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Victorian Pleasures


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Scrapbook cover

My friend Shirl is an ephemera magnet. I don’t know where she finds what she does! We’re talking seriously good ephemera. And she’s also extremely generous, much to my good fortune.

She recently gifted me with a scrapbook from the 1880s. The binding has completely come apart and the spine covering is gone, which, for me, is a large part of its attraction.

Victorian scrapbook spine

Its spine was formed by layers of paper that were folded, accordion-like, to form guards. The folios were inserted into the valleys. It was all sewn together over tapes.

There is only one folio still (barely) attached. It’s a bit hard to make out in the photo, but, if you look carefully, you can see that it had been sewn into the valley.

Spine sewing

There is also a single fabric endband still attached.

Endband

Dang, I just love looking at old deconstructed bindings.

The actual content is marvelous too. It’s a fairly typical Victorian scrapbook filled with advertising cards and whatnot. I plan to photograph or scan some of it later.

Advertising cards in scrapbook

Sweet 16

Advertising ephemera

And, by coincidence, I also recently acquired another Victorian-era treasure. A Webster’s dictionary from 1859! It was being sold in two pieces with a few pages missing, which made it affordable. Aside from that, the pages themselves are in good shape.

dictionary

1859!

In the front there is a section of illustrations (some of which I am later planning to photograph more properly). As you can see in the photo below, some of the “birds” are a bit… interesting… to our modern eyes. (The “fishes” are similarly a bit surreal  — apparently, for example, seals were considered a type of fish.)

The Birds

All the latest in science is here too:

Phrenology

And some botany:

Poppy

Among other things, I was surprised to discover that as relatively recently as 1859, the word “weird” still solely meant something to do with witchcraft.

Weird

It has a handy usage guide too.See Insanity

I also have been enjoying Webster’s essay detailing why, for instance, he has taken the “u” out of words like “colour.” “That Johnson,” you can almost imagine Webster sighing and shaking his head as he wrote.

We took the u out of colour

 

Ground Squirrel

The Paper Ground Squirrel somehow doesn’t have quite the same ring…

Note: if you want a close-up look of any of these, click on the photo. It will take you to another page where it won’t look any bigger. However, if you click on it again from the other page, it will then display a larger version. Sorry for the inconvenience of having to click twice. It’s the native WordPress way, apparently.

Connections


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Home is in that orange-shaded portion of California.
http://www.crew.org/science/pgaall.html

Days before the terrible earthquake in Japan, I’d had a conversation with a friend about the massive subduction quake that we are overdue for here in our part of the world. He’d taken a class from a famous geologist who specializes in earthquakes. He talked about how it will be around 9 on the Richter and how the shaking will go on for minutes, not seconds as in most earthquakes. The tsunami it will unleash will wipe out some of the lower-lying towns almost instantaneously. We will be cut off from the outside world for weeks afterward due to damaged highways and bridges, likely with no power and maybe no water. I expressed my desire to be long gone when this event occurs. The thought is too horrific to contemplate, even as we live every day with the knowledge that it could very well happen here at any time in the Cascadia Subduction Zone. And then…

When I moved to Humboldt County in the late 80s, I became friends with a woman who had two girls, the younger being 2 at the time. We were in the same anthropology class that required spending a chunk of the semester at the zoo watching the primates for a term project. I remember us meeting there. My friend spread out a blanket and we worked while the “baby” napped, then we took her around the zoo to look at the animals when we were done. While still a student I wound up living just behind them. We became good friends and kept in touch over the years. The toddler at the zoo is now a married university graduate. She’s incredibly smart, creative and quirky in all the best ways. And bilingual too.

Kyoto

She is currently living with her husband in northern Japan, working with a cultural exchange program. After the earthquake, there were a couple of tense days here in California as we waited for news. Even her friends in Japan started posting notes on Facebook, wondering if she was ok. She doesn’t live right on the coast, but isn’t that far from the epicenter. She’d mentioned visiting Sendai before. It was, to put it mildly, an unnerving experience.

At last, she was able to get a line out–she and her husband were ok!

I’ve been to Japan once, many years ago to Kyoto. I arrived not sure what I’d think of the place, and left enthralled. Thinking about what’s happening in that country now is painful.

Before the quake, I’d planned to briefly mention Japan in my next post. I have a link to something there that relates to a current project. Next time…

My New Good Luck Piece


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© Natalie DiCostanzo

My local long-time friend Natalie is a fantastic ceramic artist. We recently had a discussion about kiln gods. Since I’m not a ceramicist, I wasn’t familiar with them. They are, it turns out, pieces that are made to be placed on the kiln as a sort of good luck offering for the firing. She’d recently made some talisman pieces based on this idea.

The other day on an impulsive whim, I walked into the Arcata Artisans Cooperative Gallery where she has her work and bought one that caught my eye. I figured a talisman to appease the arts gods might be just the thing I was needing.

Minutes later on my way back to the car, I stopped in at Northtown Books just down the street. As soon as I got through the door, they placed an order for a bunch of greeting cards of my old collages. The order covered the cost of my talisman.

I like this talisman idea.

I also like our independent bookstores. Humboldt folks take note: if you want something quickly, consider getting it locally. I recently placed a special order from Northtown in the early Saturday evening of a long holiday weekend. It arrived by Tuesday. This, in an isolated place where even “overnight” delivery often takes two nights. I don’t know how they do it. Plus, they are really nice people.

And if you happen to pop into Northtown in Arcata, or Eureka Books in Eureka (who, I should add, can also order things for you) my talisman suggests you check out the greeting cards, especially the ones with the mosaic collages on them, like this one here. . .
paper mosaic collage image
You’re Here  © Ellen Golla

Be Careful What You Take to Bed With You


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Nearing completion.

How ironic that I started this book/object before the situation I mentioned in my last post. Next time I get the urge to portray sharks circling something, I will take note.

Before I go further, I want to thank, from the bottom of my heart, my legitimate readers and friends for their support and encouragement. I’ve been deeply moved by the kind comments, messages and emails that I’ve received since I last posted. It’s been a bright spot during an otherwise dark time, and has meant a lot to me. Thank you.

Lovely washi.

On a happier note, I have a book project to share. I’ve finally been able to get back in the studio a bit, and have been on a Japanese paper binge. If you dip pieces of it into paste (in this case, rice starch paste) and remove the excess, you can form the  paper into almost anything. Leave it on waxed paper to dry, and you can have, for instance, miniature billowing drapes.

And what’s especially lovely is that it is non-toxic. I wouldn’t want to dip my bare hands in acrylic medium or PVA, but rice starch and distilled water? I feel like a kindergartner with something really cool and slimy.

Sticky slime! Dip into the paste, then run the paper
through fingers to remove the excess. Then shape.
After drying.
Curtains!
Arranging.
Be Careful What You Take to Bed With You.

Lambeth Surprise


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A good friend recently went to Wales and England for a visit. The Lambeth Palace Library was on her itinerary. This is the historic library and record office of the Archbishops of Canterbury and is the principal repository of Church of England historical documents. It’s one of the earliest public libraries in England. It was founded in 1610.

They are currently having an exhibition of rare manuscripts and documents in celebration of the library’s 400th anniversary. It sounded like a stroll in paradise for book lovers.

Today I got an unexpected box in the mail. Nestled inside among all sorts of wonderful books and ephemera from the UK was a shrink-wrapped copy of the lushly illustrated Lambeth Palace Library Exhibition catalogue. Oh my!

Thanks K!

This is a spread from Petrus Apianus’s Cosmographia from 1529, which shows a movable volvelle that could be used to tell the time in any latitude.

Robin Robin


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My friend Robin Robin died on Friday. He’d been ill, but stable. This came as quite a shock.
Robin was an incredible commercial and portrait photographer with a career that included long stints in Los Angeles and Paris. We met after I’d had a bad experience with another local commercial photographer. Finding someone who really knew how to take professional quality larger format transparencies of artwork in this rural place was difficult. The transparencies were a necessity so I could get images of my paper mosaic collages reproduced. My work also has a glossy sheen to it that makes it difficult to photograph. I hired Robin to retake all of the 4 x 5s of my collage artwork. He did a stellar job of it. His wife Stephanie was his constant companion in the studio, as well as elsewhere, and we hit it off in a big way.

Without Robin’s quality transparencies, I likely could not have kept my work with the Bridgeman Art Library. When I had my last solo show, Robin showed up, tripod in hand, to get pictures of the gallery. It was Stephanie who, indirectly, led me to get involved with the book arts world. They both have had a huge impact on my life here. They have also simply been good friends.

A few years ago, Robin had an idea for a photography show at the local museum (if you click the link, scroll down to February). He wanted to do portraits of local artists. He wanted me to be one of them. The day of the shoot, he had Stephanie sit near me as he took the photos. As I’m sure he knew we would, we got each other in hysterics laughing (I remember I was telling her about my fantasy plastic lawn ornament, a mating turkey decoy — don’t ask how we wound up there). As soon as I started gasping with laughter, he started snapping. Dang him. Then I learned further details about the show. He was planning to make the portraits wall-sized. “Robin,” I nearly screamed, “you didn’t tell me you wanted to be f’ing Chuck Close!” Grudgingly, I had to admit they were the best pictures I’d ever seen of myself. Robin let me have copies of the proofs to use for promo purposes and whatnot.

One day a few years ago I was fishing some locally grown carrots out of a bag. I pulled out a multi-legged mutant that was so funny my husband and I were nearly writhing in tears at the sight of it. I wanted a picture. Then I remembered we’d be seeing Robin and Stephanie the next day. Robin could get a better snapshot of it than I could.

I should’ve known better. Robin took it to his studio and did a set of portraits, even rubbing it with oil to give it a nice sheen. To this day I can’t look at a carrot without thinking of Robin’s photos. I joked with him that he could even make a carrot look sexy, but it wasn’t far from the truth. He was amazing with a camera. And he was the sort of person one would feel lucky to have for a friend. He’s going to be terribly missed.

Papermaking Day


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I never used to understand the appeal of making paper. Rip up a sheet of paper, put it in a blender and make… a sheet of paper! How exciting. I stuck to found and purchased papers and left the wet stuff to other folks.

Then one day a long while back I got curious. I made a primitive mould and deckle with some screen, tore up some old junk mail, shoved the pieces in a blender with some water…and made some surprisingly cool-looking papers. I was hooked.

I eventually got a pour-style mould and some dried sheets of different kinds of pulps from Carriage House Paper. I discovered the thrill of experimenting with various (and sometimes strange) inclusions and the joy of running one’s fingers through a vat of cool proto-paper slush.

On the other hand, it can be a tiring process. I went for a long time without doing it. Then recently my friend Michele wanted to start making paper. I loaned her some books, which was all well and good, but what she most wanted, please, was a demo of that pour mould. And so I pulled out the old papermaking paraphernalia.

We got some especially interesting results with a mix of blue jean and sisal pulps, which I’d been rehydrating since the day before. Michele is a hoot. She’s a former mathematician, and at one point in the process she expressed out loud her desire to have a math book to deface–this paper would sure be improved with some equations! Said I, gazing at my pile of university library discards, “Would physics do?”

The results are still drying under clamps and boards. I can’t wait.

Wheels for Big and Small


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A beloved friend passed away last month. He’d been ill. It wasn’t a surprise. But still very sad. He’d been a BIG person…in every way. Big personality, big physical presence. Before he’d become too sick, he’d also been a gunsmith. Imagine a very large, loud-voiced (often spewing loud expletives) guy working away in the gun shop. I used to delight in sending him birthday cards each year that were childlike, such as one with a crayon stick-figure drawing of him holding a pistol and saying “Bang! Bang!” We were opposites, but we’d always had a lot of affection for each other.

One birthday, my juvenile “card” offering was a Matchbox car that I’d glued a trailing banner onto, with the words to Happy Birthday written out. The tiny banner was rolled up and tied to the roof, to be untied and unrolled for reading. I was told later that one of his young grandsons was enthralled with the car and  wanted to play with it every time he visited. The little guy was gently told it wasn’t really a toy, so he should only just look at it. (My, did I feel mean!)

Recently, I needed some kind of birthday cards for a set of twins, children of another friend, who were turning 7. I decided to make a couple of the banner cars. I found matching Matchbox cars and customized them for each boy. They were well received.

Come springtime when his own birthday rolls around, I have a suspicion that my friend’s grandson will be getting his very own happy birthday car just like the one his bampa had. And it will come with explicit instructions that he should be allowed to do whatever he darn well pleases with it (although I’m sure his bampa wouldn’t have said “darn”). This is part of my unofficial campaign to plant subliminal thoughts in my friends’ children that art can be fun. It doesn’t have to be serious. Silly is good, no matter what size you are.

Joan Gold’s New Blog


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My painter friend Joan just launched her first blog. Joan is a master colorist. Color and composition are what her works are all about—pure, joyful color. Imagine being in a room surrounded by big paintings that look like these, and tell me it wouldn’t afterward make you want to race straight to your own studio (or other preferred art-making space). It’s like listening to music that compels you to dance. Even though my own work is so completely different, and even in different media, I find Joan’s studio and her shows quite inspiring. They connect to that primal part of my brain that lusts for texture, color and the smell of paint.

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