Testing TOUCH Twin Markers

First of all, this is NOT a sponsored post. I'm not connected to this product or company in any other way than just the ordinary crazy consumer.

Blog-to-good.png

So I just got this deal on 80 pieces of TOUCH Twin Markers. In Sweden you have to by them for 40 SEK, which is about $5 each. A pack of 60 markers is 1.550 SEK / $180. Now I tried this new shopping site called wish.com (don't know if it's global, but would say it is). And found this 80-pack for only about 100 SEK / $12 (!!!!!). At first I thought it was too good to be true and I never buy into these types of promos otherwise, but this was just too tempting. And with that price I just had to try it (it was markers for god's sake!!!). If you are into markers too, you'll know what I'm talking about. 

And today, I went to the post office to pick up the package. Apparently it was sent from Singapore, so I'm a bit worried that it's a copy.

Markertest1.jpg

I unpacked it, and everything looked fine, more than fine. It looked great. 80 pretty colors were greeting me when opening the case *the sound of "oh, happy day" playing in my head*.

Then I had to try them out, naturally, got a piece of Copic Marker paper and freezed when I saw what happened when I applied a bit of color to it.

Ink on Copic Marker paper.... eeeeeek!!!!!!

Ink on Copic Marker paper.... eeeeeek!!!!!!

It floated around like mud! With small little grains on top. And when I touched it with my finger it would smear and come off! It wouldn't layer either...

Aaaargh! It was too good to be true after all. Oh, well, that's what you get for being cheap, I thought.

But then I tried it on ordinary printing paper, just in case, and the result was completely different. The ink bled a lot, but that it does with Copic and ProMarkers as well. So I got a piece of Canson The Wall marker paper and the result was just as good as with any other marker I'm using. Whiew!!! I mean, since I didn't spend a lot of money on them, if they had turned out to be fony or fake, it wouldn't have been the whole world of course, but the disappointment had been big anyway and the joy of having 80 new markers at your hand destroyed.

Did a quick test with the Copic blender too, and it seems to react ok on the Canson paper, not perfectly though.

On ordinary printing paper.

On ordinary printing paper.

Canson The Wall paper.

Canson The Wall paper.

Again, Canson The Wall, using the blender.

Again, Canson The Wall, using the blender.

I'm not certain that they are the real thing or if it's TOUCH in general, because the feeling of the pen itself is not as nice as for example Copic or ProMarker. The fit of the cap is not as nice and or the printed letters and numbers on the body and cap looks a bit low quality. I don't have any other TOUCH markers at home right now to compare with, but I will get some, just to be sure.

Markertest12.jpg

This specific pack had a nice set of greys (actually all basic grey tones) and a lot of earth tones, plus a nice mix of vidid colors, represented in each color group.

So what's the conclusion? Well, it's always nice when you get new markers, but I have to be honest, the feeling is a bit tainted with the suspicion that it might be a pirated copy - the origin, price and look and feel of the pen itself points to that. You can find a similar deal at Amazon though, and that indicates that the bargain I got could be with original pens as well. Hm..

I'm not a fan of pirating and copying and try to avoid that as much as I can. But now that I have them, I will definitely use and enjoy them.

Simply Lavish skirt

The other day something really fun was delivered to my doorstep. A roll of my first ever printed yardage fabric! With the help of a fabric pattern designer friend who prints her fabrics a couple of times a year asked if I wanted to hop on the train this time and try it out to print some of my patterns too. I didn't really have a plan for the fabric at first and needed to think about it for a couple of days. Should I do this investment or not? It wasn't a big one, but still. I'd like to focus on the right things for my business and not be all over the place. But this opportunity was just to fun and exciting to miss, so I decided to just go ahead and then make plans for what I should do with it afterwards. 

Well that turned out not to be very difficult. Once I had ordered and sent my print file all kinds of ideas of opportunities this would provide popped up in my head. From my own sewing projects with this fabric, to selling it by the yardage or have it turned into different products and sell.

I chose to print the pattern design I call Simply Lavish from a pattern collection I'm working on that's called Celebration. A lot of the patterns in this collection is made of water color doodles and paintings - Simply Lavish is one of them.

2017-08-16 11.42.42.jpg

The print turned out pretty good I think. A tiny bit darker than the original, but only the slightest.

And here's the first sewing project made with my Simply Lavish fabric, which by the way is now available in my webshop.

Simply Lavish skirt

Lavish skirt07.jpg

I chose to make a skirt for my first sewing project with this fabric. I wanted to make this type of vintage dirndl kind of model, because it's so pretty and also quite easy to make and you can use it to both dressed up as well as casual occasions.

I had actually taken a Skillshare class about making this type of skirt, by Allie Jackson - who by the way is one of the most fun and sweetest sewists out there in my opinion. I warmly recommend to follow her on Instagram if you like to sew too.

2017-08-17 19.56.07-2.jpg

So the first step, actually the most boring one, was to cut off the length I needed for my skirt and wash it. But it looked pretty hanging to dry on our starcase :-)

Lavish skirt15.jpg

Next step was to cut out all the pattern pieces, which for this model is very easy, you just need 2 or 3 panels of the fabric and I used 2 since this fabric is 137 cm wide which was enough for 2 panels. I also needed a wastband and interfacing fusing web for the waistband and where the zipper would be sewn. 

For the wastband I measured around my waist, added 4 centimeters for sewing allowance and another  5 cm for an overlap for the hook and bow.

I the skirt panels I measured from the waist down to how long I wanted the skirt to be, just beneath the knee, which was about 60 cm, then added another 12 cm for the hem. Then I just tore off the two panels and the piece for the waistband.

Lavish skirt14.jpg

I also added another detail, not included in Allies Skillshare class. I wanted to have side pockets, and used a pair of shorts to make the pattern pieces for them. For the pockets I then used a coordinating fabric that I had ordered from Spoonflower - Corset Stitch in the pink color way (Colonial Inn pattern collection).

Lavish skirt13.jpg

Then it was time to fuse the interfacing into place - the waistband and where the zipper would be attached.

I used just a regular fusing web, about the same weight as the fabric.

And then it was just all about sewing the edges together.

Another change that I made to the original instructions is that I split the back panel in half, so that I could have the zipper in the center back and not in one of the sides. 

The two back panels were sewn together all the way up, but where the zipper would go I used the longest stitch on my mashine to make a baste stitch, that after pressing would be removed. In this way you get a nice and neat folding  along your zipper edges.

Lavish skirt12.jpg
Lavish skirt10.jpg
Lavish skirt11.jpg

Next step was to sew the zipper in place by hand to get this really crafted, couture look.

Tictail-Lavish-skirt03.png

Making the gathering of the skirt was probably the most fun step in this project. I did what Allie suggested and made three rows of baste stitch for the gathering which makes the gathers much more even and provides it from twisting when you start pulling the strings.

It was quite tricky with the pockets, since I hade to come up with the solutions myself, but after a couple of trials and errors I made them work pretty well. A lesson though for the next skirt is to make bigger pockets and pocket holes, and also make them much further down the sides.

Then it was time to attach the waistband and hand sew the hem. The last step was to attach the hook and bow on the waist band.

Lavish skirt08.jpg
Lavish skirt09.jpg
Lavish skirt06.jpg

I'm really happy with the result and can't wait to start with another project. Well, I have a whole roll to use...

If you would like to use the Simply Lavish fabric for your sewing project too, just hop over to my web shop where you can order it by the meter. The fabric is 137 cm wide (about 53 inches) and 100% cotton. 

If you would like to check out Allies class on Skillshare you can use this link to get a 2 month free trial of a Skillshare premium membership. 

What inspiration is and where to find it

It’s funny how inspiration works. For me different things inspire to different artforms. For example, when I’m down, sad, or sentimental I get inspired to write stories (secret fact: I have about 7 unfinished novels in my ”drawer”). But to get inspired to create patterns, happy moments or seeing something really beautiful seem to be the thing. Like this morning, when I harvested sweet peas and string beans from our own garden I felt a pure moment of happiness and itching to get into the studio. But if I feel a bit depressed I could never squeeze out a single pattern or an idea for one. And if I’m trying to write when everything is jolly and dandy it would turn out reeeeaally crappy and poor. Makes me wonder how this inspiration thing works.

Sweet peas and string beans from my garden. Apparantly inspiring.

Sweet peas and string beans from my garden. Apparantly inspiring.

So what is inspiration in the first place? Well, there has been many theories and explanations throughout history, and those theories are definitely reflected by how they viewed reality and explained the world at the given time. For example, ancient communities like the greek, romans and vikings thought inspiration was something divine i.e it came from the gods/God. The greeks actually thought that inspiration or ”enthusiasm” came from the muses as well as the gods Apollo and Dionysos and that the artist was transported beyond his own mind and that the gods gave him their thoughts to create something with. They also thought inspiration was not dependent of skills, technique and performance, which made it possible for even the non-artist to be inspired.

The vikings believed something similar, the artist would be inspired by something magical and divine and then he shaped that with his own mind.

By the way the word inspiration derives from the latin word inspirare, which means ”to breathe into”. It refers to an unconscious burst of creativity of an artform. Source: Wikipedia

During the enlightenment the principles to explain how the world worked wasn’t based on the works of a god any more, but scientific thoughts, by observing. The philosophers of that time, like John Locke tried to explain what inspiration was and where it came from. Locke said that inspiration was an association of ideas that came together randomly to create a new unity. The romantic theories who called inspiration ”genius”, describing inspiration as something supernatural and divine just like the greeks or Christians, but said inspiration came from within the artist. Some even thought it was a kind of madness or irrationality.

During the 19th and 20th centuries and the modernist era it was explained by a new science that was the new ”thing” - psychology. Iconic psychologists and philosophers like Freud, Jung, and Marx had their own theories to explain inspiration. They all had in common that inspiration was the product of the environment or the physical heritage of the artist and how it had shaped her or him. Freud thought artist were fundamentally wounded by some kind of unresolved conflict or trauma from the childhood and therefore inspiration was a product of their subconsciousness. Jung thought inspiration came from something other than the artists experience, that it was a racial memory. The Marxist thinkers said it was the expression of the friction between economical structures of the society. Of course they did.

The modern psychology hasn’t really studied inspiration. To me that shows that it’s not an interesting or important issue that needs any resolving any more. But if we would use todays thoughts and philosophies that reflect todays society, inspiration would be something completely individual and it’s up to every artist to explain, describe and find it.

Some say that inspiration is beyond anyones control, you either have it or you don’t. But is that really true? Because to me that suggest that it is still something of a divine force and as the agnostic that I am, it’s difficult to grasp. I think inspiration is triggered by things that you interact with, and like dreams, all those different impressions that you are hit by every day, will be processed in your consciousness or subconsciousness and comes out as an idea, either automatically without you forcing it, or by doing the work. 

By that I want to say that sometimes you have it, it’s there to use and to work with. You sit in your studio or kitchen table, with a nice cup of coffee, listening to your favorite music, using the materials you know so well and it just flows. It’s a wonderful feeling, right? But sometimes, it’s just not there.

But if you’re in that dark, empty place where inspiration just doesn’t want to appear like a genie in a bottle, granting you an artistic wish, you can hunt it down. Yes, you can easily go and get some inspiration if you need it. The key is - and this theory of mine is based on a lot of other artists and designers that I know or am following - is to do something new. Get out of your comfort zone, exit the frames you usually work within and new ideas will be served. As long as you do the work, and try.

That is an inspiring thought, right? That we can control inspiration like that. I wonder what the ancient greeks, John Locke or Sigmund Freud would say about that?

So, in case your inspiration is emptied out, here are some ideas to what you can do to go get some refill:

  1. Visit a museum; history, art, architecture, crafts…
  2. Go to antique shops and flea markets
  3. Take a walk deep into a forest, sit down and observe, listen and smell
  4. Visit a flower shop
  5. Go to the beach, doesn’t even have to be summer.
  6. Go to a park or a garden, observe the small details in the plants and flowers, or the overall impression
  7. Get some books about history, portraits, plants, flowers, birds, animals, insects, a specific corner of the world, architecture
  8. Visit home decor or wallpaper stores
  9. Explore a new music genre and artists on Spotify etc.
  10. Take an on-line class and learn a craft you don’t master: like using professional markers, oil painting, watercolor or lettering for example

What tips and tricks do you have to fuel and refill your inspiration?

If you would like to try tip no 10:

Here is a link for a free two month trial of a premium membership on Skillshare. It will give you access to over 17.000 classes within all kinds of creative areas and business (among them my classes on illustration, coloring with markers and crating classic pattern designs) - taught by creators from around the world. There is no commitment to continue after the two month trial and you can cancel anytime.

The virgin forest of Tyresta outside Stockholm.

The virgin forest of Tyresta outside Stockholm.

Hollyhocks at the castle in Varberg on the west coast of Sweden.

Hollyhocks at the castle in Varberg on the west coast of Sweden.

Papyrus from the traveling exhibition of Thutanchamun (the reconstruction).

Papyrus from the traveling exhibition of Thutanchamun (the reconstruction).

New Skillshare course about markers and the mysterious colorless blender

A lot of you have asked me if there will be another Skillshare class about markers - and well, the answer is yes! I'm really happy to be able to tell you that I just published the second class about coloring with markers. Yay! And now I can begin my summer vacation... (yeah, right... as if I will stay away from the studio all summer! *rolling my eyes*).

This time I'm sinking my teeth into the colorless blender - or The Blender. It's a marker that is surrounded by some common misconceptions - for example, that you can blend colors with it. Ha, ha, yes, that's weird I know, it's called the blender for heavens sake, but you can't blend colors with it. Well, not in the way you would expect it to blend anyway. Another misconception is that you can erase colors with it. Nope. Can't.

But you can do a lot of other things with it, for example create some really cool effects to your colored illustrations. All this and more you'll get in this new class, plus a row of exercises and a class project that will help you practice your marker skills.

But that's not all. I've designed the exercises and the class project so that in the end of the class you will have a bunch of illustrations to use for other purposes - like uploading to a POD-service like Society6 and Redbubble, or you can use as motifs in a pattern design, or just simply include in an illustration portfolio.

The course is a beginner-to intermediate class so it's good if you have a bit experience of coloring with markers. But if you are a total beginner or feel that you would like to freshen up your skills you can start out with my first marker class - The fundamentals of coloring with markers.

Check out the intro video below.

Go straight to the class on Skillshare >>

If you're not a member on Skillshare yet but would like to try it out this link will also give you two months for free.

Bear Bell Pattern Design School, Part One: Toile de Jouy

As I’ve mentioned in the previous post - the more I learn about pattern making and design, the more I understand that there are so much more that I need to know about it. And that the theory is as important as the practical, creating part. People have created patterns for centuries, for millennias even, so there is a vast history and tradition to learn from, different principles and types and categories of patterns to be aware of and be inspired by. It’s a lot to take in, so many varieties and sources to consider, so where to start?

Now I'm starting my own pattern high education - the Bear Bell University of patterns, with the ambition to learn more about patterns. With the risk of being too overambitious I’m not gonna do this in any specific order or chronology, it's not going to be like a course in art history. No, I'll just go with what inspires and interests me for the moment, what I’ve been curious about for a while.

So, I love history and one of my favorite periods when it comes to patterns, motifs, design, art, architecture and fashion, is the 18th century, and there is a lot of patterns and styles to learn from during this century. One of them is the Toile de Jouy pattern. The last couple of weeks I’ve spent some time studying this and learning more about that pattern type and style.

Toile de Jouy is a typical decorating pattern that consists of a repeat pattern on a white or off-white background with pastoral themes and scenes, such as people having a picnic, an arrangement of flowers, a picturesque ruin or garden or a landscape. The scenes are very detailed and artistically drawn, made in a single color, mostly black or grey, but also dark red or blue is common. There are examples of toile patterns on colored backgrounds too, and also motifs in green or magenta.

The term "Toile de Jouy" was defined by the fabric with this type of pattern design that was produced in the small suburb town called Jouy-en-Josas, just south-west of Paris in the late 18th century, and means simply ”fabric from Jouy”. The original toiles were produced in Ireland in the mid 18th century and became very popular in Britain and France. It also became very popular during the Colonial era in the US.

The pattern is mostly associated with fabrics like chintz and linen and used for curtains and upholstery, but was also quite popular as wallpaper. Nowadays it is used for all kinds of products - beddings, clothing and porcelain.

Sources: Wikipedia and designsponge.com.

Bedding by Pottery Barn

Bedding by Pottery Barn

When I wanted to try to make my own toile pattern I started out with finding a theme for the pattern. I’m currently working on a pattern collection called Winter Magic which is intended for products of the winter and Christmas season, and thought that a toile pattern would be a perfect addition to the collection. So with that theme and the key words I had already picked for the collection I started thinking about different winter scenes that could be a part of the toile and jotted down some suggestions:

  • Snow covered winter forest with animal and tracks
  • Narnia lamp post
  • A winter walk - a couple walking through a tunnel of snow covered trees
  • A house on a hill with frosty trees
  • Winter birds feeding on a bird feeder or a sheaf
  • Through the advent window, children decorating a tree, Christmas presents and lit candles
  • Hot chocolate by the fire
  • People ice skating
Jot words.jpg

I gathered a bunch of images as inspiration and put together in an inspiration board.

I then narrowed it down and tried to find some kind of red thread or motifs that could go well together, but also provide some variety to the motifs. I wanted it to be lots of things to study and look at, details to discover.

Then, without further ado I started sketching, thinking that I would probably have to make a whole bunch of sketches before finding the right illustrations to use.

I used an H2 pencis, so it would be easy to erase the lines.

First I decided the shape of the complete illustration and sketched the rough components. Then worked myself into more and more shapes, lines and details. But I didn’t make all details and final lines at this stage.

Then I switched to a fine liner 0.2 and started to fill in the shapes and contours I wanted, adding more details as I went along, until I was satisfied. I had pretty much decided already how I wanted the illustration to look, but as always you make some choices and lines along the way that almost surprises you.

Here’s the first illustration, with the magical scene of two deers standing in a glen as the snow falls around them. I wanted to depict that serene, calm feeling when encountering an animal in the forest and with that muffled sound that the fresh fallen snow will create.

The second illustration I made was the house. At first I wanted a house from a straight angle or even from a frog perspective, the observer looking up at the house on a hill. But it just came out differently when I started. I got some inspiration from photos I had gathered and I specifically like the farm house on the hill in the background.

Third out is the ice skating scene. Early on I knew I wanted to have a bridge in this illustration, to create a contrast in both shade and shape. I think this one is my favorite.

It could also be this one. The last illustration is an embodiment or the essence of the Winter Magic collection - the Narnian lamp post. I really enjoyed drawing the pine trees and the contrasting shadows inbetween all the branches. You just wonder where Mr Tumnus is, right?

After I had the illustrations I needed, I scanned them and worked on them in Illustrator, turning them into vectors that I find is an easy way and process to create and recolor patterns and also edited them a bit, took away parts of the drawings I didn't think added to the illustration and actually duplicated some of the drawings and rearranged them to make them more flowing and complete and working better as pattern motifs.

When assembling the motifs into the repeat I tried a few constellations and I don't know yet which one that will be included in the collection. I might even work on it some more and creating another version.

Here's a classic design version - the scenes arranged together with a lot of spacing in between but still working well together. First I tried with a cream colored background and drawings in deep green. I also tried them i a light red and a dark, dark blue.

Here's a classic design version - the scenes arranged together with a lot of spacing in between but still working well together. First I tried with a cream colored background and drawings in deep green. I also tried them i a light red and a dark, dark blue.

I had also seen Toiles with three colors; one for the general background, one for the background of each scene and one for the scene outlines. Here's one in a powder blue that I like.

I had also seen Toiles with three colors; one for the general background, one for the background of each scene and one for the scene outlines. Here's one in a powder blue that I like.

I also drew a pine garland with holly leafs and berries and ribbon to use as a decorative intermediate or filler if needed, and tried this together with the winter scenes:

Also tried a pattern with only the garland motif:

So the Winter Magic collection might actually end up with two Toile patterns.