Dec 312015
 

I like to make spinner cards, and I find that people like receiving them. They are so fun and game-like.

I thought I’d show you how I made a New Year’s card for a select few friends. It’s a remake of one I made four years ago during another election cycle.

political spinner 2012

The last nightmare.

"Happy" New Year!

 

I’d thought back then that things couldn’t get any worse. Never say never!

First, I start in Adobe Illustrator. It has a handy polar grid tool that is perfect for making spinner templates. It is found nested under the Line Segment Tool.

Polar Grid Icon

If you double-click on the Polar Grid Tool Icon in the tool bar, it will bring up a dialogue box. For this purpose, 2 concentric dividers and 8 radial dividers are just about right. I skew the concentric divider so that it’s close to the center:

Polar Grid Box

I actually hadn’t put in those measurements on top: 6.66 inches. I just noticed them as I was taking the screenshot. Very interesting . . .

At any rate, once you have your parameters set, draw your template:

Spinner Template

 

You could, of course, continue to work in Illustrator. But I’m going to be doing the rest with photos and I’m more comfortable in Photoshop. So I close the file in Illustrator and re-open it in Photoshop as a Photoshop file. You also, of course, could just draw it by hand if you don’t use Illustrator.

With your template open in Photoshop, select one of the sections with the magic wand tool and create a new layer.

Spin

Then you can find a picture of something you’d like to put in the section. It might be something nice… or it might be something disturbing, as in my example. You can combine images too, of course:

layer one

 

Keep adding images, working in a new layer for each section. If things overlap, select inside the shape of the section you’re working on, then select inverse and delete to neaten things up. When you are done, you should have a wheel filled with pictures:

2016... UGH!

 

As you can see, I got rid of the lines in the middle and filled it in with white. This also has a bigger circle in the middle than our original example, because I made it earlier using a different template.

You could then cut it out and glue it to your card. Or you could create a document in your layout program of choice and insert it. I use InDesign.

I created a new InDesign document with three joined pages of equal size. This is going to be a rather small card, since the arrows I will be attaching are small, and I also want to print it out on my wide-format printer, which can handle a page that is up to 13″ wide. Three pages that are 4″ across will fit nicely, so I made each joined page 4″ wide and 6″ long.

I placed the image on the page to the left, and added some text on the page to the right. The middle was left blank. You’ll soon see why.

card layout

 

I then created a PDF of the document, being sure that it was saved as “spreads” with all of the correct pages lined up together and the pages at 100% scale. It is also helpful to make sure that the crop marks will be included.

PDF of card

I printed it out on matte card stock. I then scored at the appropriate markings and trimmed along the outside, following the crop marks. I then made a mountain fold at the first score line, and a valley fold at the second.

card folded

I then made a hole in the center of the spinner, at the dot in the middle. It should be just big enough to fit a tiny brad. To keep the arrow from scraping on the card, I sandwich a little nylon washer between the arrow and the card.

Spinner parts

 

To help the arrow spin more freely, I find it helps to stick something thin like a metal spatula underneath each prong as you press down on top of it with a bone folder.

Using spatula

When it was all assembled, I folded in the mountain fold and sealed the card up around the inside edges. You can use glue or double-sided tape. Now you see why the middle page was left blank — when fully assembled, it hides the back of the spinner.

Card Folded Over

Now it’s done! Although… come to think of it, this is so grim I think I’ll lose friends if I actually mail it to anyone.

Spinner Card Front

"Happy" New Year!

Happy New Year! And best of luck in 2016!

Jan 202014
 

Pages from one of my journalsSketchbooks, visual journals, daybooks …. Different artists call that book they carry around different things. No matter what I’ve been — or not been able to be —  doing in the studio, I always keep a couple of different kinds on hand. It’s essential. Even if all I do in a day is scratch out some lines, at least I’m doing something. 

One of my take-along books is a sketchbook that’s used mostly for jotting down ideas and making mock-ups of book pages and that sort of thing. I’ve carried one of those around in one form or another for a very long time. The current one is a thin store-bought softcover thing with graph paper inside. It serves the purpose.

 

The handmade paper with flowers was something I'd done a while ago.

The handmade paper with flowers was something I’d done a while ago.

 

The other carry-along book is handmade. Its purpose is to keep me making marks on a regular basis. Often, this is while the TV is on, or while I’m out doing errands and stop for a rest with some coffee. When I go out, I bring it in a sack that’s also filled with colored pencils, pens, threads and needles, a glue stick, eraser, pencil sharpener, brushes, small scissors and scalpel, a 4 x 6″ cutting mat, vial of water, and, occasionally, a small watercolor palette (yeah — I overpack my suitcases as well). I also have a small zippered case that contains an assortment of postage stamps, papers and other stuff.

 

journal page with embedded mirror

The mirror is a scrap left over from another project.

 

I haven’t been particularly satisfied with what to call this book. Although I take it to coffee shops and the like with me, I don’t sketch my fellow visitors in it. It doesn’t seem to be a sketchbook. It’s also, to me, not quite a visual journal, which, in my mind, has a dated and linear progression expressing the feelings of the moment. For the most part, the only dates are the ones to note when it began and when it was retired. I very definitely do not work in a linear, nor systematic, way in them. I make marks — sometimes drawn, sometimes cut and sometimes sewn. The object is not to make art, nor to work out my thoughts or state of mind. It is, rather, my plaything.

journal pages with paper cutouts and stitching

It’s my relaxation, and it keeps me thinking about patterns, lines and colors, even though my one self-imposed “rule” is to not think too much about anything I put in there. Just grab something and start moving over the page. The pages themselves are not plain. This helps keep the flow going and reduces the intimidation an expanse of blank paper can cause. It also simply makes it more interesting to me.

pages made from various items

I took this everywhere with me for over half a year. You can tell.

This was dragged around everywhere with me for over half a year. You can tell.

Drawing in my plaything has become a pleasurable obsession. The latest incarnation of this type of sketchbook-journal-plaything began with a sewn-board bound book (shown here) that I made early last year. I filled it with different kinds of handmade and decorative papers, fragments from outdated science journals, printouts of things like enlarged postage stamps, a postcard, old library catalog cards, and translucent vellum in different colors.

There are small magnets and a metal strip embedded in the laminated page with the pop-up to help keep it closed.

There are small magnets and a metal strip embedded in the laminated page with the pop-up to help keep it closed.

The pop-up page is held tightly closed, thanks to the magnets inside.

The pop-up page is held tightly closed, thanks to the magnets inside.

The binding is actually a bit eccentric. Sewn-board bindings with their drop-down spines aren’t supposed to be thick (it’s usually recommended for books with around a half-inch spine). Plaything number one (with the red spine), however, is more than five times that wide. And I love it. It has a covered spine like a regular book, but the pages fold down flat and are easy to work on. The cloth from the spine automatically folds out of the way when I’m working on it. 

More journal pages with mixed papersI recently (more or less) retired the first one, and have just begun a second sewn-board bound plaything filled with lots of stuff, including photos of foreign money, guilloché patterns, postcards, Yupo, decorative and handmade paper, library catalog cards, lotus-fold pages… It is covered in silk that I made into book cloth. (Local friends — Eureka Fabrics has wonderful silks and cottons that make gorgeous book cloth, and their prices are reasonable for the excellent quality.) It took me weeks to actually make the book, but planning it out has been part of the pleasure.

The Old Icelandic Sagas catalog card is a flashback to my days when I actually did learn a bit of Old English and Old Icelandic. That was in a previous lifetime. It was so long ago the library was still using those catalog cards.

journal page made from a postcard

Handmade papers, paste paper, a postcard …

There’s actually a story behind the silk cover. While adhering the book cloth to the boards, I was very, very careful to wipe all glue quickly from my fingers, and to immediately remove any soiled scrap paper after gluing. I glued with a bad case of bookmaker’s glue paranoia. And so, of course, as soon as the front was adhered, there was a big blob of a stain right to the left of the depression where the label was to go. Impolite things were said.

Sewn-Board Plaything Two

And then I reminded myself that these sorts of accidents invariably lead to something better than what had originally been planned (this really is true). I decided to add a second label to cover up the mess. I tried to impress a recessed area for a label over the stain using my press, but the resulting impression was too feeble for that purpose. And so I put the label on top and added a silk-covered “frame” around it. It worked. To make the other label match, I added a second frame. I put images from Chinese and Danish banknotes in them. Happy things were said.

Handmade journal bound with silk coverAs for size, this one is a pleasingly eccentric nearly 3″ thick. Special considerations come into play when lining the spine of the book block and making the cover when the spine area will drop away that much from the book. But those sorts of small technical details are for another day.

If you’d like more information about making sewn-board books, here are a few links:

  • Bookbinder Henry Hébert usefully details the steps for making them on his blog.
  • Gary Frost, who devised the structure, discusses them here (PDF).
  • A PDF handout from a Karen Hanmer presentation on Drum Leaf and Sewn Board Bindings is available at the Guild of Bookworkers site. Also, the bookbinder Erin Fletcher recently featured Karen on her Flash of the Hand bookbinding blog. This post provides more background to Karen’s GBW presentation.
Sketching things on table in coffee shop

A good way to have coffee.

Do you have a favorite way to keep a journal, sketchbook, daybook or plaything? What do you bring along in your to-go kit?  Have you discovered the perfect drawing tool or organizing device you now can’t live without? Do tell.

Dec 312012
 

2013-Happy-Lucky-New-Year

This is the front of a postcard I concocted in Photoshop for a recent exchange with friends in my local book arts guild, NORBAG. The lucky black cat is Steve the kitten.

The actual item was inkjet printed on plain old Strathmore Bristol which, surprisingly to me, sometimes works quite well for this purpose. And the printouts don’t scratch easily, as they do with coated papers meant for inkjet. It’s not suitable for everything — graphic-type pieces like this tend to come out best.

Happy, lucky New Year everyone!

Aug 082012
 

I’ve been feeling quite a bit under the weather recently while having a lot to get through. I took a break for a while. I hadn’t meant for it to turn into two months.

One of the things on my plate had been yet another appeal to the evil pharmacy management company I’m now forced to get my prescriptions through. This isn’t related to bookbinding or art except on a personal level, since without the medication they’d suddenly denied me, my ability to function even minimally in my studio would’ve been quite up in the air.

Last year, we were under the power of a different company. Last year, I had an approval for a drug that is the difference, for me, between bedridden somnolence from M.S. or being clearheaded enough and having enough stamina to occasionally do things like, say, make a book once in a while. Without coverage, the medication is around $1,000 a month. The difference for me is so dire that we coughed up the money for a couple of months after I ran out and my appeals dragged on. But obviously that was not going to be sustainable.

The pharmacy benefit manager said that no study showed it worked for M.S.-related “fatigue” (which is a whole lot worse than what “fatigue” sounds like). The pharmacy benefit manager lied. Almost all of the research says it works. And the latest research actually shows that it not only helps significantly, but that people like me who take it long-term actually wind up less disabled down the road than people who don’t take it. I finally appealed to the state. And now, what do you know, I was told that not only has my drug been reinstated for me, but that the company is changing their criteria and will now approve it for M.S. It took 7 months to get there and required a lot of research and buying medical journal articles to show how much they’d lied. I’m grateful for me, but am so depressed for others out there who don’t have insurance coverage at all or who don’t have a university background (I was at one time a graduate student in linguistics. I know how to find things.) My doctor was angry and willing to write letters and call too. In all, it was a rotten experience that took a lot out of me for a while.

But not all has been bad. I had a book accepted into the next We Love Your Books show to take place later in the year (more on that soon). And I’m working on my first Book Art Object edition, a board book called Superstition.

And I got a kitten last week. Yes, I decided that three cats weren’t enough. I need to clean cat boxes even more often. I’m well on my way to being a cat lady.

I walked into a pet shop last week and, damn me, I fell in love. I now have four cats, three of them black. His name is Stephen. He’s going on 5 months old and growing by the day. And all he has to do is flash those sweet baby eyes at me and the latest torn up plant in the window is soon forgotten.

As you can see in the photo, he likes to sit on my lap at the computer (which has a weird but wonderful ergonomic keyboard that’s made it possible for me to continue to type in spite of pain in my hands). The mug next to the keyboard, you can’t see, is actually a chipmunk mug.

Little Stevie also likes paper…

I’ve also been indulging an obsession for board books, and will be teaching a workshop on how to make them for my local book arts guild this weekend. More on that and probably a tutorial coming soon (or at least sooner than 2 months from now).

[Update a few years later: I have since been undiagnosed with MS. I still have a neurological disorder and significant fatigue. It just is now nameless.]

Apr 112012
 

My friend Shirley sent me a British children’s book from the 50s that is (more or less) about human evolution. She thought it looked like perfect material for an altered book.

She was right.

A couple of months ago, a call went out from MarinMOCA for their annual altered book show. I got out my scissors. A little natural selection, anyone?

I gutted the book. It has some basic human biology in it as well, but I decided to focus on the evolution bits for the sake of cohesion. I mounted the cutouts with dry adhesive onto stiff paper. Then I arranged the chosen elements into layers.

I cut out several identical black frames from stiff black Strathmore paper and folded two accordions from black German Ingres (the stuff is strong, but thin enough to fold into a nice pliable structure). I anchored the cutouts onto the paper frames.

 

Then I added hinges made of the Ingres onto the back of each frame.

 

I used 3M 415 double-sided tape for mounting. Why use glue when it can be avoided? Especially when there’s a good archival alternative.

 

The downside is it has no open time for repositioning. Stick it once, and it’s there forever. That’ll keep you on your toes. Additionally, I hadn’t made a tunnel book in a long time. I’d forgotten that it can feel like binding a Slinky. Eventually, however, a rhythm emerges and it’s not too bad. Also, I quickly remembered that the best way to handle double-sided tape is to not peel off the backing paper all at once after positioning. It’s best to line up the page into position and then slide the liner off the tape as you go:

 

On the up side, I’d also forgotten how theatrical and fun a finished tunnel book can be, especially a larger one like this.


The finished tunnel is a tight fit into the original cover. If I’d had more time, I might’ve considered altering the spine to fit more properly. On the other hand, this way seems more in the altered book spirit.

I’ve had a few original (not altered) tunnel projects sitting around half finished. Now that my appetite has been whetted, I want to make more tunnels!

If you’re near the San Francisco Bay Area, consider checking out the 3rd Annual Altered Book Show at MarinMOCA in Novato, where Modern Marvels: Man will be on exhibit. It opens April 21. More details are on their website.

Mar 152012
 

…each of the nice people who commented on my last post! To show my appreciation, I am putting my vending machine capsule books into a cookie jar and randomly drawing one for each of you. Thank you all for your comments and good wishes!

I’ve emailed everyone whose mailing addresses I don’t already have. If you think you should’ve been one of those people and haven’t heard from me, please let me know.


Jan 282012
 

They are bad luck to climb on as well.

Heavens. I’m feeling superstitious about my last post mentioning ladders and superstition. Shortly afterwards, I fell off a stepladder. Remarkably little damage was done, considering. I’m ok. Still, a bit unnerving. I’ve been trying to tidy up the studio a bit (which sounds so tame–actually, I can’t work in there at the moment. It’s utter chaos). Perhaps there should be superstitious beliefs about high shelves.

I’d sworn I was not going to commit myself to anything this year. Then I signed up with Book Art Object … and now I just signed up to also do a second 10-book edition for Book Art Object. My second title will be Poison. I’m wondering how strict the definition of “book” is over there. I was originally thinking of another “children’s” board book, but then I started contemplating the medicine bottles filled with capsules I did several years ago. I also recently came into possession of a bunch of discarded psychiatry journals. Possibilities there, somehow? Perhaps not straight capsules, but something similar that provides texts and pictures. Or perhaps something completely different–say, a book about how some people are poison? Just dreaming up ideas at this point. I like this part of the creative process–mad scribbling of ideas and playing around with things to see what might work. And it’s much more enjoyable if I start now, rather than waiting 8 months into the project.

Jan 152012
 

A bit of old news for a few of you, but I’ve joined the international collective Book Art Object for their next edition. It’s rather ambitious this time around. Last I heard, about 50 people have signed up. We are being placed in groups of 8 each.

Each Book Art Object edition uses a literary piece as a starting point. The inspiration for Edition 4 is Sarah Bodman’s artist’s book An Exercise for Kurt Johannessen. More is explained at the BAO site and by Sarah, but the gist is that Johannessen, in his artist’s book Exercises, had suggested a task: write 100 short stories and bury them in a forest. So Sarah did. All that remains are the titles of her stories. Using this as our starting point, we each chose one for our own artist’s book. I chose title #87–Superstition.

We will each make an edition of at least 10 books–one for each in our group, plus one for Sarah Bodman, and an extra (or more, if we desire) for exhibiting.

My good luck charm Larry. He always sleeps with me.

I picked Superstition because the line “One should not dance around ladders nor sleep with black cats” popped into my head as I was looking at the list of titles. I thought it might have potential. After I signed up, it occurred to me that black cats are actually good luck in the UK, where at least one of these books is going to wind up. And I had no idea what sort of luck they are in Australia or Norway, where some of the others will be headed. Hmmm . . .

I posed this question on the BAO blog, and my fellow bookies have offered input. It turns out they are indeed bad luck in Norway (if one crosses your path, you should quickly spit 3 times to ward off the bad luck). But the opinions from Australia seem to be a bit ambivalent. Theoretically, I think they’re supposed to be good luck in Australia, but I’ve been told that traditionally they are known to be bad luck as well. So… either this will turn into a treatise on the nature of black cats and the fortunes they bring depending upon country of origin, or I’ll have to come up with something else. I suspect I’d better come up with something else. I’m still jotting down ideas in my sketchbook.

At any rate, seeing as we recently survived a Friday 13th, this seemed like an appropriate time to mention Superstition. I hope you all had a relatively lucky 13th. Mine was mostly peaceful, aside from a large van backing into my car while I was sitting in it (fortunately, and surprisingly, no damage to me or the car). Perhaps the two black cats waiting for me at home have distant British relations, thus bringing me good luck and improving the outcome.

My other good luck charm, Lila.

Dec 312011
 

I recently took part in a Christmas/Winter Season card exchange with the North Redwoods Book Arts Guild. I felt like playing with spinners, and so concocted a New Year’s card: spin the wheel, then peek inside to find your suggested bookbinding-related resolution. (Click on the pictures to enlarge.)

I’ve personally been finding it hard to feel good about 2012. So I made a more general card for friends here in the US:

Politics aside, I do wish all my friends here, no matter where in the world, a happy New Year!

PS If you were wondering, the arrows came from Alpha Stamps. I put a small nylon washer between card and arrow to keep the metal from scraping the ink. The card was done as a tri-fold, using 3M 415 double-sided tape to hold the front part, including the brad holding the arrow, in place.