Happy Happy Words (and Yellow Owl Stamps)

When we said our gratefuls around the Thanksgiving table, Mrs. Hughes spoke of her pleasure at getting to know her child in a new way, because now (at nearly two) Lady Baby can express herself.

She lets us know what she thinks – she can say an adamant “no way” when a suggestion fails to meet with approval (when prompted she can also say “no thank you”). And she strings words into efficient, article-less sentences to tell a story: “Frances kit kat hssss!” (Frances had a hard couple of days, being very accustomed to her particular routines, which were completely upset).

Though Lady Baby can count to 10 in English and also in Spanish thanks to her friend RoRo, she cherishes the number two above all others. In a favorite game, I ask how many eyes, ears, knees, heads – getting two as a response (with a laugh for head, she knows better). A fondness for two led to the “Unc Tutu” moniker for her uncle – her holiday’s favorite person. And, of course, the two baby dolls, Baby Boy and Baby Girl, made the trip from Alaska with her.

In a great discovery, she realized that I was her father’s mother. She’d look at her mother and me and repeat “two mommies, two mommies” with such pleasure – and then point out whose mommy we were.

We were 20 people around the Thanksgiving table – including Lady Baby and three other really sweet little people. Two little girls spent the night, and the next day were identified as “two friends!” One of them, a talented eight-year old, agreed to help me illustrate this post.

Last spring as a gift, Christine Schmidt of Yellow Owl Workshop (I wrote about her here) sent me a little box with a selection of her ready-made stamp sets. Learning that Christine has just published a new book, “Yellow Owl’s Little Prints: Stamp, Stencil, and Print Projects to Make for Kids,” I was reminded to get the stamps out. (It’s a really fun book, full of ideas, and I love Christine’s little narratives with each project, as she describes her transition from artist/businesswoman to mom/artist/businesswoman.)

I watched my young artist friend tackle the set of “Beach” stamps. She made her own scene, didn’t follow the one on the box cover. She took great care choosing colors (Yellow Owl has tiny, juicy, stamp pads that make changing colors easy), placing the individual stamps (sand, waves, lighthouse, cottages, and whale) exactly where she wanted them, and then requesting colored pencils to add birds and a sun!

Thank you BTB for your illustration – let’s do it again some time!

BTB stamp print

“Print Workshop” and the Lady Baby

Lady Baby just marked her six-month birthday. On our June visit, she used her hands with concentrated effort to manipulate what she’s picked up or been handed. She rotates each object (anything new and safe I can think of – my little alarm clock, the red “Keep Calm” water bottle, a zipped up toiletries bag) and studies all sides.

Using voices high-pitched or low, we ask her how big are you?? Then answer ourselves with arms stretched wide: SOOOOooo Big!! (of course). When a friend of ours, but a new person to Lady Baby, told her she looked so big, she broke into a big grin – ah yes, I’ve heard that before!

Textures matter – a rough cotton bedspread, a rustley rain jacket, Lady Megan’s fur coat, the bathroom sink faucet. At first I held my arms around her while she sat on the edge, her bare feet in the sink – with just a little drip of water and a shiny faucet to pat. Then her mother suggested a little water in the sink might be fun. We rolled up her pant legs and proceeded to “pool party.” Lady Baby pedals her feet in the water, giggles, and then looks at me in the mirror in confirmation of the fun of it all.

On a beautiful Saturday, everyone was busy with tasks: Mr. Carson scraped and sanded the front porch in painting prep, Mrs. Hughes finished a pillow for the kitchen nook in her workroom, a member of the senior staff mowed the lawn.

Upstairs in the quiet, Lady Baby slept against me. Sunlight filtered through muslin curtains, I could hear birds, the clickety-clack of the push mower, and Lord Cromwell purring at my side – a fine setting for a good long nap.

And during it, I read almost all of Christine Schmidt’s “Print Workshop: Hand Printing Techniques – Truly Original Projects,” a book belonging to Lady Baby’s mother. Schmidt’s approach is relaxed, very much a “make-do with what you have” guide for the home printer. Regardless of method, the prints have a rustic quality: “uneven, imperfect, just right.”

Schmidt’s accompanying drawings illustrate the tools and techniques she introduces, and I liked reading her supply lists. Not complicated, but including things unfamiliar to me – a way to make a big stamp pad out of felt, something called a “rubber block” which looks a lot easier to carve than linoleum or wood (though she writes about those also). Schmidt describes embroidery as “drawing with thread” – and teaches how to transfer a design to embroider – using printing.

It’s inspiring – makes you badly want to stamp or print something – a summer read to encourage fall projects (never too early to prepare now that the summer solstice has been and gone). Maybe it is time to revisit the fun of printing and learn something new!