Quick update: Wooden Spoon Complete

Finished it last night while the kids watched The Sword in the Stone. I’d never seen the movie before – or at least not to my memory – and I could probably rant for an hour about Merlin. But that’s another post for another blog. πŸ™‚

Wooden Spoon Complete


“Finished” being a relative term; shading and potential color work are in the future. I’d hoped to print out a couple dummy sheets in order to start those very processes, but I think my poor printer is finally giving out. It’s an HP PSC 1210 – one of those print-scan-copy dealios. It was, like most entry-grade consumer printers, very inexpensive; the ink is where they get ya, doncha know.

And I think I’m going to have to grab some more pens soon. All my pens – 01, 03, and 05 – are starting to wane. Good thing AC Moore always has a 50% off coupon floating around… πŸ™‚

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Catch-up: Sketchbook Work, Plus a New Tangle

I promised (sort of) more sketchbook pages, and now I deliver. I upped the scan resolution and brought down the scale and file size just a tad.


The first real tangle page in my sketchbook was my shot at Laura Harms‘s Challenge #1. I never did try her earlier challenges. I let Random.org roll up a tangle. Zenplosion Folds was lucky number 107. Between the folds and the aura, it’s anything but “simplicity” visually – it’s so busy that the details get lost. But I had a blast with it. Zircles are definitely fun.

6 / 4 / 11

My pencil commentary (and pencil string) scanned well enough to speak for itself. Several of my tangles snuck into this one, including Deesix (plus a d10), Ziptooth, Sea Oats, and a sneak peek at the new tangle. πŸ™‚

6 / 5 / 11

This was the second tile to feature Exofern; I was (and kinda am) still struggling to wrap my head around it. This started as two intersecting circles. I knew I wanted to start with a waterfall. Most of the tangles popped out of the repository of their own volition. I like the left half a lot more than the cluttered, unfocused right… though it kind of suggests a maw. <.<

My big honkin’ Sakura sepia-toned brush pen snuck in a few squiggles on the waterfall and in Hibred. Of course, I scanned the image in greyscale without thinking.

6 / 6 / 11

My entry for 6/6 made me grateful that I’d given myself permission to screw up in this sketchbook. The centerpiece started well enough, but my attempt at a geometric star shape resulted in disaster, with the overlapping petals coming mostly out of a rush to cover up my mistake. I wish I’d left myself more space for the little tangles to bloom. I remembered to scan it in color, at least, so you can (almost) see the brown in the centerpiece and the Opus fronds.

And finally, to reward you for scrolling through my vanity…


Slowly but surely, I’m beginning to grasp the potential of this tangle. I haven’t quite gotten it to behave as well as it did in the second picture of this post, but it’s coming along.

For those who can’t read my chicken scratch: “Exofern is a very responsive tangle which relies on its environment to give it structure. It doesn’t like open, broad spaces – it wants to creep along the borders and in-between spaces. Mixing sharp corners and organic curves helps give Exofern its alien feel. Goes well with gooey, twisty, damp tangles like Msst, Btl Joos, Tadpegs, Fescu, Ziptooth, and Squid!”

I hope you get some mileage out of it, fellow tangler. πŸ˜€

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Long, long hiatus has finally ended

Several months ago, pretty shortly after my last post here, the computer went bye-bye. The replacement which got us through the interim was a refurbished first-generation Eee netbook; it barely wanted to function, and there was no way to get pictures onto it. Any hopes of reviving the blog were kaput.

We’ve had our replacement for the replacement – now a Windows 7 desktop – for a couple weeks. Of course, now our camera has crapped out. The scanner works, and there’s a possibility that our webcam can fill in. Given that, I think I’m finally back in a place where I can start regular posting again… for the approximately two people who will notice. πŸ˜› Well, that’s fine. This blog is a repository for me to keep track of my work and for a few others to see what’s going on with my crafts. If anyone else gets enjoyment, hurrah!

I’ve done several crafty things during the hiatus, mostly related to Zentangle. (The Eee couldn’t handle papercraft templates, either, so I’ve had to set my knife and glue aside until now.) I’ve been doing work in my sketchbook more often than on tiles. I grabbed a six-by-nine-inch ring-bound sketchbook on sale at Michaels, and on the first page I wrote a note to myself that this book was specifically for experimentation and screwing up. I think I have to give myself express permission to screw up in crafty endeavors. It’s been liberating. πŸ˜€

There are several pages I hope to record here, but today I’m just going to share my current project:

Wooden Spoon

Yeah, I think we’re going to have to work on that scan quality. :/ Feel free to click through and see the image in way-larger-than-life size, warts and all.

I got the urge to do a negative-space silhouette. A wooden slotted spoon from the girls’ play kitchen was lying around. I penciled its outline and started tangling with no other string laid out. I didn’t have any grand purpose in choosing the tangles; for the most part, I just rooted through my tiny tangle sketchbook to see what caught my eye. There are a couple of my own tangles in there, including one I’m fine-tuning for “public release”. My wife saw a few tangles relating to the spoon, though, and asked whether I was designing a cookbook cover. πŸ™‚

I can definitely see the potential for shading on this page. There seems to be a natural “behindness” to some of the tangles, largely because the edge of one tangle becomes the string for the next. I may also experiment with adding color. The nice thing about black and white Zentangles and ZIA is that you can easily copy or scan them and add more without irrevocably altering the original.

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Challenge #7 and Tanglebook

Three days without a post! It’s been a full weekend. But I finally have a chance to catch up here on the blog.

2/1/11 - Challenge #7

The Diva’s Weekly Challenge dropped yesterday. The topic was simple: Breathe! She drew a connection with yoga, and it was entirely appropriate. I have a routine on Wii Fit Plus that involves several yoga poses mixed with general exercise. I find that I’m grateful for the animated trainer’s voice reminding me to keep breathing, because I have a bad habit of tightening my chest and holding my breath while I concentrate on the pose. Little did I imagine that I would find the same problem while tangling! I became aware of my tendency to tighten up and focus on the line. When I stopped to remind myself to keep breathing (a frequent occurrence), I found that the lines came much more easily.

This morning was very misty in northern Virginia, so I knew I had to use Msst. Afterglo and Waves finished the tile. I normally fit about forty thousand tangles or so into a tile, so it was nice to use so few tangles and let them take their course across the tile. I still have a stock of prestrung tiles. Ko likes to use them; this is one she got out to use before being distracted and leaving it lying around.

I also got a couple of small sketchbooks. Michaels has a BOGO sale on Strathmore green and brown pads, so I snagged a couple of little 100-sheet pocket sketch pads. I’m finally getting around to making a more portable tangle archive.


I’m keeping my numbering convention so that I can still randomize what tangle I’m using when I’m out and about – though the number of tangles available mean that I would have to carry around 3d10 to roll for a number. I’ll probably pull numbers from my environment instead.

I’d love to see shots of your tanglebook if you keep one!

Posted in Paper, Zentangle | 7 Comments

Sugarloaf Craft Festival

Kes, my wife, discovered that the Sugarloaf Craft Festival was going to be in town this weekend. We bought tickets and made plans to attend today. With two preschool kids. <.<

It was fun, but both of us felt that the term “craft festival” was a misnomer. There’s definitely a strong fine arts streak, including painting, photography, and fine jewelry; furthermore, a lot of the crafts side was represented by designer furniture, clothes, and metalwork.

There were several booths which really caught my eye. Tom Vosler’s custom knives booth had some mesmerizing hilt and handle designs. He doesn’t have a website, but his name pops up in blade forums when you search Google. Jasper James had some excellent work up for display, including his famous piece “Moonwatch”. I asked if it was a composite piece, and I was told that it was a double exposure – first the shot of the wolf on the ridge, then a zoom lens on the moon, done in the mid-90s. Jan and Mel Fleck, also with no website, showed some great etchings and embossings focused on themes like classical Egypt.

Fran Martin Dixon had a truly striking booth. Her website’s portfolio section does no justice at all to the works she had on display, unfortunately. Each piece was a large acrylic painting on wood – not planks, but true cross-sectioned slabs of tree, with all the knotholes and bark intact. The flat portions formed by the cross-sectioning became the canvas on which she painted scenes featuring animals from that wood’s habitat, like foxes and raccoons for a pine slab – and the empty knotholes were backed and painted inside with hiding owls or foxes. What grabbed me were her driftwood pieces with bright, beautiful bay and gulf scenes, where holes in the wood became spaces in the rocks for bright fish to dart through. Her pieces were priced quite reasonably. I only wish that we had been able to pick up a piece. She said she only shows them at craft fairs. I’m going to keep an eye out for her name in the future.

Susan Loy and her husband were displaying some of their work. The tables for the concession area were right by their booth, so we were ogling pieces like “Emily Dickinson: ‘Spring Flowers'” as we ate. Then I got up to sneak a peek into the booth and saw her Constitution series, and I knew we were giving them money before we walked out the door. Kes is a government attorney, and I have a strong desire to give her elegant crap to toss somewhere in her office. When she passed the New York bar, I gave her a desk statue of Justicia, which was promptly destroyed by a cat or child. Perhaps our print of Loy’s representation of the Bill of Rights will last a little longer. I hope. >.>

The highlight of the show for me, of course, was Cyndi Mylynne‘s paper booth. Along with her original paper art, she had stacks of large and small sheets of her handmade paper. Better yet, she gave demonstrations of papermaking at her booth – blenders, vats, screen, press, drying board, the whole shebang. I, the paper nerd, had to watch her first demonstration of the day. The kids were getting rowdy, so Kes, may she be canonized by someone other than the Pope, took over the wrangling job so I could geek out. We swung by the booth again before we left and caught the tail end of her third demo, which had drawn quite a crowd. I bought four sheets of her abacΓ‘ paper. It’s got a lovely boardish rigidity and great texture. It’s going to be a lot rougher than, say, lokta to work with, but I’m hopeful.

Abaca paper

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Under the Sea

I guess this is more like Zentangle inspired art (ZIA) than a Zentangle proper. I kind of got carried away after getting Tadpegs and Squid one after the other. <.<


When I rolled Fans, which reminds me of shells, that kind of settled it. I found a way to keep an undersea theme with everything else I rolled from then on. A Kandysnake eel, a Verdigogh seaweed patch. Voxter looks like a spiral shell anyway. I tried to enhance the effect by squeezing the centerpoints of the concentric circles to one side. And I couldn’t resist putting in another Shell Whorl. After that, I sprinkled in a handful of bubbles, jellyfish, and starfish.

Which made me think of brain coral. Now there’s a tangle waiting to happen. I’ve just got to figure out how to simplify the strokes.

Diploria brain coral (public domain, from Wikipedia)

A daunting task, but I’m determined to figure it out.

Posted in Zentangle, ZIA, Zircle | 5 Comments

Zendala: Muladhara

Several zircles have asked me to tangle them lately. When I get on a roll with something for several days, I start to wonder if it represents something that I need to do. Sort of like how you know you’re potassium deficient if you start craving bananas. So I’m launching a zircle series to see how far it takes me.

Today I started with the Maladhara, the root chakra in many – probably most – systems which link sacred circles to the body. It deals with matters of instinct, security, potential, survival, stability, and self-control. It’s generally represented as a square within a circle, sometimes with a triangle at the center, with four lotus petals surrounding.

I started with another candle jar top circle, then used a ruler to get some guides in place. Is it cheating? I dunno. It felt right.

1/27/11: Muladhara

I used a Sakura Micron 05 to get a thick, bold line for the base shape of the chakra. I ordered a set of three pens a while back – 01, 03, and 05 – and I find the wider tips handy for making strong borders and filling in broad areas. Not to mention that they save wear on my 01 so that it’ll last longer.

As usual, I let Random.org select the tangles I would use. I was pleased as punch with the results, especially Hope, Shell Whorl, Fans, Hibred, and Keeko. I found it very interesting that Ixorus was chosen again. This is three tiles in four days which feature that tangle, and it was twice chosen randomly out of my repository of about 150 tangles stored on my computer. I wonder if there’s something I can learn from Ixorus?

1/27/11: Muladhara, tangled & unshaded

The shading gave the tile depth and removed some of the sense of business. Β Once again, I found that my camera was more eager to capture the black lines of the Sakura than the subtle pencil. I bumped up the contrast, but it’s still nicer in person. Every area received some sort of shading, but it’s only visible below in a handful of tangles. I really need to find a better way to photograph these.

1/27/11: Muladhara, finished

I was a little disappointed with how messy Paradox wound up being. I’m tempted to blame it on the kids, which would be accurate enough, but I could have been more deliberate. Another lesson learned. On the other hand, I was pleased that several tangles I usually pass up came out so nicely here. And it’s always a joy to work with Shell Whorl and Hibred.

Are there any strings or tangles that have pulled you in for days at a time? Did they teach you anything?

Posted in Zentangle, Zircle | 1 Comment

Tile, Plus Papercraft Preview

So I guess I’ve gotten firmly into the tile-a-day habit. I’m trying to get back into the papercraft habit as well. I completed a few pieces as gifts for the holidays, and the pressure burned me out on model building for a while. I normally have at least one paper model project going, sometimes more like a hundred. >.> So I’ve picked up this cool automata. Designer J_Hodgie was kind enough to include a blank template PDF. Take a look:


Tile first: Another circle (zircle!). This time, I used the top to a large Yankee Candle jar. Now the tile carries a faint aura of Holiday Sage. πŸ˜›

Random.org told me that I would be using Molossus’s Wisket, Rick’s Paradox, Rick & Maria’s Hurry, and Suzanne McNeil’s Whirls. I goofed a bit on Hurry, but it still came out looking okay. When I got to Whirls, I was more interested in the wave pattern grid than the spiky spiral bits, so I figured I’d just Knightsbridge the grid and be done with it. But those big white spaces begged to have something fill them up. I finally watched the Betweed video last night, so it was a no-brainer.

As for the papercraft: I encourage you to go to the link and take a look. Even if you’re not into walking robot tank things, the animation of the thing moving shows off the paper mechanisms that make it tick. It’s definitely inspired by Rob Ives’s paper automata work.

When I was a kid, my mother used to give me cast-iron mechanical banks for holiday gifts. I had quite the collection, and each one had its own unique, humorous way of getting the coin from the starting point into the drop slot. Paper automata work in the same way, using simple machine principles to produce a moving, usually cyclical result. Plus, they often use coins as counterweights, so there’s your bonus connection. Most automata have an opening to view the mechanism at work. Hey, if you’re going to spend eight to twenty hours scoring, cutting, and gluing something in paper that’s cool enough to walk (or fly, or explode and reform, or…) when you turn the crank, why not show off the nifty greebles in the middle?

I started tangling the blank template a little before Solstice, when I felt settled enough to start Zentangling again, but the form hadn’t clicked in my head yet. There are lots of tangles all over the thing, but my sense of form and space was limited. I would do it differently now. Still, it doesn’t look bad. And I’ve only barely begun work on the top, so I can make the star of the show look good. πŸ˜›

There are lots of paper mech models out there, many of them built to be jointed, and I have this crazy idea to test several of them against this base so that almost any of them can be made into automata. We’ll see if my will matches my ambition. o.o

A note about “automata”: It’s the plural for “automaton”, but in the papercraft community, it’s become the singular as well as the plural form when describing paper models which use machine principles to convert force from a crank, lever, or other manipulator into a motion effect in the model. These sort of models don’t really fit the definition of “automaton”, so the word is not only stripped of its singular form but also misapplied. Even so, it’s become a convenient shorthand, so I’ve swallowed my dedication to precision and grammar in favor of using what is essentially jargon. May God forgive me.

Posted in Automata, Battletech, Papercraft, Zentangle | 3 Comments

Today’s tile

Two posts in one day – but that’s only because I didn’t get a chance to post yesterday’s tile until this morning. This is today’s showing. I figured I’d post it before the day gets out of hand… <.<


Random.org said that I would be using Ixorus again today, so I decided to try a triangular variation. I like it a little better, but I think it’s still going to take some work before I fall in love with that tangle. I goofed up on Jane Monk’s Floom, but the stemless floomheads still came out fine.

This tile also introduces a new pattern: Deesix. The name is derived from dice abbreviations. Dice come in many shapes and sizes. Any regular polyhedron can be made into a die (not to mention some pretty irregular shapes, like spheres and cylindrical prisms!). To tell these dice apart quickly in print, they are addressed by number of sides. The normal six-sided dice used in board games and casinos are therefore known as “d6”. Monopoly tells you to roll two six-sided dice per round: 2d6.

Deesix is a pretty simple grid-based tangle. Just round off the corners and add pips. And did you notice the triangular die up at the top of the pile? It’s a four-sided die: d4, or Deefour if you want to make a tangle out of it.

I’m not sure if Deesix really fits within the spirit of a tangle, but it sure is fun to use. πŸ™‚

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Tile for Challenge #6

The Diva has been putting out weekly challenges to the Zentangle community. This week’s challenge was to use the new tangle Ixorus in a tile. I decided to finally join in the challenge.


I’ve been wanting to try circular strings for a while. This was traced from the bottom of a cup. I started with Ixorus, but it really turned out that Jane Monk’s Fern pattern really took center stage. I can’t take my eyes off the bold black. Unfortunately, the shading is too light for my camera, even after I jacked up the contrast in GIMP.

The pattern sectioned off by the Ziptooth border at lower left is sort of a variation of Cubine. I was playing around with it as I went. It was an on-the-fly decision to try for the effect of staring down an elevator shaft. I wonder if I can pull a new tangle out of that…?

Posted in Zentangle | Tagged | 17 Comments