Blackout Meditations

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As regular readers know I have been doing these blackout pages as part of my studio practice for well over a decade now. I started doing them as an inexpensive way to center myself as I started work in the studio. Many artists have routines that help them reach their creative place – blackout meditation is one of mine. My studio is on the third floor of my home, and as a new art school graduate, I found I needed a transition between my “real” life and my artist life. Blackout meditations became that transition for me, a way to clear my head and begin. They help to trick my inner censor – “nothing to see here – just a doodle on an old book page – no “serious” art happening here!” Over time I can trace my thoughts and preoccupations in these pages. You can search here on the blog for more examples, use the word blackout in the search box, and see other examples over on my website here.

Right now the world is turned upside down, I find my brain is in constant fight or flight mode and it is exhausting. Making a simple page meditation gives me a few moments of calm when I am absolutely absorbed in what I am doing. And some days I am even calm enough to get to work in my studio.

I get a lot of questions about this part of my practice, and so this week’s art in the time of corona virus is a really quick little video tutorial. I outline my basic process, but since it is a “made up” process I hope you will make it your own. If you decide to make one (or a few – be warned it can be addictive!) I hope you will tag me on your @debeck01 on instagram or use the hashtag #blackoutmeditation so I can see your work too!

Benny was a good boy

Back in 2019, fellow artist and amazing photographer Cathy Panebianco approached me about a project. She had a beautiful series of images memorializing her late pup Benny, and wanted to create a unique home for them in a book.

We started by leafing through stacks of images of other artists books to get an idea of what she liked. And then I created a couple of structures for us to examine together. She liked one that was based on an exploding box.

From there, and after an embarrassing interval of time had passed, I made a second mock up, this time using better materials, so we could work out some structural elements.

Anyone who knows Cathy will know that turquoise is her signature color, and Benny shared that with her, as his collar was turquoise. So the next step was to track down and order some turquoise leather.

And here’s the point in the story where the work really slows down. I rarely work with leather, and creating a multi dimensional box covered in leather was going to be a big stretch for me. We ordered two skins, but I knew there would be little room for error. So, I procrastinated by sending some of the leather off to Canada, to Rhonda, to be embossed with the title.

Here it is on the lid of the box

And then, well, then I stared at that leather for a really long time. I watched some video tutorials on working with leather. I moved the leather around the studio. And every day the pressure mounted to just get to work and do it. Finally I dug in. And although I’m sure many fine binders and conservators could find much to fault, I was very pleased with the final result.

On the bench, almost completed
Pretty proud of the corners on the lid!
Beautiful moon paper from Andrea at hook pottery paper inside the lid

It was an adventure, and I learned a lot about working with leather. I can’t thank Cathy enough for trusting me with this precious project!

Wow!

In an effort to shake my continuing lack of work in the studio I signed up for what turned out to be an incredible online conference “Form and Function from Afar” hosted by bookpaperthread.com

The presentations were really great, and I found myself getting a little motivated to try a few new things. But even better was the opportunity to see friends from the book arts I’ve missed and to see the work of so many new artists and makers.

I learned this folded triangle book structure.

Ant then, something really extraordinary happened. Having plucked up the courage to share a book in the forum, it was seen and purchased for the collections at Emory University. Someone bought one of my artists books! In fact, they acquired this book, Women’s Work. I am so thrilled that it has a forever home where it will be seen! So a huge thank you goes out to all the women who shared their unfinished to-do lists with me, the Turkey Land Cove Foundation for the residency where I first imagined this book, and to Elizabeth Shoemaker for selecting my work. And to everyone who has cheered me on and supported me in my journey.

So 2021 is starting off so much more hope filled. Hooray!

new year – new goals

It feels rather like tempting fate to be posting any goals after 2020, but I’m going to throw caution to the wind and do it!

a snowflake inspired binding on my studio bench

To be honest, I didn’t think I had any studio goals after last year – which was a real wash for me, I had a hard time getting motivated to do ANY creative work, but a friend of mine suggested I try taking a free workshop on art goal setting with Art NXT Level and it turned out that lurking inside me was a goal I have been pushing to the bottom of the list for years – to finally gather all my notes, samples and diagrams, and publish a book on sewing my “bindings as embroidery”

So I have set to work. I am hoping to gather up one or two bindings a month, so by the end of the year I should be able to put them into book form. So far I have revised the instructions for one of the first books I ever made, called bound, it featured a simple repeated chain pattern. You can see some of my struggles with that binding, many years ago here. And here’s the simplified version sewn on a spine like a long stitch binding.

I’m also revisiting the maple binding I used for this book, Maple, yeah I know – not the most imaginative title writer here!

So I guess stay tuned to see if I actually manage to stay on track – or if 2021 has a curve ball of her own to throw out. I’ll try to keep updating here as a way of staying honest. Now – Back to work!

free workshop for the Big Read

the ghost book

I was invited by the Prendergast Library to join some other local artists in creating projects inspired by this year’s Big Read book – Pretty monsters by Kelly Link – which could be shared via a free virtual workshop. My project is inspired by The short story the Constable of Abal. The story opens with a strong visual image which really sparked my imagination, of a world where people wear ghosts hanging from ribbons as accessories on their clothes. That was an idea I could run with! So I created what I am calling the Ghost Book.

Because the workshops are not being held in person, I tried to create something that was made from materials it would be easy to access at home. I raided the recycling bin for many of the things I used, and then added some supplies from my studio to dress up the final book. If you’d like to join us on Tuesday, October 13th at 5pm the link to register is here

To craft along with me in the workshop you’ll need to gather up the following basic supplies

An envelope – I used a #10 with a window to add a little peek-a-boo effect on the cover, plus some magazine pages or scraps of paper to glue onto it – on the outside I used pages from a magazine, on the inside of my book used old pages from a discarded book

Some pieces of paper, in my book I used a couple of pieces of sketchbook paper, which I tea-stained and splattered with paint, an illustration from a book, some pages from a magazine, and some scraps of decorative paper I had in my studio, you need about 6-8 pieces of various papers

Tags or scraps of cardboard, I used a couple of mailing tags and an old postcard to make the tags to hold my ghosts – who are pictures cut from an old book – and some ribbon or yarn to attach them to your book

I added a paper flower and some charms and beads to jazz up my book – but you could add these in later if you don’t have them on hand.

Plus some simple tools – A needle & thread, a glue stick, a pair of scissors

I hope to see you Tuesday!

pop-up card – perfect for Mother’s Day!

Make a pop-up Mother’s Day card

Usually this week I’d be busy designing a pop-up card to make with my adult art group. They really enjoy making them and they usually get rave reviews – every Mum likes to get a homemade card no matter how old their “kids” are!

Since we are still on pause here in NY my group is not meeting right now, and kids are not in school, so they are not making cute gifts for Mum either, so this week I am sharing a couple of tutorials for cards, They might be a bit complicated for small children, but maybe Dad or an older sibling can help!

Today’s tutorial features 3 different versions of the same card, including one you can just print and color. The links below will let you download the files you see in the video tutorial. I drew these with a sharpie and scanned them in – so they will have a more “homemade look”

I hope you enjoy the tutorial – watch for another card later in the week! 

a tiny journal

In today’s installment of what to do when you are in social isolation I give you a fun notebook using an old greeting card or note card. I often use this project in intro to bookbinding classes, it’s a simple binding, and it is an easy way to get to grip with all the niceties of paper grain and using simple tools. To be honest you don’t really need any tools except a big tapestry sewing needle to make this project – and you can use any papers you have on hand.

I started making these little note books for myself many years ago – my Mum writes to me regularly from the UK, and it is a way to carry that letter around with me in my every day life. I write my to-do lists and grocery lists and lists of books I want to read in them, stuff like that, and so my daily life is wrapped up inside notes from my Mum, my husband, my kids, my friends – entwined with people who love me, many of them so far away from me.

Anyway – have fun making one for yourself and I’ll be back in a few days with another project from every day stuff.

communities coming together

its a strange time to be alive right now. As an artist and consultant/educator I mostly work from home, so my life doesn’t really feel very different, except when I do leave the house and its like a ghost town everywhere.

What is giving me hope is all the artists everywhere sharing what they know, all the authors reading kids books, all the musicians giving concerts from their living rooms, all the teachers of every stripe sharing resources and knowledge. It seems the carriers of culture are determined that humanity will be all right.

Here’s my humble contribution of a craft you can do if you are stuck at home, that doesn’t need any special materials. I want to give a huge shout out to an organization I work with – Infinity Visual and Performing Arts https://infinityperformingarts.org for sponsoring this video series and for sharing them on their platform to increase their outreach.

More videos on the way – until then stay well – hugs Deb

zines in a time of crisis

I’ve been struggling to figure out how to respond to the current crisis – and I have decided to share my experience as a teaching artist with parents everywhere who are searching for something to do with their children while we are all practicing social distancing. I’m going to make a short video everyday using materials you might already have at home. For today’s project you need a sheet of paper and a pair of scissors (no scissors? you can probably tear it instead!)

Zines can be about anything and can use drawing, writing, or collage, to create content. You can make one on your computer, but it’s fun to go analog and get sticky with some glue every now & then Maybe you could make a zine of some inspirational poems and pictures, and leave them on neighbors porches to cheer them up, or scan or photograph your zine and send it as a pdf/jpeg to friends and family with instructions on how to fold it up, they might enjoy it while they are waiting out the virus at home.

Want to learn more about zines? Try these resources

this is a really cool video – wish I was this good at videos!

here’s a quick look at zine history

and if you want to keep learning more – read Notes from the Underground: Zines and the politics of alternative culture by Stephen Duncombe

I made this zine from an old drawing that wasn’t really working, I’m going to add text to it next

If you make a zine, please leave me a comment and let me know how it came out. I’ll be back tomorrow with another project – until then be well!

All change

I’ve been missing in action for a while here on the blog.

While I’ve been gone, my whole life has changed. I’ve had some health problems, so I’ve started taking better care of myself. And as part of that, I made the decision to finally walk away from the adjunct life.

So right now I am recovering from surgery, and mostly unemployed.

I am still teaching here and there, workshops, and one regular adult class.

I am going to hang a couple more shows at the gallery, but at the end of the year I am also walking away from that part time gig.

I’m grateful for my husband, his grown up, real job allows me the luxury to take a deep breath, and figure out what’s next.

Some things are coming into view on the horizon.