When Ciarán Hinds is in a play, I like to create a souvenir of some kind, to mark the occasion and give out to other fans. I’ve done buttons (my favorite says “CHeeky Hinds Fan”), and for The Crucible, literary M&M’s.
This time around, Himself is in a Conor McPherson play based on the songbook of Bob Dylan. I tossed around lots of ideas (a keychain? a bracelet?), but the one I kept coming back to was something different. When I travel, I always record my thoughts about the trip in a journal, and for some reason, I conceived a powerful desire for a journal with “Girl From the North Country” on it.
Ideally it would look like the Old Vic’s logo for the play, but if I had that manufactured by a custom printer, it would be a copyright violation. Fair enough. What else could I do? It occurred to me that I could paint the letters on the journals with a stencil. The play is set at a guesthouse in Minnesota in the 1930s, during the Depression, so I thought that a “stencil” font (used to make do-it-yourself signs) would be appropriate. A “Stencil” typeface was first created in 1937, mimicking the look of the stencils used on boxes and crates, especially by the US Army.
The stencil look would be a great match for my favorite type of journal, the Moleskine with brown kraft covers. I’m addicted to these, and they have to be the plain brown ones, with blank pages for sketching, or ruled pages for writing.
I also had the inspiration of the signage at Superiority Burger in NYC, which adopted a deliberately low-tech, imperfect, vintage look for its storefront.
First I tried to have someone cut me a stencil, but I quickly discovered that none of the companies who make stencils will do anything small enough to fit on an 8 x 5 notebook. I had no choice but to cut the stencil myself, so I looked at some videos online. How hard could it be? Um… a lot harder than I thought.
I should give fair warning here that this project was not my finest hour. I’m not particularly “handy” with crafts, except for beaded jewelry, which I can’t do much anymore because of deteriorating vision. I had little experience with Exacto knives, and zero with stenciling or spray paint. One might put a positive spin on the results by pointing out that that I now have enough Moleskin journals to last me the rest of my life, since I don’t expect that anyone else will want them. And I didn’t cut any of my fingers off. That part was good too.
I printed out the lettering, added some mailing labels to the back of the paper to make it a bit stiffer, and started cutting. (At least I had the sense to buy a small cutting mat, in order to save the surface of my desk.) It took me several days to arrive at the finished product, which had to be repaired in a couple of places where the really thin bits came loose. And I had to repeatedly sharpen my cheap-o Exacto knife, which got dull around the time I hit “THE.”
My original idea was to evoke the colors of the Old Vic logo, with a dark camouflage green in the background and red letters over that. What I ended up with was a sort of ghostly red lettering, fading in and out, over a battleship gray shade of Rustoleum.
I decided to try some more without the dark background, hoping that the red paint would show up better.
Again, it was really a matter of controlling the spray paint, since it tended to be either too faint or too dark, and it gets all over everything–even surfaces you think you have covered up. Probably I should have used some other kind of paint and applied it with a roller–the proper method. [Update: I tried this and it was an even worse disaster, with the letters completely smudged. Cheap roller? Paint too thick? I don’t know.]
(NB please resist the temptation to provide me with helpful advice, since I have no plans to do ANY stencil projects EVER AGAIN.)
This project gave me food for thought on the space between having a good idea and being able to execute it. Creativity is not the whole story–you also need technical skill. But then again, sometimes the point of a creative act lies less in the product than in the doing.
First of all – I love your idea of always marking a new play/piece of work by Mr H with a customised and scalable project of your own. (There’s an idea that the RArmy should steal from you!) And this idea is a really good one – because it actually provides a souvenir item with a practical purpose. I always prefer that to something that is purely decorative.
Damn, I wish you hadn’t ruled out any “helpful advice” because I have something up my sleeve that could possibly have helped you out a little bit. But massive kudos to you – spraying stencils is very tricky, in any case. It is very difficult to avoid the “bleed”, and especially so when the stencil is small and intricate like yours. You did an amazing job on those letters, I must say. And I think that the results are great. What I like best about the examples you have photographed, is that no notebook looks the same. They are all individual, the true sign of a proper hand-crafted item. Unique and priceless. I am sure they will be coveted among your fandom friends! Well done!
Aww, thanks Guylty. I get an A for effort, that’s for sure. And each example has its own unique flaws 🙂 But you know, I got my wish. I picked one of them and started writing in it–and I’ve already grown quite attached to it.
I am a notebook fan myself, especially of the moleskine variety. Which probably has made the project even better for me, too 😉. There is something about (still) using paper and pen that makes note-taking special; or more weighty. In fact I just started using a fabulous new business planner and am already loving it. The fact that I WRITE my goals and appointments and to do’s, seems to make me follow through more easily. https://hustlestonepaper.com/?variant=22539503815
This is so cool, Guylty! I’ve never heard of stone paper but it sounds great. Do you find the texture different from traditional paper?
It is smoother than any other notebook paper I have ever tried. (Even smoother than Moleskine!) And I really like that. Writing in it is a pleasure, and almost feels meditativen –
the fountain pen gliding over the paper is just such a pleasant feeling.
The stone ingredient possibly makes the notebook a bit heavier, but I think that is a small price to pay for protecting trees…
Gives new meaning to the old game of rock, paper, scissors, doesn’t it? I agree, there is a pleasure in writing with a pen that we do not feel at the keyboard. I hope that writing manually will not become a lost art.
The predominance of “typed writing” is already taking its toll on my handwriting. Looks really sh*tty these days. I used to write very regularly – now it looks rather irregular and messy 😦
I love these! I think each one is beautiful in it’s way, but I get the frustration that it’s not matching what’s in your head.
Thanks jazzbaby. That’s right, I have to get over the frustration that the colors were not the way I imagined, and accept them the way they are. Maybe that’s what it’s like having a kid, LOL. I wouldn’t know 🙂
I so sympathize with your attempts: my project (a tile coaster of Bob Dylan’s iconic “The Times They Are A Changin'” album cover reimagined for the play with an image of Mr. H) proves equally frustrating. Now I’m waiting for Amazon to send me my next craft supply (unavailable locally). You got some nice one-of-a-kind end results! I think they look great.
Thanks Karen! I too was a regular Amazon customer during my stenciling odyssey 🙂
Actually what you needed to do was – no wait! – get someone else to do it…
But how individual and what a great idea. My notebook of choice is Asda’s own brand but I tend to scribble on anything! 📝
Yes, I have been known to use old envelopes and receipts when inspiration strikes! And I cut up used printer paper to recycle it as note paper.
Paul S said:
What a charming idea. I know you’re not happy with the results of your efforts on this occasion, but I’d be delighted to receive one of your souvenirs. It’s the thought that counts!
That’s very kind of you, Paul. At any rate, they still have a practical use 🙂
I love the idea and the results – all of them. I’m sure they’ll be treasured.
Thanks Ellen 🙂 I’ve lived with them for a couple of weeks now and I’m getting more used to them. Also they no longer smell of spray paint, LOL.
LOL, what a journey! I find you very brave for even attempting it. Love the idea and the results look good (and unique) to me.
Thank you Esther! I can’t claim that much bravery because I thought it would be easy, LOL.