Friday, October 29, 2010

Trick or Treat on Fourth Street

Your little ghosts and goblins are invited to don their sweetest or scariest costumes on Halloween afternoon and join in the fun as Fourth Street celebrates another of its annual Trick-or-Treat events this Sunday.

Castle in the Air will be hosting Halloween craft-making for children in our upstairs classroom from 12 to 3 p.m. Other festivities at Fourth Street shops and restaurants include a costume contest, pumpkin painting, live music and games, a community mosaic, a photo booth, free samples, special sales, and three free face-painting booths. Storefronts displaying a pumpkin on their doorstep are ready for trick
-or-treaters with candy, stickers, and other goodies. We hope to see you then!

Trick or Treat on Fourth Street
Sunday, October 31

Noon - 5 p.m.

More information at the
Fourth Street Shops website.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Martha Stewart Halloween Paper Pumpkins

We were delighted to discover that Martha Stewart featured our wonderful crepe paper in this sweet Halloween paper pumpkin craft. I have found that Martha's team innovates the most charming crepe paper Halloween projects every year, and we are happy to see our materials put to such creative use. It is worth a trip through her archives to see the other Halloween delights. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tonight at Castle in the Air: Sinfonia d'Autunno

This morning Mariaelisa Leboroni and a group of her friends stopped by Castle in the Air for their first look at "Sinfonia d'Autunno." We hope you will be able to come to the gallery tonight and join Mariaelisa and us in celebrating this fun and thought-provoking exhibit!

Sinfonia d'Autunno
The Woodblock World of Mariaelisa Leboroni

Meet Mariaelisa Leboroni at the reception tonight,
Thursday, October 21, 6 p.m.

Castle in the Air
1805 Fourth Street
Berkeley, Calif. 94710
(510) 204-9801

Read the full invitation and press release.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Deep in the Forest

One minute around 4 o'clock today, John and Roanne were downstairs minding the shop, about to say hello to a nice woman named Sara who was carrying the most intriguing little dollhouse. The next minute they'd been whisked away into a forest wonderland, or more precisely, into a cozy home in the middle of a magical wood.

The inhabitants -- a family of bears, an owl, and a serious-looking little man (you can see him standing on the ledge at the top of the second picture here) -- invited them to stay and have tea. How could they say no?
After a splendid afternoon tea of dried fish, hot peppers, and wine (the bottle got knocked underneath the table in all the revelry), Roanne and John found themselves back at Castle in the Air, where Sara chuckled as she closed the doors to her enchanted tree-stump doll house. It seems this kind of transporting tea-time happens quite a bit when she's around!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Festive Garlands

Over the weekend we continued our Halloween play by festooning the shop with crepe paper garlands. All of us who were working on Saturday joined in the fun of cutting and ruffling crepe paper to make them.

Daniel was the mastermind behind the project and
came up with a simple and clever design for making striking, twirling, garland swags. He started by using decorative scissors to cut 6-inch wide strips from our crepe paper rolls. The strips are the entire length of the roll long. Then he glued little half-inch wide decorative strips of contrasting color crepe down the center of both sides of the garland. Lastly we all joined in stretching the edges of the garlands to make the edges ruffle and create the twirl.The variegated crepe and the batik crepe were my favorites because they create garlands that change color as they twist -- and I am always one to believe more is more! We were all surprised to see what a great impact the little bit of crepe had once hung in a jaunty display. It puts us in the mood to celebrate!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Something from Nothing

My older daughter and I have spent the past few weeks reading creation myths from different cultures. Most of us are raised with a single creation myth, a story that gives us a sense of where we came from, of life’s origins. It can be religious, scientific, grand, existential, or a bit of everything. Eventually this story gives way to the realization that the world is a bigger and more complex place, and that different people have different ideas about How It All Began.

A
s a way of giving ourselves a better understanding of the Hebrew creation myth, she and I decided to use watercolors to illustrate the division of light and darkness. It didn’t go as smoothly as either of us anticipated it would. I’m afraid my daughter has inherited a perfectionist gene, and I know from my own experience how perfectionism can thwart artistic endeavors. Sometimes the paint didn’t act how she expected, or she found my work more to her liking, and it soured her on her own painting.

But this gray cloud did come to have a silver lining. As we finished our paintings, a light came into her face as she looked at what she’d done. It may have been that we were painting about a story having to do with making something out of nothing, or the simple fact that my daughter realized the power of the artist to do just that—to create. I knew that a bit of the original spark that started everything was in her when she looked up and asked, “What should we create now?”

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Printing Through the Ages

Castle in the Air has always been proud to stock an array of cards, papers, and other products made with a variety of printing methods. To give you more of a sense of the history behind them, here is a history of printing techniques and innovations and how they’ve developed into forms familiar to us today.


Block Printing: The oldest method for the mass production of images on fabric and paper is the woodblock print, the earliest surviving samples of which are textiles from China around 220 CE, and from Egypt around a century later. Block printing involves carving a raised image on the surface of a block of wood, which is then coated with ink and pressed onto the print medium. The Buddhists of the fourth century are credited with first using block printing on paper, to reproduce scriptures. In Europe, cloth block printing dates to around 1300, and printing on paper—for playing cards and the Church—took off in the 1400s when paper became more prevalent.

The line of prints, jour
nals, and albums from Mariaelisa Leboroni’s Xilocart studio sold at Castle in the Air is a masterful example of this earliest printing technique.

Screenprinting and Stenciling: Screenprinters paint images onto framed pieces of fabric which, when dry, become stencils. Originally known as “silkscreen” because the fabric templates were made of silk, screenprinting was first used by the Chinese as early as 960 CE. It came to Europe much later, in the 1700s, and was used in printing wallpaper. The simpler stenciling method, with solid templates, was at its peak in the Edo period (1603–1868). Stencil was used in Europe to color playing cards and old master prints as far back as the 1400s, and stenciling was still en vogue during the postcard boom of the Victorian era. In the 20th century, screenprinting became a popular means of printing t-shirts, posters, CDs, and (in the case of Andy Warhol) ersatz Brillo boxes.

Berkeley artist Diva Pyari offers her screenprinted Linea Carta cards, books, and pencil cases through our shop.

The Printing Press: Although German goldsmith Johann Gutenberg is credited with the invention of the moveable type printing press, which revolutionized printing, around 1439, you may not be surprised to learn that the Chinese developed moveable type about 400 years earlier. Individual letters, numbers, and images are arranged and inked in the press, and paper is held in a frame which is folded over onto the type and pressed down, transferring the image. The printing press replaced block printing as the most popular means of mass production, and enabled the rise of mass production of books. The earliest printing presses used moveable wood type, but this gave way to lead type, which was easier to produce and could provide more detail.

The limited
edition hardcovers and pamphlets of Dromedary Press’ Castle in the Air were printed by local printing press master Richard Seibert, and Castle in the Air sells postcards, greeting cards, and sheet paper printed in this way as well.

Foil Stamp: In foil stamping, thin sheets of adhesive metallic foil (usually gold or silver) are pressed with a heated die onto paper. Often, foil stamping is combined with embossing to give a raised effect. Egyptian artisans may have been the first to work with paper-thin layers of gold, embellishing the sarcophagi of mummies and other royal artifacts. Later, gold and silver foil were pressed into the leather covers of books to create distinctive lettering and other design. Modern uses of foil stamping still include book lettering, but also seals, business awards, and wedding announcements.

Castle in the Air
is proud to carry local artist Paula Skene’s line of foil stamped holiday and everyday greeting cards.

Engraving: Engraving is a process of carving an image in a hard material (usually metal, wood, or glass), which may then be used as a plate in a printing press. (Somewhat confusingly, the printed works made from engravings are also called engravings.) Engraving is a truly ancient art form, found first among prehistoric southern Africa tribes who carved pictures into ostrich eggs. It was developed to a dizzying degree of detail and perfection in the ancient world and medieval Europe, with artists like Albrect Dürer creating masterpieces that are famous to this day. Before the domination of photography over handmade imagery, engravings were used exclusively for illustration in newspapers and commercial advertising.

Our vintage ephemera packs at Castle in the Air often include samples of 19th-century engravings, and the Jan Petr Obr stationery we stock is made with this same technique.

Offset: The process used for most of the printed material we see today, offset printing was developed from lithography, or printing with plates made of stone. The heavy plates had the capability to duplicate photographs, but thanks to a happy accident in 1901—when New Jersey printer Ira Washington Rubel forgot to load paper into his lithographic press—it was discovered that an inked rubber surface produced a clearer image. Special presses were developed that transferred an image from an inked plate to a rubber sheet to the final printing surface. Because the plate and paper never touch, offset technology allows for larger, sharper print runs.

Books like Dromedary Press’ Commonplace Mouse and the illustrated classics hardcovers we stock at Castle in the Air are printed using offset, as are many of the sheet papers, pamphlets, and the shop’s other printed matter.

The next time you visit our shop, feel free to ask for a tour through the history of printing. We’ll be glad to show you all these examples, and many more.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Multilayered Life of Mariaelisa Leboroni

The artwork of master printmaker Mariaelisa Leboroni has brought smiles to faces and challenged everyday paradigms around the world for more than 40 years. Created using the ancient wood-block printing technique known as xylography, her colorful scenes portraying elephants, snails, clowns, dancers, and chefs are at once playful and thought-provoking.

A long-time resident of the hillside town of Perugia, Italy, Leb
oroni trained at the city’s venerable Academy of Arts before embarking on a career in printmaking that led to her founding her own publishing company, Xilocart, Studio d’Arte Tipographica. Using tools and techniques first employed in artisan printmaking in the 15th century, Xilocart soon perfected the art of wood-block printing, known in Italy as xylographia.


Xilocart’s prints—whether framed or used on the covers of journals, recipe books, and other products—soon made a name for the fledgling company and its founder. People responded to the dual nature of Leboroni’s work. At first glance, the prints were jolly carnival scenes, but just as many layers of ink went into the creation of each print, subtle and wry messages about personal freedom, feminism, and respect for the natural world were also incorporated into the art.

Leboroni went on to enjoy commercial success through Xilocart and other publishers, most recently with a line of products through Chronicle Books and as the illustrator for Andra Serlin Abramson’s Building Your Family Tree. Over the years she has participated in exhibitions in Italy, Germany, England, and the United States. As a testament to the longevity of her work, New York’s MoMA and museums in six European countries have added her art to their permanent collections.

Castle in the Air is delighted to welcome Mariaelisa Leboroni to Berkeley this fall for the unveiling of "Sinfonia d’Autunno," a display of 18 portraits and scenes printed on fabric and embellished with seashells, sequins, jewelry, and other ornaments, including "Happiness Is a Perfect Body" (pictured left). Join Leboroni in celebrating the exhibit at a festive reception at the Castle in the Air gallery the evening of Thursday, October 21.

Monday, October 4, 2010

October Greetings

Following a brief period of (for Berkeley) hot hot Indian summer, we are now face to face with October, and that means we can't really deny that fall is here. To mark the change of season the store transformed itself over the weekend, upstairs and down, thanks to the concerted efforts of dozens of shop gnomes, their gallery elf friends, and a handful of stalwart women and men.

The people at Castle in the Air tend to be visible more often than their fairy counterparts, but even we humans are starting to become unrecognizable as we don the masks that now fill every available nook and cranny downstairs. Walking through the store was like being at a costume party over the weekend, with fantastic beasts rubbing elbows with Commedia dell'Arte characters, all of them posing before the mirror or calling out to friends to come see their new face. Even Leopold the Lion has ventured down from his catwalk to get into the fun, prowling the shop floor with a basket of masks held in his teeth for anyone brave enough to pluck out their favorite.

The carnival atmosphere continues upstairs in the gallery, which has transformed as well, this time in celebration of the new exhibit, Sinfonia d
'Autunno. Mariaelisa Leboroni's embellished fabric prints hang gaily throughout most of the gallery, but we couldn't bring ourselves to take down the stunning framed prints that made up the preview for the show. If you didn't get to Castle in the Air to see the preview, there's still time to take it all in. And everyone should mark their calendars to join us in welcoming Mariaelisa herself the evening of Thursday, October 21, at the show's reception.

We ushered seasonal spirits into Castle in the Air with Alice Armstrong's Personal Shrine class yesterday, and the otherworldly mood continues tomorrow in Elisabeth Alexander's Silhouette Luminary class. Some of the ghoulish highlights from the rest of the month include Bat Wing Crown on October 17, Spider Web Necklace/Mask on the 20th, Haunted Mirror on the 23rd, Dia de Los Muertos Shadow Box on the 24th, and Whimsical Witches on the 27th. Maybe we'll see you -- or your autumn alter-ego -- at one of the classes.