Printers on the Moon

I recently saw an article that started with this…

Somewhere, 254 miles above us, an astronaut is probably printing something.

Lance Ulanoff on November 2, 2017 Mashable.com

So here’s my question… If they can get a printer to work miles above the Earth, why can’t I get the printer sitting next to me to work?

I have a lifetime of printer woes which made me decide some years ago that I would use a Web based printing service rather than use a printer.

For the whole, using Doxzoo (my chosen online print company) has been good. I design my image, choose the paper, click the copies required and pay up; then a few days later the printing arrives.

It’s great, and yet I find myself not printing things because I can’t be bothered to wait for the postal service to catch up. If I see a doll clothing pattern I like will I print it off or not? I actually found myself using the screen of my iPad to trace a pattern by hand recently because it was just not worth ordering an online print of one image.

Then I began selling Cards and I wanted a more professional look, so I searched for a card printer who didn’t mind small quantities (johnsonscards.co.uk). They’re a nice friendly company who have a range of card options and finishing choices. My first order was pretty big and I’ve since placed a couple smaller orders.

Their minimum order is 24 cards of one design, which is great because it doesn’t sound too much. Except that, what if I make a bit of a doozy? What if I design a card that I think is great but customers don’t buy? I’m stuck with 24 cards I can’t sell, or worse, what if, after printing I find a mistake? 24 cards in the bin.

Also while the price is ok, unless I meet a second minimum total order of £250 (before tax) then I have an added charge of 50%. This means I either have to pay an additional 50% on my small order or wait until I’ve enough designs to cover the minimums. That also leaves the problem of new ideas not getting onto the website quickly enough. Do I print Christmas cards and lose what small profit I make with cards or do I wait a bit until I’ve designed Valentines cards?

And so, I started looking at getting my first printer in years.

Unfortunately, I began looking for a printer just as lockdown was in full sway and people now working from home were buying every printer imaginable for their new home office.

Well, with lockdown over and supplies up and running again I began my hunt.

I watched dozens of Youtube videos, read a couple reviews, and settled on a printer which would cost around £600.

My last printer was bought from PCWorld/Currys. Is it just me or do other women feel ignored in these type of shops? Anyway, I bought the printer home, plugged it in, tried to connect it and… nothing. Couldn’t connect it to my Mac, couldn’t work it, it was an online manual and I was getting frustrated with not having enough information at hand. And so, the printer was returned.

This time I needed a different approach.

In my search for the best printer I stumbled across a company called Printer Base (printerbase.co.uk), they have this useful live chat option that a lot of companies use and even more surprising I’m certain I was actually talking to a human. I mentioned what I needed the printer for, and was recommended a printer of the same make I had chosen but at half the price.

My thoughts were obviously that she had misunderstood my needs, because all online reviews I’d seen were recommending a £600 printer and so I mentioned the one I had been looking at. She told me that while the higher price one would do what I wanted, this cheaper one would also cover my needs and I was left with a clear choice of listening to my own thoughts (and biased hatred of the machines) or a person who spends all day dealing with printers. Well I bought the cheaper one. They could’ve got another couple hundred from me, but nope, and that told me to buy from them.

The printer arrived quickly, but it was a day before my holiday so off I went knowing I’ve the mess of a printer set up to come home to.

Yep, setting up the printer was a mess.

In frustration I got onto the Printer Base website to have a moan about yet another printer not connecting. It turns out I didn’t know about a button on my wifi box that I need to press to connect it. With this customer service woman typing her calm reassurance we managed to get a working printer.

I printed some cards, got some cards samples from papermilldirect.co.uk and had a blast trying out different card stock.

And then the novelty of printing cards wore off and the printer became a tool instead of a toy.

This morning, after it being switched off for a couple weeks, I needed to print something, so I switched on the printer and of course, it didn’t work. I searched online for an answer and all I got were forums to read through, then I remembered Printer Base and got on their website. Yep, printer back online (problem again wasn’t the printer but Macs habit of needing to re-find the printer.

Now, I’m not getting advertising for any company here, and a whole rant about a printer sounds like the stuff of nightmares (if you can get your computer to read this post then it might help get you to sleep) but it has made me think about where I buy items.

I often go on about the need to support local crafters and artists, but when it comes to big items, I head to Argos or one of those superstores that (I feel) ignore me until my ‘Man’ can come and tell them what I need.

Could you imagine a big company underselling you something because they’d rather you go home with a cheaper but right product than make a bigger sale?

Can you imagine phoning up the superstore and asking for help when you haven’t paid for the additional monthly care package?

Me neither.

Now, like I’ve said, I’m not paid to recommend anything. What about the 10% off inks and paper I hear you say? nope, everyone who buys a printer gets that offer.

If you’re looking at printing off your images then you can’t do better than trying out Printer Base.

So, now I need a washing machine, I was going to pop into Argos, but I think I’ve learned my lesson and look for a smaller business this time.

I did the one thing a creative should never do!

Last week I made the worst mistake an artist/crafter/creative could ever make. We don’t talk enough about this kind of thing, but we need to.

Far too many creative people have given up and lost their way, too many ideas haven’t come to fruition because of this one mistake. But I’m here to put my hand up and say I did it. I did the one thing you should never do.

I compared myself to another creative.

It’s okay to look at a well known artist and admire their work. It’s useful to look at the career of a successful creative and get ideas for your own career path. It’s good to look at similar styles of work, even to have a go at copying their work to see how close you come or do one of the many instagram challenges to “draw this in your own style”.

But the one thing you should never, ever, do (and I really mean it) is compare yourself to another creative.

I saw a fellow creative, checked out their Etsy page, looked at other work they did and slowly the damaging thoughts entered my head…

  • Why do I not have as many Instagram followers?
  • Why do I not have as much paid opportunities (although how do I know they’re paid and not volunteering)?
  • Why doesn’t my Etsy shop look as cohesive as theirs?
  • Why does their work look so much brighter, bolder?…
  • Why?
  • Why?

And once you allow the Why questions into the party, the ‘if only’s’ accompany them like a plus 1 to a wedding.

  • If only I could have afforded the teaching course, I could’ve taken that job opportunity
  • If only I’d have been able to secure funding for the MA course in Art Psychotherapy
  • If only I’d have realised my passion for creativity when I was younger
  • If only I’d have chosen embroidery or weaving instead of knitting at Uni
  • If only my mental health…
  • If only…
  • If only…

And then the full force of damage happened.

I cried, then I started feeling angry at myself, then I started feeling I was a failure.

I expose this horrifying tale as a warning to others. Comparing yourself to other creatives is harmful to your health. Do not do it.

And then, after a time of hitting a low, I remembered some advice I heard from Harry Potter.

“Play to your strengths Harry”

Professor Moody (well, okay, Potter fans may argue it wasn’t technically Moody)

And here’s why you shouldn’t do what I did.

I don’t know the journey of another creative, I don’t know what they’ve gone through to get to where they are. I don’t know their connections, their training, the hours they put in, the finances they might have.

But I know mine.

I know that as a child I actually was creative, but I also know I was often in a dark place that squashed my confidence.

I know that financially I am not able to invest in big items, even something as simple as a printer so I can print my own cards is beyond my finances, so a lot of what I do is done slowly.

I am not a mixed media artist, I don’t like to work messy – I know, I was even comparing myself to someone who doesn’t work in the same media as me, How crazy is that?

But I also have to recognise my strengths.

I’m a textile artist, that is my strength.

Yes, I draw and use procreate, I’m good at textile design, I have fabric that sells online. I have crochet patterns that sell, I have awards for my knitting skills (and some quite prestigious awards too!).

I liked what the other creative was doing, but I could never recreate their artwork. And even if I did, I would not be satisfied.

And so, in the end, I stopped trying. Instead of continuing with the drawing I had started that set me off on the why questions and into this black hole, I put down the pencil and picked up the sewing needle. And I made this…

I am the light of the world

Apologies for the photo and the un-ironed fabric (I do know better).

It looks nothing like the other creatives work, it’s not supposed to. It looks like mine.

And I’m proud of it.

But here’s the other problem, If that creative person knew I felt this way, that their positive work led to a dark moment for me, they’d be upset. In the same way, if one person from our Wednesday evening sketching group felt ‘less-than’ because I, or someone else, was seen as a better doodler, I’d be upset with it.

But more than that, God doesn’t want this for us.

You might have heard that old pastors story or the phrase, ‘God doesn’t want another Billy Graham’.

It suggests the world has one Billy Graham and doesn’t need another carbon copy. Each of us have our own unique paths, experiences and plans. This talk about the pathway we hear in church should really be more like a map full of roads wide and narrow all leading to the one destination.

Yeah, we all have moments when we think ‘the world doesn’t need another me’!

I like to imagine, God isn’t saying it like that (which can often become a negative phrase), rather, He’s looking at the world and wondering what else it needs, and thinking, I know exactly what is needed. Then off He goes and makes ‘me!’

It’s actually rather incredible when you think about it.

God looked at the world and decided what it really needed, wasn’t another one of me, but one of you!

The line between sacred and sinful

Have you seen my crocheted Bible story finger puppets?

Pattern and puppet available on Etsy

He’s one of several Bible characters I’ve written patterns for so that people can tell Bible stories to kids, and in turn kids can start to tell the stories themselves.

Today I posted another crochet pattern onto a Facebook group, it’s not my pattern, but one that is freely available on the internet.

https://croshame.com/2014/04/16/welcome-to-the-martyr-dome-free-pattern/

Not tasteful?

According to a couple of comments I’m toe expect some backlash.

So I have to ask, where is the line drawn between what is tasteful and what is not?

Several years ago I visited Warrington Salvation Army who spent almost a year producing the knitted bible exhibition, it has scenes from various Bible stories including the crucifixion. Here’s a reminder of the video…

Is it inoffensive because it’s cute?

Is there a line? Should there be a line?

And just to show these questions are not limited to textiles, I nicked this image from a friends Facebook page of a scene from the Easter Sunday displays.

Scandinavian Blythe Dress Review

The Scandinavian Style Dress, is a knitting pattern, written by Anna Kibalchich-Poda from BannAnnaBears, and bought from her Etsy shop.

I bought the pattern a couple of months ago and have only just got around to making it. The pattern is written to be made on straight needles but I began knitting in the round just after the arms were done.

As I’m writing this blog I went to Etsy to paste a link to Anna’s shop, but the shop isn’t available at the moment. Then I noticed where Anna lives, Kyiv, Ukraine.

It seems odd, unfair even, that I’m sitting here, with the windows open and the sun shining through. Listening to the birds and my only worry right now is making sure the neighbours cat doesn’t wander in because my cat doesn’t like him.

Yet, not too far away, closer now with the internet and shops like Etsy, fellow knitters are in a war zone. I would’ve said that whether you knit dolls clothing or not, you should buy the pattern, just to help Anna buy things she might be in desperate need of right now, but I just can’t comprehend what her situation is or even where she is.

One thing that always amazes me is the camaraderie of knitters/crocheters, and it makes me wonder, what we fellow knitters, crocheters, creatives can do for our fellow creatives in the Ukraine.

On being 50…

Yep, last week was my birthday, which I spent in bed with a cold, however, it was also the best birthday I’ve ever had.

One surprise party, four balloons, three cakes, so many friends that I lost count.

I bought myself an Anglo concertina, it’s something I’ve been wanting to play since I was a child. Actually it’s my second one, I bought my first a few months ago, but it was a 20 key and had a dodgy key, so my birthday present to myself was a 30 key Hohner concertina.

I’ve always known that the concertina was an instrument played in Salvation Army open airs, but that was before my time, however since getting interested in the instrument I didn’t realise just how big a part the Army had in the ‘tina’.

On Friday I took advantage of a free concertina lesson and was able to play a £6,000 concertina which was wonderful, but then I was shown a Salvation Army concertina the tutor also had. Right there on the box was the old Judd street SP&S stamp.

While I don’t share a love for brass band music and think the Army’s ‘songsterfication’ of good music is a travesty, I do love the old choruses. I also love the folk night at the local pub on Fridays and there’s a connection I think between the old SA choruses and the Folk songs.

There’s something I like about the honest singing of a sea shanty or a SA chorus. I remember the old singing company and songster practices and being told how to pronounce certain words.

Songsters sound ‘posh’ the tunes are too high for me and they all sound like they sing with upper class southern accents, as a proud working class Yorkshire lass I don’t connect to it, it’s not my words.

But the sound of a chorus, sung from the heart, with no fancy-smancy frills, that’s what I like. Something that even the most common of man can sing, that’s what I love.

Recently I found a photo of my Granddad, Brigadier Jepson Jepson, with his accordion, confirmation that I’m following on in family footsteps. Hopefully I’ll get good enough to share a chorus or two here!

Jepson Jepson with some of his many musical instruments

18 years image

Friday I came home from hospital after a week of being on the covid ward.

But Friday also marked a special day, 18 years of sobriety.

I often wonder whether still counting the years is worth it, I mean, after all this time the chances of me wandering off for a bottle of vodka is slim to non, and yet… the reality is, you never can risk it again.

On the whole alcohol or lack of, doesn’t have any effect in the day to day of things, but it’s those moment when you’re not expecting it that hits me even after these years.

In this world of covid I’ve had to carry my own scented hand sanitiser because many of the ones in shop doorways and even in churches give off an alcohol scent and when not expecting it, rubbing alcohol on your hands is tough.

Another problem I have is cough medicine, yep, many have alcohol as a base and it’s can be a bit of a problem for me.

Anyway, less about those old days, they’re gone and forgotten, and that’s kind of a new attitude I’ve developed about the past. Maybe more on that another time.

I decided I would draw a sketch in celebration of my sobriety. It’s in a similar style to my last image, whimsy with mice!

But the theme is one I’ve wanted to draw for a long time. There’s the old tales of Salvation Army open airs where a drunken man came to Christ and the drum was laid down as a mercy seat (place of prayer).

There are some old images of scenes like this and I’ve liked the idea that any place can become a mercy seat when needed.

I also added a mother standing aside, perhaps watching her son come home, for all the parents who’ve had to leave their children in the hands of the Lord. I called it ‘a mother’s prayer’ and I hope you like it.

Now what to do about it, I’m wondering whether to get it professionally printed and sell it as a limited run, with proceeds to Wakefield Salvation Army (a small Corps with big ideas and a place I love). But printing even at A5 size costs quite a bit.

A novel idea is to get it printed on something like a water bottle or mug, it’d be the same price as a print, but the whimsical style might suit that better.

The final option is to turn it into cards and sell them.

Anyway, it’d be interesting to see what people think and any ideas to what I could do with it.

Hospital Drawing

I’m currently in hospital with this dreaded covid. Thankfully I brought my travel drawing supplies and iPad, so I’m ok.

At first I decided to just draw anything, which is not how I work, I like to have in mind what to draw, but one of the side effects of this thing I’m finding is my mind is a bit foggy.

It was really difficult, I spent quite a bit of time not even drawing a straight line, then I started to draw insects, cute bumblebees, but found a very thin line between cute and disturbing when I tried to put a stinger on my bee and well… not good and to be frank he looked rather sleazy. The more I tried to make it look like a stinger the more it looked like something else. I share it with you for the laughter but even the cute face turns a little sinister. Oh dear me, no!

Then I started drawing mice, then elements, just trees in a style of drawing I’m starting to really like. My thinking was maybe I can develop a little library of motifs I can just use between a series of drawing

One thing I didn’t want to do is pull up a load of Pinterest images and start looking at mice and what they looked like and in the end I came up with a little sketch I liked.

I quite liked that, and continued with my little watercolour kit to paint it in…

Finally I took it into Procreate and worked on it in there. They’ve just updated Procreate with a few little features and one makes saving your favourite brushes so much easier to do.

Anyway, after hours of working on it, it’s finished.

I really like it, don’t yet know what to do with it but I feel like I’m finding my style which is a good place to be. It reminds me of the usborne books from my childhood full of animals in clothes going about their normal business.

I also started singing the song about the mouse in a windmill, so next I want to look at Amsterdam and how a mouse in a windmill in Amsterdam might look.

Sharing your lunch

My first finger puppet set is finished, the pattern is written and on Ravelry and Etsy and a complete set is ready to go on sale on Etsy.

The set is almost everything you need to tell the story of the feeding of the 5000… yep, I say almost because I’m not about to make 5000 men (plus women and children) and enough crochet fish and bread to feed them all. Some things will have to be left for your imagination.

It’s an interesting story, a crowd of 5000 men and their wives and kids followed Jesus until he stopped and spoke to them.

It was a long sermon I suppose because it was lunchtime by the time he finished (pretty much like most Sundays).

Everyone was getting hungry and Jesus asked about feeding them.

Finger puppet disciple

Now, apparently this wasn’t the first time this situation had happened, the Bible has another telling where there were 4000 fed.

I don’t know why the disciples didn’t just look at Jesus and ask him to just produce the food like last time, but they didn’t.

Instead they found a boy with his lunch, five loaves and two little fish.

Boy with his packed lunch

So the boy gave them his lunch.

Now, I don’t know how that happened, did he offer the lunch? Was he earwigging and hear they needed food? How did they know he had food… and that he alone had food?

I once read a commentary on this story and the suggestion was made that it wasn’t a miracle where Jesus created food. Rather the crowd all had lunch, but were keeping their food for themselves.

When the crowd saw the willingness of the boy to give what he had they decided to go in their own pockets and pull out their own lunches and add them to the basket. That’s how they all had enough, no miracle, just people admitting they had what was needed all along.

But that left me thinking, if everyone ate bread and fish, and the commenter was right, then 5000 people decided that lunch for that day would be fish and bread.

Not one fellow woke up that morning, turned to his wife and said, “my dear, I fancy chicken for lunch”.

Not one wife, slipped in a slice of cake or a piece of fruit.

The thought of 5000 men all deciding that today they’d have a fish sandwich for lunch is more of a miracle.

And then, where did the baskets come from?

Did people just turn up with empty baskets waiting to be filled?

Basket with bread and fish

Or did they miraculously appear as well?

Anyway, how ever it happened, a boy offered what he had and Jesus used it to help thousands.

Lots of fish

Whether the story is about miracles, or giving what little you have or that we can feed the world if we all share, it’s a story worth telling.

Bible Story Finger Puppets

I’ve two little people who have recently entered my life, one is my nephews baby, which was a wonderful gift during lockdown after loosing my parents last year.

The other is the daughter of a friend who has been visiting me throughout lockdown. As a doll maker and doll collector I’ve quickly had to seperate dolls she can play with and dolls she can’t and now have a dedicated box in the living room with toys waiting for my 3-year old visitor.

It’s actually done wonders for me and admit I could listen to her play with the dolls and make up her little stories all day long. I’m currently waiting for a plastic tea set to arrive and am looking forward to my first cup of pretend tea.

It has also left me looking at how we tell stories to children and a new crochet pattern, Jesus – the finger puppet.

You can already buy Jesus dolls and I admit I thought they were a bit strange and the thought of a child taking a Cloth Jesus doll to bed with them made me a little uncomfortable.

Jesus Doll and Picture Bible SetSoft Cloth Handmade 18 inch image 0
https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/513002286/jesus-doll-and-picture-bible-setsoft?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=jesus+doll&ref=sc_gallery-1-1&plkey=3d281876eb11f5064fe24f0746dfce7753527c5a%3A513002286

Above is just one of several Jesus dolls you can buy from Etsy.

But with little ones in my life it has made me think about how we tell stories from the bible to children.

At the same time I was looking at making some finger puppets for my nephews little one, for when he’s old enough to like a good story and thought, why not make a Jesus finger puppet, so I did.

Jesus finger puppet

Then I thought, really, you can’t just have Jesus on his own, you need a cast of characters to tell a story…

And that’s how the idea of Bible story finger puppets came about.

The first story is based on the loaves and fishes, or the feeding of the 5,000, or the little boy who gave away his lunch. However you tell the story you can now have finger puppets to help you.

Loaves and fishes

At the moment, only the pattern is ready to buy, but I hope to have some finished story sets made soon.

I also plan on starting another story this week… Adam and Eve.

The pattern is available on Ravelry and on Etsy (link below)

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/bettyvirago

Rabby – Character Design

I’ve recently started drawing some characters that I hope to turn into childrens birthday cards. Each animal character is an animal found in the English countryside.

I started by looking at photographs of rabbits and hares and sketching some of the characteristics I found.

I was mainly trying to get the head shape because the body I wanted would be almost human in shape.

You can see by the bottom right sketch that I’d come up with some style of rabbit head that I liked. I also used Cathy Wu’s six components to a cuter character in the design. You can watch some of her tutorials on Skillshare.

Click this link for a two week free skillshare trial: https://skl.sh/2RiEAQA

The cuter character components are 6 body and face changes that add to the cuteness of any character.

  1. A more rounded body
  2. Small limbs
  3. Large head
  4. High forehead
  5. Wider eye settings
  6. Larger pupil

Once I had decided on a basic style I liked I scanned the sketched into Procreate and started turning the sketch into a final piece.

I added clothing, but then decided I liked the idea of having clothing as a cut out, I’m a child of the 70s so remember the joy of getting my weekly Bunty comic and cutting out the dress up doll that came free each week.

When it came to naming the rabbit I decided I’d choose what I imagined a toddler would call a rabbit, I had a bit of a consultation with a family member who has become a new mum and the name Rabby was chosen.

So, here is Rabby, not yet at the printers, but soon to be my latest series of Birthday cards…

I’ve been working on a fox the past couple days and actually was able to ask a two year old how she would say fox… I’m sure many parents will be laughing already, but I need a different approach, my fox can’t be called a swear word!

Anyway, let me know what you think.

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