Atlas Insider: Gear Shift
No matter which new hobby I pick up (as I check the dining room table to confirm This Week’s Flavor), it’s always accompanied by me muttering some version of, “Well, at least this one will be inexpensive.” When I started camping twenty years ago, I bought all of my gear at yard sales and dollar stores, clapped my hands together, and hit the road, satisfied that I’d started a maximally exciting new chapter for the minimum amount of investment.
You probably know how this goes. I almost immediately noticed that I didn’t seem to go camping as much as I went to buy camping gear. I basically stopped at camping supply stores on the way to camping, just in case I needed to up my camping equipment game. I quickly turned into one of those irritating people who will chat up a stranger about the quality (or obvious inferiority, I mean, look at it) of their cooler in comparison to the fourteenth one I’ve purchased. IT’S A CHARMING HABIT; PEOPLE LOVE IT. “This hobby isn’t camping at all,” I thought. “It’s shopping.” But I suspect that that’s the case about all hobbies except, what? Air guitar?
I’ve been an artist all my life—and I have the bulging file of art school student loan payment confirmations to prove it—so I’ve never really considered painting a hobby; it’s just something I do. But even with the fine arts degree displayed over my chesterfield, I managed to avoid watercolor painting until just a few years ago, when I got bit by the bug and its portability. Camping and painting at the same time!
Of course Gear Fever set in almost immediately. I went through the $2.99 pan of flat, waxy watercolors from the drugstore. I quickly graduated to the $15 starter set at the local art supply emporium. I settled on the classic good old fashioned messy Winsor & Newton tubes for a long while.
But what I was really fixated on was the idea of a little high-quality compact set I could both store and travel with with ease. My painting practice largely consists of what I call “plein air five minute-masterpieces”—landscapes painted in five minutes or less. It’s a good parameter for me to work within, since it curbs my worst instincts as a painter, which are to spend ten hours thinking about an idea and then ten more overworking it. Put five minutes on the iPhone timer, though, and I’ll give you a teensy tiny miniature masterpiece. I much prefer them to the photographs I’ve taken of the same spot. This little painting from Belfast, Maine, for example, captures the trip there far better than the photograph taken at the same time.
ALL. OF. WHICH. Brings us to … my ultimate watercolor set upgrade. I discovered a little set from A Case for Making about five years ago and I may have finally found the cure for Upgrade Fever, because I have used the hell out of this thing, and when I’ve used it all up, I have no desire to replace it with anything other than itself (I’m actually on my second one).
When I heard the bigwigs at MDK brainstorming about adding a watercolor set to celebrate FG 25’s designer Dee Hardwick’s practice of painting the botanical world around her as inspiration for knitting designs, I elbowed into that Zoom call with an alacrity not seen since I believed that every time my doorbell rang, it was Ed McMahon with a giant novelty check. “A Case for Making!,” I screamed. “We have to offer A Case for Making!”
Well, here they are. The best watercolors I’ve ever used, with a palette picked by M-D-K for Y-O-U—and it is W-O-W, loosely inspired by our own gorgeous palette of Atlas yarn. Case for Making—working out of a tiny postage stamp of a shop in San Francisco—turns out small batches of handmade watercolor pigment in both classic colors (they can cadmium blabbity-blab with you all you want) and gorgeous shades of their own devising. The paint goes on with a light touch and—because of that—allows some forgiveness in a way that a lot of watercolors do not. It’s all intuitive, of course—what feels right—but the very first time I used CfM, I knew we were gonna be together forever. I feel so strongly about this tiny tin of tints that I stomped my foot until the MDK ladies let me write this little bit about it. (Bigwigs’/Ladies’/Editor’s note: We planned to ask DG to write about the set, but we enjoy the stomping, so …)
Watercolor painting still allows me to indulge my gear upgrade impulse in peripheral ways—Watercolor blocks! Enameled medical trays for palettes! Paintbrushes! OMG, the handmade canvas roll-ups!—but this little paint set might as well be a tattoo. Never shall we part. CfM + DG. Like I said, 2gether 4ever.
Three colorways: Morning Glory, Periwinkle, and Jasmine
Flip through Lookbook 25 here.
How to enter?
Step 1: Sign up for MDK emails, right here. External Link. Opens in new window.. External Link. Opens in new window.. External Link. Opens in new window.. External Link. Opens in new window.. External Link. Opens in new window.. External Link. Opens in new window.. External Link. Opens in new window.. External Link. Opens in new window.. External Link. Opens in new window.. External Link. Opens in new window.. External Link. Opens in new window.. External Link. Opens in new window.. If you’re already signed up, you’re all set. We now have an option for texting; when you sign up for those, you’ll get a coupon code good for 10% off your next MDK order.
Step 2: Have you recently picked up or upgraded a new hobby? Tell us all about it in the comments.
Deadline for entries: Sunday, September 24, 11:59 PM Central time. We’ll draw a random winner from the entries. Winner will be notified by email.