Category Archives: Art Habit

State of the Art: Zines

Lately the art I’ve been making has been written and mostly in the form of letters and journals and nonfiction writing. Someone once told me that writing nonfiction was easy because it wasn’t creating anything.

Envision a long pause as I take in what she said… LOL not creating. LOL.

Looking back it is laugh out loud funny, but back at that moment it fed into my inner critic  which fed into my imposter syndrome.

Well, I’ve come a long way in the last few years, and quite frankly, that former friend can stuff it. Though If I ran into her again my language might not be as nice.

My zine, Useful Journaling has 3 issues out now. I’ve reprinted the first issue several times and the second is about to be reprinted. Making zines has been a throw back to my days of bookbinding, and wow do I want to make some pocket notebooks. I’ve been making simple collages as a future cover for Useful Journal (that will make sense for issue 4) and that’s been really fun creating a nice cover that will get photographed then manipulated digitally to create the final cover.

Though it’s not art, I’ve also been starting seeds and getting things read for my garden.  It is creative in that I’m reusing as much as I can and recycling things, like Keurig cups and tp tubes for seed starting.

State of the Art: Coffee Bag Wallets

I’ve been making recycled coffee bag wallets for years. I used them extensively throughout grad school and sold them. I haven’t had time to make them recently.

Many of the coffee companies I’ve been getting coffee from have changed the bags they use- they’ve gone from the tube style to a style that has 4 sealed edges or are short and squat. I welcome that they use less plastic but the lower amount of plastic means I don’t get to make the bifold bill fold wallet, since there just isn’t enough bag there to make one.

I started looking at some of the wallets I like online, and my Baronfig card sleeve. I’ve always wanted a slim wallet that holds very few cards and takes up as little real estate in my pocket as possible. But I’ve always wanted something that holds cash as well. The Baronfig sleeve doesn’t hold cash well.

I decided to make something a bit larger all around than my Baronfig sleeve, not to hold more card, but to hold cash.

I attempted to heat seal the pieces together but that didn’t work well at all, so I’ll try stitching them together. That’s for next time.

Maker: Demise of Small Companies

Way back in 2009 or even further back I picked up a copy of Make the Cut a fabulous software that let me control my Cricut craft cutter. I was able to cut anything I wanted and items of my own designs. Awesome.

Well that was fun, until Provocraft decided they didn’t want third party software controlling their machines. Then sued the makers of Make the Cut. Make the Cut was tied up in court for years. Googling the company shows several lawsuits. Eventually the software was locked down and the code needed to make the software able to work with the cricut was locked out. If you upgraded your copy of make the cut past MTC 4.1.0 it can’t be hacked to work. You also need to install the pccplugin which you have hopefully saved on a thumb drive somewhere.

Make the Cut is now abandonware. The developer has allowed the site to come and go it is currently up and you can download the software, though there are reports in the forum that the new serial numbers no longer work. The forum and site are up now, I was unable to get any assistance from the owner for getting my reg key. I used their automated system and it did not work. I also have not received an answer via their support ticket system. According to several users on the forum, the user has not responded to anything on the forum for over 5 years at this point (writing this 12/2020).

If you have access to the computer you had Make the Cut installed on you can use these instructions to attempt to retrieve the registration code. I was able to successfully reboot my nearly dead old laptop and pull the code out. Then I emailed it to myself AND saved the MTC4.1.0 installer, pccplugin, and reg code to thumb drive. This will get stored in a safe place and I’ll also back these files up to the cloud. And you should to.

I’ll update my old posts about MTC. Apparently now you need to use Sure Cuts a Lot, but I do not think it can be hacked to work with the crapcut. Again I salute Provocrap with a middle finger salute. We should be able to use the Crapcut with any software in the same manner we use a printer.

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State of the Art: Making it Work

A thing that happens a lot among artists is that we find a tool we like, use the hell out of it and realize that it doesn’t just work the way it is so we start to need to adapt our tools. This can be done simply with a knife or scissors. Or with the addition of layers of masking, electrical or duct tape. I often will use jelly silicone pencil grips to bulk up the grip of a pen.

A case in point is this little number I did to this Bic Gelocity. You know the one I reviewed over here. Well it is not a great pen, but it does make nice fine deep black lines, but wow is it uncomfortable. I slid a gel grip on hoping it would slide around easily but instead it’s a snug fit. I wedged it just above where the cap clips and used a pair of scissors to snip the cap off so it fits without needing to go over the now phat grip. The clip started to catch on the grip so snip snip, that went goodbye as well. I filed the sharp pieces of plastic down and now the Gelocity is more comfortable and not bad for sketching in a pocket notebook.

I’ve also removed clips that poke into the meat of my hand, bulked up pens with masking tape and made adaptive devices for other people with Crayola model magic.

I also have added a roll of fabric to the side of my mouse to adapt my grip to reduce stress. This is a temporary fix and I’ll eventually go back to a ball but for now, it works.

While I would hesitate to make a more expensive pen 100% mine, I wonder why? Why not take my Sarasa Grand and bulk up the grip with Sugru or Sculpey? Why not stretch and slide a silicone squishy grip on there?

I might raid my pen cup and play some more.

State of the Art: Photo a Day

Waaaayyyyyy back in 2009 Polaroid introduced the Zink Pogo printer. A cute little printer that spits out 2×3 inch prints on sticker paper. Sweet little journaling tool. I of course immediately asked for one for the holidays. And my lovely partner managed to get a good deal on one and I loved it, for 50 prints or so. 

Other folx got hundreds and hundreds of glorious little stickers. Not me. I had a dozen or so prints before mine was a streaky mess.

It ended up in a drawer.

In the great office clean out of the Covidalypse I found the dusty little printer and thought I might dust it off. I did and it was still streaky. I headed to the internet and found loads of info on cleaning it. So I tore it apart, which was really easy and only around 8 screws or so. I was able to clean some little bits of what looked like… glitter in there, as well as some, big surprise here, dog hair. I gave the roller and print head a good swabbing down with rubbing alcohol with a q-tip, then ran several sheets of super thick cardstock through it.

This is not a pogo print but an image I considered for a pogo print.

No more streaks.

Well, mostly no more streaks. The pogo works best on low-res images. So it is helpful to take smaller pictures. I started this project off using Lightroom. Bad idea, it automatically saves in the highest res option on my phone. Also the Pogo prints in 2×3 images, so I used the basic camera on my phone and set it to 3×4 on the lowest res setting available. This particular option also saves it to the cloud so I have the option of editing it down on my laptop. Sadly the polaroid apps that are still available do NOT work with the Pogo. I can’t get any of them to pair with it, or even print to it. BUT I can snap a picture with their app, save it, and print manually, the way the pogo always worked. It takes the picture in the right 2×3 ratio.

Anyway, the goal of this little project is to snap an interesting pic once a day for at least the next 50 days and to journal around a page along with it. If I find that this is a useful journaling practice for me, I’ll continue it with another 50 pack of paper. We’ll see what happens!

An interesting aside to this is that the battery died on the Pogo and no one makes a replacement pack for it. I ripped the old battery apart, picked up a 2 pack of AA battery holders soldered the leads in place, and made my own. It’s not at all pretty but it does the job and is better than being tethered to the hideous and HUGE wall wart plug this thing has. The wall wart on this thing is inexplicably huge. I will also add that Polaroid’s CS when I asked about the battery was prompt and curt. Funny thing, since making the battery pack I have yet to take the Pogo anywhere, so I guess a useful thing is to consider if you will actually use the Pogo on the go.

Anyway, we’ll see how long I can do a photo a day.

https://dronebygg.wordpress.com/2011/05/21/how-to-repair-your-polaroid-pogo-printer/

Maker: Plans for Supporters

A unique feature that Ko-Fi offers is that I can designate certain posts for supporters only, so anyone who has supported within the last 30 days can unlock certain benefits. I’m currently figuring out how I can utilize this in the best way possible. I don’t necessarily want to create a subscription model, yet.  Though that is a future plan. What I want to do is offer certain items to supporters, at any rate of support.

As of yesterday I offered a free printable downloadable PDF of a pocket sized, undated 12-month planner for members of the RSVP podcast FB community. It has a 1-month calendar on the left page with lines and college ruling on the right hand page. I want to offer other similar printables for free to supporters of this blog. The first month I offer these bonuses I’ll offer them here so that past donors can benefit. I also hope to design some in half page size as well.

Mostly I’m looking at and exploring the systems that broke down around the Covidalypse and the stress of the hybrid work from home and office work. I’m also looking at what has worked in the past and tweaking the little things.

For the blog, the month on a page and then lines to record a variety of ideas and plans has always worked when combined with my long list of blog posts to write in my Every Thing, Every Where Journal.

Below, you will find the free printable 1-year month per page with notes area on the right hand side. It is a PDF and is intended to be printed double sided. Follow instructions for your printer for double-sided printing and these instructions for stitching a simple pamphlet stitch.

One Year Month on a Page Undated Planner Printable

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.
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