Friday, August 27, 2010

Plenty of Postcards

Visitors to the Castle in the Air Online Shoppe this weekend will notice that we've added a whopping 100 new styles to our postcard selection there. These cards are all made by Castle in the Air, and the images on them are drawn from our extensive collection of vintage postcards and photographs, along with imagery taken from the first year of exhibits in our fine art gallery. Enjoy!

Monday, August 23, 2010


Halloween is still a few months away, but that doesn't mean a witch or two won't be popping up once in a while. Back in the Renaissance, jack-in-the-box toys usually had a devil or unpopular politician hiding inside. This one, featuring a leering witch, was put together by our friend Peter after his inspiring trip to Castle in the Air over the weekend.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bella Bigsby Open Studio

Nine years ago, before Castle in the Air moved to Fourth Street, it was a little shop and studio I had about half a mile away on San Pablo Avenue. One day a beautiful woman, about my age, came in and showed me a line of greeting cards she had painted -- would I like to carry them in my shop?

I instantly recognized a kindred spirit, an artist who was bringing her work out into the world for appraisal. Even the simple act of walking into a store with one's art and asking for an opinion is putting a lot on the line. Fortunately, not only did she have the courage to do this, but her work was enchanting. I said yes, and Castle in the Air began selling greeting cards by Bella Bigsby.

Bella's quiet landscapes and portraits had the power even then to transport viewers to gently haunted worlds. Over the years a real friendship has grown between us, and I've been able to watch Bella focus her work and keep at it, and how this has made her already wonderful art better and better. Talking with her this afternoon I realized how this same focus has allowed her to grow her whole life around her art and what a blessing that is.

If you'd like to see the work of Bella Bigsby for yourself, make sure you stop by her open studio this weekend.

Bella Bigsby Open Studio
989 40th St at Linden
Oakland, California

Saturday, Aug. 21, 3pm-8pm

Sunday, Aug. 22, 11am-6pm

English afternoon tea and

bubbly will be served.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Odolf the Postal Escort

There was quite a scuffling at the front counter this morning, just after the postman left. Grunts, scratching sounds, and excited squeals came from a cloud of glitter, every once in a while a large paw or a tiny red hat showing through the haze.

When the dust settled, we saw what all the commotion was about -- an illustrated letter! The Blue Castle Badger had been wrestling for possession of it with a gnome none of us had ever met before. The gnome gave a start when he noticed us, and it was enough of a lapse of attention that the Blue Castle Badger was able to snatch the letter, which he proceeded to carry upstairs where the gnome couldn't follow us.

Even when they are in a disgraceful situation like this, gnomes always remember their manners. This one introduced himself as Odolf, and that he had been sent to make sure that the illustrated letter made it into the proper hands at Castle in the Air. We were embarrassed to admit to Odolf that, if the Blue Castle Badger now had the letter, that it was indeed in the proper...paws.

"Very well, I will deliver this happy news to Sugene," Odolf said. And with the tiniest of incredulous looks, he trotted out the front door and turned right before disappearing among the usual sidewalk strollers. We can't wait to read the letter from Sugene, just as soon as the Blue Castle Badger stops snuffling it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the 13th is somebody's lucky day!

Thank you to all 56 of you who entered our drawing for the free class at Castle in the Air. Today we borrowed the top hat from our lion-headed puppeteer in the shop's front window (a hat similar to Mr. Smaly's, pictured to the left) and put all your names in it. With a bit of a stirring and the tiniest of rustles, we drew out the name of our winner...

...and that winner is Aimee Tom! Congratulations, Aimee -- you've won a free seat in the class of your choosing!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

But dammit, it looks great!

This week, penmen and calligraphic artists from around the world have convened in Orlando, Florida, for the annual convention hosted by the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers, and Teachers of Handwriting (IAMPETH). Among the instructors is Castle in the Air's longtime teacher Bill Kemp, who is leading one of the Engrosser's Script workshops.

Those of you who live near Castle in the Air don't need to travel to Florida to learn from the best, though. Join us six weeks from now (September 22-26) when Bill returns to Berkeley to teach Illumination, Flourished Spencerian Capitals, and Pointed Pen Variation. The sample above is an example of the Pointed Pen script, and is Bill's rendering of a quote from type designer Hal Taylor. We couldn't agree more with the sentiment!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Paper Class Schedules Are Here!

What's that pinkish glow at the Castle in the Air front counter? Why, it's the new Autumn class schedule, fresh off the press and ready for you.

Come claim your copy, printed on peachy parchment by our friends at Gilman Street Press.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


We are giving away a class of your choice from the new Autumn Schedule!! Just leave a comment here and I'll pick from a hat on Aug. 13th. Someone is going to be lucky on Friday the 13th!!

If you win and can't make it to our classroom we will send you a few craft kits with instructions and all the materials you need to make something wonderful!

The City Curious

The illustrations in this issue of the class schedule and The Castle Crier are taken from our vintage copy of Jean de Bosschere's incredibly delightful and strange 1920 book, The City Curious. Here are two downloads from the book's color plates for you to print and include in your own projects.

Autumn Classes at Castle in the Air

The Castle in the Air autumn class schedule is here and people have already begun to sign up for the fantastic array of crafting and calligraphy workshops. Here are some photographs of what our teachers are bringing to students in the Studio for the Imagination. You can check out the full listings at the Online Shoppe, and download the PDF paper schedule (723 KB) to print and post on your home studio wall here.

From top to bottom, these pictures are from Silhouette Luminary, Ship of Dreams, Pinecone Omiyage Pouch, Illumination, Aladdin's Lamp, and (the last two) Calling All Cards. Calling All Cards is a class Carol Pallesen will be teaching at Castle in the Air, and it's a doozie. Learning how to make pop-up cards including a three-tiered foldout box? How cool is that?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

August Greetings

Welcome to August! The summer class season wraps up this month with fantastic artistic classes such as John McRae's Midas Fish this Thursday, and my own Dressed Prints workshop the evening of Wednesday, August 11. Among the rest of the month's offerings, Caron Dunn will charm us all with her Halfpenny Dolls on the 19th, Elisabeth Alexander teaches Printing on Fabric on the 22nd, and Ulla Milbrath winds down the season on the 29th with the Mad Hatter Workshop.

We've put the final touches on the fall class schedule and will be posting all the upcoming classes to the Online Shoppe in the next few days.

The gallery is taking some downtime for the rest of the summer season, but if you come by the shop next week you'll see a bit of a preview for our spectacular fall show. (We'll post something about it here, too, for those of you who aren't able to visit Castle in the Air.)

And remember, you can get the latest news from the store, classroom, Online Shoppe, and gallery--along with special offers and downloads--by signing up for the Castle Crier email list.