Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cloud Climbing

Twice a week I wake up earlier than usual and join my friend Mr. Marsh for a walk to the top of the Berkeley hills. It's something we talked about doing for at least a year before we actually started, mostly because we couldn't figure out when to fit it in with everything else in our lives. The early start time means it's not always yet light when we begin our ascent, but we're able to make it to the top and back home again before the rest of my family's day begins.

We try to move along at a good clip as we walk up the hill, passing one amazing house after another nestled in amongst the trees. With all the Mediterranean architecture and overgrown gardens I keep expecting Errol Flynn to appear on one of the balconies and reprise his role from "Don Juan."

Before we know it we're halfway, then most of the way, then all the way there. With all the stairways and other secret passages built into the hillside, it's not hard to get some altitude fairly quickly. The view from the ridge-line at the top of the hills affords us a look at most of the San Francisco Bay--except of course those parts obscured by the famous fog.

These illustrations are from Dromedary Press' first book, Castle in the Air. During those moments we're above the city, our early morning wandering through fog and forest are really like walking among those lofty towers. It is easy to find the space to see my dreams and taking the steps to reach them doesn't seem so hard.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Summer Rhythm

I opened Castle in the Air to help people bring their everyday lives closer to the ideals they hold in their hearts. It is a place that encourages people to live their dreams. Yesterday I got a chance to live one of mine.

Duncan, the girls, and I had a special Family Band jam yesterday afternoon, inviting several of our dearest friends over to join in the music. To the regular fiddles, guitar, and bandoneon, we added coronet, trombone, washboard, ukelele, cello, upright bass, slide whistle, and Grandpa on piano. Everybody sang. We played "Angeline the Baker," "Polly Put the Kettle On," and the tune that has somehow become Family Band's theme song, "Whiskey Before Breakfast."

As day slid into evening, our living room orchestra was able to make the same sweet music in the kitchen. Everyone pitched in to make salad and pasta with sweet corn and cherry tomatoes. The spirits of Angeline and Polly were with us as we baked plum cake and made tea. (I skipped the whiskey.)

And after all the guests had said goodnight and the girls were tucked into bed, Duncan and I stayed up late for one more project, cooking the final batch of plum jam for the year. It's the season for plum jam, and after all the harmonious living we had that day, I was going to be the last person to mess with summer rhythm.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Neverwas Haul Benefit

A friend of ours from the Academy of Unnatural Sciences stopped by Castle in the Air the other day to invite all and sundry to "an evening of food, drinks, entertainment, intellectual discourse, as well as lewd and lascivious behavior (not exactly in that order!)" this coming Saturday, July 17.

The event is free, but will also include a fundraiser for Neverwas Haul, the amazing roving house I've written about here before. The evening's entertainment includes singers, dancers, accordion players, "dissertations from the Hibernian Ambassador," steam engine demonstrations, and kid-friendly activities in the early evening.

If this night is like the others I've spent at Neverwas Haul's mooring place at The Shipyard, it will be nothing short of an amazing display of minds, machines, and mayhem. Maybe you'll be there, too.

Neverwas Haul Benefit
Saturday, July 17, 6 pm to midnight
The Shipyard: 1010 Murray Street, Berkeley
Free admission, $5 for food and drink tickets

More details at

Friday, July 9, 2010

Mermaid Grotto

You don't have to dive too deep to meet mermaids at Castle in the Air. Here's one who has come out of her shell for John McRae's upcoming Mermaid Grotto class. You can join her and John in the underwater world on Saturday, July 31.

This Sunday: Accordion Day Celebration

The Mad Maggies are one of my family's favorite bands, and I just learned from their weblog that this Sunday is a very special day for accordion lovers. It was twenty years ago that San Francisco proclaimed the accordion as the city's official instrument. Apparently, July is also National Accordion Awareness Month.

For details on the celebration and how you and your accordion can participate, visit The Mad Maggies' weblog.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

D. Sharp and a Special Offer

Castle in the Air is very fortunate to be welcoming Denise Sharp (of Studio d. Sharp) to our classroom later this month. Denise is an unstoppable collector and re-creator of vintage ephemera, and she'll be teaching three classes: Paper Flutter Tiara, Ephemera Bird Specimen, and Garland of Vintage Stamps.

We're so sure that anyone who tries one of Denise's classes will want more, that we're offering a seat in her Garland of Vintage Stamps class to people who sign up for any of Denise's Castle in the Air classes this summer. Just mention the code "DSHARP241" when you sign up. (Type it in the "Notes" section of the order form in our Online Shoppe, or just mention it if you're signing up over the phone). The class is being held three times on Tuesday, July 27. Let us know if you'd prefer a start time of 11 am, 2 pm, or 4 pm.

The ephemera bird pictured here is made using cutouts of vintage Spencerian flourishing. If you'd like to try some collage with this amazing historical decoration, download our sample sheet (7.64 MB) and print it out to get started. The sheet come from our 1884 copy of The Real Pen-Work Self-Instructor in Penmanship, published by Knowles & Maxim of Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Put it on again

I've been reading (devouring, really) a dystopian sci-fi novel recommended to me by the friendly bookseller across the street at Books Inc., and it's got me thinking about the future of humanity and the planet and what it's all coming to. In a recent conversation with a friend of mine, we decided that art really is a low-impact activity. By definition, handmade art isn't adding to the pile of mass-produced goods flooding the world.

And on that note, recycled art really is the best of all. I rail against book breaking, because to me books never lose their original purpose until they are broken. Other things haven't proven to be as durable. So we've been happy lately to pick up the line of journals made with repurposed album covers by Peperina Girl, and just today two separate artists contacted me to talk about selling their works which are made from recycled clothing. Now and perhaps far into the future, everything old will be new again.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The World on a String

Last week we gave you a glimpse at Castle in the Air's grand puppeteer. He's situated his stage in the front window at the shop, and he's having the best time pulling the strings on our new collection of marionettes and jumping jacks.
Get ready to stage your own drama with the most outlandish characters and situations when you browse the new Dolls & Puppets section of the Castle in the Air Online Shoppe.

Monday, July 5, 2010

New Italian Sheet Paper

Can't afford a trip to Tuscany this summer? Visit the Castle in the Air Online Shoppe and take an Italian vacation with the latest thirteen styles to be added to our sheet paper collection.

Friday, July 2, 2010

"Lilac Wine" featuring Bill Kemp's calligraphy

We are simply beside ourselves in wonder over this video, The Cinematic Orchestra's contribution to the celebration surrounding the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martens. Of course, any arrangement of "Lilac Wine" would be beautiful, but the pairing of the song with lyrical animations of Spencerian script and flourishes takes it to a completely new level.

And, can you believe it, the calligraphy which opens and closes the video is by none other than Castle in the Air's own Bill Kemp. If you love this Spencerian fantasy world half as much as we do, you'll want to fall down the rabbit hole at any of Bill's calligraphy classes this month.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hello July!

The summer fun continues in full swing throughout July at Castle in the Air. Fans of our European crepe paper will want to check out the Decorations & Garlands class the evening of Wednesday, July 7. There's more to make from crepe than simple roses! Felting magician Caron Dunn returns to the Studio for the Imagination on Saturday, July 10, to teach her charming Felt Fairy Pocket, a tiny purse for hiding a miniature treasure. And first-time and returning calligraphers won't want to miss their chance to study with master penman Bill Kemp at any of his long weekend of Calligraphy classes beginning July 16. And those are just some of the offerings for the first half of the month!

Linda Hanson's gallery exhibit con
tinues through the rest of July. Many of you have learned watercolor techniques from Linda in her classes at Castle in the Air, but if you haven't already come by to check out her work in the "Inclement Weather" show, you'll want to take advantage of this chance to see her oil paintings and larger watercolor works up close.

And for anyone who has ever wondered who really pulls the strings at Castle in the Air...the answer is clear once you see the purrfect puppeteer above our new window display of marionettes from Budapest.