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! |

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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

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...

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 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, 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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