Friday, May 22, 2009

Squirrels, or Something Worse?

Mr. Marsh brought us another video from his neighborhood, where Spring was in full swing this morning. He said a plump robin let him get very close to her as she sat atop a stake at the end of his strawberry patch, and when he walked out his gate onto the sidewalk, he found it full of saucy squirrels!

Artist and fairyland ambassador Tony DiTerlizzi has often compared goblins to squirrels. Maybe the goblins that were in the walls at Castle in the Air are migrating to Mr. Marsh's neighborhood!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Noodler's Rainbow

Today at Castle in the Air we checked in a new shipment of a popular item -- the line of fountain-pen inks from Noodler's. The company is known for mixing a lot of fun into each little bottle. The labels are whimsical and the ink names are often inventive. (Rattler Red, anyone?) Our online customers have been asking for Noodler's so much recently that when the order came in this morning, we knew that we couldn't keep these inks from our faraway friends. Take a look at the inks page on the Online Shoppe to browse the selection.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Shining Stars

The little peep-hole in the wall has turned into a proper doorway, so today we spent the day assembling shelves and moving boxes into the new shipping area, which will hold all our crepe paper, Dresden trim, and other treasures that we sell through our Online Shoppe.

Our excavations uncovered some unfinished paper relief decorations, so while Daniel was minding the store he did some dry-brush paint work on a few of them (one coat of red and a second coat of gold) and turned them into some amazing golden stars!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Having a Wild Weekend

Aside from hailing all the amazing new changes at Castle in the Air, I'm also celebrating all the wonderful and bold changes that happened when my husband, Duncan, and I married each other ten years ago today. This Tarot card image (from Magic Realist Press' The Victorian Romantic Tarot by Karen Mahony and Alex Ukolov) is about having graceful strength as we move through all that life brings our way. It's a good talisman for anyone, married or not. But I didn't choose it for its symbolism. No, Duncan and I honeymooned on the savannah in Africa, and this weekend we're having our tenth-anniversary honeymoon at Safari West, an African wildlife preserve right here in Northern California!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A brief glimpse

After days and days of tapping and buzzing and the occasional loud thump coming from the other side of the north wall, this morning we moved away a few cabinets from the wall and saw a small hole in it near the floor. A light streamed through and we could see into the new space that will soon become our new Online Shoppe shipping center! I ran to get my camera to see if I could photograph any of the kobold workers on the other side, but by the time I got back the hole had been covered up and the tapping and buzzing began again.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fantastic Castles!

Among the first pieces of Dresden trim we ever carried at Castle in the Air was this incredible three-dimensional castle. It's about ten inches tall and has doors and shutters that open and a balcony and sign-post that extend out an inch or so. It comes in silver or gold, and for the first time in history... black! I had it made especially for the shop and apparently it had never been done before. I use the silver one as a backdrop for the store's display of the first Dromedary Press title, Castle in the Air, and we've all been fantasizing about using one of the black castles in a spooky Halloween craft project. The castle is one of the many Dresden pieces back in stock in our store, and one of many, many pieces that we'll be adding to the Online Shoppe this summer.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


We love to welcome well-behaved dogs (and people) to visit us at Castle in the Air, so it was very upsetting when two snarling fellows who were neither dogs nor people showed up! The sun went behind a cloud and there they were. We had to hide behind the back pen counter until it got sunny again about a minute later, and the wolf-men were gone. When we asked Daniel and John if they knew who those ill-mannered loups-garou were, they said they hadn't seen anyone at all!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Strange and Wonderful Patterns

This week at Castle in the Air, we're swimming in new hand-printed and marbled papers from Italy. Ride our magic carpet to the phantasmagorical wonderland!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Illustrated Letters

Before there were web pages and blogs, it was more common to see people adding color to their communication by drawing and painting images on the letters they sent through the good old U.S. Mail. Tomorrow Caron Dunn and I are teaching a class on illustrated letters in the studio at Castle in the Air, so this morning I worked up some sample envelopes. What makes illustrating letters such a delight is that it really gives you more time to think about the person who will be receiving it, and making art that you think they'll really enjoy.
Of course, any letter is a joy to receive, especially if it has a beautiful stamp on it. The post-office is raising its rates on Monday to 44 cents for a first class letter, so we bought a new book of stamps for the shop. They've got some wonderful art on them!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Castle Quick Craft: Sweet Pea Bouquet

If you're on the Castle in the Air email list, then today you'll be receiving the new issue of our shop newsletter, The Castle Crier.

Every issue of The Castle Crier includes a craft you can make at home, kind of like a simplified version of a class from the Studio for the Imagination. This time around one of our talented paper-flower class teachers, Aimee Baldwin, shows us how to make a bouquet of springtime sweet peas. The flowers use our doublette crepe, some floral wire, and a few other craft items you might already have. They're perfect for Mother's Day or a springtime birthday, so colorful and cheerful that I'm sure you'll want to make them year-round.

If you're not on the mailing list, then what are you waiting for? Both the Quick Craft instructions and The Castle Crier email newsletter sign-up form are available through the front page of the Castle in the Air Online Shoppe.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

At the Back of the North Wall

Will wonders never cease? We've all been so intrigued (and occasionally frightened) by all the banging and clanging inside the north wall at Castle in the Air that today I decided to investigate what could be causing such a racket. A tiny bit of plaster had fallen away from a space lower on the wall, about knee-high from the floor. I crouched down and peeped in, when what did I see but all the resident gnomes hard at work on the other side! Apparently someone's told them about our (until now) secret plans to stretch out and expand all of the marvelous things we do here in our store, studio, and study!

When the gnomes -- along with a few of their hum
an counterparts -- have finished their work, things will be very different here at Castle in the Air. The most noticeable change for our everyday visitors will be the addition of an upstairs art gallery to showcase some of the more spectacular works of our artists. The gallery, which will be built in what is now the shop office, will also serve as an expansion of our classroom. One of our Hoopoe messenger-birds has been flitting through the town and across the countryside, delivering invitations to renowned teachers who will be able to come and lead some special super-sized classes in our Studio for the Imagination. During the winter months, we plan to use the extra space to offer even more holiday marvels.

On the other side of the wall, the behind-the-scenes work at Castle in the Air will continue in a spacious new setting. Our Online Shoppe has grown since its launch last fall, and we are using measuring tape and sketch-pads to dream up a space where it can continue to thrive and serve more and more friends who live too far away to visit Castle in the Air in
person. We will also have a new workshop for the creation of one-of-a-kind items, as well as our beloved ephemera packs.

Finally, the expansion is helping me further realize a dream I've had since the days before I first opened the doors at Castle in the Air. The relocation of the shop offices will afford us the space to grow Dromedary Press. My own publishing company, Dromedary makes many of the greeting cards we sell at the store, as well as the limited-edition book, Castle in the Air. Our next title is on its way later this year, and the extra space will help us to keep going with more books and projects that reflect the artistry and ideals we've all built up at Castle in the Air.

So if you come by the shop in the next few weeks and see a bit of plaster on the floor or hear a knock in the wall, don't be surprised if you find a dusty little fellow adjusting his pointy hat and picking up his hammer or pick-axe. He's just one of the many helpers who are bringing about a new era at Castle in the Air.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cutting Up at the Castle

It's tea time at Castle in the Air, and Ulla Milbrath has just wrapped up today's class, "Introduction to Paper Cutting." She's been working with cut paper silhouettes in her home studio for some time, but today was the first time she's taught the art.

Six students arrived at the studio this morning and, using scissors and X-Acto blades, were guided through a simple cut-out of a swan. Later, they tried a more complex cut-out, one that required some interior cuts. Before the day was out, they'd finished a silhouette collage by embellishing a portrait with other images they cut out from pieces from Ulla's collection, and started on a larger project that they can finish at home.

Ulla says she loved how different every piece looked, even though they all began with some of the same elements.
Some of the pictures came from Silhouettes, a Dover book by Carol Belanger Grafton that Ulla recommends. She wasn't the only one who enjoyed the day. One excited student even exclaimed, "We had more fun than we could have even imagined!"

Do you want to try it right now? Ulla's let us turn one of her simple collages into a silhouette for you to download and cut out yourself! Click here to try it!

Monday, May 4, 2009


Throughout the day, visitors to Castle in the Air have been startled by recurring banging and buzzing noises, which seem to be coming from behind the northern wall of our upstairs studio. What could be happening? Kobolds haunt the mines of Germany (just like their cousins, the knockers, do in Cornwall), making lots of noise before a collapse. Perhaps some kobolds have tunneled too far afield and found their way to Fourth Street! Or maybe the goblins from George MacDonald's wonderful book The Princess and the Goblin are digging their way in to steal someone away to their underground kingdom. If we've got any goblins in our walls, we have to guess that they're not here for mischief but to herald some more fun-loving changes at Castle in the Air. Don't run away!

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Wheel & The Maypole

Today our very own Ulla took ribbons and paper flowers and decorated our quiet vendor's pole in Castle in the Air's front window to help us celebrate the longer days and the coming of summer. We didn't have much sun today in Berkeley, but when Ulla added a wheel of flowers near the top of the maypole, this Scandinavian symbol reminded us that everything comes and everything goes, and that sunshine doesn't have to come from the sky to brighten the day. Happy May Day!