katharine plugs away: Robot of Leisure

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The biggest project in my life for the better part of the aughts and beyond has been Robot of Leisure (formerly WHiRR, formerly BitterBots). While I’m not hanging up my Boris hat anytime soon, we have reached the end of the graphic novel series.

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I began the series in 2010, completing two stories a year and releasing them in ebook form. Trying to release the books in paperback proved cost prohibitive. My full-colour large paneled masterpieces were coming out at $15-18 a pop when the content was only realistically $8-12. I knew I would squeeze it all into a one-volume product in the end, so I dropped the paperbacks from Amazon and started pushing the ebooks.

Graphic novels are not popular with the general public. Not to say the general public can’t (or won’t) enjoy them, but it is a bit of a niche genre that’s hard to promote. How do you encourage a regular person to pick up a book that isn’t a comic book and isn’t a kiddie’s picture book? Especially when the character is unknown and the references it makes are obscure? If Boris were a steampunk vampire with a yearning to be a superhero, I might be halfway to a successful franchise. As it is, we’re doing far too much work for far too little recognition (me and all the other people who create graphic novels and the like).

I’ve finished the massive Robot of Leisure collection. All the ebooks have been coded. The print proof is in the mail. All that’s left is to prepare the latest marketing scheme and annoy everyone in my acquaintance circles. I’ll be sharing all manners of videos and links and promotions in the coming weeks.

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While you’re waiting for opportunities to snatch up the print edition of Robot of Leisure, please peruse (and purchase from) the Robot of Leisure Society6 shop. I’ve posted a bunch of designs for posters and t-shirts.

katharine likes to make things: kitty plush

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I like scraps of fabric. Give me your tired shirts and I will happily stitch together some kind of lumpy figure while watching a dumb movie. I don’t have a sewing machine and most textile art befuddles me, but I can handle making small cloth items by hand. If I mess up a small project, it’s much less frustrating than muddling up a large project. Any project larger than five inches results in tears and vows never to craft again.

For a few months I was content whipping up little monster-type creatures. You may have seen them on this blog and there’s quite a few still up for grabs in my Etsy shop. Still, I’ve got more of them than I can give away and I got bored with the same-old template. To switch things up, I created a new, slightly more complex cat-like creature. It’s complex because I’ve added a tail, so instead of merely stitching two pieces of fabric together, it’s four and then attaching the tail at the end.

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Materials:
fabric
embroidery floss
felt
ribbon
jump ring
wooden disc
hand drill (for wooden disc)
filling/fiber fill

pfrank1Instructions:

1. Once I had my creature design worked out, I traced the silhouette outline onto cereal box and cut it out. I like sturdy patterns to cut around, especially for small pieces that aren’t easily pinned. Not exactly the most elegant solution but I like how well cardboard stands up to repeated use (so far).

2. With my pattern/template, I trace the outline onto backside of fabric.

3. Pick which side will be the face and stitch the eyes on first. My kitty design has the eyes closed, so I stitch that up with black embroidery floss. Sometimes I use buttons for eyes and will choose to glue those on after the creature has been stuffed.

4. Pin fabric together wrong way out for sewing.

5. Sew around the sides and top, leaving the bottom open for reversing and filling. Do the same with the tail. Trim excess fabric around seams, leaving about 1/2″ all around.

6. Starting with tail, turn the fabric right side out, pulling/pushing through hole.

7. Add stuffing to tail. Do not stitch up end, set aside.

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8. Flip main body right side out, gently push the ears out with a pencil tip.

9. Add stuffing to body.

10. Fold the 1/2″ fabric excess flaps into the body, pin the bottom, and decide where to place the tail. I try to aim for the centre.

11. Slip the unfinished edge of the tail into place between the bottom flaps, pin it. Stitch the bottom to finish. To secure the tail in right position, I do a quick whip stitch between the tail and the body.

12. Cut a little triangle from felt for the nose. Glue on felt nose and ribbon collar. Attach tag and jump ring to collar. For the tags, I used wood discs I had in my stash and got some use out of my hand-cranked wood drill. The discs are flimsy and it’s far too easy to split them with the drill. Lesson learned.

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I can stitch up one of these in about two and a half hours, depending on the fabric. For stuffed creatures, thick heavy fabrics don’t make for cuddly toys and are tougher to wrangle batting into. I don’t recommend denim as a fabric choice for stuffed animals, unless you’re looking for something that can withstand drool and dirt. Softer acrylic-based fabrics are prone to overstuffing and warping. Jersey t-shirts are nice and forgiving for wonky stitching and more likely to hold the intended shape of the plushy.

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This is the perfect project for upcycling that favourite shirt or sweater. You know, the one that you wore all through school but it’s all worn out in places and possibly paint-splattered but the fabric has memories. If you turn it into something like this, then (potentially) if you have an item worthy of display instead of a thing you encounter only when you move or clean out a storage area. This is not a great project for fancy fabrics, so don’t make a bunch of little wonky cats (or monsters or whatevers) from your wedding gown. That’s probably not considered “upcycling.” (I know, what I’ve done here may not be what you consider “upcycling” either, but that’s a matter of taste/opinion and a topic for another time.)

katharine likes to make things: painted coffee jars

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I picked up the habit of drinking instant coffee in the afternoon. Which led to the habit of collecting empty coffee jars. Not a terrible habit to develop in our recycle/reuse culture niche. With all the dry goods we pick up from bulk food stores, it’s nice to have glass containers around to transfer them from the plastic bags. I hate the plastic bags. And I hate their little twist ties that I apparently tend to twist on backwards, which frustrates Boyfriend. So we have a tidy collection of jars waiting for a new purpose.

During one of my infinite Tumblr scrolls, I happened onto Eric Barclay’s transformation of used condiment containers. Brilliant. Of course I came down with a case of the Icandothat. So I took a couple of my instant coffee jars and painted them up.

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Materials:
Nescafé instant coffee jar
shoe whitener
acrylic craft paint
Sharpies
pompom (for top of hat)
felt (for scarf)
Mod Podge Gloss

I came up with this owl/bird-like creature to paint on the jar surface. I used shoe whitener as a primer because that’s what I had on hand. The sponge applicator made applying the whitener easy, but it still required several coats. Shoe whitener does dry pretty quick, though, so I didn’t need to wait too long. After the primer, I drew on my character design with a light pencil. The trouble with drawing on oddly shaped surfaces means the design can go a bit wonky. But I didn’t do too badly. Success!

Once I had my design sketched on, I used some tiny brushes to apply regular acrylic paint, drew over the paint borders with Sharpie and covered the whole thing in a coat or two of gloss Mod Podge to protect from light scratches and the elements.

Barclay’s coffee mates reminded me so much of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore that I decided to transform my jars into their Pete & Dud characters.

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I didn’t document the process for the owl jars, so I snapped a few low light shots of my Pete & Dud process.

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I felt it was appropriate, in creating a work of “art,” to capture Pete & Dud in the moment during the art museum sketch where Peter sends Dudley into a bit of a giggle fit.

katharine makes (more) fancy plans

It’s that time of year when I reflect on the last 12 months, the state of the world, and my own accomplishments. After three days of uncontrollable sobbing and eating generic Kraft Dinner, I hop aboard the manic train and devise lists upon lists of the fanciest plans, the best intentions, and the wackiest of capers. Sometimes I follow through with the most accessible schemes and leave the rest behind to linger in notebooks, file cabinets, and purses.

Beginning in 2013, I’ll be updating this blog twice a week. I’m introducing some new categories and giving some structure to my usual blather. Every Monday and Thursday I’ll have fresh content for your eyeballs. Mondays are reserved for quickie-type posts to ease you back into the internet after…whatever it is people do on weekends away from the internet. On Thursdays I’ll serve up meatier content to make your day go faster and your week end sooner. Or maybe this will just help you keep track of passing days so that you don’t stay in the same pajamas for several weeks.

Follow along as I share links I’ve enjoyed around the internet, random lists, half-assed tutorials of craft projects I’ve attempted, rants about things that annoy me and raves about things I love, blatant self-promotion, and free digital downloads of things I’ve made (digital wallpaper, paper dolls, etc.). Basically, same content with a more structured schedule. So, if you don’t want to miss anything, feel free to add this blog link to your preferred manner of managing your regular internet reads.

Also, look for new content coming for the Robot of Leisure and Am I Canadian Yet? blogs. Don’t look right this minute. It isn’t there yet. But it will be in a matter of days…so, okay, do go there right now and do the little bookmark/rss/subscribe thing and then you’ll be set for readin’s for the new year. As if you didn’t already have a massive amount of things to look at on the internet. And television. And out the window. Man, there’s a lot of stuff to see.

katharine does your holiday shopping

We live in the future—a glorious future wherein you can browse a catalog on a picture box, purchase items from merchants big and small, and have those items delivered to your doorstep all without the hassle of putting on pants. So why would you endanger your sanity or your life to battle with traffic, crowds, and surly store staff this week?

Maybe you’re too smart (or cowardly) to brave crowds to get movie-playing technology for 85% at an hour best used for sleeping or watching the Forever Comfy infomercial. Instead, you’re overwhelmed by options and stumped for ideas to fill your obligatory gift-giving duties. Major retailers and independent merchants are all clamoring for your attention and (more importantly) your dollars. You’re facing an onslaught of sales adverts for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Pre-Boxing Day Sales, Last Chance Xmas Sales, and What-if-the-Mayans-Are-Right-Do-You-Really-Want-to-Die-Without-Ever-Owning-a-Flat-Screen-TV Sales. So paralyzed are you by the noise of it all that you’ll wind up waiting until the last minute and be stuck giving someone a bottle of perfume that is dusty and sticky because it’s been on the back on the shelf for three years. Nobody wants sticky dusty things in their stockings!

Take a breath. Relax. Let me take care of your holiday gifts this year.

As a maker of things, I’ve got an awful lot of stuff available for sale on the internet that will fulfill most of your gift-giving needs without blowing your budget. Here’s the selection of things I’m offering for sale and some coupons/discount codes/incentives to make those purchases right now.

BOOKS

Two of my books are still available for print this holiday season through Amazon.com.

30 Failures by Age 30 ($7.95) is a micro-memoir perfect for those places where you need a quick read—airports, waiting rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms—and the women’s magazine you picked up has only feature stories on female genital mutilation in third world countries and a heartbreaking recollection of a mother dying of cancer. 30 Failures by Age 30 is light and fluffy and doesn’t discuss genitals or disease (much). Reading 30 Failures by Age 30 is like reading marshmallows!

The Curable Romantic: Advice for the Romance-Impaired ($7.00) is a novelty book about relationships and is perfect for the unlucky-in-love person in your life. It’s not quite self-help and it won’t help anyone get dates but it’s mostly inoffensive, avoids a lot of the traditional romantic cliches and is another quick-and-easy toilet read.

(I should stop promoting my books for the bathroom, but I really want people to stop using their electronic devices in there. Stop dropping your iPhones in the toilet! All that fine Chinese craftsmanship wasted! If you drop my book in the toilet, at least you can dry it off and recycle it.)

The print editions of 30 Failures by Age 30 and The Curable Romantic are both eligible for Amazon’s 4-for-3 promotion (basically buy three, get one free). This quantity also qualifies for free shipping. So, if you go to the Amazon book links above, add four copies of one of the books to your cart, you can get some decent savings. See?

Order Summary for The Curable Romantic

Order Summary for 30 Failures by Age 30

The Curable Romantic averages out at $5.25 per copy. 30 Failures averages out at $5.96 per copy. That’s less than you’d pay if you bought it directly from me! Of course you can browse and find other books and whatnot that fit within the 4-for-3 promotion. Maybe you only want one copy of one of my books and three other things. And then maybe it works out that my book is the cheapest thing in your cart. You get my book for free, I still get a few coins and we all go home happy.

EBOOKS

Maybe this is the year you finally shrink your carbon footprint and you’re doing so by giving presents that don’t require manufacturing or shipping. And maybe you’ve already donated money in people’s names for worthy causes but there are some people on your list who bitch about donations not being “real presents.” And you can’t just not give them something because they’re spouses of siblings or your cubicle mate or someone equally unavoidable. You could give them ebooks. (Yes, I know. Anyone who argues over what might or might not constitute a “real present” is perhaps not the target demographic for ebooks.)

Most ebooks can be read on most modern electronic devices. Even a PDA from 2003 (remember PDAs, you guys?). Even a clamshell iBook from 1999. But probably not on that word processor from the early 1990s, because that thing doesn’t have the Internet and only reads floppy disks and you can’t get floppy disks here in the future. You can’t even get video cassette tapes to record things on your VCR anymore. Your VCR also will not read ebooks. But your computer will! And your smartphone!

All of my books, including the Robot of Leisure series, are available in digital format from a variety of ebook retailers. So if you’re locked into buying books from one store because of device limitations or you’re free to download ebooks from any source, you can purchase and read my books.

These pages will lead you to all the retailers selling my ebooks:
Get the 30 Failures by Age 30 ebook
Get the Robot of Leisure ebooks

(Apparently I’ve been lax in my promotion of The Curable Romantic, but it is available everywhere 30 Failures is sold.)

Right now, Kobo books offers a coupon code for 35% off your purchase: thankyou2012. So you can use that to scoop up all the Robot of Leisure ebooks. Keep an eye on Retail Me Not for coupon codes for online stores of any sort (I’m not getting any kickback for mentioning that site, so consider that a friendly tip).

If you’re new to ebooks and want to check them out without investing in a specialty ebook reading device, all of the major ebook retailers (Amazon, B&N’s Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, etc.) offer software to download and access ebooks. Or you can download Adobe Digital Editions or Calibre.

STOCKING STUFFERS

But perhaps books don’t feel like gifts to you. My Etsy shop Peppermint Robot Surprise is full of little doodads that are perfect for Secret Santas, tweenyboppers, or work colleagues. Get a set of weird illustrated prints, a couple of plush monsters, some coasters, some costume jewelry and you’re set for the season.

All items in the Peppermint Robot Surprise shop are handmade by me, constructed from upcycled materials and rescued scraps, and mostly one-of-a-kind. Giving a stuffed monster from PRS is like giving someone a snowflake. Except that the monster won’t melt.

Get 20% off your order today with code: PRS20.

The trouble with Etsy is that you won’t save much on shipping if you make purchases from multiple shops because the individual sellers ship their items. Nothing ships directly from Etsy. It’s like eBay without the adrenaline rush from bidding. But you probably know that because you are not new to the Internet, right?

So maybe you’d like to support a bunch of indie artists without exorbitant shipping rates.

I have some things on Society6, which is like CafePress for hipsters. You can get artwork on prints, iphone cases, shirts, tote bags, and other things. Aside from my Robot of Leisure prints, you can browse art like illustrated pop culture references, mixed media animal collages, outdated cliches printed in whimsical typography, and serious photography. I’m in the process of preparing more art to add the Robot of Leisure Society6 page.

Lastly (but not leastly), if you’re looking for something super original yet super cheap and you know someone who likes robots, you can order a personalized Robot of Leisure micro-commission. For $5, I will draw Boris in a costume or activity relevant to your intended recipient’s interests. Then you’ll get a PDF of the illustration and you can print it, tattoo it, project it on your wall and paint a mural from it…the possibilities are seemingly endless (because you can’t just go and resell the illustration on your own Etsy or Society6 store. Personal use only, please.). See my Boris 366 project for inspiration.

FREEBIES

Maybe you’re completely broke. Me too! That’s why I’m giving you these free things to download that you can either keep for yourself or pass along.

Robot of Leisure #1: Boris and the Open House is available for free download from Kobo, iTunes, and directly from the ROL site. Download for yourself. Send the link(s) to friends and family. Post a review/rating if you’re an opinionated sort. You can reward yourself with the other downloadables from Robot of Leisure.

   

You can also download PDFs of this monster paper doll or Boris paper doll and print out for the youths in your life.

Now you’ve done all your holiday shopping! Hooray! You’ve saved your sanity and maybe a few dollars. You’ve supported an independent artist instead of buying singing Justin Bieber toothbrushes at Walmart. And you didn’t suffer bodily harm in pursuit of a pre-apocalypse television. Wins all around.

katharine makes so many, many things

Blogging falls way low on the priority list these days. Instead of writing, I’ve been illustrating, designing, relearning epub coding, playing with my Silhouette SD cutting machine, making plush monsters, making bunting jewelry from scraps, designing an articulated paper doll for Robot of Leisure, and playing Boggle.

Here’s some proof of my non-writing endeavors:

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Monsters and moose and kitties, oh my!

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Boris becomes articulated in paper doll form.

Boris demonstrates the writing process.

Robot of Leisure #5 is up on iTunes. (As are all the rest of my books.)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Boris and the Open House by Katharine Miller

Boris and the Open House

by Katharine Miller

Giveaway ends August 25, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

If you’re on GoodReads, you can enter to win paperback editions of the first four installments (there are six total) of the Robot of Leisure graphic novel series.

And then sometimes I just make faces. Tra-la.

katharine’s promotional round-up

As you know, I make lots of things. Sometimes I sell those things. Sometimes I give those things away. Right now I’m doing all of that.


Last month I finally started participating on Goodreads. To celebrate, I’m offering 4 print copies of 30 Failures by Age 30 in a Goodreads giveaway. The contest is open to residents of US, CA, and GB and runs through March 16.


In December, I loaded Robot of Leisure onto Apple iBooks. A few weeks ago, iTunes started offering vendors a handful of promotional codes for review use. I am giving away promo codes for Robot of Leisure 1-4 (ebook only). (Small print: This is valid only for the Apple iBooks store for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch devices running iOS 4.2 and higher.) If you email me directly with a solemn promise to rate the Robot of Leisure books in the iBooks store (and on Goodreads, if possible), I will email the promo codes for all four Robot of Leisure volumes. Quantities are limited and this offer is only open for another two weeks-ish. (You only have to claim them within these two weeks, not read them.)

Already got copies of all or some of my books? Now’s the time to share your review/rating/opinion of them. If you’ve got a Goodreads, Amazon, Smashwords, or iTunes account, please visit my book listings and leave a rating. Obviously I hope it’s a good rating, but I’m more interested in getting honest reactions. As a creative person without a stage, most interactions with audience/consumers ends at the exchange of goods. I rarely get an update of how my “babies” have fared in the scary real world.

And just in case you missed it, I’ve been toiling away on Robot of Leisure: Boris 366—a daily series of Boris in dressed up in all manners of costumes and headgear for your amusement. Here’s what you missed in January: