Category Archives: Art Habit

State of the Art: Making the Zine

Making a zine is usually a pretty easy endeavor. You write up the contents, do your layout and print and bind. And most of the time it goes smoothly.

Not this time. I’m not sure what happened to my head when I was collating the covers and sheaf of paper that makes the single signature of the pages, but in half of the zines I bound (60!) I reversed the sheaf, so the first page was 9 and page 1 and 16 were in the middle of the book. UGH. I didn’t notice until I had stapled all of them and folded half the zines that I’d already stapled.

I pulled 120 staples with a pair of needle nose pliers. I use a jig to staple so I was easily able to get most of the staples in the original holes.

Mostly this was annoying because it added about 45 minutes of work and a fair amount of aggravation that I hadn’t checked to be sure the sheaf were aligned properly. Lesson learned, the next zine will get double and tripled checked before stapling.

Also, you can get the latest copy of Useful Journaling on my Ko-Fi page here.

On Making Things: Tearing Down to Repair

Last Friday I told you about the Printer, in passing. I was gifted a 10 year old Samsung ColorXpressions laser printer. It’s a 4 color printer and on the outside in great shape. I remember my Mom buying it for herself way back when and being super jealous of it. New, it made amazing prints, clean, crisp and clear.

When my mom cleaned out her classroom the printer came home with her and sat in a pile, she had neither the time nor excitement to set it up at home. To be frank she didn’t want to. They had another printer and after 10 years the excitement was gone. 

She knew I’d probably continue  to use it, so she offered it and a box of 4 brand new unopened toner carts to me. I didn’t think before I said yes.

Then I brought it home and let it sit, for another… 6 months at least.

Then we set it up and the printing was a mess. Clearly it needed a new drum. I searched out and found that the printer itself was discontinued as were the parts for it. Then I found rebuild kits for the drum, and finally, a drum itself for not too much. Ordered. And still the printers were a mess and the machine would not pick up cardstock.

Disappointed I looked at color laser printers, and used ones on Craigslist and Marketplace, whoa, expensive. I hadn’t realized what a gift this machine really was.More research, and I found that there’s another part called the image transfer roller- a belt of some kind of plastic that transfers the image to the paper. I could clean it! 

First impressions were that mine disconnected in a different way from the video I watched, so I did a halfway cleaning, and things were better. 

Finally I decided to remove a few screws, and voila! I could see where everything connected and was able to disconnect the roller and remove it from the machine. I then sat down with rubber gloves, rubbing alcohol, and rags and proceeded to clean off the transfer roller. I took it apart and took it outside and let the dust blow away, and then wiped down the whole thing with alcohol. I took the moment to clean out the dust from the machine itself, there were streaks of toner everywhere. The alcohol picked it up and cleaned it out.

Then I put it back together and did a test print. I was hopeful, but worried I’d need to buy a new part. A quick search showed the parts to rebuild the transfer belt range from $80 to $200, depending on the part. Given the cost of a new printer, that is a feasible investment.

The prints that emerged at first were crisp and clean and perfect. I did a few more test prints and a few covers for some possible No Brand Notebook covers, and the results were pretty clear, but it was also apparent that years of use had warped the scraper bar inside the transfer unit. I won’t lie, this was disappointing, but also not horrible. I’ve found that if I print the same image for a few prints (the intended use of this machine anyway) that I get nice clear prints and it takes 3 prints to get clear prints.

But it is also an easy fix, also cheap. A new scraper bar costs around $10, and replacing it is pretty easy. So after the next issue of UJ I’ll be replacing that. Mostly the wait is that I have to wait for the bar to arrive. The best place to find them has been A1Xpress or ebay and I simply have to wait for it to arrive from China.
Another great thing about the printer is that because it is old, the market is flooded with a variety of remanufactured toner cartridges. They range from ridiculously cheap to pretty expensive. This means I’ll be able to keep printing UJ with pops of color and hopefully some color inside, at a relatively cheap price.

I’m optimistic that I can keep this printer running for a good long time with careful repairs.

Week o’ Links

One of the many things I left behind when I stopped blogging as much was my link love posts. Since I’ve been doing more reading of blogs (yay for more time?) I have stuff I want to share again. Don’t expect this to be regular, nah week links will be totally irregular.
I was on Erasable having a conversation about NaNoWriMo with Johnny of Pencil Revolution and Harry of Home Work and other goodies. It was a great conversation.

Brad of a little podcast called The Pen Addict mentioned Useful Journaling, Pencil Revolution, and The Word Distro on his podcast. Awesome, everyone should read zines, especially mine, and Johnny’s and Ed’s.

I’ve been reading about bookbinding again. When did I ever stop? Alisa Golden <3 posted this single sheet binding technique that makes me think about zine possibilities… Just sayin’. Also, a snake book, a pretty common structure that I’ve seen again and again in many books. Here’s a nice art journal format.

The Comp book reviews keep pulling folx over to using the finest cheapest of stationery goods- the composition book. The Write Experience has the right experience with a classic- the Pen+Gear composition notebook all the way up in Canada.


On Making Things: Return to Roots

If you’ve been reading CSS for more than the last few years, you realize this blog didn’t start out as a review site. I started out blogging about a break up and my attempts to find my footing in my new single life. It quickly morphed into an exploration of art, journaling, and bookbinding. Soon the old title of the blog no longer fit and I chose Comfortable Shoes Studio as an homage to a gag project I’d made in college. I moved my blogging to CSS and the transition was easy.

Here I started to write about my art and other projects. I was open about sales, ranted about eBay and PayPal fees increasing and all the other issues that occurred with being an artist and craftsperson online. Through all of it I was open and transparent about the business side of things and about the process of making art and art journaling.

Reviews were (are) a side effect of making art and writing. I did product reviews because I was making art and using the materials and readers had questions.

Then life got complicated. Work got complicated. I went back to school. I changed jobs, a couple of times. I made less art, but I had a lifetime of using art materials and could write reviews with much less effort than writing about making art, which I was making less and less of. As for bookbinding? I do less of that than ever because my wrists and hands ache after a binding session, the act  of pulling a needle through paper and board causes pain like no other. So I just don’t do as much of it as I used to, it hurts too much, and if I’m honest, it hurts a lot to think about not being able to bind like I once did.

I’ve gone back and looked at some of my old posts, posts where I’ve “shown my work” when it comes to art, zines, and the business of art. Now that I’m in a more stable place in my life I hope to reclaim some of my writing about more than just reviews.

I wanted to write a bit about the creation of Useful Journaling. While it is a culmination of a lifetime of journaling, it is also about teaching myself how to paginate and do layout for printing and binding. In the past I have always done my layout with a physical original. I’d cut and trim things to a paper copy and make a first really good copy of that which I’d print from. I really like the physical aspect of making a paper original copy. There is something really nice about sitting down with a glue stick and craft knife and making that first original. 

I like learning things, I saw learning how to do layout on the computer as a challenge. And wow is it. I hate and love it. I love how clean it can make the flow of words from page to page. I write all the zine in one doc and cut and paste it into Publisher* and it just flows through the document. Easy. I then add in the various elements I’d use glue and scissors for a physical copy but instead I photograph them and crop in the computer. It’s similar skills but all in the computer. It was a challenge to learn how to bring it into the computer but I know I can also make a physical original which I can scan and turn into a PDF and print from that.

Another challenge is printing. I really like the idea of a color laser printer for the cover and inserts. But WOW are they a total pain in the ass. Of course the one I was gifted is old and I needed to order new parts and do a thorough deep clean, but it hates printing on smooth cardstock. HATES it. So future issues will use coverstock, which means I can possibly add 4 more pages.

Which brings me to another thought out aspect of UJ, the size. I wanted the zine to fit into the pocket of an A5 notebook, so it had to be pocket notebook size or a quarter sheet of US letter sized paper. I also wanted it to ship for the cost of one US stamp in the US, even if I added extras (and I did) so I went with pocket notebook size. The number of pages was determined by weight, I knew if I went with 16 pages I’d stay below an ounce for that single stamp. The hard part is that I WANT to make it longer. I want to pack in the content. I also wanted to keep the font large enough that it could be easily read. I get frustrated with zine with font sizes that are too small to easily read.

Anyway, I’ll be chronicling more of my art adventures here, but still be writing product reviews, just less of them.
Continue reading

Weirdo Patches

You may or may not know that I’m into fiber or fabric arts. I love quilts and fabric of all sorts. Back when I made books on a regular basis, I had the opportunity to buy loads of fabric. I went through tons of it. I still love it.

I started hand appliqueing fabric to an old chambray shirt that was in disrepair. It looks lovely. IT feels amazing. Overall I just really liked getting my hands on some fabric again.

About 9 months ago? It feels like a hundred years ago at this point, I picked up a free antique, 40s era Kenmore sewing machine in a delightful cabinet. The machine is a TANK. It has one stitch- straight. Though it does go backwards too. There are knobs and dials and it is so satisfying to use. Because it is in a lovely cabinet we put it into our office and I’ve been able to use it on the regular.

I sit down and make what I’m calling my “weirdo patches.” Which are simple little applique mini quilts. They fray and get fuzzy as they get washed but they are lovely to feel.

I’ve been known to track down patches of the perfect size to cover an old logo on an old hoodie. Now I’ve been measuring and creating these little applique quilts to cover up logos. Then I started to make them because being at my machine brings a sense of calm and peace. Plus I love clipping little pieces of fabric and arranging them. They are puzzles waiting to be discovered.

If you’d like to buy one head over to this page. They range from $5 to $10 S&H included.

Here are a few of them:

Lined Notebooks and One Off Packs

I finally listed the lined notebooks on my etsy account. You can find them here and here. The first link is to the general lined page with regular 3-packs of black, recycled covers, and a few packs of other colors. The second link is to the lined rainbow Allies packs. Get it, rainbow notebooks with straight lines inside are allies? It made me laugh.

I’m testing out a feature on Facebook that they have recently rolled out- shops. Some people aren’t able to access them yet, but many are. I’ve loaded up a few sets of one off books to Facebook. If they don’t sell by the end of next week I’ll go about putting them on etsy but for now, I really want to test out the facebook shop feature. (They don’t take a cut or percentage or even listing fee like Etsy does, so it might be a good way to sell things in the future.) You can find my Facebook shop here. The one offs are made of paper that I bought years ago for art journaling purposes and never used, now I am. Many of the covers feature some subtle glitter. All the loose glitter has infected my printer, shear, corner rounder, and life.

Making Shitty Drawings

Occasionally I hit rough patches with my drawing. It’s not a block or a rut, because the desire to draw is still there, but nothing good will emerge from my pen or pencil. As I’m making these rough drawings I hear my inner critic shouting at me that my work sucks, my drawings are no good, and that I should just pack it all up and never draw again. That’s how the critic works. The asshole* in my head waits until my defenses are down and then starts to wail on my already frayed nerves. It’s not so much that I give up, rather I keep plugging away, filling up page after page with shitty drawings.

IMAG1662And that is what I’ve been doing. Over the last few weeks I’ve had a load of crap on my shoulders, real worry inducing crap. The kinda crap I can’t just take my mind off. It’s always there and pervasive. This is when I’ve found my pen starts to create shit on the page. Noses off, eyeballs in the wrong direction, proportions that would make Picasso proud.


The thing is, that this shit, is gold where art journaling is concerned. Shitty drawings give me a window into my head in a way good drawings don’t. I can see the weight of everything that is on my mind in my bad drawings. I’ve regressed 2 years back in my drawing habit. This has nothing to do with the goodness or badness of the art (the art itself is just fine) it has to do with what I personally see in the art. Yes, there are specific things like proportion, perspective, and other REAL problems in the art, but that makes the drawing neither bad nor good, it simply IS.IMAG1660

A art therapy guy named Shawn McNiff ** writes about having a dialog with your art. That you should have a conversation with your piece, and listen to what it tells you. While I find that idea a tad whooo whooo frou frou for my tastes, I do listen to my art, I look at it and gain perspective on what is going on in my life. Like reading your own tea leaves or tarot cards, listening to your art is focus driven and largely a meditative process.


I’ll get more into how I personally reflect on my pages in a future post.


It was good to identify why my drawings were turning out “shitty.” Being able to look through my book*** and see on this day my drawings were really off, and on this day this happened, it was really weighing on my mind= invaluable lessons. Once I identified what was weighing on my mind I was able to break through the barricade in my head and the drawings started to flow from my pen and onto the page in my usual style.

Continue reading

Make Art with Anything

I've ranted and raved about commercialism in art journaling before. (been under a rock or just discovering me now? Click here.) And I keep ranting about it. I've been gathering videos for technique today over the last few days. (It gives me a nice 20 minute or so break from reading heavy stuff.) It's becoming increasingly difficult to find videos with good solid art technique, if I stick to videos related to art journaling. I'm not usually too shy about looking at stuff that is art andnot art journaling related. But as I viewed video after video, it really hit me.

It's hard to find a video about art journaling that isn't a blatant ad for a product or process or linked to classes. All of it is trying to get us to part with our money. I'm wary of technique videos that read like a who's who of products. Tim Holtz this. Glimmer Mist that. Hellmuth's paints. Grunge Board. Glossy Accents. Spray inks. The videos don't teach us a technique but to be reliant on these products. They don't teach us how to make these product (though there are some old vids that do) they teach us to buy more.

Here's the deal, the secret, all you need to art journal is a pen and a journal. Call me a minimalist but my every day art journal carry (EDAJC) has been the following for the last 2 weeks: A Field Notes notebook, a BanditApple Carnet PeeWee, in a leather cover I made myself and a shitty ballpoint pen*. If I were to extend out my EDAJC I'd add a tin of watercolors in limited colors, a waterbrush, a camera**, a pencil and eraser.

I'm not making "great" art but I am making meaningful art. The art I'm making is helping me to remember the look of the sky as I waited when I picked up my partner. Or the jerking of the train as it rounded corners. Or calmed me after a busy class. This, to me, is what making and creating a journal is all about. It's not about the products I'm buying andusing. It's about the memories I'm creating. It's about my life.

It's real.


Continue reading

Technique Today: Midori or Fauxdori

If you've been reading my blog for any peruiod of time you know I love me some fauxdori Midori traveler's notebook covers. I find them ingenious, easy to use, and encourage journaling every day and every where. I've added some of my videos on the fauxdori as well as some great instructions from others about things you can make and add to your own notebook covers.

If you have issues viewing the videos here on my blog please click the title of the video on the upper left of the video and it will open up in YouTube for your viewing pleasure.


Continue reading