katharine makes patterns

On a dark winter’s day, one of the things I like to do is curl up in my toasty home office, fire up Photoshop, turn on the Goon Show, and zone out with a little pattern designing. There’s something zen about mixing colours and shapes in a safe space. Maybe it hearkens back to childhood—colouring, using building blocks, playing a generic Tetris on the school computer. I often try to make my own argyle patterns to mostly disastrous results. Although I appreciate more organic patterns, I gravitate to the geometric. And that usually leads to punchy retro, mid-century influenced designs. None too surprising given my own preference for retro and vintage mid-century style.

The influx of print-on-demand DIY sites means consumers can customize anything from fabric to stickers to iGadget skins. I’m glad to have the option but I can see the potential for more ugly “design” being thrust into the world. (How long before animated gifs invade fashion and real world applications? City streets and shopping malls will be giant MySpace profile…blingees and spinning pizzas as far as the eye can bleed.) I feel like I’ve developed a personal style and affectations that has not spread to the average consumer. So it’s up to me to fill my own niche (dirty!).

I had the recent good fortune, thanks to my insatiable curiosity about the local publishing scene, to try out a couple of print-on-demand design-your-own-geegaw services. From a panel discussion at Design Exchange, I scored a discount code for Blurb.com. And from BookCampTO—an un-conference focused on the book industry—we got a gift card for GelaSkins. Through either of these sites I could’ve bought something pre-made, supported other designers and whatnot. But I have a chronic illness called Creativity.

What I wound up with was a nifty iPad skin from GelaSkins and a few little notebooks for jotting and doodling from Blurb. I did spent some time angsting over how to use Blurb (Do I create a portfolio? Make a scrapbook of my cats? Do something with Robot of Leisure stuff? Gak!) but settling on the ol’ blank notebook. Someone with greater ambition might chastise me for “wasting” this service but I panicked and was short on time to use the code before the expiry while juggling all the other things I seem to be working on.

Through Blurb and the print-on-demand fabric store Spoonflower, designers have the option to make their creations available for sale to other customers. You bet your bippy I’ll be doing this in the near future. Every little bit helps, right?

katharine reflects on canzine

Sitting behind a table at Canzine, I’ve paid to be an observer. I watch people interact. I watch how they browse the different tables.

I stand, I sit, I offer a nod and polite hello, I initiate conversation, I stand silent. I start to eat a sandwich and five people approach my table. All interested and inquisitive. No one buys anything and I don’t finish my sandwich. My mouth goes dry. No way out to use the washroom or grab a coffee or browse other tables. Crawling under the table may be punk rock but I’m bubblegum pop. And anyway, the other side of the table aggravates my social anxiety.

Some people engage with the table items or sellers. Other people keep a distance, as if they’ve paid to enter a museum. Some people expect to be sold to, pausing just long enough to see if an artist launches into a spiel. What message works on the Underground Consumer? Are you looking for product benefit? Are you looking for a fantasy to buy into? My book can change your life. My book can make you feel better about yourself. My book is the one thing you need more than anything else in this room. Well…what would you believe?

We’re all exposed. Artist facing direct, immediate rejection by consumer. Consumer pressured to react, afraid to react, afraid to interact. The 1% don’t come out to things like this and the rest of us can only afford what we truly love.

My stuff isn’t rough enough for this crowd. I don’t relate to 98% of this crowd. I’m too straight. I was raised to keep the freak flag at half-mast. My edges have been sanded down and rounded off. I’m strictly easy-listening, chicky baby.

I never fully connect with my table mates. It’s too loud, I’m too deaf, there’s too much stimuli, and then it’s over. Shouldn’t this be like camp? Shouldn’t we be like war buddies at the end of the day, counting up the loonies and toonies, the Lauriers and the John A’s together and laughing about the tense moments of the day? Or at least friending each other on Facebook? I have no idea how these things work for other people.

I can’t complain. My load’s a little lighter by the end of the day. My efforts and angst have been modestly rewarded. People met. Lessons learned. I swear I’ll never do it again. And next year I’ll have something else I want to share and I’ll be right back behind the table.

katharine just got feet, don’t got shoes

You know the tired routine that ladies be shopping and buying shoes and need whole closets just for their shoes. How many feet you got, woman? Damn. I’m paraphrasing, of course (right?).

I hate shopping for shoes. I get the premise that shoe shopping is supposedly easier than clothes shopping. Shoe shopping allows a bit of fantasy. Clothes shopping, specifically trying on selections, forces you to confront your body issues. Unfortunate lumps and bulges. That extra bit of fluctuating puffiness that wasn’t there yesterday and won’t be around tomorrow. Fluorescent lighting that reveals burgeoning blemishes, which were not there when you left the house. How have we not all just given up and adopted the official uniforms of the Fuck-Its (pajama jeans, genie bra, Snuggie, and a college sweatshirt)? Think of how productive we could be if we didn’t have to waste time trying to impress other people by picking outfits and wearing fancy underwear and bathing.

Ah, but shoe shopping. The worst you might have to deal with is cankles or calf stubble. You can try on any style of footwear and whisk yourself away into another world. You can be a princess, a sexpot, a biker chick, a fitness guru, a no-nonsense businesswoman who can still bring a bit of glamour to the workplace, a grown woman whose biggest chore of the day involves going to the local drugstore for vitamins and shampoo.

Unless you are me. My feet and I argue constantly over shoes. We endlessly battle over comfort versus catwalk, stability versus style, practical versus pretty, man feet versus lady feet. Judging by my shoe collection, the feet always win. I’ve managed to sneak in a few heels but we never wear them. No one taught me how to walk in high heels and I’ve managed just fine in the gentleman companion department without tottering about in pumps. Still, it feels like something I should be able to do. Every attempt feels like playing dress up, that I will be outed as a poser. True ladies hiss amongst themselves that I’m fooling myself. And they’re right.

And so I bear the burden of never wearing pretty shoes. I live in my FitFlop clogs. For five months of the year I’m stuck in my Crocs winter boots. Which, for Crocs, are surprisingly attractive. The rest of the year is spent sighing dejectedly at my existing collection and poking dejectedly around shoe stores. Style versus comfort versus cost.

My feet are lazy, cranky perpetual five-year-olds. Whiny little bitches at the end of my legs. “Ooowww, this pinches. These toes keep rubbing together and making blisters on meeeeee. I’m tired. Can we go home now? I hate you forever! Stop standing on me, fat lady. I like fuzzy socks. These nylons are suffocating meeeeeeeee!” The random lower back pain doesn’t help matters. Nor does the weather. Nor does my fast-walking boyfriend. Or the 15-minute walk to the subway.

So I wear clunky, ugly, practical shoes. Life be unfair. Damn.

Boggled – exercise #5

Tan-in-a-can seemed like a good idea at the time. The occasional orange-stained towel was a small price to pay for an exuberant epidermis. His honey-tinted limbs attracted honey-scented honeys to his side. And this natty cat couldn’t say scat to these kittens. His hue harbored hubris. One hotsy-totsy played it coy and cool and lured the boy away from his harem. The kittens got catty, they hissed and they snarled as the golden goddess Diana reduced their Burnt Sienna Burt to a monosyllabic stupor.
He said, “Hey.”
She said, “Nay.”
As he started to leave, she said, “Stay.”
He said, “Yay!”
Her glow was natural, his was a fake. Tan-in-a-can lead to love, loss, and lethargy. The occasional stained towel multiplied by hundreds. The ultimate pad for a free-wheelin’ guy eventually turned into a sky-high pig sty. Now all he has left is a cyan cyst on his chest.


A brief explanation about the Boggle writing experiment.

30 Failures by Age 30 update

You might remember a little project I undertook a couple of years ago about still being socially awkward at the old age of 30. Well, I went and I book-ified it for you. Now it’s available all over the internet in digital format and at ye olde Amazon in paperback.  Don’t you want to see how it looks all polished up? Wouldn’t you like to admire my typesetting abilities? How can you resist?!

To celebrate, I made a video for you. (Okay, I made the video two and a half months ago and I’m just now posting it here. I did post it everywhere else on the internet, so I don’t know how you missed it.)

Get all the pertinent information about purchasing and downloading from the pertinent information page.

I’ve exported all the original 30 Failures to its own blog. You can still read it all for free online. And then feel free to comment on the entries, do all the link/ping-backs, write a review on your own blog or at Amazon/Smashwords/iBooks, etc. Every little bit helps spread the word to deliver this to the eyes of every lady who’s ever been made to feel like a freak for not fitting in or standing out quite enough.

katharine likes to make things: foam core displays

I don’t enjoy shoe shopping. My feet are picky and do not like being crammed and squished into pointy boxes.  When I’m feeling down and need a little retail therapy, I opt for accessories to adorn the other end of me. My weakness is sunglasses. I’ve had some sort of sunglasses collection for the last 18 years. As soon as I was able to trade my soda bottle glasses for contact lenses, I picked up the shady hobby.

Unfortunately, my shades get crammed away in a drawer or pile up on a table near the front door. Sometimes they get broken or scraped up or misplaced. I’ve lost several treasured pairs over the years.

A few years ago I decided to create a hanging display for my collection. By using some leftover illustration board and craft paper, I made a utilitarian display piece. It held up well except for some discoloration from the glue onto the craft paper. But my collection grew. So, time to make a new display.

Hold on. Before I get into that, I have to show what set off this whole project. I had a similar problem with headbands (getting tucked away in drawers, crammed into baskets, breakage, loss, etc.). To the craft stash! I found a piece of foam core that was the perfect height and width for headbands. For this project, I originally wanted to use hair elastics as the loops to hold the headbands. I couldn’t find them (eventually found them later for the iPad case, etc.), so I opted for ribbon and thumbtacks.


silver thumbtacks
foam core
velvet/velour fabric

This is a no-sew project. And it can get messy if you decide to try it for yourself.

I covered my foam core with this velvet fabric I picked up from a remainders bin. Then glued the fabric to the foam core. I cut the ribbon to the largest band size, formed a loop with the ribbon, placed the loop on the foam core and pushed the thumbtack through the ribbon and into the foam.

Once I figured out the placement, I removed the tacks and applied glue to the tips and backs. Then managed to fit the tacks back into the holes (which disappeared in the velvet). Waiting for the glue to dry was the hardest part. Several hours later, I threaded my headbands through the loops and, voila, instant display!

Making my sunglasses display was a bit trickier. I didn’t have a convenient piece of foam core, so I had to measure and cut down a full piece. This never ends well. However, since the foam core was going to be covered, I didn’t have to stress over perfection and straight edges.

My collection is much smaller these days. I had a great pair of white plastic glasses that some snooty teenage girl called “so yesterday” that broke earlier this year. They were so yesterday and I loved them dearly. Now all the white frames I’m seeing all have rhinestones and all sorts of sparkly doodads that thrill me not.

Anyway. The process for this display was the same as the headband one. Stretch the velvet. Glue it down. Place all the loops. The loops here were adjusted to fit the different sizes of frames instead of being measured to fit the largest. I didn’t want any frames dangling down from the display.

I found that this display needed a bit of extra support. Fortunately I had a large piece of used illustration board and glued it onto the back of the covered foam core. I’ve been using multi-purpose Weldbond glue. I may come to regret this in the future.

The display has a ribbon loop for the display to hang on the wall. However, we’re lacking in wall space at the moment and I don’t trust thumbtacks glued into foam core to support the weight of these sunglasses. It just reeks of potential tragedy.

For now, my display is propped atop an armoire that houses part of my craft stash. I’m only wearing one pair of sunglasses these days. These shades aren’t getting much action but at least they aren’t stashed away in some drawer or stuck at the bottom of a purse.

(Velvet + low light apartment = crappy quality photos, I know. I can only do so much.)

katharine sucks at participating on the internet

I’ve been busy. I’ve been sick. I’ve been overwhelmed by the giant task list I made for myself six months ago and mildly depressed by the job market, book sales, social engagements, and crumbling homestead. So what happens most of the time is that I spent great gobs of time passively reading the internet. Refresh Facebook. Refresh Tumblr. See something worth reblogging on Tumblr. Scroll through Twitter. Rinse. Repeat. It’s an effort to come up with original tweets and status updates that don’t sound too whiny or needy or spammy (in those moments that I feel compelled to remind everyone I know about all the stuff I’ve made and put on the internet). Blogging falls waaaaaaaaaaaay down the list. Writing is hindered by the amount of research necessary to pen a thoughtful and well-informed article. What’s that? We don’t have to be thoughtful and well-informed anymore? How about funny? Does bitter snark count?

I must get better. Better at time management. Better at self-promotion. Better at contributing to the conversations going on around me. Better from whatever mysterious ailment has plagued me for three months. I’m hoping for Lurgi but would settle for Spon Plague (which can be cured by long underpants).

I have books and crafts to sell you. I have other crafty projects to show you. I have to turn you onto William Powell and Spike Milligan and John Kendrick Bangs. All in good time, I suppose. Until then, I’ve got to see what’s what on Google+.