Author Archives: leslie

State of the Art: Talking Myself Out of Things

It’s not often you find me talking myself out of things, but here I am telling you I’ve talked myself out of a free photocopier. If you’re scratching your head right now, let me explain.

I’ve wanted a photocopier for years. They are incredibly useful tools and when I was in college we had to run to the library to photocopy designs to paper for transferring with chemical or to rub the paper off. Copies cost 10 cents.

I made an off handed comment about how we should consider getting a photocopier for the printshop and the professor chuckled and agree but added that they’d have to have a place to lock it up because every print student and everyone who knew about it would use it. And frankly, she wasn’t wrong. I’ve noticed that every place where I’ve worked where a photocopier is left unattended it gets used for other purposes, from zines to personal copies to whatever.

But I’ve also wanted one of my own.

For art making but also zines. Photocopiers are just better for making hundreds of copies at a time. Further they can handle large quantities of cardstock in a way a laser printer can’t.

I find photocopiers for free on craigslist pretty often. I’ve stopped myself from inquiring about them for quite a few reasons- too big, too damaged, too whatever. Before we moved into our house part of that was, “Too big to move.”  And I can’t imagine how some of my landlords* would have responded to finding a 300 pound copier left behind.

A smaller sized machine showed up in the free section, smaller at still close to 300 pounds, with a tag of “needs work.” I asked about what kind of work it would need, if it would power on, if they knew what parts it would need, etc… The current owner was utterly unhelpful. So I asked some more questions, they answered, still not helpfully.

Then I considered, do I want this for work or myself. And how the hell would I get it onto the van and then into MY studio?

The answer, finally cleaning the basement and the help of some bulky friends.

In the end I’ve decided that I won’t get THIS machine but I’m going to keep an eye out for another smaller machine that will fit my needs better. Canon makes a few small sized machines that will handle cardstock and lots of copies pretty well. The toner doesn’t last as long but they are out there.

NOTE: After finishing this post, I took to Craigslist and FB Marketplace, and within 10 minutes found a free smaller sized copier for free, and with the sort of repair that I can do with ease. It’s in my shop, even better it didn’t require the help of Burly Friends to move it into the shop, I can carry it myself. Though not easily!

It turns out it didn’t even need a repair, it needed a setting changed and the toner cart needs to be slammed back into place on the regular. I suspect a weak clip somewhere. I’ll find it and fix it.


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Reflection: Journaling for Clarity

Last year we were entering into our second of a pandemic and my workplace stopped hiring. I’ve worked in enough locations to know that when a company stops actively recruiting a hiring for a location it mean one thing- they are planning to close it. I spent a lot of time journaling for clarity.

Some companies are upfront about this, some, like my old workplace, are not. They gave us lines and glossed over things. IN the end they decided to close the place.

I started to look for another job, outside of the field that I had gone to grad school for, and despite my experience, I got no bites. I applied for 3 months with a few phone interviews. Mostly, my resume left people flat. My experience as a therapist didn’t mean a lot to many companies. Worse yet, my experience in HR, well that made people run away.

Anyway, in the process of bettering my resume I printed out every single journaling prompt about “finding the RIGHT job.” and other that exclaimed to help me “find my purpose.” And still more. 20+ pages of prompts and 8 pages of value words.

I followed every prompt, defined my values, and filled a journal. I used my journal like a tool- a tool that helped me to clarify my intentions and goals for 2020, but also look at where my previous jobs had failed me. I was able to see I took jobs right out of graduate school that didn’t fulfill my purpose, they were easy to accept and comfortable. Or in the case of my last workplace changed in the course of my employment from what I was looking for to something else entirely.

Finally I rewrote my resume, fixed my cover letter.

Serendipitously, at this moment the job opening for my current location opened up. It was a dream location. A job doing exactly what I wanted to do when I signed up for my masters program.

And here I am.

I would not have landed this job, for a great company, if I had not done the journaling.

I feel cheesy saying that journaling changed my life, but it did- in that it gave me the tools I needed to start making changes in my life to change my workplace and change my thinking around work. It also gave me the tools I needed to see where work was failing me as a person. It gave me the confidence to stand up for myself in the final days of my old job, to give an honest exit interview to leadership and to move forward with leaving on a positive note.

I plan on condensing the questions I used as well as the values journaling into an issue of Useful Journaling V2. The info is out there, and some googling and reading will net you some results but I’ll put the UJ and Less spin on it and make a USEFUL version of the tools available sometimes soon.

Journaling about values doesn’t just improve your thinking about work or your job search it can help you clarify a lot of other areas of life- hobbies, thing you want to read about, habits you want to increase or decrease, among many other things.

State of the Art: Working on Useful Journaling V2

Working on a Zine, like Useful Journaling V2 can start in many ways, but for me it starts with my pocket notebook and a pen or pencil. Here I record ideas and thoughts I have about making the zine.

Ideas for content are quickly jotted down and then if deemed useful are expanded upon in a larger notebook, usually an A5 or composition notebook. Whichever I’m using for my current longer notes and ideas. I don’t draft everything in these notebooks, when I do that I feel like I’ve finished my goal and don’t finish. Instead I expand the idea and gather information- research and what not. I write longer ideas out and organize the notes into something that makes more sense.NOte books and pencils laid out for display

After I organize my ideas into something that makes sense for me, I expand upon them in either a google doc or NovelPad. Here it really depends upon the final length of the idea. I use docs for all my blog posts and Ko-Fi posts, while longer things like some zines and fiction work all ends up in NovelPad. Though, that is with a caveat- some zines get typed up in Docs.

While I’m working on a zine idea I like to keep my notebooks with me at all times- I never know when a good idea is going to hit or when I’ll have a few minutes to develop an idea. I go through them at varying rates depending on the project and what I’m working on. A zine seems to move through notebooks slowly, while novels chew up notebooks and spit them out.

Nock CO Fodderstack XL, ready to go

Not for sale

Anyway. I though it interesting that I’m nearly finished wit a pocket notebook and just starting a composition notebook for this zine. I lost my last pocket notebook, and the one before that. Covid and WFH has really done a number on my ability to hang onto a notebook…2 notebooks and a fountain pen laid out for display

Let me be honest here, it’s not COVID it’s the new pants I’ve purchased that have crummy pockets for keeping notebooks in pockets.

A State of Reflection

The end of the year as we roll into the new is often used as a moment of reflection. A place where we look back on the bad and good and use that to set goals and intentions for the new year.

WOW! What a year we had. A second of a global pandemic, which is back on the rise in my area with folx still refusing to get vaccinated or to even mask up. MY city attempted to hold a meeting about mask mandates, and because they were too… stupid to lock it down, anti-maskers spoke over them and drove them out for over an hour while city officials figured out how to work Google Meet. Sweet Jeebus.

Anyway, this is what we’re living with here in the States, instead of attempting to wipe out a measly virus we’re fighting over wearing a simple piece of cloth over our faces. I have more to say, but this post isn’t about that, not it’s about reflection.

I spent the last year working on a series of prompts and ideas for the newest volume of Useful Journaling. We’ll see how it comes out. But 2021 saw me using my journal more often than in a few previous years, and making it more of a practice again. But it also saw me wanting to continue with my zine efforts, while floundering on the original premise of Useful Journaling. But now that I’ve taken a year to think and mull on it, I see a new option.

Most frustrating for me, I lost** the original files for Useful Journaling, including my layout file. Annoyingly I thought I’d redundantly backed them up, only now I can’t find all of them. Awesome. For some reason when I updated the OS on my cheap little laptop it corrupted all the attached drives- including the expansion micro SD card. While I thought I’d uploaded the files to Drive AND DropBox, I had not. Bummer. It’s not a hard one to recreate but here I am.

Fortunately, I have original flats of all my old zines, which means I can scan them easily. (JK I just found these in yet another search of Drive. deep sigh of relief.) But A word to the wise, if you think you have backed things up, check and double check to be sure that you have. While I’m not exactly a digital hoarder, it is useful to keep; some of these digital files on hand just in case.

So a few goals for me in the upcoming year-

  • Redundant back ups, for everything I’m currently working on. And double checking to be sure I’m doing this.
  • Consistent photos for the blog and instagram.
  • New issues of Useful Journaling, but different than before.

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Reflection: Mourning and Processing through Art

As an artist and art therapist I’m keenly aware of my own use of art as a tool for processing and working through my emotions. The death of bell hooks has left me deeply saddened. I first read her work in my undergrad, likely introduced to me by my ex. I continued to read her work on and off through out my life. Outlaw Culture was mind blowing.

Honestly if you’ve never read her work, you should pick up anything, but Outlaw Culture is a personal favorite. The final chapter on Love as the Practice of Freedom is fantastic. It is also where I pulled the quote for my print.

I started this with a simple gelli print- stencils in ranges of red on a thick beefy white sheet of cardstock. Initially I attempted a toner resist with other colors but sadly that did not work as I’d hoped. SO I switched up and used a toner transfer technique. The printed paint and paper are note smooth so the toner is rough and uneven. I rather like this look. It quite matches my feelings about her death- sad and a little rough. I had intended to use a golden paint for the base color, but the toner resist, resisted and white print with black lettering

These prints feel a tad too cheerful, or the shades of red with the rays feels cheerful. Perhaps it can be interpreted as hopeful or loving, and fits the tone of the quote: “Without love, our efforts to liberate ourselves and our community from oppression and exploitation are doomed.”

a 3x4 grid of cedar rectangles set into a grid, coated in yellow ink.

I dig printing with found objects.

I decided to explore the concept of processing emotion through art with some of my students. I decided to create a larger print using a slightly different hooks quote. With this print I created a matrix of found cedar blocks printed in bright yellow. The ink used is a rubber based printing ink, rolled on thin. I then printed this with an etching press, though I could have fiddled with the Vandercook and printed it with the machines.

lead type set into a vandercook, ready for printing

IS there anything as pretty as type set and ready for printing?

After the background was printed, I set up the quote in Ultra Bodoni 60pt. I considered going with a found letter but it didn’t fit the poster, nor did it fit the tone of the poster. Ultra Bodoni is a big impressive typeface and it leans a bit cheerful, but then the quote is full of hope.

test print of a bell hooks quote

make ready- note that the base print is off kilter This will go into my stack of stuff for testing other prints

finished print of a bell hooks quote

The color here is *chef’s kiss* perfect. Better in person.

I decided to use a 70s color palette and use brown over the yellow. I also chose to let the printing be a little soft and uneven, it matches the tone of the print and the reasoning for the print- I’m feeling a little soft and uneven.

Over all I really like the combination of the yellow woodgrain printing and the brown letters. It is perfect. I’ll have a few of them available on my ko-fi, after the holidays. It’ll take that long for everything to dry. I made 10 or 11 copies of the print. Which is a very short run, and barely worth turning the Vandercook on.

As a method of running through the last of the ink on the press, I’ve been running a stack of old prints through the machine. It clears out a bit of the ink, which means I’ve got less of it to clear out. Some of these overlay prints and images make lovely prints on their own, case in point- this brown over pale pinks and blues with a blind embossing of the word REFLECT.


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State of the Art: Necessary Tools

I wrote about the idea of paring down my necessary tools for holiday travel on my Ko-fi page. I took with me a sketchbook (always), a selection of recycled trash printmaking plates, a pencil, a sharpie, an etching needle and a craft knife. With this selection of tools I created a few plates to work on when I got back to my studio, and I started to carve them while I was away.

I have written before about how I find limiting the choices of my tools liberating and invigorating.* What I took with me was the barest of supplies, and frankly I could have limited myself further- just the recycled plates and a sharpie, and left the carving and etching for home. The limited choice felt liberating. I wasn’t focusing on capturing the fine details of each image, instead I marked the areas of the plate- add glue here, scratch with sandpaper here, try glue resist here. I focused only on capturing the idea of the image, not the details, knowing I could add details later.

It was invigorating and sparked my creativity in a whole new way.

When I arrived home I continued to etch and carve the plates, adding in glue, and glue resist, and also some tissue. I scratched and sanded other areas. In the end i ended up working on 4 plates on and off in the evening and gathering more mental info for more plates.

I have to wonder about limiting choices for increased creativity, whether one is traveling or not. I am often inclined toward gathering new materials and tools rather than limiting. 99% of the time I’d rather add a tool than eliminate a tool. But, limiting my choices for tools led me to thinking about the tools I would use. When I throw my entire toolbox at a project or a plate sometimes it looks muddy and less the image I imagined. I like to think of these images as motivated by the tools and not my creativity.

Trash printmaking is already a limited technique- one must remove the plate from the trash for it to be a trash printmaking plate. The plate itself is limited when compared to say a sheet of copper or even collagraph plates like museum board. Sure you can glue it to another sheet of card, or add more layers to it with glue or acrylic paint, but there is always an unknown quantity to the trash plate.

I think if you reach a block or hiccup in your creativity that limiting your supplies to the bare basics for a few days might unlock something. Alternatively, add a new supply or technique to your tool box to see if it unlocks your brain. Continue reading

Reflection: The Use of an Art Journal

I’ve been working in a few different journals and pondering the use of art journals as a tool for making art but also mental wellness. My art journals have never been pretty. They have always straddled the line between sketchbook and reflective journal, I like them this way.

I heard the disturbing news of the acquittal at work from a coworker and my first response was, “Well that’s bullshit, not surprising but still bullshit.” I took a few days to mull over it and the horrifying meaning of the verdict.

I could get political here but I won’t I’ll let the art stand on it’s own.

I started with a simple pencil sketch of the shooter and the judge. Simple and loose. I used a few reference photos from newspapers, working up the sketch from several version. I didn’t focus on getting everything exact, just the feeling of the smirk or the condescending air of the images. Finally I looked at them and thought about what those faces represent- a slap on the wrist for people who deal deal to minorities, people like me. It’s a scary thought.

So I doodled pink skulls over those hateful faces.

Why pink? Macho bros don’t like it. I do.

Bright magenta pink.

A process color. Since the process was perverted and polluted. Continue reading

State of the Art: When Weird Stuff Enters

The DayJob studio is now fully functional and all that remains is all the weird little stuff that happens in any studio that holds classes on a daily basis. There will always be consolidating inks and paints, and cataloguing papers and the archive.

I’m not going to lie here, I’m incredibly proud of the work I did with my new friend and letterpress mentor, Mitchel. Together we did an incredible amount of work over the course of a few weeks and made the print shop something that functions for classes.

It has also lit my creative fires.

My imagination for trash printmaking has really taken off. I’ve been sketching and cutting and gluing many plates. I suspect that many will never get printed, either I’m not happy with the image, or the idea just doesn’t work. But you never know until you test it out. With trash printmaking, there isn’t a shortage of printing plates- they only require a bit of work, and there are dozens in nearly every person’s recycling bin.

This has freed my brain to create and create some more. I’m not worries about the expense of copper, zinc, or steel. Instead I’m spray gluing a thin carton to another carton and then sketching my idea with a Sharpie.


I also had some thoughts about working on No Brand Notebooks again. I was able to pick up some inexpensive blocks to test some ideas on, and I liked the pink carving plates more than I expected. I had learned through work and the guy who ran the print shop before the closure, that you can mount the pink stuff and run it through the Vandercook. Again, mind blowing.

Anyway, I’ve carved up a bit of the pink stuff to make covers. I’m considering what inks I want to print them with and when I figure out color schemes I’ll be printing up a bunch of covers for pocket notebooks again. NBN will be going letterpress, but a bit weirdo style.

Another thing- sometimes you are given some weird stuff- I signed up for this weird stuff. The shop was gifted these glass circles from a 50s era etching tool. I don’t know how they worked but they are cool as hell. The circles range from 5mm to 80mm, and then they have a range of thicknesses.

I grabbed a handful of them, in a single thickness-ish, stuck them to a backing, inked and printed them. I struggled a bit with press pressure, linoleum block high was too high, then the height for other blocks was too tight. I ended up crushing the glass on a few of the circles. If i had used a smooth new piece of MDF I don’t think the glass would have cracked. But it did. Anyway, I figured out the pressure and ended up with some fantastic prints. There is just something freeing when you play with weird materials and get something really cool. I’m imagining layering a bit of bright blue over the top of that brilliant red (Charbonnel Cardinal Red). I think the layer of color would be amazing, while the pop of red and blue would be cool.

Anyway, get some weird stuff into your studio and just play with it!

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State of the Art: Discoveries in Viscosity and Resistance

The last few weeks have been packed full of the good stuff, including some trash printmaking discoveries concerning viscosity and resistance in different packaging.

Let’s start with the viscosity and resistance discovery. I started working on a small series of images using coffee bags and packaging. The packaging had ideas of mental health and substances used to treat mental health conditions which also have a history as recreational and medical tools. This stuff fascinates me.

IN these images I wanted to create additional plate tone in the form of brush strokes. I intended to capture these with waterproof outdoor Gorilla glue. What happened was a surprise. The packages from both Neosporin and Band-Aids resisted the Gorilla glue and prevented it from sticking everywhere- in stead it started to bead up. It held better in areas where I brushed more thoroughly.  Once I discovered this effect, I went to great pains to only lay a single brush stroke over areas and let the package and glue do it’s own thing. The effect is magical. It has the look of water beading up on a windshield or water on the beach as it recedes. It’s random and magnificent.*

Testing with other materials has lead to similar results. Coffee bags and foil all respond similarly, though the glue has difficulty with full adhesion with the plastic and will pull away in big sheets of rubbery dried glue if cut into. It does not survive dry point efforts once dried. I’ve got several plates that I hope to print soon to test the effect on these other materials.

Sadly one of my favorite plate types does not produce the effect at all- coffee cups. Though I have not tried all of the coffee cups in my pile.

Other interesting business- I was finally able to take a trip to the Museum of Printing in Haverhill, MA. I was able to do this for work and have a spectacular tour. The MoP is spectacular with many specimens of presses and all sorts of lovely machines. I had a great time touring the place.

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State of the Art: Failing Happily

I set out to work on NaNoWriMo again this year. Last year I failed miserably, this year I’m failing happily.

The print shop is set up and other than a deep clean of the floor and picking up a few final items, it’s ready to go. It was an enormous amount of really good work. Throughout the clean up and wake up I set up and printed a letterpress poster on the Vandercook SP20, and it was awesome. I’m looking forward to printing more stuff on it.

I’ve also tested the etching press with some of my trash prints. It works differently than my mini press and other presses I’ve used. Mainly tightening the roller is tougher than on other presses. I had to pack the press with an assortment of waste paper to get a good impression for trash prints. I suspect I can get the press tighter through a different style of tightening and rolling through the felts. I’m looking forward to teaching trash printmaking to students, in addition to recording some trash printmaking for Ko-Fi or Youtube.

This post is less about he business of my DayJob and more about failing at NaNo. Day one went really well, I plowed through and was over the 1,667 words I needed. Then the next day I found out I had been exposed to covid through work, everyone was sent for a test and then to work from home. Mentally I went back to the summer of 2020 and lost all sense of time. In my rush to go for my test and get out of the building, I forgot the charger for my work laptop.

All in all my WFH only lasted 36 hours.

But the impact on the work place and my mental state has been longer.

I found myself in that same scattered timeless disorganized mental space I found myself in during 2020. I also found myself staring at my work screen for far longer than I should have. This was an issue in 2020 as well. Like in 2020 I dropped the ball and NaNo fell by the wayside.

Most years I’d be mad at the interruption.

Not this year.

A good part of learning more about my own reactions toward the pandemic and WFH has led me to be a little more gentle with myself when I fail at a goal. I also let myself lean into what I need when it comes to this WFH state of mind.

As I’ve failed at writing, I’ve worked on trash printing making. Perhaps, I should start NaNoPriMo? A goal of 30 Trash Prints in November. Ambitious, too much for now.

I’ve worked on 10 trash print plates since the start of November. I haven’t printed the full edition of any of them, I’ve only gotten 3 prints of 8 of the plates so far. The little plates work up quickly but take a lot longer to print. I’ll be testing a few of the plates to see how much of an edition I get with the full sized press VS the mini press. I have a suspicion that the thicker felts cushion the plates and I’ll get more prints from each plate than with the mini press. Which makes me want to work to cushion the mini press more.

Anyway, here are some pictures of the plates. I’m working on a few series using brains and skulls along with various cells or microscopic pictures I’m interested in. One is a covid virus, another yeast cells, a poppy seed, as well as ergot fungus.