De-cluttered

June is officially upon us and so is the rainy season, too.

We managed to do our ‘summer cleaning’ just before the rainy days started. We first tackled the living room area (which also doubles as our workshop area). Lots of dusting and clearing to make way for a fresh and clean, less-cluttered environment ready for the rainy season. I don’t know about you, but, how many of you are like me who looks forward to and dread cleaning at the same time? Am I the only one? Don’t get me wrong. I love the light feeling (ma-gaan!) of a freshly-dusted house but I do not look forward to the time spent on actually tackling it. Weird?

Anywhoo, one of the unexpected benefits of cleaning and tossing out stuff that we could do without this year was that I finally got my own corner! How cool is that? My small corner has a computer table, a writing table and a two cabinets for all — and I mean ALL – of my arts and crafts stuff. Yarns, crochet hooks and knitting needles are in a rattan cabinet (on separate drawers), just below the drawers containing stamping paraphernalia, postcards and other paper ephemera. My writing tools and other materials are organised in a way that I can actually see (and reach when I need) them on the other cabinet with a glass door.

A copy of an exemplar I was working on.
A copy of an exemplar I was working on.

My books and old calligraphy and lettering works, including the exemplars I was working on, are neatly arranged on plastic filing folders. Looking at them reminded me of the email-inquiry I received from a ‘graphic designer’ in Indonesia who wanted me to design an exemplar for him, paid, of course. To make the story short, I rejected the ‘great deal’ he was offering because – to him it was a deal of a lifetime I should accept – I felt I was being ripped off. I know I am not a professional calligrapher (yet!) but I feel that my work deserves a fair price. If they’re looking for one, they can click here for a great deal!

I’ve also organised the files on my desktop computer and, in doing, so freed massive disk space. Which is really great so it could store before I could buy an external drive. I’m so shocked at how much junk I had in my computer and being able to get rid of them is a big relief.

Now, I’m looking at working on to the next room — the bedroom.
I have started to clear my wardrobe thinking about which clothes I should keep. Wish me luck.

Hocus pocus no more

Hello, there.

You might probably have noticed that I’ve been silent for quite some time (if you haven’t… whew… really? hahaha).

Sometimes all sorts of things get into my head and I get very overwhelmed that I need time to re-focus. So, last year, I deliberately took time off, for no reason except that I just want to be off the radar and find my balance.

It was a time well-spent, to be honest. I went to Ho Chi Minh city with a dear friend (although what happened there is a different story). During the past months, I’ve finally come to terms with some of my personal issues and internal conflicts. I’ve learned to embraced the challenges of being a stay-at-home-wife and a fur-mum. I’ve worked hard to achieve improvements on the calligraphy and lettering front. My husband and I hosted visiting family members (my in-laws) and part of that was going away on a trip together and re-connect.

So what is it I’m trying to say?

Always. No more hocus pocus. Love yourself first and everything else follows.
Always. No more hocus pocus. Love yourself first and everything else follows.

Not much, really, except that when you feel like you are losing yourself, you are not alone. That you can turn things around, if you want to. Take time off, like what I did. Travel. Go out and go shopping with a friend (how could I say no to a friend who was excited to shop for an evh at guitarcenter.com?), tee-hee. Pick up a new interest or hobby. You can’t be your 100% self when you yourself are lost and need some space to breathe. Take time to take care of yourself because if you don’t, who will?

My calligraphy wishlist

This year, I have been having the best time with my calligraphy works even though I don’t have much spare time. I absolutely enjoyed practicing hours and hours, albeit doing same strokes over and over again. My death grip is no longer deadly as I’ve loosened up quite a bit. Hence, the beautiful upstrokes (IMHO) that I managed to produce, hehehe.

Since picking up on my calligraphy adventure some 3-4 years ago, I’ve already grown my supplies and would like to invest in some stuff that I can use as I go further with my journey. Just like a good friend of mine who started playing guitar using a secondhand one she bought at a yard sale, she now has in her possession the prized Godin Guitars. See what I mean? It is only inevitable for an aspiring calligrapher to level up and invest in good quality tools to further grow.

Photo from Google images.
Photo from Google images.

So, in case you haven’t noticed it yet, Christmas season is upon us again. I don’t normally do this but I find myself drawing out a wishlist for myself. Mostly calligraphy related. I have a sketchy list on my hand now but I’m going to have to go through it again before posting the list here. Stay tuned for the update in a little while.

What is the best comeback blog post?

I don’t know but I’m starting mine with this –

To be honest, I often have long breaks so this is not the first time I’ve returned to blogging. It’s figuring out what to write for my comeback post that has always been difficult. I have no excuse to offer. It’s just my ‘blogging rhythm’ is different from the others and that I can not maintain that regular rhythm.

So what did I do during this period? There have been a lot of events and milestones that are blog-worthy but didn’t share them because I wanted to keep them private. However, I can share to you that I have devoted my time offline to practicing calligraphy and making artsy-fartsy stuff on the side during this period of absence. Happy to say that my hard work paid off and I have finally developed my own style! I was asked to do a small project addressing envelopes and I had a blast doing them with my new calligraphy style. I even did the project pro bono just because I enjoyed the whole process 🙂

Right now, I’m brushing up on brush calligraphy and, still, I find it very challenging. But I’m not giving up this time. My brush pens just arrived — brought to Cambodia by my sister last week – and I’ve been using them non-stop. The pens are heaven-sent. The pens are from an online art shop in the Philippines. I saw the shop’s ad from a musicians friend catalog and the rest, they say, is history.

Looking at my practice sheets, gee, I have a death grip! I think I need to work on having a lighter touch for my upstrokes. As you can see in the photo, those lines aren’t much different compared to my downstrokes! I want them to be much, much thinner. I definitely still feel like I’m trying to get more control of pen and hand movements, but hopefully these will improve soon.

Shopping for art’s sake

Hah, it’s been awhile again. I wasn’t up to writing (again) because Rafa (Nadal) lost in the QFs of this year’s Roland Garros tournament.  I was beside myself (slight lang, hihihi). Thankfully, my husband knew exactly what to do to get me out of this funk — he took me shopping.  And when I say shopping, I meant shopping for calligraphy supplies 🙂  So I want to share some of my spoils.

But before I went on a splurge, my husband and I went to Home Top first. For quite some time now we have been meaning to get new frying pans but we couldn’t find ones that we’re looking for. While checking out the frying pans, I overheard an elderly expat couple at the aisle opposite us discussing to Buy spandex table cover. Didn’t mean to be eavesdropping, but, really? A spandex table cover? It’s the first time I heard that, pardon my ignorance. Anyways, we found what we’re looking for — a decent non-stick frying pan.

His and hers frying pan, lol.
His and hers frying pan, lol.
Sponges! There can never be enough of them.
Sponges! There can never be enough of them.

We bought two, of course. We also got dish-washing sponges.
We then drove to Aeon Mall for my calligraphy supply – check out the stuff I picked up. My last splurge was in early January this year when I ordered various nibs, pen holders and ink from an online shop in Manila through my sister, DonyaBooding. Aren’t sisters the best? 🙂 This time though, it was my husband who offered after seeing that a) I needed cheering up after Rafa’s loss, and b) I have the knack for hand-lettering and calligraphy. I kid, I kid!

Pencils, erasers and Sakura Gelly Roll pens!
Pencils, erasers and Sakura Gelly Roll pens!

I was surprised to find Sakura Gelly Roll pens at PBC. They’re only $0.85 each.

Dotted notebook, calligraphy ink, white art paper and a wooden block.
Dotted notebook, calligraphy ink, white art paper and a wooden block.
A plastic nib case to house my nibs. The nibs were purchased in Manila.
A plastic nib case to house my nibs. The nibs were purchased in Manila.

And because I’m exploring other tools, I got these brush pens. So now I’m both into dip-pen and brush calligraphy. Bah, yabang!

Pentel colour brush pen in blue and 2 refill cartridges and a Faber-Castell artist pen in orange.
Pentel colour brush pen in blue and 2 refill cartridges and a Faber-Castell artist pen in orange.

Some of you might scratch your heads and wonder … since when have I been artsy-fartsy? It’s kinda, sorta, hidden, just like my talents are, lol. Seriously though, learning calligraphy is #40  in my bucket list. And this year is the year that I get to pursue this creative hobby. So watch out for more artsy-fartsy goodness in the future posts.

FYI, I D-I-Y

Hey there, I’m blogging again! YAY!
I thought I wouldn’t let the holidays go by without posting something. So here it is.

We’re having a really nice, cool temperature in Phnom Penh these past few weeks. A fine weather, really, and our teapot is working round the clock. At the rate we are going, we’re going to exhaust the contents of the gas tank before the month (or shall I say, year?) ends.

Hey, remember a classmate who belong to the other group of kids who waited till it’s the last possible moment before it’s too late to begin a course work or a project? Well, I was one of them. Years have passed and nothing’s exactly changed (I can hear my mum talking here, lol). I still live up to the eleventh-hour and it’s one thing that I hate/love about myself, tee-hee-hee. So, at the last minute, I decided to send handmade Christmas cards to family and a few friends across the seas. My husband just shook his head knowing the fate of mails during the holiday season but it’s something I really wanted to do.

Inspired by a friend, I decided to create greeting cards with my own hand. I’ve seen how elegant my friend’s handwriting was – oh, the playful swirls and flourishes that just scream beautiful calligraphy. The lettering geek in me got envious and prompted me to teach myself how to write like that.

I bought a cheap fountain pen, a bottle of ink and a sketch pad at a Chinese store in Tuol Kork and started writing. To my utter horror, I feared someone would throw rocks at me for having an ugly handwriting! I think the use of computer has changed my handwriting into its current deteriorated state so how can I do calligraphy now? The answer, my friends, is practice. I practiced more and more, albeit delaying further the making of the cards. Imagine my delight when I discovered a lot of tutorials and practice sheets over the Internet! I practiced even more, writing an hour in the morning and another in the afternoon, and one more hour before I go to bed, for a couple of weeks. If that’s not commitment, I don’t know what that is.

After so many wasted paper and spilled ink, I think my hard work is paying off – I am seeing improvements! With this, I found my confidence and, with only a few days before D-day, I started making the cards. I just hope and pray they arrive in their respective destinations…

Two pencils taped together and a felt-tipped marker are great to practice the uncials with.
Practing my As and Bs in copperplate.
Some more scribbles. You can do this over and over and over again.
The Internet is a treasure trove of calligraphy tools and resources. The practice sheet is from The Postman's Knock. Click the photo to go to the site.
Quotes to ponder.
Writing again and again.
The final output.
My early attempt at writing on envelope.
card and lined envelope
My handmade card and DIY lined envelope.

I am still learning though and I find it very therapeutic. I’m going to hone further my handwriting, rather my calligraphy skills, this time with the proper calligraphy tools. You know, nibs, holders, ink, the works! While I do not expect to have any wedding commissions to deal with or make pocket money out of this, I think calligraphy is a lovely, personal touch to handmade cards for any occasion. And boy, oh boy, it feels really good when you create something by hand. What was the last thing you made by hand?

Oh, and before I go… here’s wishing everybody the happiest holidays! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! We don’t really have any specials plans for Christmas day but we’ll see which way the wind blows.