What Prepping Three Art Shows Looks Like

by Ariela

I haven’t done any new art this month. Aside from moving, I have also been prepping art to ship to three different shows: CONvergence, San Diego Comic Con, and WorldCon. All three need to be shipped either before my moving date or so soon after that I cannot count on having any time to unpack my equipment.

This is what three shows’ worth of art looks like.


Pictured here are:

  • 3 framed originals

  • 4 laminated prints

  • 40 bagged stickers

  • 69 matted prints

Not pictured here:

  • Signage for 5 displays (two of the shows have separate galleries and print shops)

  • Labels for all the art

  • Paperwork

When we originally planned this month, we didn’t know when WorldCon’s consolidated shipping deadline would be, so we thought we were looking at just two shows. When we got the notice that the deadline for getting things in the consolidated shipment from the US to Dublin was June 30 reception, that suddenly added 3 framed originals and 40 prints to our to-do list. Had we known that earlier, we would have started prepping loooooong ago and Terri would likely have come to visit and help. As it is, I am far too tired to be working on art. On the plus side, I have a lot less matboard to move with me!

This lot goes to the post office this afternoon and I move a week from today. Wish me luck!

Pictured above: Three packages of about 30”x23”x2” and three smaller packages, totaling around 44lbs together.

Pictured above: Three packages of about 30”x23”x2” and three smaller packages, totaling around 44lbs together.

Shipping Hiatus: June 11 - July 1

by Ariela

Chibi Ariela is buried under boxes, just a hand protruding, saying “A little help, please?”

Chibi Ariela is buried under boxes, just a hand protruding, saying “A little help, please?”

I’m moving in a few weeks. The thing about moving house when you run a business from home is that your business moves, too. It also means you have a lot of business accoutrements to move. So all of our stock and equipment is getting packed up in boxes and transported to a new location and while that happens, we won’t be able to get to it to fulfill any orders.

We will still be accepting orders during this time, but we won’t be shipping out any of those orders until July 1.

Asking Permission vs. Begging Forgiveness

By Terri

You’ve probably noticed that when we use someone else’s intellectual property, we make a point of getting official permission from the owner of that IP before we sell prints using it. This is because not only is art theft evil, but all forms of IP theft are evil.

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Faith Lehane telling the audience why you shouldn’t do bad things - Because it’s WRONG!

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Faith Lehane telling the audience why you shouldn’t do bad things - Because it’s WRONG!

We are a business. When we make a piece of art based on a book we like, it’s likely that we intend to sell it. It’s wrong to use someone else’s IP to make money without consulting them and making sure they receive proper attribution and monetary recompense. So all of our art based on major works is produced with permission of the IP holders and often we pay a licensing fee for it. All of those pieces began as an email to the author or their agent proposing that we turn their work into art, and how should we compensate them for the use of it. And we have been turned down. In three cases, it was because the books/series we wanted to do art of are in some stage of TV development. This means that the rights to the work are in legal limbo, and permission could not be given to us to use the work. (Another time the author’s staff judged that the author had too much on their plate to contemplate another business proposal; this is what staff are for and we applaud them for doing their job.) This makes us sad, but we respect other people’s intellectual property.

“But what about your Wonder Woman print? Did you get permission for that?” The answer to that is complicated. I did send Warner Bros an email requesting permission to use the logo in an art piece. I never heard back from them. However, since Warner Bros/DC Comics holds the copyright to the logo, no individual creator is being deprived of a piece of the profits. William Moulton Marston (the creator of Wonder Woman) is not being deprived of royalties from our print, nor is Gail Simone (one of the most recent writers of the comic). Moreover, this print is a clear example of transformative work. We have synthesized Proverbs and the Wonder Woman logo in a way that both changes and comments on the original IP.

“That SpaceScape print you did features a quote from Babylon 5. I bet you don’t have permission to use it.” Well, no, we do not have explicit permission to use that quote. We did try and figure out who we should ask, and it turns out that Babylon 5 is something of an orphaned property that no one really wants to acknowledge that they own. We even tweeted at J. Michael Straczynski, but he didn’t respond. The print contains an attribution of the text to Babylon Productions. If someone does come after us, we’ll talk it out then.

“Aha, I found something you don’t even attribute credit to!” If you are referring to either the Police Box Mizrach or the Salute Ketubah, then you are correct, in a way. In both of these cases, we used images that cannot be copyrighted in any way. Though both the British police box and the Priestly Blessing gesture are associated with major media franchises, one is a public utility akin to a mail box or phone booth and the other is a hand gesture that is part of Jewish prayer. Neither of these is subject to copyright. These are also pretty clear fair use cases.

Note - this is not to say there isn’t a place for fan art! We’re firm believers in any fan’s ability to create art based on their favorite fandoms. I’ve seen some AMAZING banner images on various fanfics on AO3 and don’t get me started on some of the stuff I’ve seen on Tumblr. But once you start profiting from the art, there needs to be recompense to the original creator of the IP. Oddly enough, this is one of the reasons I’m working on a proposal to the WSFS Business committee about the art categories. I don’t think what we do is fan art. Even when the art is based from something we didn’t invent in our heads, it’s work produced for sale.

New Art Print: Tech Serenity 2.0

Need a reminder that taking a hammer to your servers is probably not the right move? Hang this in your cubicle to help you keep things on an even keel.


How It Came To Be:

While our original Tech Serenity Prayer is a synthesis of computer and calligraphic aesthetics, we wanted something that would fit more squarely in the computer aesthetic.

The original was written in ink, but the 2.0 is entirely computer generated. The text was set in the Classic Console font and then manipulated to create the light effects. Ariela had fun learning how to render the horizontal lines and slightly offset color halos that are the signature of a classic CRT monitor.

Closeup of the lettering showing the light halos and horizontal bars reminiscent of a CRT.

Closeup of the lettering showing the light halos and horizontal bars reminiscent of a CRT.

To keep this print both durable and easy to hang, we are selling a laminated version (rather than our standard matting and bagging) with a sawtooth tab that will fit nicely over a thumbtack or pushpin. Each print measures 8.5x11 and costs $12.

Where Are We This Weekend?

by Terri

Location markers in San Francisco, CA with the BayCon logo; Madison, WI with the WisCon logo; and Baltimore, MD with the Balticon logo

Location markers in San Francisco, CA with the BayCon logo; Madison, WI with the WisCon logo; and Baltimore, MD with the Balticon logo

Thanks to the beneficence of the USPS, you can find Geek Calligraphy at three different conventions this weekend! Unfortunately, our budget is not so beneficent, so I will not be at any of these conventions.

Our art will be in the Baycon and Balticon art shows, and Ariela will be at WisCon. While we will not be in the WisCon art show unless a spot opens up, Ariela will have our stickers and the ability to take your money.

If you would like to hear Ariela be clever on panels, check out her schedule below:

Ariela's Panel Schedule

Sunday, 10:00 AM:  Imaginary Book Club
Room: Conference 4
Follow on Social Media: ##ImaginaryBooks
Panelists each choose an exciting book from the last year to describe, and the group discusses them all. The catch: we made all of them up. This year, we might talk about Charlie Jane Anders's inspirational romance, a newly discovered YA dystopia by F. Scott Fitzgerald, G. Willow Wilson's entry in the Babysitter's Club series, and the 90s-nostalgia horror anthology I'll Be There for Your Blood.

Sunday, 1:00 PM:  Fictional Trauma—Harmful Or Healing?
Room: Conference 4
Follow on Social Media: #TraumaInFiction
Stories can be healing. Watching a fictional character go through a trauma similar to our own and come out the other side can be empowering and even give us tools to use for ourselves. Other times, however, it can be unbearable to watch or a story has a harmful narrative that can make us feel worse. This panel will discuss fictional traumas that have helped and harmed our healing process, as well as how we can judge ahead of time which story might help or hurt us.

Sunday, 1:00 PM:  Food And Foodways In SF/F
Room: Conference 4
Follow on Social Media: #SFFFood
A discussion about the role of food and foodways in SF/F. What food do we imagine, and who (classes, bodies, genders, ethnicities) do we imagine as the makers and eaters of that food? What infrastructure is necessary for people to be fed, and how do those infrastructures reflect our hopes and anxieties about bodies, land, and ecology?

Terri Appreciation Week: Hufflepuffs, They Get The Job Done

by Ariela

Happy Passover to all of you celebrating out there!

The last full week of April, that would be this week, is Administrative Professionals Week in the United States of America. ‘Round hereabouts, that means it’s Terri Appreciation Week.

It’s very easy to see what I do—I put pen to paper and make pretty art—but it’s much harder to see what Terri does.

Hufflepuffs, they get the job done. Chibi Terri smirks with her arms crossed, wearing a Hufflepuff House scarf and says “Darn right we do.”

Hufflepuffs, they get the job done.
Chibi Terri smirks with her arms crossed, wearing a Hufflepuff House scarf and says “Darn right we do.”

Terri is a Hufflepuff. She is hardworking and extremely loyal. (She is also an American badger, so don’t effing mess with her or her loved ones. She will defend her own with sharp teeth and claws. Seriously, why do Brits think of badgers as cute and bucolic? They’re scary.)

A short, non-comprehensive list of things that Terri does around here:

  • Looks for art shows for us to send our art to

  • Investigates other venues for selling our art (mostly our Judaica)

  • Fills out paperwork (So. Much. Paperwork.)

  • Itemizes every single, solitary expense the business had

  • Writes most of our product release blog posts

  • Handles most of our product release social media

  • Comes up with ideas for art

  • Blogs

  • Manages the business schedule

  • Monitors my workload and keeps me from overcommitting and burning myself out

  • Deals with customer inquiries

  • Deals with wholesale inquiries

Terri is more than just a “manager.” She’s an agent, an editor, a manager, and an assistant all rolled into one. Geek Calligraphy is not my business, it’s ours. We founded it together. She’s my business partner. And before she was any of that, she was—and continues to be—my best friend.

There are very few awards for administrative professionals, in part because what they do is very rarely visible to anyone outside their respective businesses. (Also in part because we live in a society that devalues support work, whether administrative or emotional, but we’re here to celebrate Terri, not protest the sexism and Capitalist values in our social order.) Part of the way that we change that is by publicly talking about what they do.

Terri is awesome, her work is valuable, and she deserves to have more than a week celebrating her accomplishments.

Chibi Terri holds out her Hufflepuff scarf and muses, “*sigh* These are really not my colors.”

Chibi Terri holds out her Hufflepuff scarf and muses, “*sigh* These are really not my colors.”

Chibi Terri holds a sign saying “Will Wrangle on a Contract Basis.”

Chibi Terri holds a sign saying “Will Wrangle on a Contract Basis.”

Does what Terri does for Geek Calligraphy sound helpful? Do you wish you had someone to do some of that for you? You can!

Terri also takes clients on a freelance basis.

Some things Terri can do for you:

  • Invoicing

  • Yelling at People Who Need Yelling At

  • General Unsticking

  • Social Media Plan

Visit her website: ArtistWrangling.com

New Judaica Art Print: A Wonder(ous) Woman  אשת חיל

Let the valorous woman in your life know how Wonderful you find her!

Blue and gold Hebrew text from Psalms 31 in the shape of the Wonder Woman logo

How It Came To Be:

Sometimes Ariela’s creative brain is tripped by odd prompts. She began searching for a way to put a particular Jewish spin on Wonder Woman after seeing a woman put a Wonder Woman bib on her daughter at kiddush* lunch at synagogue on Sh’mini Atzeret (the Eighth Day of Assembly). Once she thought of referencing Proverbs 31:10-31, an acrostic poem that begins with the phrase “A Valorous Woman,” the connection seemed obvious.

Hebrew art has a rich history of micrography, tiny calligraphy formatted so that it makes up a picture when you stand back, so the first plan was to fit all 21 verses into the logo. This lasted until Ariela actually thought about the message we wanted to send with the piece. Then most of the poem - the parts that talk about a woman’s value deriving from what she does for her husband and children, frequently in terms of her skills as a housekeeper or acquiring wealth - got cut. Even Terri’s favorite verse, the one that says "Many women have been made great, but you have surpassed them all,” was subjected to the sword. We at Geek Calligraphy do not embrace the Smurfette Principle** in any form - we will not condone the idea that there can only ever be one awesome woman at a time.

While Terri’s recent love of Wonder Woman comes largely as a result of the amazing 2017 film, the logo that Warner Bros. redesigned for Wonder Woman was deemed too angular and complicated. So instead, we used the classic DC Comics logo, with its clean silhouette and iconic red, yellow and blue.

The version up top has yellow text, but we also have an extra shiny (literally) version with gold text.

Gif showing the gold foil on the print reflecting the light.

Each print is matted on a black, archival-safe mat and comes ready to hang. The matted dimensions are 8”x10”. Prints with yellow text cost $30, prints with gold text cost $40. Ships flat.

*Kiddush literally means sanctification. In this case, it refers to the food served at synagogue after the sanctification of the Sabbath or a holiday is said over a cup of wine.

**Note - there are two links here, because one is to an old NYTimes magazine article and may be behind a paywall. The second link is to a TVTropes article, where you can explore all sorts of other lovely tropes about women in fiction and media.

Hugo Eligibility Revisited

by Ariela

The news is out! We’re a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist this year. I’m still working on believing it. Terri and I are both so, so grateful to you all.

Voting will begin soon, and when the voter packet is distributed, you’ll see two of our pieces in there:

“Penric’s Demon” Illuminated First Page From the novella “Penric’s Demon” by Lois McMaster Bujold. Licensed by Lois McMaster Bujold.

“Penric’s Demon” Illuminated First Page
From the novella “Penric’s Demon” by Lois McMaster Bujold.
Licensed by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Anathem  Illuminated First Page From the novel  Anathem  by Neal Stephenson. Produced with permission from Neal Stephenson.

Anathem Illuminated First Page
From the novel Anathem by Neal Stephenson.
Produced with permission from Neal Stephenson.

But where did “Lady Astronaut Nouveau” go?

So, funny story about that.

When we published our eligibility post in December, we included the above two works, plus “Lady Astronaut Nouveau” based on The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. The former two were created earlier in 2018 and shown in art shows at Confluence and ICON. We finished “Lady Astronaut Nouveau” late enough in the year that we didn’t have any more art shows booked in which we could show it. We put it all over the interwebs, though.

This is what the Hugo Awards Website gives as the criteria for the Best Fan Artist category (bolding ours):

The final category is also for people. Again note that the work by which artists should be judged is not limited to material published in fanzines. Material for semiprozines or material on public displays (such as in convention art shows) is also eligible. Fan artists can have work published in professional publications as well. You should not consider such professionally-published works when judging this award.

The internet is about as public as it gets, right? It was even included in Mary Robinette’s Pinterest Gallery for Lady Astronaut Fan Art.

Apparently the Hugo Committee disagrees. Per the email I received from the committee member who contacted me prior to the announcement of the ballot:

The first two pieces clearly qualify, so that is fine. I'm afraid that the rules exclude pieces that have only been displayed online.

This, dear reader, is ridiculous.

From elsewhere on the same page on the Hugo Awards website explaining eligibility:

Web Sites, E-books, and Medium of Distribution

Works published electronically rather than on paper have always been accepted as nominees. A decision of the 2009 WSFS Business Meeting formally acknowledged this by ratifying a Constitutional Amendment that added the words “or the equivalent in other media” to various category definitions. There is no requirement that a work be published on paper (for written/graphic fiction and non fiction), on film or video tape (for dramatic presentations), or that it be distributed through any traditional methods such as bookstores, movie theatres, etc. In other words, publishing and distributing your work on a web site is exactly the same as having copies of your book in a bookstore or your movie shown in a movie theatre. Aside from the fundamental distinctions between written, graphic, and dramatic works, medium of distribution has nothing to do with a work’s eligibility.

And further:

Self-Published Works

There is no restriction on who publishes a work. For example, if an author makes a novel available to be read on a web site or prints copies at his/her own expense, that novel is eligible just the same as a novel published by a well-known publishing company and sold in traditional bookstores.

So why is it possible to “publish” something online but not to put anything “on public display?”

As much as we are sore about losing what I consider to be one of the best pieces of art I have ever done from my Hugo-eligible portfolio this year, I am more upset by the general message this sends

We have blogged before about why we think that restricting the Professional Artist category to “professional publications” is outdated in an age when it is possible to make most if not all of one’s artistic income from online sales directly to customers. But there’s something extra odd and gatekeeper-y in telling a fan that their fan work doesn’t count until someone else - a zine or an art show head - gives it their stamp of approval.

(Also, art shows cost money to enter, adding an economic barrier-to-entry that I find particularly distasteful.)

If authors who publish online are real authors, then artists who post their work online are real artists.

If fan writers who write online are real fans, the artists who art online are real fans, too.

We will be attending Dublin2019, and Terri has a proposal for the WSFS business meeting in the works. I am told there are lists. Because it is time and past to overhaul the Pro Artist / Fan Artist categories. We would really love your support in this endeavor. If you are interested, please let us know by filling out the form below.

And in the meanwhile, please do not consider “Lady Astronaut Nouveau” when you fill out your ballot. If that means that you rank us lower than you would otherwise, so be it. This year’s slate is full of amazing Fan Artists and we could not be mad to lose to any of them.

Want to Help Revise the Artist Category Requirements for the Hugos?

Terri is working on a proposal. If you would like to support us, or be updated on our efforts, please let us know how to contact you below.


It's an honor...

Rocket ship logo of the Hugo Awards

Rocket ship logo of the Hugo Awards

by Ariela and Terri

Wow. A Hugo nomination.

Thank you so much to all of you. You are the ones who chose us for this honor and we deeply, deeply appreciate it. We love making art, but it’s especially gratifying to know that the art we have made has touched other people.

Also an enormous thank you Lois McMaster Bujold, Neal Stephenson, and Mary Robinette Kowal, for writing words that inspired us so deeply and were kind enough to open the door to us when we came knocking, asking for permission to play in their universes. It’s rather fitting for us to be nominated this year, when all of our public work was literally fanart of others’ writing.

And just look at this slate of nominees! We can’t believe we get to call these people our colleagues!

Likhain’s colorwork is so unbelievably phenomenal and Grace Fong’s use of space is extraordinary. Ariela has been a fan of both of them for years. Terri has been both a fan and a friend of Meg Frank for a while. This is Spring Schoenhuth’s umpteenth nomination, and frankly it is a crime that her jewelry is not more widely recognized as being fine art, because it is. And we don’t even know what to say about being nominated with Sara Felix, who has friggin’ designed not one but two Hugo bases.

And the whole ballot. That is, as Terri says, a whole lotta ballot. How the heck are we going to be able to pick favorites?!!?? Congrats to all of the nominees. So, so well deserved.


Ariela here:

You may notice two names up at the top of this blog post and that “we,” which is plural, not royal. That’s because this is a two-person operation. And though it’s my name on that list, it really should be “Geek Calligraphy,” because this art is a team effort. Editors get their own category for the Hugos, but there isn’t one for Artist Wrangler, who is a bit like an editor, agent, manager, assistant, and marketer/publicist all rolled into one. Terri is my creative partner; she comes up with a good chunk of the ideas that turn into our art. Lady Astronaut Nouveau, for example, was the direct result of her demand that I do art for The Calculating Stars, and her input and feedback along the way means you got a very different product than you would have seen from me working on my own. Hugo rules may say that it’s my name on the ballot, but the world should also know about Terri’s contribution.

Thank you everyone again and we will see you in Dublin this summer!

Pesach is coming...

by Ariela

We are the House of Judah. Our coat of arms displays a matzah on a field of tin foil. Our words are Pesach is Coming.

A round matzah on a background of tin foil with the words “Pesach is Coming” in the Game of Thrones font

(Neither Terri or Ariela actually cover anything in tinfoil to kasher for Passover, but you get the idea.)

Enjoy your spaghetti, cheerios, bread, pretzels, bagels, etc. Enjoy them until they are gone. And remember kids, don’t feed the Passover-Industrial complex.