She’s Alive!

These aren't the cat's.
These aren’t the cat’s.

Hmm… it seems if a gal mentions her physical maladies on her blog and then disappears for several months, some kind readers will begin to worry. Thank you to those who’ve contacted me, and apologies if I still haven’t gotten back to you! I haven’t forgotten.

Yes, things caught up with me. Ours is a dual-degenerative-malady household (triple if we include the elderly cat — his pill dispenser has its own spot between ours). Things, alas, get “interesting” from time to time.

There was also an out-of-town jaunt to a Big City Academic Medical Center somewhere in there too. (Short answer: whatever I have, it’s rare. But they don’t know what I have.) A similar excursion is coming in the near future. It’s likely to be as futile as the last, even as the tests they plan to run seem ever more exotic.

Fortunately, there’s a great art supply place with a mind-numbingly huge paper selection not far from the Big City Academic Medical Complex. It’s also staffed by incredibly nice people. I discovered this when I, dead tired, drove away and left my cane standing in their parking lot. They took good care of it for me until I could return the following day. In fact, they were all so nice when I came back, what could I do, but buy some more papers to thank them?

One day when things were becoming particularly overwhelming, my dear friend Shirl showed up and whisked me away to one of our favorite haunts, the delightful Dollhouses, Trains and More in Marin County for some toy shopping. She knows what soothes my heart. The minute I saw this precious little empty store counter, I knew I wouldn’t be filling it with Fimo candies.

Candy Counter
Candy Counter.

She also urged me to get this lovely tableau for the studio. How can you not love someone like that?

Studio Tableau

Studio Tableau Close-up

But life goes on. I’ll be back soon to tell you about some nifty laminated papers I recently made, my latest plaything-journal-sketchbook, and my progress on the Book Art Object editions. I’m also working on some sketchbook models with an eye to putting together a workshop. Let’s just hope things stay relatively “uninteresting.”

Sketchbooks and Playthings

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.

Studio Décor

Big stamps above worktable

We’ve been having so much fun around here. Half the roof had to be replaced. A rain storm happened in the middle of the roof replacement. The tarp didn’t work in one spot.

The water mess is mostly cleaned up now — mostly — but it has meant even less time in the studio. No studio time and lots of loud noise and lack of sleep makes for a grumpy Chipmunk.

I needed to get less grumpy. It was time for simple, mindless paper crafting and a small amount of studio decorating.

There’s one patch of unused wall above a drafting table. It’s too high and inaccessible for a shelf. I’d thought I might hang something decorative there, but had never gotten around to it.

If you scan something quite small, such as a postage stamp, at a high resolution you can turn it into something considerably larger with no loss of image quality. These stamps were scanned at their usual size at 3200 dpi, then resized to roughly 12 x 18″ at 300 dpi — perfect for printing on a 13″ wide printer.

I have a lot of stamps.

Big stamps

Atoms for Peace

 

What do people post? Cute cat photos, of course.

I’m behind with everything. Among other things, I’m still working on the BAO editions, which I’d absolutely planned to have done and mailed by now. Being chronically sick often means turning into the sort of irritating, antisocial flake I never planned to be.

Steve watching TV
But I also had to take some time out to tame the studio a bit. I simply couldn’t work in there anymore. I plan to post some pictures later of my organizational progress. For now, I am getting back to assembling books. I’m currently folding … and folding … lots of pages.

I’ve also made a new banner and spiffed up the blog a bit, you might have noticed.

Steve bird watchingIn the meantime, I thought I’d post a couple pics of my cat Steve. What else is the internet for, if not for cute cat photos? If you’ve been following for a while, you might remember that he came to us last year as a little 4-month old kitten. As you can see, he is now a strapping 12+ pound cat who loves to watch TV.

A few nights ago he sat mesmerized for a full half hour in front of a documentary about tigers (until the scene where a cub killed his first prey — then he went wild with excitement and started tearing at his feather toys).

Here, he is enjoying one of his favorite YouTube videos. What does this have to do with books or paper? I haven’t a clue. It’s just one of those cat lady things.

I like paper… but…

These other paper aficionados have set up house right over one of my studio’s windows. Oh dear.

My new neighbors.
My new neighbors.

Update: There are two of them. One on either side of the house. The other is high up in a redwood. We’ve decided to let them stay… for now. We’ve been told they are mellow paper wasps, as opposed to the scary hornets we had a few years ago. Even so, I sure don’t want to offend them.

Nest Number 2

Next to the Window
Outside the window.

A missed opportunity, plus a medical minute

Walking the maze of the medical establishment.
Walking the maze of the medical establishment.

A couple of days ago I was sitting in the consulting room of a neurologist. The neurologist wasn’t actually present at that very moment. I was waiting for her to get done looking at my MRIs in another part of the building. I looked at the reading material left sitting out on the counter for patients. They were cute little board books shaped like brains and heads, featuring things like pictures of MRI machines, CT scanners and drawings of an unhappy-looking woman clutching her migrainous head in despairing need of the pharmaceutical promoted within the thick, laminated and quaintly-shaped pages.

Yes — board books! Now, I love board books, and my medical inanity-inspiration-seeking muse was positively getting giddy. Yet, in this context … there’s just something about being a patient that is so rather infantilizing. Would there be coloring books featuring brain lesions as well?

Spiraling out of control.
Spiraling out of control.

Speaking of such (brain lesions, not coloring books), I was here seeking the opinion of yet another neurologist because my last MRI was, apparently, interesting. They’re now not sure exactly what condition I actually have. Bless the neurologist’s refreshing honesty. She said, not in these exact words, that she’d be consulting with Dr. Google to see if she could come up with any ideas.

Is there a point to any of this?
Is there a point to any of this?

At any rate, I seriously need to get back into the mindset of a blogger. In spite of the little camera that had been sitting in my bag, I hadn’t thought to photograph an arrangement of the board books until after I’d already left the medical complex. Such a wasted opportunity!

In related news, I recently made a little drum-leaf book for We Love Your Books‘ latest exhibition, Point. It is about how pointless it all seems chasing after medical specialists’ opinions. Since I have no images of quaint pharmaceutical-medical board books to show you, I’ll give you some images of my Point book instead.

The Point of This

 

Paste Paper Workshop (Making Paste for a Crowd)

Last Saturday I taught a paste paper workshop for NORBAG, our local book arts guild. Happily, they are all nice people and most of them are used to my eccentricities. Even so, I barely arrived in time for my own workshop(!) after a little paste (among others) malfunction. It wasn’t that the paste didn’t cook well–it did–it was that I hadn’t realized that if you make 24 times the usual amount of something, it takes longer to come to a simmer and can be a bit unwieldy. Silly me. I’d never taught this big a paste painting class before.

Dominic watchingAt some point during the kitchen proceedings Dominic the cat hopped up onto the refrigerator to get a better view. He looked positively spooked. I was awake (well… maybe more animated than awake) much earlier than usual, stirring a vat of paste and muttering things under my breath. Maybe in his earlier days as a stray he’d heard stories about strange women, cauldrons and cats…

I had fun thinking of things to bring to the workshop, in terms of tools. I found some interesting rollers at an educational supply place and at a ceramics supplier. I wanted the workshop to provide more than the usual chipboard comb and cheap paper. And I wanted it to be a little eccentric. I wanted to convey the joy of being experimental and using unusual things to make marks in paint. So, along with the commercial rollers and rubber dog combs, etc., I assembled a kit for everyone with some weird, and not quite so weird, finds from the hardware and dollar stores. It looked like something kids might get for craft time at a somewhat deranged day camp. Perfect!

A glimpse of our work space

We were very fortunate that a church in town kindly allowed us to use their large facility. We not only had room to comfortably fit 24 and all their painting gear, but we also had yet another room in which to dry their output. Anyone who’s ever taken or taught a paste painting class knows how the amount of wet paper grows exponentially! This space was almost too good to be true.

Things were such a whirlwind that I neglected my bloggerly duties. I only remembered my camera after everyone was packing up and taking away their papers! Yike! So I hobbled around in a frenzy snapping pics of what was left. There were some really impressive papers there, far more than what I was able to get snaps of. I left with new ideas for patterns I’d like to try myself.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to identify the makers of all of the papers. If you were in the class and recognize yours and would like to be credited here, let me know.

Blue chains and combing
Great use of a patterned roller and combs.
magenta-and-ultramarine-stamped-grid
Combing and stamping by Dolores G.
brownish-comb-waves
Nice comb waves.
blue-comb-and-reen
A bit Art Deco-ish.
light-brown-roller
Grace M. did this with a patterned roller.
purple-combed
Grouting comb!
red-bursts-and-blue-roller-and-comb
So colorful. The blue one on the right was partly made with a roller.
red and purple combed
Different ways of using combs.
orange-chains-and-2-toned-combs
Neat.
Blue comb twists
Nice comb twists by Grace M.
green-duralar
We did a few on transparent Dura-Lar and Yupo, too. This one was done by Dolores G.
purple
Interesting comb pattern by Dolores G.

And an especially huge thank you to everyone there who helped set up, lug around heavy tables and unload and load my car! It went well beyond the call of helping out.

PS In case you were wondering, I discovered it takes 4- 5 cups of cornstarch to make paste for 24.

 

Publishing News

It's here!
The Blue Notebook, Vol 7 No. 2

Much to my surprise, a few months ago I was asked if I’d like to contribute an artist’s page to the next edition of The Blue Notebook.

Hmmm… did I want to be in the book arts journal The Blue Notebook? I was already designing the page in my head as I typed back that, yeah, I think I’d like to do that(!). I was told that I could do anything I wanted with my page. But they were also kind of hoping I might do something based around The Literary Cure.

The Literary Cure is what I call my prescription bottle of “Codex” capsules (there’s a photo of it in the gallery). Each capsule of “Codex” contains a miniature book. There are 20 capsules in each bottle. It was an edition of five.

Each copy of The Literary Cure also includes a patients’ informational insert (I wrote about the making of the insert here). For my artist’s page, I decided to show the text of an insert with a photo of a bottle of Codex.

My copy of the journal recently arrived. I was not expecting to to find my page right at the center fold. Oh my!

The center spread!

Coincidentally, in this same issue Emma Powell wrote an article about her work with We Love Your Books and about some some of the artists who’ve contributed to the WLYB exhibits over the years, including yours truly. I felt quite honored, especially since there are some others there whose work I have admired for quite a while.

Emma Powell's article about We Love Your Books.
Emma Powell’s article about We Love Your Books.
That name looks familiar...
Hmm… that name again.

Among other things I like in this edition is an interview with Helen Douglas, who was commissioned to create a work in 2012 as part of Reflective Histories: Contemporary Art Interventions at Traquair House. She made a manuscript book echoing the small devotional books in the library at Traquair, which is the oldest inhabited house in Scotland. The pictures of the book that are included with the interview are exquisite (unfortunately, I couldn’t find any photos of it freely available online). As always with The Blue Notebook, it takes a while to get through all the interesting stuff in it. I’m really delighted to have been included in this last issue.