New Project

I’ve been running Alchemy Works for 18 years, but the older I get, the more difficult it is for me. I do everything for the shop–I create all the formulas, source all the materials, make all the products, create the labels, pack and ship all the orders, maintain the site, do the taxes, everything. I’ve tried to get help in the past, but when people realize how much work the shop is, they bail. Understandable.

Thing is I am 65 this year, and because my Social Security benefits do not even cover the rent, I will need to work for the rest of my life. So I started looking around for things I can do that I could keep doing it even if I am not in the best of health.

After listening to a savvypainter podcast about how painters can create a “day job” for themselves that involves their art, I decided to try creating art to put on mugs and totes to sell on Etsy. I like painting botanical stuff and I’ve been growing and working with witching herbs for years, so I chose to make watercolors of plants like belladonna, henbane, and mandrake and have them printed on mugs.

The mugs come out beautifully, I have to say. The printing is very good and the mugs are nice and sturdy and big. It’s been a bit of a challenge to work out the best way to create the image–what kind of paper, paints, how to clean up the image to make a good digital file to send to the printer, and then a lot of persnickety stuff about getting the shop connected to the printer, which takes my files and prints and ships the mugs. But it’s done, and I have to say, I am enjoying it.

First, I have missed painting in watercolor. These mug designs are only 9 x 3.8″, which is quite small for me. I thought the smallness might be a problem, but instead, it’s really nice to get a painting done in a few hours instead of it taking days. I also splurged and bought myself some watercolors that are made specifically for reproduction. My godz the colors! They are so concentrated. And they are easier to handle and to clean up than the watercolors in tubes or even pans that I’ve been using for years.

Back in art school, I did a lot of work with pen and ink, and the mug designs bring me back to that. After trying a couple of different approaches, I went with a version of Rackham’s method of drawing the image with pencil, outlining it with real india ink, erasing the pencil lines, and then applying watercolors, which don’t lift the ink. I found out that plenty of inks that call themselves “india” (which means they contain shellac, which is what makes them waterproof) don’t actually contain shellac and aren’t waterproof. I didn’t want to have to go back to using acrylics (also waterproof and they do come in ink form) in even small amounts just because I could not find an honest india ink. But Bombay India Ink does contain shellac and is waterproof and comes in a bunch of colors–plus I already had a whole set put away. AND tons of nibs, although I have pretty much settled on the Nikko G nib, which has a pretty sharp point but doesn’t catch the paper much and which is flexible but not too much. Just about perfect for me.

So far I’ve come up with four designs–belladonna, mandrake, wolfsbane, and henbane (which I think came out the best). Right now I’m working on sacred datura. I have them up on an Etsy shop but I might end up switching over to Amazon because there is a lot more traffic there.

The other thing I really like about this is that most of my work is creative instead of clerical. I don’t have to hold stock, source it, pack it, label it, arrange for post office pickup, buy boxes, or any of that. The printer takes care of all of that and the ecommerce platform takes care of all the credit card stuff. It is so freeing. I look forward to creating many more images. I hope you enjoy them too!

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