Jun 132015
 

Doctor Learning EmpathyThe last time I posted, months ago, I’d been feeling optimistic about the latest doctor I was seeing at UCSF. He’d seemed interested and respectful, unlike some of the others. But then his tests came back without an obvious explanation for my abnormal brain MRIs and corresponding increasing debility.

He quickly became disinterested and dismissive. I’ll spare you the details. But it was depressing.

Not long after that awful, demoralizing appointment, I found a little cloth doll at a craft store. My immediate thought was, of course, “Voodoo doll!”

Then, the last time my friend Shirl and I were at our favorite supply shop, Dollhouses, Trains and More in Novato, I found a cute little stethoscope. It fit my voodoo doll perfectly.

One of the things the dismissive doc dismissed was the pain I described that feels like burning pins on the bottoms of my feet. Some days I can barely stand to wear socks. Or, come to think of it, even barely stand. He said it didn’t mean anything.

Empathy is an important quality in a doctor, wouldn’t you agree?

Teaching a Doctor Empathy

However, in spite of the “experts” at UCSF, I might now actually have a diagnosis.

Sort of.

I visited a dear friend last week. She mentioned she’d recently found an amusing 70s-style tarot deck among her late husband’s things. She was delighted to know that I like tarot cards. “Pull a few!” she suggested.

And this is what I got:

A Diagnosis

Hey, I said as I turned over the second card, “Those are nightshades! That’s really funny. I can’t eat those. I’m allergic to nightshades.” We looked up the card in the the guidebook that came with the deck. It helpfully explained that people who follow a macrobiotic diet believe these are basically poison, but most people can eat them just fine. (Except for Ellen!, we laughed.)

After that was a card that said, “What’s Happening?”

Then the final card said “I come from a different planet.” Hmmm…. The guidebook explained that my memories were erased at birth, so I don’t remember. But I’m actually a space alien.

I figure it’s as good an explanation as any. Don’t you agree?

Feb 032015
 

I thought I’d share a few random details from my natural habitat (aka The Studio). And, just like my studio, it will have no particular order.

This shelf features a few parody “pharmaceuticals,” among other things. There are also bottles from real (now withdrawn from the market) pharmaceuticals I’ve actually been prescribed, as well as souvenirs from when my husband was sent to (the now infamous) Dr. Moon of Redding many years ago… The purple rubber kidney was a gift from a good friend in memory of her late husband who’d been on dialysis.

This is another shelf. It features… stuff.

Bookends with flat backs make excellent little shelves when mounted to the wall.

Below is another bookend shelf… among other things. There’s enough room on the bookend to fit a large plastic raven:

Thread… Almost as bad a fetish as the one I have for paper. I have come to appreciate the difference good, beautiful thread makes on the overall quality and look of a handmade book. And, at least for me, a spool can last for years. *Supply note below.

Plastic drawers are a bit of a fetish too. This is a close-up of the one above near the raven. (Yes, the proximity of “Knives” to “First Aid” was intentional).

This little roll holder is made from a large paper clip. It’s attached to one of those wire shelves that hangs under a shelf. The receipt paper is great for notes and for folding mock-ups of book pages.

Nearby hangs a metal strip with some magnets. The magnets are strong enough to hold some of my tools. These needles are a pack of darners sized 1-5 from the craft store. They’re cheap and work well for bookbinding. (Although Buechertiger has also gotten me into harness needles, which are not so cheap, but, depending upon the size, are strong, nice and big (but not too big) and dull-ended — perfect for someone with clumsy hands like me. Still, I have a fondness as well for my darners.

Mesh desktop organizers are great for holding rulers, and it’s easy to put screws through them for hanging. This one is hanging from a shelf. There’s another, smaller one meant for holding business cards mounted next to it. It holds bone folders.

Friends to keep me company…

(This blog began in 2009 with a post about the black widows in the studio. Spiders have been a running theme for a long time.)

Evidence of actual work in (on again-off again) progress. I really have not forgotten about those Book•ArtObject editions! Life has interfered in great ways with me getting them finished. But my goal for this year is to finally do that. This is Superstition. Or, rather, the second time around with Superstition. I almost finished the entire edition well over a year ago, but a technical disaster (among other things) struck. It all had to be scrapped and redone. A tale of angst I have not yet brought myself to write about.

Here’s also a sneak peak of “Poison,” which is a little simpler to assemble. I’m hoping to finish it first.

Yes — they really are printed, and have been for over a year (the copyright date printed on them is 2013!). Alas, extended time in the studio when I’ve been lucid enough to work has been hard to come by. As it stands, more delays are ahead, including another scheduled visit to my favorite far away medical complex(es)… But I do plan to be gluing some “Poison” spines before then (… she types, while knocking on her wooden desk).

*Supply note: An excellent source for high-quality unwaxed (and other) linen threads is Buechertiger’s supply shop on Etsy. We’re friends (full disclosure), but I’m also a happy customer.

Aug 192012
 

We all know we should be changing our knife blades frequently. Dull blades make displeasing cuts and are more likely to harm you. But it’s a nuisance to stop in the middle of working to wrap each blade for proper disposal (and we do this, of course, because we care about our trash collectors and the roaming animals sampling our bins on garbage night… right?).

Or else the blades sit out on our work tables waiting to be disposed of. Need I even mention why this is not such a good idea?

There is a better way. If you don’t have one already, consider making yourself an arts ‘n crafts sharps collector. Get a container with a tight-fitting lid. Something like a margarine container will work.

Cut a slit in the lid that will comfortably fit your blades. Securely attach the lid to the container.

And since this is for arts ‘n crafts, you might want to appropriately decorate your new item. At the very least you should write on it to make it clear it has dangerous sharp things in it. (And, of course, this is only for adult-friendly workspaces! Very dangerous, not a plaything, use caution, blades are sharp, you have been duly warned, I’m not legally responsible if anything bad happens, etc.)

I made this one here several years ago. It’s one of the most used things in my studio. I’ve been dumping all my old scalpel and rotary blades in here for all that time, and there’s still room for more. (Although I have to slip off the lid for the big rotary blades.) Nothing has ever cut through or poked out of the plastic container, but I’m sure that doesn’t mean it still couldn’t at some point.

When it’s full, I might carefully seal the blades in a sturdy container and dispose of it in a garbage company-approved manner. Or I might fill a jar with all these scalpel blades and keep it as a decorative piece in the studio.

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.

 

Oct 052011
 

This sign used to hang in the local laundromat. I do my wash at home these days, but perhaps I should post my own friendly reminder above the washer and dryer.

Although I’d assume this isn’t quite as bad as doing the laundry with ammo, I’d think that putting a pocket full of scalpel blades through the wash isn’t a good idea either.

(Picture of laundry sign found here.)

Sep 022011
 

Tip of the day: if one has difficulties with concentration, one should not watch TV while gluing together pages of a book. One might discover, after the books have dried, that some of them are missing pages. Just sayin’.

I’ve finally almost assembled (reassembled?) an edition of 15 petri dish books. The title is Mysophobia: Mainstream Culture. The pages are individual circles that were scored and glued together at the side.

I’ve discovered that scrapbooking toys have their uses. My 3″ circle punch is now my friend. And… I can’t believe I’m admitting this on the Internet… the Martha Stewart score thingie. I remember seeing this very item in a store a while back and sneering. Then came the need to score lots of circular book pages. I could’ve done it with a ruler or a jig. But then I read this blog post from Ginger Burrell. I have to agree; it’s a nifty tool. Who’d have thought…?

The book is about modern germ paranoia. The “cultures” are paste paint and acrylic paintings that I manipulated in Photoshop. I find it fascinating how behavior that is now seen as normal would’ve, not long ago, been seen as compulsive and disordered. I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere, but here in the US–at least where I live–every big store now seems to have disinfectant wipes at the door. Anti-bacterial soaps are big business. Yet, do we actually get fewer communicable illnesses these days? I doubt it. Outside of a health care context, all this disinfectant wiping and dousing comes across as some sort of quaint evil-repelling ritual.

Of course, ironically, all the evidence suggests this germ phobia is only creating more antibiotic-resistant germs.

   

Oct 112010
 

I’ve been away. I had to travel to a big University of California medical campus for what turned out to be some ok help from one department, and some patronizing and dispiriting non-help from another.

Alas, feeling down and wanting to console myself, I did a little shopping. Large universities, especially ones with big science programs, have bookstores with esoteric goodies. Coming all this way, at least I could pick up a few petri dishes, slide holder cases and watch glasses for later. I have some slides at home and was wondering what I could sandwich between them in the semi-translucent holders.

I think some of the petri dishes will become “cards” for friends. I’m trying to figure out what to use to write inside them that will suggest fuzzy and/or semi-translucent blobs of cultured bacterial matter. Suggestions are welcome.

The student checking me out at the bookstore asked if I was doing an experiment. “No, I’m an insane artist and I’m going to use these to make bacterial-looking birthday cards.” His face brightened considerably.

Sep 272010
 

Book cloth making time! I first did a few sheets following the directions I learned a long time ago from a book, using rice starch paste. Then I experimented a bit.

[Please be patient and try not to get confused, since I took pictures at various times when I was doing different cloths. We might jump around from florals to squirrels without notice.]

First, you need a smooth flat surface to work on. I’ve saved my old worn-out cutting mats and use the back sides of those. Spritz the cloth with water–get it good and damp. Smooth it out with the right side of the fabric facing down:

On a piece of scrap paper (here, newsprint), brush an even layer of paste onto the backing paper, which should be just a bit larger than your piece of cloth. Always brush from the center out to the edges and be sure not to miss any spots. I’m using basic Japanese kozo:
Smooth backing paper, paste side down, over the fabric:
Using a dry brush helps smooth the paper:
As does using a rolled up towel to tamp down the paper onto the fabric. This also, especially, helps create a better bond between fabric and paper:
I also use another method to smooth down the paper onto the fabric, but almost hesitate mentioning it. This could potentially stretch your fabric and push too much glue onto the side of the fabric you don’t want it on. That said, carefully using a roller (going, as you always should, from center outward towards the edges) will give you incredibly smooth and well-bonded book cloth (for some fabrics, you might not even want it that smooth):
The original method I was taught was that one should now carefully turn and smooth the book cloth over onto a new, clean surface, right-side up, then paste around the edges to hold it down flat as it dries:
From recent experience, I can report that this is also an excellent way to drop your wet, newly-made cloth and ruin it. (I did not take a pic for posterity.)
So what I started to do was just leave the cloths in place–don’t 
touch!–right-side down to dry, without an extra turning step. (Do you know why we are supposed to turn over the cloth? Does not turning increase the likelihood of paste getting onto the side of the fabric you don’t want it on?) Regardless, I’ve found that, at least for the dropping-prone, the leave it alone method works:
When dry, peel it off, trim off the extra paper edging and voilà–book cloth: