Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Colorful Summer Classes

I've been busy the past few days photographing the sample projects our teachers have sent in. We've already listed a handful of upcoming classes at the Online Shoppe, with more on their way. I hope you can make it to the loft studio for a day or two with our amazing teachers!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Setting off...

Castle in the Air's smallest hero sets off on the first leg of his adventures today -- Commonplace Mouse has gone to press! Only a month or so before the books are here! Stay tuned for news about the festivities we have planned to celebrate the publication of the second title from Dromedary Press.

Friday, June 26, 2009

What would you do if I sang out of tune?

This picture was sent to me by my friend Iggy. I find it special because most of my friends have a particular animal that they identify with. There is a weasel, a rabbit, an eel, a squirrel... Guess who is the cantankerous camel?

The picture is also a nice reminder of a weekly gathering I host at my house. Every Wednesday night, I invite a small number of friends over for dinner. Usually no two weeks in a row have the same group, so there are constant reacquaintances, new friends made, and the chance to watch faces light up when there are reunions of people who haven't seen each other in years. We enjoy pizzas and drinks and seasonal treats (Plum cake season is here!) and stay up past our bedtimes talking about whatever's on our minds -- food, art, work, family, health, love...light conversation, you know! It's really nice to catch up with people this way, and between everything else in my life (and theirs) it's often the only way we'll ever see each other more than once a year.

I don't think I'm being sentimental when I say that there's something transcendent that happens when good friends gather.
Beyond the food and the chatter, there's something else going on. Our friends are our sources of comfort, reminding us of the past and letting us enjoy the present. But they are also the stewards of our dreams, helping us to learn who we are and to bring our hopes to fruition. A toast, then, to friends.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Up In the Air

If you come in from the cool wind on Fourth Street today, you'll see that even more kites have found their way into our magical breeze at Castle in the Air. John McRae put together a handful of diamond shaped frames and encouraged all of us at the shop to use Italian papers and Dresden trim to make our own kites.

Once I could look down again, I noticed a tiny kite that's been flying off our greeting card rack season after season -- the one in Diva Pyari's Linea Carta alphab
et card series. Diva draws, calligraphs, and prints all the cards herself on Fabriano paper using her Gocco press (a tabletop Japanese screen-printing kit). Let them fly!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bellissima. Bellissima.

Although we only had one day in Perugia, Mariaelisa Leboroni helped my family feel like natives and royalty all at once when we went to visit her there. Mariaelisa is the woodblock artist behind the Xilocart line of books and prints we sell at Castle in the Air. She makes her creations out of her magical studio in Perugia, the capital of Italy's Umbria region and a city known for its artists.

Between feeding us so much delicious home-cooked food and introducing us to her family, Mariaelisa showed us her studio, where she's got the product of forty years of printing arranged among shelves, tables, and crates. She surprised and delighted me when, after showing us the blocks she used to print her own set of tarot cards, Mariaelisa handed me one of her few remaining copies of the deck!

She drove us all on a high-speed tour through the streets of the town, ending up outside the Church of San Pietro. The church was already closed, but Mariaelisa talked our way in. We were the only ones inside the nave, and when we looked up at the ceiling and took in the gorgeous inlaid wood ceiling, none of us summed it up like Mariaelisa: "Bellissima. Bellissima."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Gustoso Gelato!

Buongiorno! I've just landed from a jaunt to Italy with my family -- it was a much needed break! We had such a great time visiting our friends there. I'm sure I'll be posting more from the trip this week, but for now I just have to sing the praises of Italy's greatest national treasure -- gelato!

Gelato shops are popping up all over Berkeley these days, but this frozen treat's been popular in Italy since the 16th century, when the nobility delighted in the fruits, nuts and other flavors mixed with milk and sugar.

When we landed in Rome, Duncan and the kids and I headed straight to Giolitti, beginning our program of gelato three times a day for our entire trip. We returned to Giolitti and also loved Della Palma, with their 14 flavors of chocolate, or "cioccolato!" But there was no danger of going without scoops of our favorite combinations of flavors, because there is at least one gelateria on every corner of every street in every city in Italy. I always get limone and caffe, and Duncan goes for the cioccolato and pistacchio. My older girl is always deciding between menta with stracciatella or cioccolato with limone. It's my younger one who's the real risktaker of our bunch, choosing cioccolato combined with anything that looks fancy. As long as she can point to it, she can have it.

And the cup vs. cone question is never a dillema for us. You can't eat the cups!

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Mystery Solved!!

If you're still scratching your head over yesterday's puzzle, wonder no more! The mysterious item is none other than a darling new edition of the stylish Zenith 548, the crafting and office tool we've dubbed the "Best Stapler Ever!" I've got to admit that even in this photo, it looks less like a stapler and more like Melville's Whale. Isn't modern life strange?

We've posted the Pink Zenith to the Castle in the Air Online Shoppe, but we only have a few left, and Zenith has told us that this color will soon be discontinued. Just like some of the animal photos in that kids magazine, this one's an endangered species!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What on Earth??

When I was a kid, the science magazine at the library (Was it called World? I can't remember.) always had a fun set of photos on the back page. Each one was a close-up on some kind of animal or something you might have around the house. You looked at the photos and tried to figure out what on earth the close-ups could be showing you.

Here's something like that -- a new item that we're selling at Castle in the Air. Can you guess what it is? The answer comes tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

One Hump or Five?

While we're on the subject of animal miniatures, I want to show you the surprise that my staff gave me for my birthday a few weeks back -- my own train of camels, each one decorated to remind me of a different Castle crew member!

If you think you know the people who work here well enough, try your hand at guessing who made which one!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Mini Menagerie

Today John brought in some great vintage miniatures from his collection. It's like Noah's Ark just landed!

As you can see here, some of the minis are already making themselves at home!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Between Home and Here

Even though I've lived in Berkeley nearly all my life, I'm still always amazed at the flowers I find on walks between home and Fourth Street.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wordplay for the Weekend

It's no secret that our Mr. Marsh is a fan of Lewis Carroll, the Victorian children's author and inventor of ingenious puzzles. One of Carroll's puzzles was the "doublet." In his own words:

"The rules of the Puzzle are simple enough. Two words are proposed, of the same length; and the Puzzle consists in linking these together by interposing other words, each of which shall differ from the next word in one letter only. That is to say, one letter may be changed in one of the given words, then one letter in the word so obtained, and so on, till we arrive at the other given word. The letters must not be interchanged among themselves, but each must keep to its own place.

"As an example, the word 'head' may be changed into 'tail' by interposing the words 'heal, teal, tell, tall.' I call the two given words 'a Doublet,' the interposed words 'Links,' and the entire series 'a Chain,' of which I here append an example:

h e a l
t e a l
t e l l
t a l l

"It is, perhaps, needless to state that it is de rigueur that the links should be English words, such as might be used in good society."

Here is a selection of Lewis Carroll's doublets that Mr. Marsh brought in for us to solve. If your local Sunday paper has gone the way of the Borogove, you can try these instead of the crossword!

Drive PIG into STY using 4 Links.

Raise FOUR to FIVE using 6 Links.

Make WHEAT into BREAD using 6 Links.

Dip PEN into INK using 5 Links.

Touch CHIN with NOSE using 5 Links.

Change TEARS into SMILE using 5 Links.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Why don't you go...

...fly a kite! This morning, John McRae rode the west wind into Castle in the Air with a bundle of wonderful Chinese kites under his arm. Our May Queen let go of her pole and took up the spindle, flying the kites on a magical breeze.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Drowning in Dresden

Castle in the Air's move into our new offices and "staging" areas is complete, and we're diving in on a number of new projects. One task that we saved until we got our feet back on the ground is the expansion of our Dresden trim offerings in the Online Shoppe. We've begun bagging and filing enough Dresden that, once we're done, we might just double our selection online. Keep an eye on the Dresden Trim section of the Online Shoppe throughout the summer to see the new styles.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Have a Cigar!

John McRae's dreamed up a delicious new delight -- paper fan cigars! We've got these at the store in Berkeley and have also added them to the Online Shoppe. See how they work in the instructional video below.

Monday, June 8, 2009

From One Magical Shop to Another

Just a stone's throw from the Rhein River, a visitor to Basel, Switzerland, can trek up the ancient sloping lane known as the Rheinsprung. If the cobblestones could speak, they might tell tales of some of Europe's greatest scholars and artists who have trod the Rheinsprung to the University of Basel. Even Paracelsus, the philsopher and alchemist, made his home for a time in this district.

But scholars and artists need supplies, and if only Paracelsus could have used his philosopher's stone to live until the late 20th century, when Abraxas Basel opened its doors onto the Rheinsprung! Inside the tiny 12th century building is a shop with an array of 100 gorgeous inks (handmade from natural components on the premises), sealing wax in complementary colors, and -- believe it or not -- a selection of meteorites!

Sound tempting? Yes, all of us at Castle in the Air would love to visit the Abraxas shop, too. But if you're like us and can't make it to Switzerland this summer, check out the Abraxas listings on the Castle in the Air Online Shoppe. We've carried their Invisible Ink and Oak Gall since our launch last fall, and we've just added two dozen colors from their Artist's, Vegetable, and Metallics lines. Take a peek!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Maggie's Marvels

A white rabbit popped by the store today and reminded us that Castle in the Air's very own Maggie Wihnyk is having her first open studio this weekend and next!

Maggie's just opened a studio in West Berkeley's historic Sawtooth Building, where she creates jewelry from beads, old and new silver, copper, and other whatnots, including watch fobs (which the white rabbit said were his favorites).

Her show is part of the East Bay Open Studios festival sponsored by Pro Arts. All this weekend and next, artists will open their workshop doors to the curious public. Take in a studio or two if you're in the East Bay. It's a great way to see all the art that's going on right in our own backyard.

Maggie Wihnyk
East Bay Open Studios
Sawtooth Building
2547 8th Street, Studio 24B
June 6 - 7 and 13 - 14
11 am - 6 pm

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Needle-Felting Fantasies

Our needle-felting wonderworker Caron Dunn came by Castle in the Air recently with samples for four of her upcoming classes. Who wouldn't want to kiss this Needle-Felted Frog Prince and see what he'd become? (June 13)

...to make a home in Caron's Cozy Mushroom Cottage? (June 30)

...to dive to the bottom of a needle-felted ocean and retrieve these Sea Wonders? (June 10)

...to crown one's self Queen of the Wood in a Fiber Arts Crown? (July 19)

If you want to do any of these things, then sign up for any of these classes in the "Classes" section at the Castle in the Air website, or phone the shop at (510) 204-9801.