Fitness is Not Fun

So I’m entering my fourth month of living in Chicago and slowly growing sicker and sicker of the endless winter by the day.  Thank god for George R. R. Martin for at least creating a vivid fantasy world in which I can pretend this endless winter is legit, and that I have to protect my country from those mysterious demons that dwell beyond the wall of ice, and stuff like that.  At least in that scenario, the ice is protecting me from unknown evils instead of just bugging the crap out of me.

First of all, there are no hills to sled down in the midwest so snow is COMPLETELY pointless.  Also, for some reason nobody in Chicago shovels their sidewalks, including businesses.  Why.  Why.  Rude.  So anyway, three months has been about how long it’s taken for the magic of a new city to wear off and for me to start to grow disgruntled.  Because of this, February is Operation: Make Friends and Do Stuff Month.  I started by signing up for dance classes, because that’s what I do when I’m in a new place.

I found an adult ‘dance fitness’ studio a block north of where I work, so I signed up for their $100/month unlimited class new member special.  So far, I’ve taken one hip-hop class and my body is reacting violently to the athletic movements I’m asking of it.  I was really hoping for something like a choreography class, but it was super cardio-y and we had to do jumping jacks and push-ups and just all of these things that I have not asked of any muscle group in at least a year, probably more.

So, I was originally signed up for a cardio class tonight, a Zumba class tomorrow, and another hip-hop/jazz-y class on Thursday but I had to cancel my cardio class tonight because I will collapse into a pile of twigs if I don’t give my body the time to get its lactic acid under control.  Pros of this place: everyone is around my age (maybe they could be my friends??), if the one class I’ve taken is a representative sample then the classes overall are fun and challenging, and it’s super conveniently located.  Only con: it’s pretty pricey.  I feel like if I’m going to be paying around $100/month for what are essentially specialized fitness classes, I could probably go get a gym membership and take their group classes and get a bunch of bonus services (like spa access, indoor/outdoor pool at a few, and…I dunno I guess some workout machines or whatever.)

I am definitely going to continue getting my money’s worth out of this $100 all-access pass and see if future classes change my perspective at all.  Just as soon as I’m able to lift my arms above my head without wincing….

Daily Quotation #1

And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.

John Steinbeck, East of Eden.  

Screenprinting: Attempt #1

So my project this week is my first shot at screen printing.  Actually, I’ve had the supplies ready to go for about 2 months but have been procrastinating the process of actually making the screen because I kept reading that first attempts often fail.  I was a bit preemptively discouraged.  But everything worked!

I followed the instructions from The Art of Doing Stuff which were excellent (and included pictures, which are always helpful for me.)  I changed a few things based on what materials I had available that I will note below.  If you’re looking to screen print for your first time, I would head over there and check out Karen’s instructions BEFORE reading the few alterations I make below.


Original artwork for my screen printing experiment based on literary quotations.

Making the Artwork

Alteration 1: I knew from the get-go that I would hand-draw my screen printing artwork rather than print it out because 1) I don’t have Illustrator or Photoshop on my laptop anymore and 2) I don’t have a printer, so this was just more convenient.  So instead of printing digital art, I drew these bad boys on thick-ish watercolor paper with my Copic Multiliner pens.  Since the drawings need to be completely opaque, I scribbled over the pen a bunch of times with a black Sharpie to make the drawing even darker.

I went with the piece in the upper right-hand corner for my first foray into screen printing.  It’s part of a quotation by Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar: “I took a breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am.” For an unrelated-to-printing but interesting discussion on whether the quotation is “brag” (as I’ve written here) or “bray” (as Google suggests), see this post by wordsandotherthings.  In any case, I cut the image out using my trusty old x acto knife and got to work on the screen itself.

Prepping the Screen

I bought a screen printing starter kit from my local Michael’s craft store because I happened to be there buying other stuff, but I think in the future I will make my own screens.  I plan on trying to make them from thrifted picture frames, so stay tuned for a future update on how that works.  This part was easy, because my screen was already built and ready to go.

Photo Emulsion and Exposure

Okay, this was the part I was SURE I was going to mess up, and then SURE I did mess up as it was happening.  But I didn’t!  Hallelujah!

Alteration 2: This isn’t so much an alteration as it is a “janky way Maddie did things that ended up not ruining everything” (henceforth referred to as JWMDT…catchy.)   I didn’t have a fancy dark room or a red/yellow photo-safe lightbulb, so I prepped the emulsion in our dim back office around 6pm when the sun was mostly down.  I then put it in my boyfriend’s closet to dry propped up on our ironing board and instructed him not to open the closet until I gave the okay.  Whatever, it all worked out.  The instructions say to let it dry for 3 hours but I let it dry overnight because that’s how long it took me to feel emotionally prepared to test out the exposure process.

Alteration 3: Exposing!  A bit terrifying.  Okay, this is the definition of JWMDT.  Here’s a picture of my exposure setup.

Setup for exposing the screen, Maddie version.

Setup for exposing the screen, Maddie version.

List of things I was supposed to have compared to what I actually ended up using:

– Supposed to use: Duct tape to seal the edges of the frame.  What I used: The last few pieces of my leopard-print duct tape on the top and bottom of the frame, and some packing tape on the edges.  Duct tape sections DEFINITELY worked better at providing a water-and-emulsion-proof-seal.

Supposed to use: Focus-able light with 150-watt clear lightbulb.  What I used: our living room lamp, laying sideways on a desk chair, fitted with a questionably stylish aluminum foil hat and a 150-watt “soft white” bulb.

– Supposed to use: Matte black surface to place screen on during exposure.  What I used: Black kitchen trash bag.

– Supposed to use: Piece of glass to hold artwork close to screen.  What I used: Ginormous piece of clear acrylic leftover from building our office desk.

Ultimately…it all worked out!  So for those of you as scared to conquer this section of the screen printing process, it seems that there IS a bit of leeway in regards to materials as long as the basic instructions are followed correctly.  My photo emulsion instructed me to expose the screen for 1 hour 14 minutes with the bulb 15″ away from the screen.  I suggest not messing around with timing, especially if you’re not using 100% the correct materials otherwise.  Set a timer on your phone.  Go eat some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  Let it happen.

Rinsing the Screen and Squealing in Delight

I rinsed this as instructed, because the instructions basically said “rinse it.”  Simple enough.  Used the kitchen sink, giggling excitedly about every 5 seconds as I realized that it seemed to actually be working!

Mid-rinse: you can see the design is pretty much clear, and the greenish emulsion is kinda dripping off.  By the end of the rinse the leftover greenish part was even all over as it is in the top left corner of this photo.

Mid-rinse: you can see the design is pretty much clear, and the greenish emulsion is kinda dripping off. By the end of the rinse the leftover greenish part was even all over as it is in the top left corner of this photo.

Conclusion: Screen Printing is Cool

Despite my initial fears, this all went well.  For some reason I was sure that if it didn’t work I was going to get really frustrated and give up.  The good news is that the time commitment for the emulsion drying/exposing process is very minimal (most of the time investment is the waiting around,) meaning that even if something goes awry you haven’t lost much time.  If it fails, the photo emulsion solution comes with photo emulsion remover so that you can just clean the screen right up and try again.

I am planning on making my first print with this screen this weekend, so I will make an update with how that goes.  I’m thinking of picking up some interesting floral-print shirts from the thrift store to print on, plus probably a few $0.50 test shirts and maybe some pretty scrap fabric to frame if I can find it.

I also want to get a new screen so that I can make another printstencileything.  I’m not ready to part with my first printing baby to try a new design, and I feel like I won’t be til I make quite a few prints.  So for now, the Sylvia Plath screen will live on.

Quotation Labs Launch!

Hello there,

This first post is making me a bit nervous because I feel like I’m trying to sum up the future without knowing anything about what’s going to happen!  An impossible task that certainly will not be accomplished through a blog post.  I suppose I should stop worrying.

Anyways, I will lay out my planned post schedule and tell you a bit about myself and what I hope to get out of this blog as a structure to start with.

Who Am I?

I’m Maddie.  As the description bar states, I am a twentysomething living in Chicago and trying my hand at figuring out how to keep myself happy and entertained in a place where it is currently -6 degrees and I know very few people.  I’m a daycare teacher studying to be an elementary school teacher and I spend lots of time reading books, sitting under my heated blanket wishing it was warmer, trying to make the spaces I occupy beautiful and efficient, and doing craft projects both by myself and with the students at work.

My Plan

I plan to post on a regular schedule so that I and everyone else can keep track of what is going on.  I do best on schedules.  Schedules are my very good friends.

Monday:  Lifestyle (What am I up to?  What am I doing?  Why?)

Tuesday: Beauty Post (I am attracted to the ue/eau semi-alliteration in Tuesday and Beauty, FYI)

Wednesday: Weekly Project (again with the alliteration, obviously)

Friday:  Student Craft Roundup (projects I did with the elementary school kids during the week at work)

Saturday: Organization Day (tidy up after the squalor of the work week)


Why is this suddenly structured like a five-paragraph English essay?  I don’t know.  Onward!