Briar Press

Briar press garamont birds
Garamont birds

Briar press has been a long time favourite of mine. They are dedicated to preserving the letterpress, so there’s a lot of printing chat on their forums, but they also scan ornaments and initials from specimen books and convert them into vector line art. Most of these ‘Cuts & Caps’ as they call them, are free to download for non-commercial use. It’s a treasure trove of pattern and illustration!CM Briar Press


Some of my 'Skitched' images

Come and have a look at some of the images I have been Skitching

Skitch is a very cool little Mac app that makes blogging images a breeze, and I love it! It’s also a neat way of keeping a little scrapbook of clipped images which can be commented upon.

The (slow) progress of the folk art tree!

Tree sketch
My pencil sketch of half of the tree

I’m just reporting back on the progress of the folk art tree I was talking about in the last post. It has felt very slow, although I actually only started it during the middle of last week! Some of it has been a bit tedious…

I started with a pencil sketch of the basic tree shape. I only drew half of it because I wanted it to be symmetrical, and I knew that once I had imported it into Illustrator I could easily copy and reflect it to make it a symmetrical tree.

Once I had drawn it I outlined it in pen and rubbed out the pencil lines to make a clearer scan. I scanned it and took it into Illustrator. I’m fairly new to Illustrator, although I’ve been using vector software of various types for a long time. I bought it for my birthday and am loving it! I’m still finding my way around a little bit though.

I used the ‘live trace’ feature to convert the scanned outline into vector lines. Up to now I’ve been using live trace to scan hand drawn artwork because I wanted to keep the irregular hand-drawn quality of the images. Live tracing using the ‘fill’ option gives you lots of filled in shapes which maintain the irregularities but this time I wanted to trace the line accurately. Tracing using the ‘stroke’ option gives you a single line and a much smoother result.

Tweaking live trace paths
Tweaking live trace paths

Once I had the outline shape I needed to mess around with it a bit to make sure all the lines were smooth and all the anchor points were in the right place.

Tree outline
Tree outline

Up to this point I still only had half a tree, so I copied the shape, reflected it and merged them together to create the tree. Don’t ask me why it’s pink – I was anxious to fill it quickly to see what it looked like so I just chose the first colour that I landed on!

Adding the details
Adding the details

Now I could start adding some of the details. I drew some other small shapes that I knew I wanted to use and scanned and traced those too. I started adding some of them to the trunk of the tree.


Filling out the tree
Filling out the tree

The next step was to fill out the branches of the tree with some other details. Again I started by adding them to only one side of the tree so that I could copy and reflect them onto the other side later. At this point I was wondering how I was going to reproduce the final image. Originally I had planned to print it, but I thought it might be good to fire up the Craft Robo again and try cutting it out of card to mount as a silhouette, as the traditional papercutters would have done. The trouble with this is that you have to pay attention to the formation of the image so that all the pieces are joined together, and also technically it’s a a lot more work because all of the individual shapes have to be merged into one so that there is a single outline for the cutter to trace.

The framed tree
The framed tree

I’m at the point where it has taken a long time already and I now have to decide whether to persevere and cut it out. I’ve added a frame which would be needed if I did cut it out, but I still have to merge all the shapes together in Illustrator if I want to do that. Watch this space!

Folk art papercutting

I have just unearthed a book that my Granny gave to me when I was a child, all about folk art designs that have been cut from paper. From time to time I take it out and use it for inspiration, and I’ve been thinking about it again recently, because there are a lot of folk art designs about at the moment. I’m thinking particularly of Sanna Annukka, and her wonderful M&S Christmas trees, and also Rob Ryan, who is a current day embodiment of paper-cutting skill (Incidentally I was reading an article about him yesterday in the Guardian online). I’ve taken a couple of snapshots on my phone because I was too lazy to go upstairs and scan them in, so forgive the quality.

Folk Art Designs Book Cover
The front cover of the folk art designs book

It’s when you think about how these designs were produced that you realise why they were symmetrical and that is because they were cut from folded paper. The nearest I have ever got to this is producing snowflakes with the children at Christmas! If you have ever done that you will soon appreciate the skill in some of these designs, which are very intricate. The one below is one of my favourites, and would be very popular today, with its birds and deer:

Swiss papercut design in the style of Johann Jakob Hauswirth
Swiss papercut design in the style of Johann Jakob Hauswirth

According to Ramona Jablonski, the author of the book, this is a Swiss design in the style of one of the masters of Swiss papercutting, Johann Jakob Hauswirth (1807-71). Ok, I’ve just Googled and got lost in a wonderful array of info about papercutting and this artist in particular. His work is incredible! There’s no Wikipedia info on him though – perhaps it’s time to create some. I also came across this article by Florence Forrest from Australia, who also has a fantastic Etsy shop. The Japanese example in her article is just wow! There is also Jupi’s Art, which has beautiful artwork and also some history. Particularly useful there is the round-up of various names for papercutting art around the world (at the bottom of the page I have linked to). Some more Googling fodder there, I think. How many superlatives did I put in that last section? 🙂 Can you tell I enjoyed that little creative excursion?

Hauswirth papercutting
'Bauernleben (farmlife) mit Alpaufzug' by Hauswirth

I got carried away there. I’m supposed to be creating and not blogging! I’m trying to do something to commemorate the birth of all my new nieces and nephews – two girl twins and a boy recently, with another niece on the way. I have plenty of inspiration now. I’ll let you know how I get on…

High street felt embellishments

High street felt embellies
Felty goodness from Paperchase and John Lewis
  1. Paperchase felt table scatter, £2.75 (The description says ‘multi-coloured’ although the picture is in red??)
  2. Paperchase felt table runner, £8.50
  3. John Lewis floral felt coaster, £1.25
  4. John Lewis floral felt placemat, £5 (also available in green)
  5. John Lewis floral felt placemat, £4 (also available in green)
  6. John Lewis floral felt placemat, £3.50 (also available in black)

I’m always on the lookout for things that can be used for creative purposes and I love it when I find something that inspires me. Very often embellishments that are produced for scrapbooking are quite expensive for what they are, and in these straightened times…

A couple of years ago I found some felt placemats in John Lewis that I cut up to use for scrapbooking. I was pleased to see when I visited recently that they were still stocking something similar, and Paperchase also have some lovely felt things this Christmas. In the image above I’ve messed about with the scale of the images to fit them into the collage, so some are actually large – like the table runner, and some are quite small, like the coaster.