DIY: “Linocut” Christmas Cards


After rejecting all the pictures from our Christmas card photo shoot (apparently we’re not that photogenic) Katie and I were still in need of cards for our friends and families. Luckily we had some nice paper and printmaking supplies on hand. Keep reading to find out how we used the above supplies and to see the final product!

I am by no means a printmaker but I do understand the basics of linoleum printing. The things you’ll need for a simple card are:

A linoleum block (OK, OK, that isn’t linoleum in the picture but it was cheaper than the lino blocks available at the time)
Cutting blades (a variety is good)
A rubber brayer (the roller above)
Paper (a textured paper may impact your prints in a good or bad way, see our finished product)
A flat inking surface (a pane of glass is great but something like a piece of styrofoam, which I had to use, can also work)

While this image may look like an ad for Speedball, any brand supplies will do. I don’t have detailed instructions for the entire process but here are some important tips:

1. Pick your image. Remember that it will print in reverse! This may not matter sometimes, but it definitely will for text.

2. Plan your cuts. You can draw your reversed image right on the block to guide carving. Alternatively, you can freestyle your design.

3. Use your cutting took to carve away the lightest parts of your image. Whatever is uncarved will come out inked. You can’t carve greys, but you can use hatching or stippling for shading. Use small gouges for cutting thin lines, and large ones for thick lines or for clearing large areas. Always be in control of your cutting tool. Note, that doesn’t mean a tight grip! Many people will recommend only cutting away from you. That isn’t always necessary but make sure that you aren’t cutting toward your fingers. You will cut yourself. I have.

4. When you’re happy with your block it’s time to start inking. Put a dab of ink on your inking surface and spread it out with the brayer. Go back and forth and change directions. The goal is to evenly coat the brayer. Add more ink if it isn’t completely covered. Too much ink will cause it to slide, not roll.

5. With the evenly coated brayer, roll over your carved block until it is evenly covered. Go back and forth in multiple directions here too. What you see is what will print. If ink is filling your carved shapes you may be using too much ink or the gouges may not be deep enough.

6. You can print either by putting the inked stamp on your paper or by carefully placing the paper on top of the stamp. Either way, rub the back of the paper or block to ensure the ink adheres to the paper.

7. Carefully pull away the paper or block to reveal your print.

This can be a messy process but luckily messy linocuts can look great. The most important thing is that the paper and block do not shift as it will smudge your image. With the rubber block I used, the sponginess also caused it to stretch and shift on some test copies. That shouldn’t happen with actual linoleum.

That came out longer than expected but once you try it you’ll see that it’s really a simple process. Try it out for some amazing personalized cards for any holiday or occasion.



The Architecture of Bookbinding

Since taking a class in bookbinding a year and a half ago I’ve made everything from quick notebooks (before meetings and lectures) to the portfolio which got me into architecture school. I’m drawn to books for two reasons: my background in English and the versatility of the form (I’ve been able to use my experience in pottery, paper-making, and figure-drawing in the making of different books). Below are three examples of books I made this past winter, completed as individual projects but also included in my application to an undergraduate architecture program:


This is a “carousel” book made with cut-up travel photos arranged to create three-dimensional scenes (which don’t always make sense). This one required some assembly but resulted in one of my favourite books yet, more an artwork than the other more-or-less-functional notebooks.


The covers of this notebook are made with kiln-fired clay, glazed and stamped with my initial, “M.” The book is bound with two colours of embroidery thread which I twisted together (probably not the most durable binding, especially with the rough edges), and the binding itself is a coptic stitch, easy once you get the hand of it and beautiful in its simplicity.


And this is the portfolio itself, which I submitted hoping it wouldn’t fall apart while admissions were reviewing it. Luckily it held up and the returned book is now sitting in our living room. The binding is the most interesting part of this one: the spine is a piece of copper pipe from a hardware store (sanded for the “brushed” look) and the binding itself is the “secret Belgian binding” explained here. The covers for this one are done in black book-cloth (also used as a backdrop).


A Tale of Two Desks

We decided that we’d give you a quick rundown of where we’ve been spending the majority of our time lately – our desks.

#1 Katie’s Desk (AKA law school central):

1. View of the outside world – I always like to situate my desk near a window. I love cracking the window and feeling the breeze, it helps me stay awake during extremely boring Con law readings.

2. My computer – Where I do all my outlining, online reading, and internet time-wasting.

3. A few photos of family and a sketch by Mike – A nice reminder that law school isn’t the most important thing in life!

4. Pens, pencils, and a ton of highlighters – Was it the Cub Scouts that said, “Always be prepared?” I feel like law students could use a similar motto. With my pens, pencils, and highlighters I’m ready for reading, note-taking, outlining, and whatever else law school throws my way.

5.  Book Basket – I like to keep all my texts, binders, notebooks, and handouts at close range. That way I don’t have to go searching around when I need something. Baskets are a great cheap way to look organized, even though you can just throw everything in.

6. Plant – I love my plant! It’s got the faintest lemon scent and is virtually un-killable.

7. Casebook – There is usually always one open on my desk, reminding me to put the remote down and read already.

8. Coffee – I always have a cup of coffee or tea with me when I work. It tastes so good and keeps me alert,

9. Headphones – I don’t like complete silence when I study. Usually I turn on some music, but lately I’ve been finding that a little too distracting. So I started using an online white noise generator (available free here). It is amazing, and really helps me focus.

10. Post-its – A law student’s arsenal would not be complete without them. I use them for tabbing my books and writing down reading assignments. Definitely part of my law school survival kit.

#2 Mike’s Desk (AKA studio away from studio):

1. Desktop computer – The easiest work to do at home is digital (since you don’t need those messy drafting or modelling supplies). A desktop is also way more comfortable to work on than a laptop.

2. Retro lamp – The light in the den isn’t the best, and this bendy lamp is a great way to augment it.

3. Wacom tablet – It’s easier to draw with pencil and paper but a tablet is great for lettering, colouring, and editing. Sometimes I use it as a mouse.

4. Pens – Not the most accurate instruments, I usually use these for quick sketches on the go.

5. LEGO Architecture sets – What do you get an architecture student for his or her birthday? I can’t get enough of these. They’re fun to put together (sometimes its good having direction), they make you feel like a kid again (or still), and they get even more interesting as you study the buildings they’re based on. Here I have Robie House and Fallingwater.

6. Books – Textbooks and case studies. I love a good monograph.

7. Moleskine sketchbook – A gift from Katie which I take with me everywhere. You should never let yourself forget an idea whether you’re on a bus, walk, or vacation.

8. Sketchbook – A larger sketchbook for notes, diagrams, and more intricate sketches. It won’t fit in your coat pocket but you’ll want to cart it back and forth to class.

Falling for Fort Needham Memorial Park

This weekend Mike and I headed out to do some thrifting at Plan B, a Merchant’s Co-op in Halifax’s North End. On the way, we stumbled across the Fort Needham Memorial Park. The park is home to an impressive memorial to the Halifax Explosion as well as some beautiful fall foliage. I couldn’t help but take some photos, and Mike couldn’t resist the urge to do a few sketches. The park is definitely one of my new favorite places in Halifax!