Observational Robot

While following numerous illustrators, artists, comic book artists and animators for the past year or so, I managed to accumulate a number of interesting Photoshop brushes. Work has calmed down a bit, so I’ve been taking time to play around with them.

I’ve been drawing the toys that live on my desk at work and emailing them off to my friend Ruby. First off was this sketch (in non-photo type blue) of a pencil sharpener robot that she’d bought me.

One day, these Ceylons will have buttons

(mostly) Finished Ceylon Added pocket Added cuff band

Pattern: Colette Patterns Ceylon
Materials: Heather Bailey, Nicey Jane Hop Dot Sky
Modifications: Pattern fitted to my measurements. Modified sleeve (added cuff band) & added pocket.
Start Date: Spring 2012
End Date: Still needs buttons :/

(mostly) Finished Ceylon Added collar

Pattern: Colette Patterns Ceylon
Materials: I think it’s a Moda dot?
Modifications: Pattern fitted to my measurements. Added collar & modified/slightly de-puffed sleeve.
Start Date: Spring 2012
End Date: Still needs buttons :/

The one down side to my awesome old sewing machines is that I can’t easily make button holes. I also have a special desire to have a closet’s worth of amazing shirt dresses. I should probably figure out a solution one of these days. In the meantime, here are some (mostly) finished dresses that keep hanging around patiently for me.

Summer Dresses – Vogue 9728

Finished Vogue 8728

Pattern: Vogue 8728
Materials: Nani Iro 2012 Fuccra grey
Modifications: Pattern fitted to my measurements. Skirt cut to knee length.
Start Date: Early Summer 2012
End Date: Early Summer 2012

Finished Vogue 8728

Pattern: Vogue 8728
Materials: Peach ‘n Pink dots
Modifications: Pattern fitted to my measurements. Skirt cut to knee length.
Start Date: Early Summer 2012
End Date: Early Summer 2012

Here’s a couple of dresses that I made last year. Both of these were finished by summer. They were favourites for that season and anytime I needed a summer memory pick-me-up. Wearing the polkadot version with black tights and my saddle oxfords makes me feel like I should be a tap-dancing Minnie Mouse.

The one thing I wish I’d learned in school

As a Production Artist, I see A LOT of other people’s working files and it’s my job to make take these files and “magically” transform them into producible artwork. I’ve been doing this job for 5 years now and there are things I see that make me laugh. Often it’s a real challenge to go through someone else’s files & folders just to try and find the final version in the first place. But that’s a whole other story. But the real joke is on me because I’m the one who takes these files, fixes them up to build the final artwork used to produce the thing. (Really I laugh, shake my head, and then get to work).

A lot of the time, I end up rebuilding the entire document using what was provided as a transparent guide. It can be easier than wading through a disorganized file, sometimes with dozens of no longer used layers that are hidden, but not discarded.

But no one really teaches us how to work. We’re taught theory and process, but not organization. I would guess that most of us only learn the hard way how to be organised. Like that time I lost 3 months of travel pictures by deleting the originals after down sampling them for my blog (I only have the web versions now, better than completely lost).

I’ve learned so much in the 9 years that I’ve been working. Especially by working with other very organized people. I’ve been very lucky to work with terribly organized and talented people who have been willing to teach & share. It’s amazing what a difference that has made in how I work. It’s hard for me to even remember how I would work before.

This got me thinking about when I was in school. Cringing at how I used to work back then. All of the terrible things I come across as a Production Artist, I have totally done in the past. Especially when I was a student. Yes, I did use to build EVERYTHING in Illustrator (even websites). Yes, I would work on endless versions and variations in the same document. Sometimes all around the edges of the artboard. Sometimes on million and a half different layers on top of one another, never labelled. Sometimes, paranoid that a document would become corrupted, I would begin a new one. Changing the name to “New” or “NEW NEW” or “Final NEW Aardvark.” Yes, I had to learn the hard way, time and again, to save every now and again while working on something. Not to work directly from a server. Fortunately all lessons learned as a student.

I didn’t even touch InDesign until one of my last projects of University, when we had to a class project to produce a booklet that actually got printed. Oh, and there was that one project where I figured out I could change the names of layers in Illustrator and spent hours going through every object & labeling it for some reason. I was wary of Photoshop and it’s non-scalable pixels for the longest time, saving only high resolution TIFFS when only pixels would do.

Yes, I totally gave my files random names like “aardvark” and “stuff”. I used to work on projects at school, then copy EVERYTHING onto my iPod (back when they could also be portable hard drives) and put ALL of that on my computer at home. Then take it back to school again. How did I ever manage to keep things straight? Well, I didn’t. I just kept working.

Old Folders Screenshot

Look at these file names. Sometimes there’s a date. Sometimes I just added a 2, or sometimes some extra letters? And trust me, you do NOT want to see what is in each of those folders. I couldn’t even tell you. I was a last minute monster and never took the time to go through & clean things up. Trust me I’m much more organized now.

Business card versionsI couldn’t even tell you now which of these business card design iterations I finally handed in. I think I couldn’t ever decide on which colour scheme to go with and handed in a system of 20 cards or something. It’s ok. They gave me business cards at work.

So what would I tell my younger self? What would the subject of my talk be to help shape the minds of Design’s future? Work smart. Work clean. And for the love of GOD, keep your shit organised.



No signs of stopping

The light is so nice right here. <3

Unfortunately despite my desires to catch things back up over here, things have continued as they had before I left for the Holidays. I think I’m going to have to abandon the idea of catching up on last year. Not sure just yet. But rest assured that I have been indulging in as many crafterday activities as I can muster at the moment.

The Good Ships of Crafterday.

It’s an all too important part of stress management to be skipped entirely. The need to make & create is too strong to be ignored entirely 😉

Tropical Tradition

Yes, we woke up to this view everyday. This is why I make it my business to travel halfway around the world once a year when remotely possible.

It’s not the usual Christmas tradition, but it’s become ours. We figured out that we’ve been going to Hawaii off and on for 17 years now (almost every year). Not everyone can make it each time, my brother wasn’t able to this time. And some years my parents go on their own for spring break, like when their children get nostalgic for prairie winters. But this is one holiday tradition that isn’t hard to participate in.

What did we do while we were there?

  • go to the beach like it’s our job
  • got chased by 3 sea turtles
  • I stepped on a bee
  • fell asleep in the sun
  • read nearly 6 books
  • knit a pair of socks
  • watched so many movies, including Django Unchained, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, On the Road, Hyde Park on Hudson, Silver Linings Playbook and Promised Land at the Maui First Light Film Festival
  • drank many tropical drinks
  • got carded when we finally went out to a restaurant
  • played countless rounds of Dutch Blitz
  • reclaimed an email address I haven’t used in 7 years
  • ate lots of lobster, steak and orange cheese
  • went for hippie pizza with Luna & Sam

The beach where we usually put in our daily shift.

My Dad practicing the ukelele.

And I also posted a bunch of pictures on Instagram (which also got posted over here on Flickr).

IMG_2353 IMG_2309 IMG_2303 IMG_2300 IMG_2295 IMG_2282


Tropical Tradition

Fall & Early winter ended up being really quite busy. Unfortunately that means crafting took the back seat again. So much so that I had no idea what craftivities to even pack and take with me.

I’m currently partaking in my family’s rather awesome tradition of running away to Hawaii for Christmas. A great escape that makes all the hectic running around during the year that much more bearable.

While most active crafty blogs take this chance to pause and reflect, I’ve been rather too out of step to really reflect. And too far away from everything to really catch up on things at the moment. As ever, I have been making things but (again as has become the new habit) I’m behind in recording things. So I guess I have to postpone my reflections until later.

And hopefully I don’t get too caught up into the busys once I get back to Montreal. That’s the one thing I really don’t want for 2013. By invoking the “busys”, I’m not trying to say that this space or that crafting & making isn’t of importance to me. The opposite really. it means that other parts of my life have (annoyingly) been demanding too much of my attention and energy, which sucks. I’d like 2013 to have less of me face-planting on my bed when I get home. Rushing around is SO not my thing.

Finally Quilting

So way back in June of 2011, I started fussy cutting some unicorns and started putting together some blocks. Slowly but surely from then until lets say August of this year, I put together enough blocks to make a queen sized quilt top. I don’t have many pictures of the block assembly, but I’ll still tell you how things went down on this project.

Though I loved the colourful blocks, they started to look rather too busy and overwhelming all on their own. So I decided when I was nearly halfway to make complimentary muslin bordered blocks to alternate with the colourful ones.

Back in May, I went into intense production mode on the muslin blocks while out in the Quebec countryside in Charlevoix during a long weekend. When I got back, I realised that I only had a handful of blocks left in order to have a finished quilt top!

Scrappy Block

At this point excitement really kicked in. Having borrowed a friends floor to lay out all the blocks, I made a very scientific analysis of the balance of colours in the quilt and determined what there needed to be more of. Finished said remaining blocks. Then on an intense crafturday, I went through and re-trimmed all the blocks (moderately epic), then proceeded to leave them in a nicely trimmed pile for at least a month, if not two before attacking them on a sewing Saturday.

Rather than going through hours of possible quilt layouts on the floor, I decided to continue the “not too precious” process of this quilt. I separated the colour combinations into separate piles and systematically sorted the blocks into rows. After sorting them, I looked through them briefly to prevent too many repeating colours in the same row. Then I went to town sewing them together. By the end of the day I had a finished quilt top.

My brother let me raid his stash of fabrics to put together the quilt back. I combined some crazy 30’s reproduction rabbits with some pink woven ginghams and mystery fibre denim for the backing.

Quilt Back

I’ve really earned the quilting moniker of Miss Cut while working on this quilt. At many stages in the process, I’ve stopped thinking just long enough to screw up my cutting. All the quilt blocks are bigger than originally planned because my quilting ruler is 6 inches wide and not 5 (Miss Cut number one). When making the backing strips, I forgot to start measuring at the 0 on my cutting mat (not the first time THAT’s happened either) and had to sew an extra seam to get the proper width needed (Miss Cut number 2). THEN when measuring for the final length of each strip, I totally came up with some random number that wasn’t long enough and ended up with extra seams again! (Miss Cut number 3).

Not that it really matters in the end. The quilt is pretty scrappy even without a few extra seams here and there. It’s pretty funny how I seem to lose my brain completely at some stages of the process.

It's (almost) a quilt!

So I managed to get the back done in time to spend Canadian Thanksgiving weekend putting together the quilt sandwich. And because I’m a giant nerd, spent nearly a day trimming all the extra threads from the seams and raveled edges of the fabric before finally basting it together. Those little raveled threads at the edge of a project are my number 1 pet peeve, and I just couldn’t knowingly leave them on the inside of the quilt. Not that it really matters, they’re on the inside of the quilt where no one will see them, but I’ll know that they’re there. It’s like a Tell-Tale Heart thing.

So since Thanksgiving (mid October), I’ve been hand-quilting this quilt. And I’m even going as far as echo quilting the muslin blocks. I tried one block and love the result so much that I find it totally worth the extra effort.

<3 hand quilting ripples.

I’m sure some people will think I’m nuts for hand-quilting this, but they probably haven’t seen my slowly-growing Hex-a-quilt that I’ve been working on since the spring of ’09. I much prefer the look of hand quilting to machine quilting, so it’s worth the extra time and effort. And half the blocks have reasonable outline quilting in crochet cotton, which is remarkably fast to do. I often finish quilting 3 or 4 blocks in an evening.

Quilted Block

Outline Quilting Detail

Quilted Block

From the sketchbook

I was flipping through one of my sketchbooks this week and took a snap of these swirlies. I often feel like adding a tail flourish to text doodles and when they’re not quite what I wanted, I descend into infini-swirls and can’t quite stop.

There are many of these to be found back in my high school notebooks. Needless to say I was often bored. I always intend to go back and extract the best doodles from that period. I made myself stop & take furious notes once I got to University. It’s a hard habit to get back into.

Lapin Pressé: a little preview

It’s been quite some time since I’ve done any freelance work, but recently my brother got me to help him “consolidate his brand” (or “relaunch” or whatever you want to label it) for his café le Lapin Pressé here in Montreal.

The punch line is I helped them out with some new signage for the café introducing their new combo called “La Totale”. There’s still more pieces to be done, but the pressure for the big launch is over.

This was my first time working on a chalkboard illustration & layout. I used projected lines & outlines of the illustration to figure out the layout. Yeah, I suppose that’s cheating, but the position of the chalkboard doesn’t make freestyle drawing terribly easy.

Full chalkboard menu at the Lapin Pressé