that method of keeping important info in front of me out-of-control? Should I post a photo of the front of my computer? I'll tell you right now, there have been some pretty embarrassing notes. This one is now tucked in the top drawer and I still need to check it from time to time.


Those are the four states that may or may not have double letters - after having the note out in the open for 15 years, I almost have them memorized - but I still check myself from time to time.

Monday, November 27, 2017

hApPy biRtHdAy eLLeN

Shout out to my daughter (who has probably never looked at the blog because she is not into mail art) who is turning 37 today. She was born on Thanksgiving so I tend to observe her birthday on Thanksgiving rather than the 27th. Or we celebrate twice.

She lived in Australia for a couple years during which time she hatched my granddaughter so I thought of the two of them when I saw these stamps. Ellen came back with so many fun stories about Australians.

This series of stamps illustrates what a great sense of humor they have. If you Google Australia living together postage stamps you may see more in the series.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Re-Run or Lost in the Piles/Files?

From Jannie for one of the spring exchanges.
I'm always finding images that I am pretty sure have not been on the blog - but I have no way of doing a search. I know there must be some way to get all the images on the blog in one place - but, I have no idea how to do that. At one time, they were all on Picasa - but when Google rolled Picasa over to whatever the rolled Picasa into - I was not able to figure out the new system.

There is nothing to learn from this post. However, if anyone has any suggestions, I'm all ears.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Hanging Scissors (Sat off-topic)

Off-topic, although it does lead to some interesting recycled paper that relates to mail. Also an opportunity to delve into mail art if I ever feel adventurous.

Whilst surfing around looking for ideas for creative mending, I found this site. If I had time, I would become a performance artist and have my little desk in a museum where I would sit and address envelopes. I would have all of my pens and markers hanging over me on retractable cords. I guess I would need an assistant to pull each one down as I needed it. Although, I should probably get up and retrieve the pens on my own as it would be better to get a little exercise.

If you go to the site, you learn that the artist invites the viewers to cut fabric which she then mends. I've been mending clothes because I get holes in some of my favorite shirts and I am looking for creative ways to mend them so that I do not have to find new things.

It gets better.

I Googled to see her current work. Then scanned back over previous work. Discovered a really cool mud-brick house that she built in Nebraska. That reminded me that I need to go visit the sod house that is only open in warm months. I've always wanted to go into a sod house. I've been in a root cellar - which I found to be very need to visit a sod house. I think there is one in Iowa where you can even stay all night.... like AirBNB -- only DirtBNB...or SodBNB

And it gets even better.

Obviously, I wondered where the little house is. That led me to Art Farm. They have many little buildings and offer artist residencies. I could apply to do a mail art project. If I was accepted and went there - my family would have no idea where I was. Only my brother reads the blog and he would not tell anyone. Of course --- they could track me through my cell phone. I might not be able to go that far off the grid.  It is tempting. I'm thinking I want to collaborate with a film artist who would want to make an odd film out of the experience. It seems a little too close to camping....

The opening page is very off-putting, unless you like complicated descriptions. It looks more interesting when you get to the descriptions and photos of the different buildings and studios.

Friday, November 24, 2017

How to Make a Postal Clerk Smile

While drinking my noon cup of coffee, I thought I would schedule a post about a recent visit to the post office. As I stepped up to the counter, the nice lady said, "How may I help you?"
I replied, "I would like to send this priority. There is nothing fragile, liquid, perishable, or potentially hazardous inside. No lithium batteries or perfume."
She smiled and said, "Oh! You know the drill!." She seemed very pleased. I asked her if she got tired of asking the same question all day. She said yes. At that point, she had to point to the little computer thing and say..."It's asking you again."

Anyhow, I thought I would toss out the idea to my readers that maybe you want to memorize the questions so you can make your postal clerks smile. And since every post needs a photo, I Googled *smiling postal worker.* It was pretty exciting to have the very first picture of a clerk at the counter be this one. There were four photos ahead of this one but they were all out-of-doors.

I was so happy to see that this guy is in the Tahoe area, South Lake Tahoe. My son lives in Tahoe City which is the center of the west side of the lake. A while back I posted a photo of a Tahoe area post office that was for sale. Jean's dream: to own her own post office.

Here is an excerpt from a post on one of my other blogs that ties in with this one.

"At the same Brooklyn post office where I saw the boy nearly blinded by the bag, there is, amid the self-inking stamps used to label mail, one that reads “PRETENTIOUSLY HAZARDOUS.” So flawless was this, so in perfect pitch with the light-speed-changing neighborhood in which it sits, that I thought maybe I had dreamed it up. So I returned and there it was again, the accidental poetry of an author within the United States Postal Service, some 625,000 men and women strong..."
quoted from: Ethan Hauser is the author of the novel “The Measures Between Us.”

I might have to make my own rubber stamp that says:
This envelope does not contain anything....etc.
Or maybe I should just write that on an envelope.....

We will return to actual mail tomorrow.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Sol LeWitt Story

The second version of this painting that I worked on.
This is for people who have nothing to do today. And to mention that I am thankful for some of my weirder experiences.

Back on Nov 22, 2016 while blogging about the joy of tedious jobs I mentioned that I had a job watching paint dry that I really enjoyed. Of course, that was only part of the job. Pictured is the two-story mural by Sol LeWitt that is in one of the Wells Fargo buildings in Des Moines. Sol LeWitt was a pioneer in conceptual art. He designed works that could be executed by teams of artists rather than doing the actual work himself. The Des Moines Art Center (our local art museum) bought this work and the first version is layers of ink applied directly to one of the walls in the museum. Over the years, the colors have darkened. Different pigments were used on this project and the colors are even brighter than what they appear to be in this image.

When Wells Fargo needed something for a wall in a new building, the DM Art Center discussed the possibility of doing a second version with Sol LeWitt and he said OK. He sent an assistant to Des Moines to manage the project. It was going to take about 3 weeks to complete and they needed to find people who were available for full time work during those 3 weeks. I didn't know anything about the project until I got the phone call from the director of the museum asking me if I was interested in working on the project. While I had taught at the museum for several years, and had met the director, I was surprised to get a personal phone call from him. I thought to myself, if he is calling me, they must be desperate to find people to work on this project and for such low pay, so I guess I better help them out. As I recall, we were paid less than $10 per hour and the director was apologetic about the skimpy budget.

I arrived for work on the first day and met a very interesting man, Hidemi, who worked for Sol LeWitt. There were 4 other men, all artists whom I had met at the Art Center. I was 50-55 and they were all 30-somethings. Hidemi was closer to my age, but younger. What does age have to do with this? I had not considered what it meant to do work where you had to climb scaffolding. There are two types of scaffolding. The type of scaffolding used for this project, requires workers to climb on the outside of the supports which are vertical and each level has a little gate that you open which also keeps you from falling off. Climbing a vertical ladder is more difficult than the other type of scaffolding which has attached stairs. Also, being able to access different levels is only partly helpful. You must stretch to reach high spots and stoop, kneel, and belly-flop to reach low spots. And then there is that most difficult area where you have to reach the spot obstructed by the floor of the scaffolding. I am not prone to any kind of physical activity, so I knew this was going to be challenging.

Uff da.

The first thing we had to do was draw the lines on the wall. Hidemi gave me the job of creating paper templates. He showed me how to do it starting with plain paper, making folds and figuring out how to make it all square. I knew this was a recipe for disaster, so I got in my car and drove to the art supply store and bought large sheets of graph paper. When I returned he asked me where I had gone. I showed him my perfect templates and he said OK. I had the impression that he was not accustomed to people just charging off on their own.Then he said he had forgotten to bring thread, so we had to find a spool of thread. What I learned about thread and murals was worth the skimpy paycheck. It is the coolest thing ever to be able to create perfect straight lines with thread and masking tape. You just pull it taut and tape it down and voila, you have perfect straight lines. I have used thread -in place of guide lines- on numerous occasions and passed the tip along which has helped many people with the logistics of ruling seating charts and posters - or when writing quote on walls.

We worked in teams of two and my team made the only mistake in the plotting of the squares. It was a really bad mistake and while Hidemi caught the mistake in time to fix it, there are still some tell-tale signs that I can point out. Hidemi did not make us feel bad about the mistake, but he also was not generous with any kind of positive comment. He was a steady stream of tips on how to make the work better. At the very end, the stronger, more athletic guys had to hang off the outside of the scaffolding to paint the black borders. We did not mask off all the squares, so there were some dots of splashed ink that had to be removed. This was beyond tedious and body breaking to reach these areas and carefully remove the black with an X-acto knife. This was also the last bit of work and people were burned out and finding excuses to not show up. I think I was the only one who showed up faithfully for full days and chipped away at the splats. One time, he passed by and said, "Good." It was the only time I heard him say anything close to approval. Although he might have been complimenting the heck out of the other guys in a very quiet way. He was like a ninja the way he scrambled around on the scaffolding. You'd think he was on the lower level and then - bam- there he was, on the top level looking over your shoulder. The rest of us were so clunky when we were going up and down that the whole scaffolding would shake a bit. When you moved from level to level, you had to carry your bucket of ink along. This added a layer of difficulty to the climbing.

The actual painting was a process using ink that was mixed up in 5-gallon buckets (or maybe 10-gal - they were about 18-in tall, but the ink filled only about a third of the bucket. Red, yellow, blue and black. Each bucket had a rag and there was a specific process for swirling the rag to mix up the ink which settled very quickly, wringing out the rag, then making a uniform wadded shape that fit in your hand. Each section was assigned a color and the colors were built up of different layers of color. A simple blue shape might be 4 applications of blue, and each application had three layers. the first layer was swished on in loopy figure eights. The second layer was daubed. The third layer was another swish. So, there was a total of 12 layers for a plain blue section and you had to wait for each layer to dry before adding the next layer. I do not recall how long it took to dry. Maybe 15 minutes.

Some colors were built up using combinations of colors and there was a recipe or road map for each square with designation like Red, Blue, Red, Black. At one time I remembered which color had the most layers, but I have forgotten. I believe there are books that have the recipes for Sol LeWitt's artwork. Each section had to be taped off. Some sections had many more pieces to be taped off and took much longer. The tape had to be sealed with a couple layers of clear sealer before the ink layers began. At first, there was always an area that needed work. Towards the end, working on the last sections, there were times we just had to sit and wait for sections to dry. I remember that someone came from the local paper to do a story on the project and wanted some action shots. We were at a point where we were waiting for the ink to dry and I think we were a bit surly about why we were not going to drag ourselves over and pretend we were working....somewhere I have a copy of the article...

I wore the same jeans every day and they completely wore out. If the project had lasted longer, I would have needed another pair of pants. I remember being tired at the end of each day, but did not ache so much that it was painful to go to work. Towards the end, all the climbing was easier. I did find a pair of knee pads that I wore every day. And -yes- I know I sound like a completely wimpy, milquetoast, pampered ding-dong.

On the first day of the job, Hidemi asked us to write down our names and addresses. I figured we would get a personal thank you note from the studio of Sol LeWitt. Uh - no - thank you note. Something much, much better. An original gouache painting, signed by Sol LeWitt. Yowza. It was a spectacular thank you and more than made up for the skimpy paycheck.

Another funny tidbit. Over the course of the three weeks, I kept asking Hidemi if he wanted to go to the museum and see the original work. He kept declining. Finally, towards the end, I insisted that we all treat ourselves to lunch at the Art Center restaurant and see the original. Hidemi agreed. We trooped in to eat lunch in our super grubby work clothes alongside the ladies-who-lunch in their super not grubby clothes. Then we trooped over to see the original. Hidemi pondered it for a while and then said, "I should have come over and looked at it earlier." I have always wished I knew why he said that. But, by that time, I learned that he was a man of few words and asking questions seemed too intrusive. Maybe I just didn't know the proper way to ask questions. I asked him if he wanted to look around the museum. He said, "No." Then I asked if he wanted to stop and see my studio. I had something to show him. He said, "OK." What I wanted to show him was a drawing I had done when I was right out of college. It was a version of a Sol LeWitt piece that I had seen in an art magazine. It had a little code for how to construct the piece. It was made up of layers of Red, Yellow, Blue and Black parallel lines. He studied it, as if he was checking to see if I had followed the recipe. He said, "Yes. You got it right." Thank you. (Rolling my eyes. I didn't need him to tell me whether I can follow a recipe. Although he might have been recalling that I was one of the two people who were responsible for the biggest mistake on the wall. I think he should be included - three of us are responsible - I guarantee you, if I had been project manager, I would have proofed those pencil lines very carefully before proceeding with the next step - she said with her 20-20 hindsight.)

And with that, we were finished and my name is on the little plaque that tells who the artist is and who executed the work.

Not the end of the story. A few years later, another building in town needed a mural. They contacted me and I said, "Sorry, I am too old to work on scaffolding. However, I think I know some people who would be happy to work on it if you pay them a decent wage. So, I rounded up a bunch of artists and negotiated an hourly rate that was closer to $25-35 and they were all very happy to get started. I went down on the first day just to check in and give them tips. I noticed that it was a three story mural and I could see that the additional height would make it very dangerous for the workers to be climbing on the outside. I did not check the OSHA rules, but I was pretty certain that it would not have been OK with them. I recalled that on the first project, there were office workers who could see us working and  they were so concerned about the leaning over the edge to reach areas they called someone who came and told us to stop being so reckless. Somehow I convinced the project manager on the second project to call the scaffolding company and get a stairway added to the outside. The second Sol LeWitt mural in Des Moines was much easier because each layer was painted. I do not recall if they did more than one coat of paint on each section.

The sad part of the story is that shortly after this project was started, Sol LeWitt passed away. So, while the workers were paid better, they did not get the special thank you artwork from Sol. Apparently he did not have a stack of thank you paintings sitting around.

So, that's my story.
If I ever get tired of envelopes I think I might make a quilt that looks like the painting.

The original version of the piece that is in the Des Moines Art Center - that I did not work on.
I worked on the second version of this one..

The second Sol LeWitt piece that I did not work on.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Paul Newman + Frilly Border to Chuck and Troy

The September exchange started out with Jean and her stack of experiments. There were two envelopes with frilly gold borders. There was a half sheet of Paul Newman. I thought that Paul and the frilly order was an absurd combination so I had to find an equally absurd style of writing.

I toyed with the idea of placing the stamp lower -on Troy's- and putting a thought bubble over Paul saying, "That Jean has lost her mind." But I knew that I did not want to add the shape of thought bubbles into the mix, so I left well-enough alone. Not that these are *well-enough*  -- maybe absurd-enough.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tennis Ball to Carol

Really specific descriptions in the titles might be just the solution I am looking for in my organizational problem.

I have nothing to say about this. I don't love it nor does it annoy me. It's just one of the 30 I did in September. The exchanges are usually 20-25 people. If I get more than 30, I am not sure I will be able to exchange with everyone. If I do not exchange with everyone - how will I decide who goes on the lists that do not exchange with me. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.

There is a very predictable arc to my exchange envelopes. The first 5 are ho-hum. Then I get on a roll and a bunch of them are to-my-liking. Then I fall off the wagon and they no longer please me, so I stop. Sometimes I redo the ones that do not please me - but sometimes I have to just grit my teeth and mail them.

Monday, November 20, 2017

From Limner - Doily + Dots

This one is mesmerizing in person. Doily dotting, Then a sky filled with dots. GW looking pretty pleased with his placement. Sadly, the PO ran their barcode across the bottom.

The doily wraps around to the back. More dots. I really like the variety of silver and gold and different weights.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

From Amy - July Exchange + Using Up an Odd Stamp

This envelope had a note enclosed indicating that AmyS was not entirely pleased with this envelope. I like everything about it and if someone said I had to make a suggestion for improvement, I can only think of one thing to mention that is the thing that I have the most trouble with and that is centering the words within a centered design. It drives me crazy. While I like the idea of centering everything - if it does not come out just right - it. drives. me. crazy.

I'm a big fan of uber-out-there lettering.

Amy's will appear again in December. I've been pairing these will-be-repeaters with something that I sent to them and I do not have one to post to AmyS - so I will post one that went to CathyO that was close to not even being posted on the blog. It relates to Amy because a long time ago Amy gave me a huge stack of vintage stamps. I've had a whole sheet of these stamps and they have been very difficult to use since it is not a topic that I care to joke about - nor do I want to send it to someone who might find it a difficult topic to just show up. So - when I had another one of these playing-with-my-new-bottle-of-McCaffrey's-ink -- and I couldn't think of something really nice to finish the envelope - I jumped on the opportunity to use up the stamps. I like monochromatic themes. I think I enclosed a note explaining that I just needed to use up the stamps and hoped they were not offensive. CathyO is a retired postal worker and I figured that made her the perfect recipient. She could roll her eyes and recall that not every postal decision was a fantastic one. I guess the biggest problem I have with the stamp is the tag line *You can beat it!* As if a person was going to use the stamp to send invitations to an intervention??

So the next thing I wondered was when were postal rates 18-cents for one ounce. March of 1981 until November of 1981. Very short time span for a rate.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Orange Spheres from KathyS - White Ink on Kraft to Kathy

I love the spheres - but I'm not sure what they are. I want to say persimmon, but I have no idea how persimmons grow and I suppose they should be pointed on the bottom...maybe they are symbolic of all things spherical and edible.

Love the branch - love the J

Kathy treats herself to very nice envelopes. It's a smart thing to do. If I ever use up all my cheap envelopes I plan to treat myself and my fellow exchangers to only nice envelopes.

Kathy's orbs will pop up again in December - so below is one that will not be repeated - ever. It was so blah. I thought parting with favorite stamps would give it adequate ooomph. Sadly it is still boring and I wish I would have used one or more hefty black stamps.