Whitehall Shop's Tools of the Trade

27 July 2012

When starting Whitehall, I knew what I wanted to create, but I didn't always know how to do it, or what tools to use to achieve high quality results.  This sort of information was not easy to find online (even with my Google ninja skills).  We don't have any local art shops where I could rely on the expertise of working artists, and I think that many people don't want to advertise how they do what they do (trade secrets, ya know). 

So the thing I found to be most helpful was asking people who create the kind of beautiful art that I wanted to create.  People don't want to broadcast their secrets, but if asked nicely, I found that people were emmensely helpful. I looked up people who were creating similar artwork to my own on Etsy, and sent them private messages with the questions I had.  I received rapid responses from really sweet people.  The art community is a loving one.  Don't be afraid to ask questions!

The materials and supplies listed below are what I use after hours of research and some good ol' trial and error.


Printer & Ink: Canon Pixma Pro 9000 Mark II.  It is a large format printer that can print up to 13"x19".  It uses 8 beautiful archival pigment inks to create a depth of color that cannot be achieved on standard printers.  It is a printer that is used by photographers and art print makers alike.  I would like to be able to make larger prints, but printers with larger output are in another stage up, and can be very costly for equipment, and final prints.

Paper for Originals: For my original artwork, I create collages on a backing of Bristol Board.  I use both smooth and vellum.  My preference leans toward the readily available Strathmore pads, but I also have a large 19x24 inch pad by Canson that I use for my larger pieces, like the US Map.  I love the slightly rougher texture of the vellum versus the smooth bristol's sleeker look.  Neither are shiny, but the vellum is just slightly softer in appearance. In terms of function, both vellum and smooth bristol are equal for the collages.  Bristol is so versitile though, so I always have stockpiles of it.

Collage Papers for Originals: The colorful papers that I use on the originals are archival quality scrapbook papers that I have collected over the years.  Most of my stockpile comes from open stock papers, but I do have a couple of scrapbook paper collection books that I like for their coordination when nothing else seems to work just right.  I usually pick up a few sheets every time I am at Michaels, Hobby Lobby, etc. 

Paper for Prints:  I am in love with the Moab Entrada paper that I use to make the prints.  It is a fine art 100% cotton rag paper that just feels like a million bucks!  I prefer the Natural versus the Bright, since my prints are in a softer color palate.  I also use the 190 versus the 300 that Moab offers because I think the lighter weight is perfect for prints.  It is stiff enough to withstand handling, and the more expensive thickness is not necessary for prints that will be hung framed.

Scanner: Currently I am using my good ol' trusty Dell printer/scanner that we have had for years for the smaller pieces in the shop.  I scan at a resolution of 300 dpi, and the quality of the scans is excellent.  I think that the resolution matters much more than the equipment in this case.  For my large format originals, I took them to Kinkos to scan, which I will not be doing ever again.  It was expensive, and the service was sub-par.  So I am looking into geting a larger flat-bed scanner for the shop that will be able to handle the larger originals. 

Sewing Machine:  The Grandma Special!  My sewing machine is a hand-me-down from my grandmother.  It is a Singer.  My favorite part is all of the notions that came with it that grandma had collected over the years.  Many of the threads and other items were made in West Germany.  For this girl who was 6 years old when the Berlin Wall came down, that is an irresistable piece of history!

Scissors: I don't think the brand matters, as long as they are sharp!  I use a pair from my Art Institute days that is still razor sharp for most cutting.  For the intricate work, I have a small sharp pair as well.  I also have an assortment of Xacto knife blades that work well for interior cuts, but a steady hand is required!


Fabric:  I like to use 100% cotton for the appliqués.  I usually purchase quilting weight fabrics.  I just love the variety of color and pattern that is offered in the quilting weights.  Since the appliqués are decoration, and not structure, a lighter weigh fabric is perfect.  I love Hawthorne Threads, for fabric, but also purchase a good deal from JoAnn and Hobby Lobby. One word of caution, purchasing fabric online is a little tricky, since the colors on the screen might not accurately match the colors of the actual fabric.  I always read descriptions carefully and try to look for secondary indicators of color.  Your mint green and my mint green might be totally different colors!

Fabric Interfacing: For the backs of the appliqués, I use Ultra Hold Heat 'n' Bond.  It is an iron-on interfacing, that stiffens the fabric a little and has a very easy process for customers to apply the appliqué to thier projects.  We are talking 8 seconds with an iron.  Heat 'n' Bond also has a lighter interfacing that is good for projects that will be reinforced by sewing.  I used that for various projects as well, and have it available for Whitehall Shop appliqués upon request. 

Scissors:  I love my pair of Gingher lightweight shears for fabric, but I love them so much that they don't get to touch the appliqués!  Since the interfacing has a paper backing, and the surest way to ruin good fabric scissors is to cut something other than fabric with them, the Gingher's stay away, and I use another pair of scissors that I have had since the introductory sewing kit days.  Just like with the paper scissors, sharp is the key.

If I am leaving something off that you have questions about, please ask! 

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