Sunday, February 15, 2015

Tools We Love

As I was cleaning up my studio this morning I was struck by how ritualistic I have become with my work and my workspace. I have a very small studio. Not much more than a corner to work in. I am surrounded by books that I refer to constantly and very special tools. After each piece is completed in my studio, I clear off the clutter that has encroached my space during the working process and wash down the work surface. It seems to cleanse my mind from the previous project and prepares my little space for the next project. My Valentine card this year was created with some precious tools that I don't think I have shared before. Some small detail brushes and containers have been very helpful in my illumination work. The Size 1 Detail Sable Brush is from Dick Blick. I picked it up on my first trip to Philadelphia to teach Enchanted Letters. I had forgotten my brush box and although I don't mind borrowing tools when I am away, I am very particular about my brushes. Lucky to have a Dick Blick near the workshop it was my first trip into that store. I don't remember the brush being very expensive but it has held a perfect point for a few years now and is the best Sable brush I have ever owned. I realized how attached I was to it and it was only purchased out of desperation. I would normally have chosen a Winsor Newton Series 7 but the store did not have them in stock. It was a lucky purchase! The aqua Princeton Select 18/0 brush was purchased in Nashville this past October. Again, lucky to be teaching a workshop in an artstore and I needed a detail brush. This was a new discovery for me and now all outline work I do is done with this little brush. It too retains its point and is easier for me to manage than other liner or monogram brushes. The Royal & Langnickel 20/0 acrylic brush was recently purchased at Michaels. Another desperation purchase for applying gold size. The brushes used for gold size can deteriorate very quickly but this one is my new studio iron man! It has already survived multiple miniatum ink applications and the perfect point has been retained. I am very impressed with all of these very inexpensive brushes.
I also wanted to show you two of my favorite gilding tools. A little Victorian salt dish complete with mini tongs! I don't use the mini tongs for gilding but I do use the salt dish to capture all my stray bits of gold leaf. So far there has never been enough in there to much with but now and then it is exactly what I reach for if I only need a touch of gold or need to make a correction. It is always by my side! The leakproof widemouth Nalgene jar is my new best friend for the Miniatum ink. No more leaks or painfully sealed jar lids! A dream come true!!! Before I cleaned up my desk I wanted to share these gilding and miniature illumination favourite tools with you. Happy February 15th!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Believe in Angels

First in a special series I am working on that will be printed into note cards.
As I work on Designed Flourishes for my Victorian Pen workshop, I can't help but be guided by Kate Greenaway once again. She remains one of my biggest influences. Her biography is fascinating. She was highly critiqued for her illustrations yet she kept on painting. People thought her little children looked mournful but I found them serene an peaceful. Walter Crane was an outspoken critic of her work. I have often wondered what she thought when she heard Walter Crane's critiques. Yet she kept on. He was a powerful and influential illustrator who did not appreciate her work...yet she forged her own path. As I painted the face on this little angel, visions of Kate's little cherubs were in my head. The book that influences me is the Kate Greenaway Treasury.
I have had it since I was a child. It's not even mine!!! It belongs to my Dad who got it as a part of a book club. But I adopated in and in case he is looking for it....I absconded with it years ago! It teaches me and it instructs my students. Years ago, my dear friend Anne Sheedy gave me a first edition Kate Greenaway book. Engraved by Edmund Evans and very precious to me. This is the page that has influenced my embroidery and my Victorian Line and Wash techniques.
Recently, my dear friend Ann Cobb blessed me with a page from one of the first editions of Kate Greenaway's Language of Flowers book.
It should be framed and on my wall but this piece travels with me as I teach my workshops. The brown signature outlines of her watercolours influenced me to choose McCaffery Brown ink. It is always the perfect colour. It is not technically waterproof but it has never failed me in this technique.
The Victorian in me loves her gentle subject matter. I love the subdued tones of her watercolors contrasted by the brown outline. I could sense Kate's influence in this piece but the vinework and the cherub are coming from Baroque studies. My little angel is on his way to his new home. Gilded with 23K Czech gold and painted with soft watercolours, this piece measures 4 1/8" by 2 3/4".

Friday, January 23, 2015

January 23rd.....National Handwriting Day!!!!

The letters are sealed and on their way!!! A joy to write with the pen! I have attached samples from my Palomino Blackwing Journal of my normal everyday handwriting in its pure form and unaltered form.
It has mistakes. It has letters that are not perfect or uniform. Some words are less legible than others. It does not conform to any system of writing. It is written at my natural pace. It captures my thoughts with ease. I do not try to change it to make it conform to Palmer or Spencer. It is uniquely mine. Just like the sound of a voice or your fingerprint, your handwriting is uniquely yours!!! My favourite handwriting surface is a gridded journal. I am partial to the Leuchturrm1917 and the Palomino Blackwing. I am never without pen, pencil and paper. It is always with me. A constant friend. A comfort to return to. My favourite pens are pictured here.
A Viscontil Rembrandt Fountain pen, a slicci pen and a Plaisir Platinum Fountain pen. They all fit my hand well and I love to use them. Capture your thoughts, share your words with a friend, send a letter to someone who is not expecting it and preserve the love of writing. Conform to no one. Let your style be your own. It's handwriting!!! Whether you lean toward cursive or italic styles, block printing, or stick letters, be yourself and enjoy the writing you produce on the page. There is a time and a place for striving for perfect forms, for striving for perfect lettering. I am a firm believer in taking steps to improve legibility in handwriting, but I have never believed in forcing a system of writing on anyone. When I teach handwriting classes, I spend the first class with students showing them how to befriend their current writing. Find the charm in your own writing!! It is there!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Oblique VS. Straight Holder

I have been inundated with questions lately about the straight holder vs. the oblique holder. I post quite a few pictures on Instagram and many picturers display a straight holder. I love both types of pen holders and switch between the two quite often.
I encourage students to try both for the lettering and flourishing and see what they prefer. There are unique qualites for each tool and more than anything else, I believe the decision should be based on which is more comfortable in the hand of each student. Based on my own experiences, the look of my work is more slender and refined if a straight holder is used. But if I want more dramatic swells in the shades, I will use an oblique holder. My recommendation for students is to put the same type of nib in a straight and oblique holder and experiment with the shaded strokes. I have a less extreme angle on my paper when I work with a straight holder. See what you prefer and have fun experimenting with both.
In response to questions about the holders that my husband and I make, you can contact us through heather@heathervictoriaheld.com. We make custom oblique and straight holders in exotic or hand dyed woods. I also hand paint floral style and flourished holders as well. Happy writing!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Thoughts from my Day

I had an interesting day today. I had an opportunity to see some gorgeous fair trade artwork. I loved seeing hand woven purses,scarves and soapstone carvings. I thought of the artisans in Thailand and Kenya who had produced the work. What was their struggle? How can charging so little for this piece of artwork possibly help the artisan? The work was so intricate and detailed. Far from perfect yet it all had such a charm about it. I felt connected to the artist. I wanted to take it all! I came home to an email from a student who wanted some thoughts about her work. As soon as I saw her work, I felt instantly connected to her process and joy as she produced something she was proud of. I could see the rhythm and the movement of her work. No signs of struggle in the pieces that conveyed so much beauty. I was honoured to look at it and share my thoughts. As a teacher, I feel like I have such a sacred trust with my students. They are so precious to me. They are my peers and my friends. I learn from their process as much as they learn from mine. I am grateful for that opportunity. Beyond anything I do as an artist, I learn and grow from seeing the work of others. If you have crossed my path as a student, I want to thank you for what you have given me.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Snail Mail Sunday

I have caught up on correspondence almost every Sunday for the past several years. It is wonderful to relax and put aside the time to write to dear friends. Lately, I have dedicated a lot of time to edge pen projects. As I completed one project it was such a joy to pick up my beloved pointed pen!! A delight to write with! Although I love my fountain pens and edge pens, there is nothing quite the same for me personally as the beloved pointed pen. Happy Writing!!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Victorian Pen Workshop

Working hard on teaching pieces and notes for The Victorian Pen workshop. With each piece I do, I learn new techniques while refining old. This art form will never cease to amaze me with the lessons it has to teach. I am enjoying this research and design phase as I continue to construct notes.
There is so much to study and learn. The Victorian Pen technique relies on underdrawing and undershading techniques.
I will keep you updated!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Believe for 2015

Welcoming all good things for 2015! This is a designed flourish and part of The Victorian Pen workshop which picks up where the Artful Flourish leaves off! Walnut ink, pastel and coloured pencil on Strathmore 400 series drawing paper. Happy New Year dear friends. May 2015 be full of creative ideas.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Last post of the year

" For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await a new voice." T.S. Eliot. It's been a wonderful year of learning and growing. Lots of changes in store for 2015. A torn rotator cuff is causing me to rest and recover but I have filled that time already with increased study! I have reduced my teaching schedule for 2015 to work on updating workshop notes, studying, expanding skills and reaching long neglected goals. We still have a long list of pen orders to fill over the coming weeks. They are a joy to make and thankfully easy on the shoulder. I will keep the blog updated and you can find me on facebook at Heather Victoria Held and The Victorian Pen and instagram at heathervictoria1. Looking forward to learning and sharing in 2015.
Thank you for all of the support in 2014!!! It's been an amazing year. XO! Heather

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Thank you!!!!

Feeling relieved that for the time being I am caught up on work. The desk and studio need to be set back in order before I begin the next project. I wanted to reflect on the blessings of 2014.
I am so grateful for the support of family and friends as I had what is officially my busiest year to date! Lots of lessons learned and openings of new horizons to explore. I am grateful for every opportunity that came my way and even the frustrating moments. Looking foward to sharing new projects and ideas in 2015. I remain in the mode of perpetual learning, exploration and gratitude. Thank you dear friends. You are such a blessing to me. I hope you all enjoy the blessings and peace of the season.

Monday, December 1, 2014

May You Flourish

Too busy not to Flourish!!!! Enjoy all the sights and sounds of the season!!! Hope you all have time to flourish!

Monday, November 24, 2014

B is for busy!!!!!!

November has been a whirlwind. I wanted to update the blog with a miscellany of work I have been up to. I have interesting commissions to work on. I have had to sign non disclosure and confidentiality agreements with some companies so I can't let you in on something exciting in the works! But I did get a chance to work on a holiday card with a design firm. That was a lot of fun. I am posting just a clip of the corner of the design until the final is released.
Enchanted Letters have been keeping me busy as well!!! Just completed this B design. The images below are from sketch form to the final product.
This past weekend I completed my 2014 teaching engagements!!!! This wraps up a very busy year for me. I celebrated with a day of Medieval Miniature painting at the Ancaster Old Town Hall with Debbie Thompson Wilson. Debbie is a master at finding unique images for us to study and bring to life. This miniature is based on a 13th Century Austrian Manuscript. Meet "The Merry Makers". This is a work in progress but I wanted to share a peek.
Finally...a shot of a painted pen I just completed. The collaborative work with Chris' pens are so much fun. We are catching up on orders this weekend.
Although B is for Busy...it is also for Breathe! While the festive season comes upon us, I will be taking some time to breathe! The pen will always be in hand as I practice and continue to learn!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Final Road Trip of the Season

Taking one more trip to beautiful British Columbia to teach my last travel workshop of the season.
Still have a local class to complete when I return but I will be able to rest from my travels and complete projects that have been put on hold. I enjoy completing flourish pieces for my workshops and had a chance to prepare a few for the Alphabeas Guild!!!!
English Roundhand and flourishes go so well together. Some of the flourishing has been influenced by European styles. The lines are a bit softer to work with. The designs are still freely flourished in true offhand style.
All work was executed with a straight holder and Bleedproof white. October has been a beautiful month! Looking foward to November.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

D is for Debbie

Every autumn my family and I make time to visit The Studio Tour of my illumination teacher Debbie Thompson Wilson. Her work sells out quickly. It is such a treat to see what she has created from year to year. My family and I have added to our collection of Thompson originals over the years and they are treasured heirlooms in our homes. This year, I was away teaching and could not get to the studio tour but was delighted to learn that Debbie's illuminations have been published in an ebook, New Psalms for Old Sorrows, which is now available for purchase. You can find it here. I have it safely downloaded to my iPad and can enjoy the writing and illuminations at my leisure. In a few weeks, I will have my study day with Debbie and continue to learn illumination techniques. I am constantly grateful for the skills she has helped me develop over the years and her generosity in sharing her techniques. She is a delight!! I think you will enjoy her illuminations as well. I am in the midst of experimenting with different gilding mediums on vellum and paper.
I will keep you updated with what happens! Currently, my favourite gilding medium is Miniatum Ink. I can write with it and achieve a beautiful mirror shine! The Enchanted Letter D pictured above is gilded with Palladium and Miniatum ink.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Autumn Reflections

I love these autumn days. Every day I go through one of my Commonplace books to find an inspirational autumn quote to work on. I currently have 1 book filled from cover to cover and 4 that still have room for notes. I find this season so inspiring with the colours and the ever changing weather.
This has been an incredibly busy year for me. I am finishing up my teaching commitments with back to back Artful Flourish workshops in Nasville, followed by a trip to Kelowna to teach the Enchanted Letter. In between teaching venues, I will be finishing up Roundhand classes locally and trying to catch up on personal goals in my studio. Even though these days are hectic, I am so thankful for the sights and sounds around me. Nothing like the view of the sun shining through the vibrant Canadian maples. Each walk to the post office has me stopping to bring leaves home for my table! This evening, I was so thankful to be able to letter the name tags for The Artful Flourish participants in Nashville. Many are dear friends and it is a pleasure to see them again and to spend a few days with them.
Looking foward to seeing what autumn looks like in Nashville next week.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fascinating Season

Autumn is a very reflective time for me. Not so easy to sit outside and work in the chilly air but nature still entices. The colours around me are influencing my work. I am still playing with my "wonder of the world" quote. My indoor studio always has the window open no matter what the weather outside is doing. I need to hear the trees in the wind, or the rainfall or the birds chirping. It helps me to breathe. The open window invites the opportunity of surprise. This little piece although gilded is still practice.
I am practicing pen drawn borders for The Victorian Pen class. I am practicing with a split nib and trying new materials and new colour combinations. The finished piece becomes an exercise in mindful self critique. It the best way for me to grow as an artist,hone skills and weed out things in my work that need to change. The Autumn Season is helping this process. This little border practice piece is done on Strathmore 400 Series drawing paper with Walnut ink, McCaffery Brown, Watercolour, Watercolour pencil, Gouache, Pastel, Swarovski crystal and Sakura Gelly Roll Pen. All gilding is done with 23K gold leaf and miniatum ink.
The border sketch originated in my journal and is still evolving from the original sketch.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Wonder of the World

As I continue to design and explore ideas for The Victorian Pen workshop, sometimes I get overwhelmed with inspiration. Morning time for me involves sitting outside on my swing and reading for about 30 minutes before I start my day. I picked up an old Fairy Tale book to read and was inspired by the inscription on the first page. "The wonder of the world,the beauty and the power, the shapes of things, their colours, lights and shades, these I saw; look ye also, while life lasts"
This Victorian style piece was lettered outside on a very windy morning. The letterforms themselves took on a windswept look.
I am not done exploring the possibilites of this beautiful text yet. This piece was done with McCaffery Black on Strathmore drawing paper. Gilding was done with 23 K gold leaf and miniatum ink. Staedtler Aquaurelle Watercolour pencils tinted the design and shading was added with Diane Townsend pastels.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Evolution of A Workshop

After numerous requests to expand my Artful Flourish Workshop I am thrilled to offer The Victorian Pen.
The Victorian Pen picks up where The Artful Flourish leaves off. We put away the techniques of offhand flourishing and dive into the realm of the drawn and rendered flourish.
The class offers drawing techniques for the terrified starting with simple florals, shading techniques and gradually expanding to more complex designs! These pen drawings keep the organic qualities inherent in Offhand Flourishing but allow for pencil design and then pen rendering the final product. We launch into European influences from England, France and Italy. The colours, styles, layers and textures of the Victorian Era are explored. Love them or hate them, the Victorians left their mark in history and they had distinct art styles that are wonderful to explore. We trim off their excesses and leave room for the work to breathe. Simple supplies can be used from the humble pencil and walnut ink or be expanded to coloured pencil, watercolour, pastel and gold leaf. Designs start out as simple embellishments and work up to more ornate and complex designs. Full launch in 2015. You can contact me at heather@heathervictoriaheld.com for more details. Our new website is in progress! Lots coming in 2015!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dragon Days

A highlight of my summers over the past several years has been attending illumination workshops with Master Illuminator Debbie Thompson Wilson. Debbie has a passion for sharing her love of illumination with her students. Her classes are sold out months in advance. I always sign up for the next class without blinking! It doesn't matter what she is teaching, it just matters that time is put aside to study with her. This year, we spent the past two days working on dragons! So much fun. I always learn something new and cherish the dedicated and peaceful time working on honing skills. Meet "Ack" and "Chomp". So much fun to paint. I am so blessed to have such a wonderful teacher to study with. Illumination has been part of my study time for the past several years. I think it is so important to credit our teachers for helping us achieve skills that bring so much joy to our lives. Thank you dear Debbie! Her work will be part of the 2014 Guelph Studio Tour.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Accomplishment

I need to start clearing my mind of tasks that are associated with the 2014 conference. I am feeling blessed, grateful and a bit tired, but overjoyed at having such a wonderful opportunity to work for IAMPETH. I love this organization more than ever. We are surrounded with wonderful people who willingly step up to the task to work for such a wonderful cause. This year IAMPETH has taken great strides to accommodate the growth that we have experienced. I believe that we will continue to grow and work hard to meet the challenges that come with growth.
I thanked a lot of people in my opening and closing remarks at the conference but I wish I had said more!! I had a strong support team with my Executive Board. Bill Kemp called and emailed regularly to encourage and assist. Rick and Jenny Muffler were positive role models and advisors. So much support!!! I am constantly grateful that they are only a phone call away. Jane Farr and Pamela Salatich were my two INDY residents who rose to every challenge that was presented throughout the year. They were trusted advisors. They also site inspected several INDY hotels for me as I tried to narrow down my search. They were both deserving recipients of the Spirit of Nan Deluca Award! Anne Cheney spent months working on our banquet tickets. I thought she did a spectacular job. I am not gifted with folding abilities but Anniee was up to the task.
I loved the little banquet scroll she placed in each ticket. Thank you Annieeeee!!!!!
Past President Janie Cravens assembled a team of experts to help with Registration. I didn't have to worry about a thing! It was in her capable hands!!! A special treat this year was seeing beautiful Maggie Cravens again! She has been attending IAMPETH conventions since she was 5 years old! There was a lot happening behind the scenes as I navigated this Presidency. I wasn't prepared for all of it but thankfully I was surrounded by very experienced people. Kathy Saunders helped me as I learned about our bylaws. She is a wealth of information and has so many stories to tell! We had late night conversations and lots of laughs!! We had a tearful goodbye at the hotel as we realized that we won't see our precious friends us until next year!! Kathy Markham our wonderful treasurer was warm and helfpul. Always cheerful no matter how much work she was juggling. I have to put up this beautiful picture that I found in our convention photos online.
Neil McCaffery is a hero in our organization. Not only our assistant treasurer, but also the custodian of our archives. If you don't know what is involved in setting up our archive room, you might want to watch Neil next year! He has our archives stored in a salt mine in Kansas. He single handedly retrieves, loads his vehicle and transports them personally back and forth to each convention. He loads and unloads each precious part of that collection, and then supervises the archive room. While doing that, he still finds time to sit in on a class or two at the convention, set us and tears down our owned audio visual equipment and takes care of trouble shooting anything that comes his way, in any department!!!!!!! Somewhere, I am pretty sure he has a superman cape! Neil is adored. There were a lot of administrative tasks to accomplish this year that could easily be delegated from Canada but many tasks needed to be dispatched from the USA. I can never say thank you enough to Debi Zeinert. She is my dear friend. She helped me from the minute the nominating committee approached me about the Presidency. She knew how scared I was to take on this job and assured me that no one ever runs a convention alone. I never felt alone! She was never to busy for me and always willing and able to help me with tasks that were better navigated from the US side of the border! On top of everything she did behind the scenes, she still worked together with Linda Carol Gray on the silent auction. Record sales too!!! Nearly $7000 raised at our silent auction. I am so thankful for the original artwork items that came from so many of you. Brian Walker from England sent an amazing Bloser portrait that was guarded by Skylar Chubak throughout that auction! The penmakers gave of themselves and so many of you contributed to the success of that auction! Thank you!!! Some things seemed to be accomplished by a team of elves who took care of needs even before I anticpated them. Agendas were faithfully checked by Joe Carbone, Bob Hosack, Nick Vrettos and Bryan Platt. Water was being delivered to thirsty round robin particpants and instructors, demonstrations were taking place in John Neal's Bookstore, and spouse day trips were being taken care of by Randy Banks! Indy centerpieces were being crafted and carefully transported to the banquet by the Calligraphy guild of Indiana. Little notes were being placed under my door and gifts were being delivered. Every morning, Nick Vrettos showed up with a handwritten note of encouragement from Jessic Yee. It felt as if she was right there beside me and it got me an extra hug from Nick at the same time. So many gifts were given and so many notes were sent. I am so very grateful!! My faculty was a gift from heaven. Bob Hurford stepped up and took on 3 classes. My dear friend was tired and well deserving of his Iron Man title! Thank you to all of my faculty: Michael Sull, Bob Hurford, Bill Kemp (even though he was sidelined by emergency surgery),Mike Kecseg, Jake Weidmann,John DeCollibus,Sheila Waters, Harvest Crittenden,Rosemary Buczek, Bryan Platt, Ned Gault, Valerie Weilmuenster,Kathy Milici,Tamara Stoneburner, Marian Gault and Barbara Close! You are wonderful!!! There are more thank you's that will go out in the mail!!!! This conference was managed by a team of experts. I had the privilege of being the President and going home with the amazing certificate created by Rosemary Buczek. But every one of you who helped in the slightest way with my convention, deserve proper recognition. You mean the world to me!!!! Precious memories are mine to cherish!
It was a treat to have our logo designer Don Marsh come for the round robin. I had been trying to warn him that there were a lot of people waiting to talk to him!! I think he gets the picture now. I will leave you with this photo of Skyler and Don
and our beautiful Logo. So thankful to Don for setting the look of my convention with that spectacular logo design.