Friday, April 30, 2010

The MAY-POLE is up

When it comes to classy correspondents, Alan Brignull is at the top of our list. Here's an issue of The Rambling Urchin -- his monthly handbill series that he sets and prints on his letterpress in his studio in Essex, England -- which arrived in today's mail. It says:

The MAY-POLE is up,
Now give me the cup;
I'le drink to the
Garlands a-round it:

But first unto those
Whose hands did compose
The glory of flowers
that crown'd it.

The words of Robert Herrick and an 1830-ish illustration, printed from the original wood engraving by Alan Brignull in Wivenhoe.

Sidewalk Sale This Saturday

Not just Castle in the Air but all of Fourth Street will be bustling with bargains this Saturday, May 1. Come by to discover discounted treasures you won't want to pass up. More details at

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Saga Concludes

Michael Sull, Bill Kemp, and ten dedicated students finished up the six-day Advanced Spencerian Saga at the end of last week at Castle in the Air.

On the final day of class, each student was invited to create a piece incorporating techniques they learned in the class. Here are the results. You can click on each picture to see the details.

We're astounded at the level of mastery these students achieved during the Saga. They should all be very proud of the results of their diligent and imaginative work.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Put it on the shelf

Not too long ago I was talking to Mr. Marsh about books, and he mentioned to me that it wasn't until more than a year after his book, The Mentalist's Handbook, had been published that he put it on the shelf in his library at home. He said that somehow it just hadn't occurred to him to do it.

I realized that I'd had the same experience with the books I'd published through Dromedary Press, that it had taken me months to help them find their place among all the books that had inspired their creation. (I also realized that I'm just now getting around to sending out copies to some of my closest friends and artistic supporters.)

This sort of hesitation isn't unique to book publishing. The creation of any kind of art involves several stages, and one of the very last stages in any project is our own acceptance of the work as a legitimate part of the milieu. Once mere dreams in our heads, perhaps our work materializes for everyone else long before it does for us.

Mask Class Contest Reminder

There's just over a week to go before our Papier-Mache Mask Class drawing, so if you haven't yet registered for a chance to win a seat in this two-day class taught by Emilia Sumelius-Buescher, then enter now. It's free and you won't regret your chance to spend a few days giving yourself an expressive new face.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Doors of Spring

The Blue Castle Badger is in 7th heaven today, having spent the afternoon snuffling the daylights out of this illustrated letter from our friend Victoria. She has a beautiful studio near the Bay, and she used crepe paper and Dresden Trim to decorate her doors so that even when the weather's not gorgeous (like it is today), she'll still be wrapped in springtime. We especially love her use of our Dresden Trim crowns as border details. Thank you, Victoria!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Three Cheers for Saint George!

At Castle in the Air, April 23rd is a special day, the day of our patron St. George. George is best known for freeing the city of Silene from the clutches of a malicious dragon, who had taken up residence at the town spring and could only be lured away with sacrifices of lambs and, when there were no more lambs, maidens. We thank St. George whenever we are able to return to the artistic wellsprings that nourish our spirits.

To commemorate St. George's Day this year, here is a picture of my favorite pen at Castle in the Air, hands down. It's a limited-edition lacquered silver fountain pen from the Italian company Omas, with a scene of Saint George defeating the dragon shown on the barrel. Three cheers for Saint George!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Underworld Connections

We've received several anxious calls and emails over the past week regarding our dwindling stock of crepe paper on the Castle in the Air Online Shoppe. The crepe paper continues to be a favorite among our online customers, and a few weeks ago when we saw our inventory was running low we placed an order from our German supplier. Of course, no one told us about Eyjafjallajokull's plans to disrupt European air traffic by spewing tons of smoke and ash into the sky.

When we asked our gnomes if they knew anyone "high up" in the Icelandic kingdom of nature, they just scratched their heads. But as the volcanic crisis is now a problem for all of Europe, we decided to contact one of our oldest friends, Apollo, to see if he could help. Apollo said he had a few "Underworld connections" and that they might be able to persuade Europe's volcanoes to be a little more considerate when timing their eruptions.

As it stands, crepe paper fans can expect to see plenty of colors and styles back up on the Online Shoppe around the second week of May.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

American Folk Art Festival

In the nine years that Castle in the Air has been on Fourth Street, it's been amazing and so gratifying to see the connections we've made with artists in Berkeley and the greater Bay Area. When we're so busy here at the shop, it's easy to forget about all the great work and happenings in our own backyard. A reminder of this came in the mail recently when we received an invitation to come to the American Folk Art Festival. The festival will be held at Laird Family Estate Winery on Saturday, May 1, and features more than a dozen art dealers and artists, including people we've met over the years in the classroom at Castle in the Air.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Win a Papier-Mache Mask Class

Next month Emilia Sumelius-Buescher will be teaching her first class with us, sharing the art of making papier-mache masks over the weekend of May 22-23. Full details on the class can be found at the Online Shoppe.

To help welcome Emilia to Castle in the Air and bring some fun to you as well, we are giving away a seat in this amazing class. Just leave a comment on this post and on May 6 we'll draw a name from the hat and announce the winner. Good luck!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Saga Begins

We were excited to welcome Michael Sull and Bill Kemp to Castle in the Air this past weekend. These master calligraphers are teaching the Advanced Spencerian Saga, which began with a two-hour class Sunday afternoon and continues with classes from 10 am to 8 pm today through this Friday. The classroom and gallery were full to bursting with interested calligraphers after yesterday's class, when Michael presented samples from his collection of vintage calligraphic masterpieces, two of which are detailed here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Artistic Cliff

In the past year I've seen friend after friend "take the leap," as it were, with their art and their dreams. At Castle in the Air, we live to inspire people to jump off this artistic cliff and follow their passions. It takes courage -- you don't know whether you'll fly, fall, flail, or some combination of the three.

For myself, it's been liberating to share my books and paintings with the world. Even though I've been making art and taking chances for years, the gallery show of my pictures earlier this year provided a new level of risk for me, a new level of revealing myself. It was scary, and it took sacrificing time and involvement with many other things that are important to me, but I wouldn't have done it any other way.

Now I'm finding myself on the edge of the artistic cliff again, and I realize that we don't just take the leap once -- we do it again and again, and if we're brave and work hard we can achieve grander heights each time.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


We recently received a very special shipment from Denmark -- an extended family of pixies! These diminutive darlings are under five inches from the tip of their hat to the soles of their shoes, and have been a favorite at Castle in the Air since before Christmas last year. People just love their sweet expressions and their intricate clothing with working buttons. It seems we can hardly get them into their little dollhouse before their delighted adoptive parents walk through the door to take them to their new homes.

I can only imagine that these pixies are perfectly behaved house-guests, because they remind me of nothing so much as the helpful household spirit Tomtens who live at Castle in the Air, although our Tomtens are a bit rounder and have long beards. These pixies are quite childlike, however their dreamy eyes and grey hair give them an otherworldly air. And because they seem most jolly when they're in the company of all their brothers and sisters, we love having a full display of them right up front at the shop.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Two Hidden Gems

There are two classes coming up in the Studio for the Imagination that might have slipped your notice, but are what I think of as the hidden gems in this season's offerings. The first is Nan Rohan's Straw Weaving, which will be held the evening of Thursday, April 29th. Nan is a new teacher for Castle in the Air, and I brought her on-board because I've always wanted to learn this truly magical art. Folk traditions bind the weaving of talismans from one year's grain harvest with the success of the next year's crop, and the knitted-together creations Nan brought in remind me of the beauty that can be found in things we often take for granted.

The other class that I'll be sure to attend is Linda Hanson's class The Vocabulary of Color, during the day on Friday, April 30. I've said it before--Linda is a genius and a true inspiration for me in my own watercolor. Every time we talk, I learn something new about how to create and use color, Linda understands the mechanics and how colors can work together in a painting. Don't miss out!

Unicorn for Sale

This may be the only time on this blog you see me pining for a taxidermied animal, but when I saw the auction for a unicorn from the Isle of Wight I was sorely tempted to hop on the next jet to England and bring the creature home with me. It was only after I gave it more thought that I realized that owning a stuffed unicorn isn't anywhere near as good as owning a live one, so I'm holding out for an exotic animals auction. All the same, what an amazing collection. Take a look through the auction catalog and prepare to be a different person (for better or worse) once you're through.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Oh no!

We usually take a peek at the Castle in the Air blog when we get to the office each day, and we were in for quite a surprise this morning when we noticed that all of the photos from our posts had vanished. We've directed the attention of the Blog Pictures Dept. to our plight, and they ensure us they are doing all they can to remedy the situation.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Reception & Talk with Michael Sull

"America's Golden Age of Penmanship"
Illustrated Talk by Michael Sull
Sunday, April 18, 4 P.M.
Castle in the Air

Michael Sull's Advanced Spencerian Saga kicks off next weekend at Castle in the Air. Students will have their first class beginning at 2 P.M. on Sunday, April 18, and then the classroom and gallery will host a free public lecture and reception with Michael, his co-teacher Bill Kemp, and original calligraphy samples from "America's Golden Age of Penmanship" (1850-1925).

You can read more about the event here, and if you'd like to join us for the week-long Advanced Spencerian Saga, there are still seats available through the Online Shoppe.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

In Today's Mail: A Nixie Captured!

If you were one of those who made it to Leonard Pitt's reception and illustrated talk last night, then you know what a raucous and fun time it was. If you couldn't make it to the gallery, or if you were among the people who couldn't squeeze in to the packed room, then please come back the evening of Friday, May 7, for another of Leonard's captivating and witty talks regarding his collection of Paris postcards. Like last night's event, the May 7th talk will begin at 6 p.m. -- come early if you can to ensure yourself a seat.

One of the stories Leonard told last night was about how the advent of the postcard helped to redefine libel laws. A young post-office clerk passed around a particularly juicy postcard written by a priest to his paramour. When word got back to the priest, he sued for defamation, and after an appeal, won, thereby extending libel laws to include cases involving the "uncovered letters," as postcards were sometimes called.

All of which is to say that we're certainly not reading a particular Castle in the Air postcard that was mistakenly delivered to us today. But we would be remiss if we didn't share this censored scan of it, because it's got a "Nixie" sticker on it. We talked about the Nixie here not long ago. When the post office couldn't deliver it to the address to which it was sent, they put the nix on it and forwarded it to the only other address that was on the card -- ours!

If you think this might be a postcard you sent, then send us an email and tell us the address written under the sticker. We'll be happy to return the card to you or forward it on to a new address.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"Paris Captured" Reception This Wednesday

Upstairs and down, we're putting the final touches together for Wednesday night's "Paris Captured" reception in the gallery. If you're coming for Leonard Pitt's illustrated talk, be sure to arrive by 6 p.m. for a seat, as we're confident people will be hanging from the rafters to hear what he has to say about all the time-traveling adventures one can have while viewing his Paris postcards.
These sheet paper images are from the shop floor downstairs, which is all decked out with French imagery and other delights. For those who want to take a bit of the exhibit home, you will be able to order prints of any of the postcards in the exhibit, and Leonard Pitt will be signing his books Paris Postcards: The Golden Age and Walks Through Lost Paris.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Introducing Triplette Crepe!

By far, our most popular item in the Online Shoppe is our doublette crepe. With a different color on each side, the paper is perfect for making duotone projects. It's especially loved by crepe-paper flower makers.

We'd been scratching our heads as to what might be the next amazing craft item for the store, something even better than doublette crepe, when we discovered a new product in development from one of our German suppliers. We placed a pre-order for it months ago, sight unseen, and so when the deliveryman came in with a box from Germany today, we crossed our fingers, hoping that this would be our lucky day.

It is! We are so happy to share with you the first glimpse of the most incredible craft material on earth--triplette crepe! This special item is similar to our doublette crepe, except this paper has one...two...three sides, each a different color. We've posted several varieties of our triplette crepe to the Online Shoppe. Click to take a look. We think it's going to be a big hit. How will you use yours?