News

On Moving, and Becoming a Part-Time Mainer.

On Moving, and Becoming a Part-Time Mainer.

It's been complicated to figure out how to share this, because my business has always been defined in part by "Made in Maine." But, for the moment, I'm not in Maine! And it's changing the way I work a little bit. My partner Mike has decided (after many years of hard work and preparation) to go back to school to be a vet. (Right now he hopes to become a large animal vet, and hopes to find work serving dairy farms in Maine or New England). It seems hard to believe but in fact there is NO school for veterinary medicine in the state of Maine! (This is unfortunate, because the state has a shortage of large animal vets, but that's another story for another day.) So, we need to move out of state for vet school. He applied to at least a half-dozen programs around the country (and one in Edinburgh, Scotland!) and was accepted to a few great schools but UPenn offered him an *amazing* scholarship, so the decision was easy. We're moving the family to Philadelphia so Mike can study veterinary medicine at UPenn. It's a class of only 100 students (out of thousands of applicants) so it's pretty special to be a part of this program. He'll be studying like crazy for the next few years to earn his degree (think med school, but instead of studying just human anatomy, he has to learn all kinds of different animals!) and in the end he'll never earn as much as he made at his old job. But it's something he's passionate about, and he's working super hard to make it a reality (and he's always supported my crazy dreams), so... here we go! 

We'll be living in West Philadelphia during the school semesters, and coming back to Maine to live with my parents in their big old farmhouse in the summertime and during winter breaks, and the girls and I will probably spend some time more back in Maine during the semesters too. So we are still in Maine, part-time. And my studio is also staying in Maine, full-time! We don't have space for a studio in Philly, and I love my spot in Cornish, Maine. I also love my studio-mate Sabrina, who has an amazing business of her own, and who will be helping me with printing and filling orders at the studio, while I'm away. We won't stop doing any of the things we've always made. I'll still be doing all the design work, and I'll still be printing and working in the studio for part of the year. But Sabrina will be taking on more of the silkscreen work while I'm gone. And now I'm starting to add in a little bit of new work to my shop, partnering with other makers (mostly in Maine, but some in USA and even one amazing company in Poland!) and exploring new techniques that work with our itinerant life (and raising two tiny children). Keep an eye on my shop for some new designs coming out soon!

So, I'm trying some new things, but still keeping the focus on special, beautiful designs, high-quality, ethical production, green materials and environmental responsibility, and creating fun and special products that are beautiful to give or to keep, and useful & durable enough to last beyond the first impression. 

I'll still consider myself a Maine maker, but now have one foot in Maine and one foot in West Philly. It's a beautiful city and I'm excited to be here. It's a lot of fun and there's design inspiration everywhere. I've realized in the past that making big leaps into unknown territory is a little scary, but always leads to some fresh new ways of thinking, making, doing, or being. Here's to big new adventures, learning to grab hold of whatever opportunities come our way, without forgetting where we started from.

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Big news - a new studio in the works!!

Big news - a new studio in the works!!

new print tables at the new studio

Morris & Essex is growing up and moving out of mom's house! With a growing business and a new baby on the way, I'm moving my silkscreen studio out of the house and into a new space. It's a great big space in the beautiful town of Cornish, Maine, just a few minutes away from home. Rumor has it that this building used to be the exhibit hall for the nearby fairgrounds. It's a gorgeous, antique building with tons of history, updated with solar panels and now with a beautiful big silkscreen studio coming together on the bottom floor. 

This weekend we finished building a printing table 20 FEET LONG(!) at the new studio. We have sinks, we have tables, we have shelves. Next, to build a bolt holder for all my fabric, and then a darkroom... So excited for this new chapter and for sharing a space with fellow screenprinter Ms. Sabrina of Think Greene. Onwards and upwards!

building new tables at the studio

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Staying warm, baking cookies.

Staying warm, baking cookies.

We've been taking advantage of a few quiet winter moments to bake a few batches of our favorite cookies. Hattie's a great helper, she's not really gotten the concept of cutting or frosting cookies yet, but she's pretty good at mixing and very good at tasting. The recipe is from The Joy of Cooking, and it's been my go-to cookie recipe since I was as little kid helping my mom with baking. We always add a few extra drops of almond extract for extra yummy cookies. 
Rich Roll Cookies from The Joy of Cooking
Copyright 2006: The Joy of Cooking
Yield: About thirty-six 2- to 3-inch cookies

Beat in a large bowl until creamy:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
Add and beat until combined:
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract or almond extract
Stir in until blended:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Divide the dough into thirds or quarters, shape into disks, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm enough to roll.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease or line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Working with 1 portion of dough at a time, roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out cookies using 2- or 3-inch cutters and arrange about 1 inch apart on the cookie sheets.
Reroll and cut the scraps. If desired, sprinkle the cookies very lightly with:
(Colored sprinkles, decorating sugar, or nonpareils)
Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies are lightly colored on top and slightly darker at the edges, 10 to 12 minutes.
Let stand briefly, then remove to a rack to cool. 
I make icing for these with cream cheese, confectioner's sugar, a bit of milk or cream, and a few drops of vanilla. I start with mixing up a cup of confectioner's sugar, a half package of cream cheese, and a few tablespoons of cream, and then just add a bit of this and a bit more of that until the consistency is right. If you let the frosted cookies set up for a few hours, the frosting gets nice and firm! For fancy decorating, I mix in food coloring and spoon the frosting into zip-loc bags, then snip a tiny hole in the corner for writing or drawing. The results aren't always very tidy, but they are always delicious! 
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Morris & Essex featured in Portland Press Herald Holiday Gift Guide!

Portland Press Herald Source Gift Guide

I'm still blushing from this wonderfully flattering mention in Sunday's Portland Press Herald. The PPH Source section is focused on everything local and sustainable, and last year they featured Morris & Essex in the "Homegrown" column. This year they put together a short list of sustainable gift ideas, including Morris & Essex Hand-Printed Bamboo Scarves: Gift guide: 13 green ideas for friends, family – and maybe even you. We're in great company there, alongside Weft & Warp, Erin Flett, and Johnny's Seeds, among others. I will admit to being tickled by the Angela Adams comparison, though I'm not sure I deserve it! 

 

 

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Lacy Blue and Silver Scarf

Lacy Blue and Silver Scarf

I'm kind of proud and maybe a little bit embarrassed to admit that I've been working on this design for at least two years!! And it's finally done! 

I've always loved intricate, lacy designs and always find myself doodling these kind of starburst patterns, so it's hard to say exactly when this idea started. 

Lacy Inspiration

There was one very slow craft fair a few years ago, where I had lots of time for sketching and dreaming (that's the last time I sign up for a craft fair in May! I think it's just not the right season) and I started sketching up this idea for a scarf or bag pattern. 

Then it took months (or years?) before I had the time to start making the design for real - it's been always on my mind, and often in my sketchbook doodles, but it can be hard to find the time to sit down at the computer and translate sketches into reality. Finally I had a beautiful week of quiet in October, in between the hustle of late-summer craft shows and the start of holiday production rush, a moment of peace with no looming deadlines, when I could sit and start drawing. 

I use a pen tablet for drawing my designs on the computer. I have to wait for those quiet afternoons when the toddler is at her Nana's house for a few hours and I can sit down and plug in my laptop and tablet - otherwise the toddler can't resist grabbing cords and pounding on the keyboard. It was really meditative work, peaceful and satisfying, to sit and and draw out intricate patterns, one piece at a time, then link them together as if joining them by fine threads. It took weeks of work to do them all, sneaking in a few minutes here and there, or waiting til the toddler was asleep in bed to pour a glass of wine and sit down to work quietly. Sometimes it's hard to know when I'm done with a design, I just want to keep tweaking and adjusting it forever... I decided to try and finish it before this season's holiday craft fairs, so I had to rush to finish it up in the last few weeks of November. Once I've finished my designs, I print them out on transparent film which is used to create the stencil on the screen.

I was so excited to finally get it printed onto fabric, I had to take a picture before the ink was even dry! I had worried a bit that the details were too small and it would be difficult to print neatly, but the scale turned out just right - it looks beautifully intricate, but the lines are bold enough to print neatly. I'd gotten the blue fabric a few months earlier and wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it, just loved the color and wanted to work with it. Once I saw this design, it seemed like a perfect fit to print it in silver on the blue fabric. I tested out a few other combinations but the blue and silver was totally my favorite, no contest.

Super excited to have this finally complete! Out of my head and onto the fabric... and now it's up in the shop and out into the world!

http://www.morrisessex.com/collections/hand-printed-scarves/products/lacy-blue-and-silver-scarf

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Holiday Craft Fair Schedule!

Holiday Craft Fair Schedule!

Can't lie, I'm actually pretty excited for the bonanza of holiday craft fairs coming up!! I know I always get exhausted and frazzled from all the madness, but I still love it! Happy shoppers, happy crafters, sweet holiday baked goods all day long, general atmosphere of festive cheer. I can't resist it!


Anyway, come say hello, see all the Morris & Essex goods in person (and find lots of other wonderful Maine-made goods) at one of these awesome upcoming events...

Fri-Sun, December 2, 3, 4 - Art on the Hill, East End School, Portland ME. https://www.facebook.com/events/611582425696462/?ti=icl

Sunday, December 11 - Picnic Portland, at the Portland Company complex on Fore Street. https://www.facebook.com/events/672355802927486/?ti=icl

Fri-Sun, December 16, 17, 18 - Fine & Funky Crafts at Fort Andross Mill in Brunswick. https://www.facebook.com/events/1855252624687143/?ti=icl

Saturday, December 16 - Crafts • Cookies • Cheer at Purplebean Bindery, Auburn ME. https://www.facebook.com/events/1795226027418404/?ti=icl

And all month long, my work will be available as part of a special pop-up shop at Full Circle Gallery in Biddeford, ME. https://www.facebook.com/events/171629066635339/?ti=icl

See you there!! 

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Behind the Scenes: Mixing ink colors!

Behind the Scenes: Mixing ink colors!

You know what's one of my FAVORITE parts of this job? Mixing ink colors!! Most all of my colors are mixed by hand, by eye... I always start with big buckets of primary colors... Pour out some colors in a jar and add a few dollops of this and that... Magenta, Blue, Yellow, Black, White, Transparent, maybe a few drops of water... Usually it's a lot of this and a bit of that and at least three or four different ingredients that make the magic combination of hue and shade and saturation. Every drop of color added is a bit of a guess, as I have to mix it in to find out just how it will change my color. Mix, mix, mix... dab a smudge on a test swatch of fabric... adjust with a few more drops of this and that. Often the ink color changes a bit as the ink dries, so it can be a time-consuming project to get the colors adjusted just right. But it's always a labor of love! I might be a color mixing fanatic. Every jar of ink is a bright cup of potential, waiting to do something beautiful!

image: mixing ink colors for Hand printed Blue Flowers organic cotton canvas tote bag, $54.

image: matching colors for Grey bamboo scarf with Blue Waves pattern, $36.

image: mixing purple ink for Soft grey bamboo scarf with hand-printed purple Mayflowers pattern, $36.

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coming soon

coming soon

Hi! I have so much I want to share with you, but it's not quite ready yet! Please bear with me as I update and move everything over from my old site. I'm hoping to have the blog up here before too long. Check back soon!
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New Postcard

New Postcard

Here's a new postcard I made up for the New England Made wholesale show. It was nice to have these in the booth for visitors to grab as they wandered past. It's a big show with lots of wonderful things to see, and it felt good to give people a little something to remember me by. I've also found they're great to set out on my table when I do craft shows - people love to learn more about who made their gift and have something to tell about the business they are buying from. And lately I've started adding a card into each of my mail-order packages too. I'm happy to share these - let me know if you'd like one! If you are a wholesale buyer, let me know when you place an order and I will pop a stack of them into your package. I know some shops and galleries like to share a bit of information about the artists and craftspeople they are representing, and this makes a nice tidbit to include in the bag when someone purchases Morris & Essex goods.

It was a fun project for me to work on - cleaning off my work-table, setting up the photo and trying out different options for the front layout turned out to be a long afternoon's work, but it was a nice time and I loved the result! 

Here's the text from the back side:

MORRIS & ESSEX • hand printed in Maine

Morris & Essex produces colorful and original hand-printed paper and textile goods in a farmhouse studio in Limington, Maine. Our high-quality products are all designed by artist Eliza Jane Curtis, with a passion for color, pattern and function. Each one features colorful handmade patterns, textures and motifs inspired by a love of the natural world, geometric patterns, and vintage designs. Everything is hand-printed here in Maine. We use natural and sustainable materials and processes, and focus on positive, sustainable, business practices and supporting talented local artisans. We love what we do and we hope you will love it too!

www.morrisessex.com | eliza@morrisessex.com

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Blue & White Spanish Tile card design

Blue & White Spanish Tile card design

I have a new card design to share! It's a blue and white pattern inspired by a longtime love of geometric tile patterns. I've always been crazy for tile patterns, even before learning about tessellations in fifth grade math class. One of my favorite things about living in Buenos Aires was being surrounded by amazing patterned tiles everywhere, on floors and walls and ceilings, indoors and out. I was lucky enough to live near the tile district and walk past dusty shop windows filled with ceramic and encaustic tiles, new and old, stacked in crazy kaleidoscopic displays of color. But my favorite tiles are the traditional blue-and-white patterns, cool and crisp and clean, set into dusty terra cotta walls. I couldn't decide on just one tile pattern for this card so it's got a little bit of everything. I think it's a pretty and versatile greeting card, blank inside, suitable for any message or any occasion. Hand-silkscreened in my home studio on 110# French Paper, made in the USA.

This card is available for purchase now in my Etsy shop! and this design is also available as a textile print on a variety of beautiful fabrics, via spoonflower.com.

tile pattern collage
i've made a whole flickr set of patterned tiles

It's hard to say exactly where this card idea got started, because I can't even remember a time when I wasn't snapping photos of beautiful tile patterns and doodling them on all my sketchbook pages. Here are just a few of many examples:

car doodles sketch book 2007-2009
 

I started sketching this card design on the computer, as a simple pattern of repeating tiles, and then I tried a few different variations on the theme, with different tile patterns, trying to choose my favorite and wishing I could make 10 cards so I could use them all...

Spanish-Tile-sketches
first sketches

And then I remembered seeing these tiles on a storefront in Buenos Aires, years ago. I loved the mix of so many different tile patterns used together, loved it so much that I snapped a photo.

tiles
tiles on a storefront. i think this was a mens' boutique somewhere in the palermo neighborhood of buenos aires.

Which gave me the idea to just go ahead and use a little bit of everything together in one design. Kind of a "wow!" moment!
Once I figured out my final design, I printed it out and used Rubylith to make the film. I could just print directly from the computer onto film, but I love Rubylith and I think the process of cutting the pattern by hand is fun and gives the finished product a more human, handmade feeling that's missing if I just print the film directly from the computer. There are always little irregularities that come from making hand-cut film.

  
 

Rubylith is cool stuff. It's a translucent, ruby-red film that comes in big sheets or rolls. It's actually a two-layer film, the thicker layer is just clear acetate and thinner layer is the red color. Because it's translucent, you can lay it over a sketch and trace it quickly and easily. I use a fine x-acto blade to carefully cut through the red layer, leaving the thicker film intact. Then peel away the red film from some areas, leaving your final image in red, with a clear background. When I expose my screen using this film, the red film will block the light, preventing those areas from being exposed. Silkscreening uses a film positive (unlike photography, which uses a film negative) so the areas that are left in red are the areas that will be printed on the final product.
Rubylith is marvelous for its crisp, sharp edges and ability to handle teeny-tiny details. A textile design teacher told me that (before computers) rubylith used to be the standard for tie pattern designers, because tie patterns are so insanely fine and detailed and rubylith is perfect for those details. All this meticulous slicing and peeling is a fussy job and I'm sure most people wouldn't enjoy it but I find it meditative and relaxing and just the kind of obsessive task that I love. And a little mistake is easy to fix with a bit of scotch tape. After an hour of cutting my worktable is littered with all the pretty little red snippets that I've peeled away.


cutting rubylith film
silkscreen
silkscreen, ready to print

And then the design is done! I use this film positive to expose a silkscreen that I've coated with light-sensitive emulsion in my darkroom. (You can learn a bit more about the silkscreen process in another post, here.) I usually silkscreen on fabric so I have to use different screens, with a finer mesh fabric, to print on paper. I printed a small batch of about 50 of these cards for the first run, but I think I'll be printing lots more of these in the future.


first batch of printed cards drying in the studio
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