Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mail Room Trivia

Shipping Department

Once at a fine festival, I had the pleasure of selling a boatload of woodcuts and original woodblocks to a collector from across the country. Since they were traveling by plane I offered to ship the order "free" since they just casually benefited me with around 5K of sales.
Got home, packed, shipped, didn't think much of it. About a week later I get this nice bonus check made out to 1000 Woodcuts - Shipping Department Manager, with a very complimentary note from my collector for the "shipping crew". I had a good laugh about that and promptly complimented my cats, dogs, tape gun and my husband for putting up with me during shipping days (I can get a bit cranky!).
The very boring and repetitive task of shipping 160 tiny blocks!

I just finished the second of three batches of shipping the little darling blocks all over the world. For those of you who may someday ship something to more than two people at once, I highly recommend a shipping program of some sort. I use Endicia from because it is the cheapest, no frills, allows me to ship all the variations of the US Postal Service, including international shipping.

The Shipping Crew

Since shipping pictures aren't any fun at all, I though instead I would introduce all of you to my shipping crew. They are very efficient and get the job done. As you can see, the boss dictates that we wear a strict uniform in my studio, jeans, white shirts and blue sweatshirt. Sometimes when we print we wear jeans, white shirts, and blue sweatshirts with aprons added.
This is CoolMaria, she thinks she's the only gal
 in the neighborhood with a tape-gun. Strong as an ox and
will work well past dinner time.

Introducing HappyMaria, very enthusiastic although sometimes
confused by the whole spreadsheet-block-code- thing. We keep
her around because she will do virtually anything with a smile.

And this is the RuthlessMaria, will drive everyone crazy with
her "let's keep working until it is done!". If it were up to her,
no lunch for anyone until all blocks are wrapped up. She's a
good soul though, and gets things done for sure and is very
meticulous about everything.

Stay in touch!

1000woodcuts Facebook Page: 
Maria's Facebook Profile: 
Maria's Twitter Profile: 
1000woodcuts YouTube:

Monday, February 23, 2015

Chunks of wood everywhere!

Last day of chop chop

Wow, how time flies when you're having fun, huh?!
All 160 blocks are officially cut. I have some observations from this and the last two days of chopping wood:

  1. It's true, they don't make them like they used to--saw-blades, that is. I massacred twice as many blades as lost their tiny lives last year. Sad, really.
  2. Dust masks are not really completely...AAAACHOOOOO!!!...dust proof, sniff.
  3. Cats freak out at the sound of the saw almost as much as they freak out at the sound of the vacuum cleaner.
  4. My neighbors are either really nice and tolerant or deaf. Their dogs are definitely not deaf...but they are really nice.
  5. If a lot of jig-sawing must be done, pick a nice windy day so no sweeping of wood dust is needed.
  6. A boring task is much less boring with flamenco music.
Okay, seriously now, here are the pictures from the last day of sawing. I am ready to mail beginning tomorrow. Artists! sharpen your creative minds and tools please!
The "sun" block, ready to be chopped.
Had to set up in back porch due to rain, yes, rain!

Saber-saw-action-figure complete with safety equipment, ready for action.
A lot of kneeling and gyrating required, good thing I stretched.

Puzzle blocks are bigger this year so everyone can have a good time.

Not much left of the big blocks except a bunch of dust and
weird shapes. This one will have to wait for puzzle blocks
to hold its shape again.

The sweet sweet look of the "love" block, the last block to be cut.

And this is what 160 puzzle pieces look like.

Lot of long sweeping shapes, some teardrops, rounds...
Challenging blank canvasses for sure!

The empty, sad, big blocks, will bide until they are filled
with happy tiny creations from all over the world!

Mailing begins tomorrow!

Stay in touch!

1000woodcuts Facebook Page: 
Maria's Facebook Profile: 
Maria's Twitter Profile: 
1000woodcuts YouTube:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Puzzle blocks get chopped

Drawing finished

Before cutting the puzzle pieces I had to finish the drawing, redraw in marker, adjust and then redraw again in thicker marker. The jig-saw isn't quite as accurate as the drawing (operator error, mostly!) and so I make sure that each piece is drawn with plenty of leeway so that I can cut without fear.
Fear? Me?

Anyhow, here is a quick slide show of the drawing process. Basically, one large block at a time, I draw a grid both on the mock panel from the computer and on the wood block. Then I transfer the drawing, adjusting as need be. As each block gets finished, I place the adjacent block or two so that the drawing will flow from one to the other.

After the charcoal drawing is adjusted to my liking, I bring out the markers and redraw everything. A good sanding with 400 grit paper and every charcoal and pencil mark gets cleaned up nicely, leaving the clean lines of the marker. Time to cut!

Chopping Away

The cutting process is slow and I have to arm myself with patience, a jig-saw, blades, a map of the puzzle, a drill, sandpaper, styrofoam base and a box.
First I label the map with the puzzle pieces I will cut out, then I start cutting. When the puzzle piece hits the edge of the block, I just cut inside the black lines and around. When it is an "island" then I have to drill a starter hole, insert the thin saw blade and cut as before. When two pieces touch each other, I take advantage and cut from one to the other.
There is much dust, which is why I cut outside on the grass (no sweeping!) and cover my face with a scarf. After each block is cut, I sand the edges smooth, note the location code and an arrow indicating the sky on the back of each block and into the box it goes. Pretty soon all I have left is a skeleton block with a bunch of holes.

A little video/slide show demonstrates the whole process:

I felt a bit goofy today and named the big blocks peaceful names. Thus we have the Dove block, the Earth block, the River block, the Sun block,...I forgot the rest but they all be peaceful too. Only the first letter is used in the puzzle pieces code so nobody will ever know about my goofiness, ever.

Stay in touch!

1000woodcuts Facebook Page: 
Maria's Facebook Profile: 
Maria's Twitter Profile: 
1000woodcuts YouTube:

Monday, February 16, 2015

And so it begins...

Drawing old style

For transferring the sketch onto the woodblocks, I use an old fashioned grid and pencil followed by charcoal stick. Once I'm satisfied with the sketch and I more or less know where the cut lines for each puzzle piece will be, I strengthen the lines with either magic marker or sumi ink. All depends whether I feel like drawing with a brush or a marker.
Getting quite good at snapping pics with left hand
while posing right hand :-)

Two blocks more or less sketched out
The ink will stay through the process of sanding smooth, tinting the block and cutting the pieces. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First thing is to get the drawing on the blocks with pencil and charcoal. The pictures on the computer help to correct errors and generally get a "bird's eye view" of the large blocks. I also stand on a stepping stool to get the big picture from time to time.

I work with two adjacent blocks at a time, then retire those and add two blank ones, always having four blocks on the work bench at once.
There she flows! I can see that dove-tail needs some work,
maybe I'll move it up a bit
Advantage of the charcoal stick is that I can wipe off with a brush of the hand, making drawing very loose and free and making my hand very black. I may finish another two tonight and the rest tomorrow. I might even make a silly video.
Each block has to have 20 potential puzzle pieces, some with room to grow in case I miscounted our participating artists. Shapes are going to be funny this year, I don't want anyone complaining!

During a break I went to my favorite place in the whole shopping world: the home improvement store! There I picked up a couple of foam supports for the puzzle piece cutting phase and a fresh new batch of scroll blades for my saber-saw. Cannot wait to get those little pieces cut out!
Ready for next phase already!

Stay in touch!

1000woodcuts Facebook Page: 
Maria's Facebook Profile: 
Maria's Twitter Profile: 
1000woodcuts YouTube:

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Puzzle Project Wood Arrived and Sketch is Ready

Wood is here!

Beautiful cherry plywood!
Two 77 lb. packages arrived on Wednesday. I let them sit in the box for a day but the weather is so dry now that I hardly think any additional acclimation will do anything to settle the cherry plywood. Thursday I unpacked them and promptly proceeded to cut them to size 22 x 30 inches or 56 x 76 cm., same size as the paper.
Close up of the cherry veneer layer with MDF first layer

My fellow participants will be happy to find out that the first layer below the cherry veneer (which gets thinner and thinner every year) is MDF or Medium Density Fiberboard. This means it is very easy to cut, much easier than standard plywood. This also means that the blocks are a bit more fragile, in terms of compression, than previous years but I trust the printmaking gods will protect and guide us and all will be well.
Pencil guides and three blocks placed on support
Found a clamping saw guide, nice tool!
Other necesseties, clamps, saw horses, saber-saw...

Gorgeous day to be in the front porch making noise

Few hours later, all pieces placed on the cardboard support,
they only fell once

Next the sketch prep

I printed the sketch (reversed-desrever!) onto standard paper, two sheets to a panel. The next task was to make up a "mock" panel to about 1/4 scale for each of the blocks. I then draw on to the blocks free hand with the mock panel guides. Easier seen than explained!
Loose sheets with sketch reversed, printed out

Two sheets make an 11 x 15 or 1/4 scale panel
good old fashioned "cut and paste"

All glued up and put together

Now I just have to go from here to THERE!
Drawing on the blocks will take me through the weekend

After the sketch is transferred to the block, I fire up the saber-saw again, this time with a scroll blade. Then the real chopping begins! I should be able to cut all blocks and mail them out by the end of next week. Fingers, fingers out of the path of the saw...crossed.

Stay in touch!

1000woodcuts Facebook Page: 
Maria's Facebook Profile: 
Maria's Twitter Profile: 
1000woodcuts YouTube:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

24 hours...tic toc tic toc...Work starts in the studio

Kickstarter 24 hours left

February 9th at roughly 7:15 PM US Pacific will be the end of the enrollment mayhem. Well, and the start of the manufacturing madness, of course! Some of you are asking me if you can join after the end date and the answer is, maybe?! We have 156 artists to date and I simply cannot fit anymore than 160 artists into 8 panels of the print. So if there are spots left, maybe, if there aren't, then, no go! I'm keeping a very close eye on the enrollment right now.

The Peace Puzzle LAST CHANCE
How to sign up:
Click on Back this Project green button
Choose a reward, continue, and check out

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

There are many tasks going on behind the scenes (even on Sundays) in preparation for the arrival of the wood panels. One challenge of building a large print, is seeing the whole thing at once, preferrably on a raised surface like an easel.
So I built a contraption, an easel of sorts. Here it is supporting the 4 blocks of the Fantastic Garden, our last project. See? It will work just fine!
The Fantastic Garden blocks on the support easel (half of the easel)
current print will be double wide

Side view, it's just cardboard!
A bit back I had an exhibit where I showed several large pieces. I do all my own framing so the rather large frames came encased in what can only be called "structural cardboard." Three layers of corrugated cardboard glued together made up each huge panel and I just could not part with it. I thought of building a shed for my bike, another shelter for the feral cats, a tree any event, I kept it stashed against a wall. The frames also came with hard cardboard protectors at the corners, an L shaped very tough cardboard moulding. I kept that too.

Lightweight, sturdy easel support for our Peace Puzzle

So without further introduction, here are the photos of the construction process.
Structural 3-ply cardboard and corner protectors
A bit (a lot) of wood glue

Some screws holding things together and weights to clamp down
Half support 5-foot wide, the L moulding is screwed and glued
supports the bottom and top blocks

Full support ready for blocks
4 blocks along bottom, 4 along top

Lordie it's going to be big...
Superimposed sketch on the support easel thinguie

Stay in touch!

1000woodcuts Facebook Page: 
Maria's Facebook Profile: 
Maria's Twitter Profile: 
1000woodcuts YouTube:

Monday, February 2, 2015


We grew!

While I was sleeping, we grew to an astounding 142 artists! So, as promised, I stretched the sketch to four panels wide by two high, landscape orientation. Measurements now are a monumental 120 inches wide or 10 feet or 3 meters, by 44 inches high or 112 cm.

Here is the latest rendition with changes:
- the branch somehow grew too! it now stretches both sides of the puzzle, giving it a nice warm nature frame
- the dove scooted left to balance the composition and it is simpler now, line-wise
- the sun scooted right to give each panel (light gray lines) a nicer composition by itself. sometimes people just want to look at one panel at a time
- the earth-people didn't change much but they got cozier and the river now flows from them better
- many energy lines from the sun are changed to bind the whole thing together

Peace Puzzle background image

Are we feeling peaceful yet? I'm liking it more and all the elements are flowing together beautifully. The design will change again during the transfer to the blocks and yet again after cutting because my carving knives always get carried away.
Remember that each participant, all 142 or more, gets about a leaf-sized block; I can't wait to see all those tiny designs fill the empty spaces.

The Kickstarter campaign

Almost over! 7 days left and counting, awesome response!

The Peace Puzzle: Current project open for enrollment!
How to sign up:
Click on Back this Project green button
Choose a reward and check out