Monday, February 28, 2011

All Kinds of Crepe Paper

We're not into popularity contests at Castle in the Air, but if the products on our Online Shoppe were to have one, the crepe paper would certainly win. People love it for all the same reasons I do, including the color selection and the paper's ability to mimic natural objects such as bird feathers and flower petals.

Not everyone knows about all the kinds of crepe paper we carry
, or which ones are best for which projects, so here's a rundown of what we offer and some suggestions for what can be done with it.

Fine Crepe: Fine crepe paper is just the right weight for making Mexican paper flowers. Cut into strips, it is excellent for rolling surprise bal
ls. The paper is also great for small or delicate sculpture, such as the finer parts of a flower or a dress for a tiny doll. Of course, anything small is better big, in my opinion, which is why I love what John McRae made with several rolls of multicolored fine crepe--a fabulous rainbow!

Doublette Crepe: With a relatively smooth finish and a different color on each side, the doublette crepe is wonderful for making f
lower petals. It is actually two sheets of fine crepe laminated together at the factory with an adhesive. The doublette crepe comes in single-sheet folds, each sheet being about a quarter of the size of a fine or florist crepe roll once it's unfolded.

Florist Crepe: Thicker than the fine crepe, the florist crepe comes in two weights, although the difference between the 160 gram and 180 gram (per square meter) is almost imperceptible. Florist crepe is a popular choice for people making crepe paper flowers, especially oversize ones. We also like to use it to dress our store mannequins, and we have several friends who've worn party clothes they've made from floris
t crepe.

Noblesse Crepe: A thin crepe paper with all the benefits of our fine crepe papers, noblesse is painted a solid metallic color on one side and is white on the reverse. We carry several metallic shades of noblesse--gold, silver, copper--and a range of beautiful greens and other colors.

Metallic Crepe: Our aluminum crepe, made with real metal laminated to paper, is often overlooked by crafters, but is great for incorporating a shiny flourish to your projects--beetle shells and butterfly wings, anyone? Our variegated aluminum crepe fades from one color to the next, and has about as much stretch as the florist.

Crepe Paper Garlands: These rolls of fringed, colored streamers are holiday favorites, the obvious color combinations being orange and black for Halloween and green and red for Christmas. Short sections of the garlands can be cut and rolled tight to make stamens for the centers of paper flowers.

Those are the facts, but nothing replaces the practical knowledge that comes from just getting your hands on some crafting materials and trying them out. Who knows? You might find a new way to use one of these kinds of crepe paper. If so, let us know!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Commonplace Birthday

Despite having a thousand things vying for my attention between the shop, home, and my friends and family, I have been true to my New Year's resolutions. I've been practicing my bandoneĆ³n every day and I've been getting more and more painting done. My studio is in a shambles so the art takes place at the dining room table--sometimes the artistic life takes more "real life" than we expect!

And so I'm excited to announce that the pages are coming along for another adventure for Commonplace Mouse. Read about his forthcoming book, Commonplace Birthday, still on the theme of doing your best despite whatever happens, at the Dromedary Press website.

Poppies & Peonies

Earlier this week we got a chance to speak with artist and stylist Livia Cetti, who gave us a link to a recent video from the Martha Stewart show where she and Martha make poppies and peonies using crepe paper from Castle in the Air. We love how Livia incorporated bleach into the process to give the flowers a natural-looking color variation. Thank you, Livia!

Thank You

A chorus of new and familiar voices has been congratulating all of us at Castle in the Air on the six-page spread about the shop in the new issue of Victoria. All we can say is thank you to the magazine's staff and to all our friends and supporters. You make the dream possible for us every day, and we couldn't do it without your help.

The generous space that Victoria devoted to photographs from the store gave us an opportunity to showcase the works of a few genius local artists whose work we love and some of our more sought-after treasures from Europe. Those of you who've been to Castle in the Air might be familiar with some of these rare items, but they've sparked inquisitive emails from people new to the shop. To learn more about them, visit the new Victoria page at the Online Shoppe.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Best Thing

Aside from the sweets and time with your beloved on Valentine's Day, the best thing about the holiday is the cards. Making them helps us create a work of art based on our affection, and receiving them is like winning a prize. Here's a handmade Valentine our friend Phoebe dropped off Monday for everyone at the store. Lovely work, Phoebe, and Happy Valentine's Day to you as well!

Who did you make a card for this Valentine's Day, and what was it like to create it?

Rain and Roses

The weather is all over the map today in Berkeley, stormy one moment and sunny the next. The sound of the rain lashing against the window reminds me why the shop's traffic is a bit slower today, at least compared to the busy opening days of the new gallery show and the mad run-up to Valentine's Day with all the lovers buying sweet gifts.

This pause also is giving me time to get around to showing you some of the sweet mail we've received. The Blue Castle Badger went gaga over this selection of colorful cards from Peggy in Alamo, California. She also included this peace-sign button with a rose on it, reminding us of all the flowers that will bloom after the rainy season is through. Thank you, Peggy!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tonight: Fancy Mud Pies

Like the swan touching down in the pea soup above, we're all aflutter today at Castle in the Air as we prepare for tonight's opening reception for "Fancy Mud Pies". The paintings hanging in the gallery really have to be seen to be believed, the animals and surreal landscapes shining beneath a layer of varnish, the edges of the unframed canvases raw, corners curling. The effect captures the wildness of the forest and the misrule of a busy kitchen. Here's how she describes her process:

I used rabbit skin glue to make these new paintings. Cooking it smells just like cooking Knox or Jell-O. The subject of the paintings is a combination of my childhood art: mud pies, and my grown-up art: Still-life oil paintings and the culinary arts. First I make the actual mud pies, running around getting Jell-O in my garden and mud in my refrigerator. Then I photograph them. I print the pictures in many tiles on "rice paper" that I have crammed through my desktop printer. The tiles are reassembled and bonded to crinoline fabric using rabbit skin glue. This becomes the canvas on which I paint the still life, changing and adding to the photograph. Creating the sense of beauty and chaos that is food.

We hope you can make it out to the gallery between 6 and 9 this evening to meet Cleo and help us celebrate the show's opening. (Read the full invitation here.) We're working with Fourth Street's newest restaurant, Zut!, to cook up some amazing treats that you won't find at just any gallery reception. See you tonight!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Something's in the Air...

...and it looks a lot like love! Baby New Year was pleased to step aside when he saw this flying box of bon-bons soaring toward the window at Castle in the Air. Now that it's hovering expectantly in space just inside the shop, we all can gaze on it and marvel at all the promised delights inside.

Our own John McRae decorated the heart-shaped box with crepe paper, red roses sheet paper, and Dresden trim. The sweets inside--each of them a box that could be filled with more sugary goodness--he made starting with our papier-mache boxes, various sheet papers, ribbon, scrap, and other wonders.

After a love-hungry Lothario gobbled up one of John's bon-bons, we replaced it with the Ulla Milbrath paper cuts heart box pictured below. If you'd like to learn how to make one, be sure to sign up for Ulla's Paper Cuts Heart Box class this coming Sunday.