About dryadart

An artist struggling to balance art, teaching and family in suburban America.

An ending.

Stones of Stenness
(still looking for a home)

Yesterday was the final day of my solo exhibition at the Tri-County Art Center in Olean. I want to say a heartfelt thank you to Paula, Sean and all the other staff for the opportunity to show my work, and for their efforts to publicize, and of course, sell some of the work. I’d also like to say an enormous thank you to those who came out to share the experience, and to everyone who added a piece of my work to their collections. It’s always a little bittersweet to take down a show. As I put the work into the car I wondered about why some pieces find a new home, and others remain. It’s a mystery.

So today I’ll have to empty out the car, package everything back up nicely and store it away again in the archives. And then I’ll get back to work and start some new things. Fortunately I have a couple of commissions waiting so I’ll have a little momentum to carry me forward over my little sadness at this ending.

Back in the saddle

This past week felt almost normal, working long days, stress, and lots of teaching!!

Last weekend I taught an online workshop for Kalamazoo Book Arts Center. It was a course I’ve wanted to try for a long time, a morning of slow stitching a fabric cover for a long stitch book, followed by an afternoon of designing a fancy long stitch binding. It mostly went well, but the afternoon session was a challenge when the limitations of technology made me feel like a less than stellar teacher. We muddled through and I think at the end of the day the students were happy.

A cover in progress

I decided to assuage my conscience and create a handout for those students, and an extra tutorial video. Which got me thinking about that book of binding patterns I’ve been toying with for years now. During lockdown I did simplify and chart out several of my black work embroidery inspired designs. Thanks to social media, I have a team of ten testers trying out this first pattern. If the feedback is favorable I plan to put some real thought into finally pulling that together.

Here’s the design that flummoxed my students and now my testers are trying out!

I rounded out the week teaching a workshop at SUNYJCC as part of their new makers series, in conjunction with the Weeks Gallery and the art and design department. I was an adjunct at JCC for years, so it was a little like a homecoming. I had a really enthusiastic group of students from many different fields, and everyone left with a finished book. I created a little refresher video for them, you can see it on my YouTube channel. If you’d like to give it a try there’s a printable cover we used to get started. Links to both are below. I printed it on a really heavy card stock. (And before all the binders out there jump all over me, we didn’t worry about the grain direction on the covers, the idea was just to get an experience of making a book as simply as possible with the resources we had available.) Many students glued recycled materials like old painted canvas or box board to their books to finish them off, which will hopefully help them be more durable. If you’d like to give it a try you can download the handout, and follow along on the video. I think there’s enough information even if you weren’t at the workshop.

I also picked up a couple of commissions, and committed to sending work to two exhibitions. And now I’m exhausted! I’m out of practice at this level of hustle, so I’m looking forward to an afternoon of puttering, tidying the studio, and sorting materials ready to hit the ground running next week.

I’m also looking forward to handing out sweets to all the little trick or treaters later! Blessed Samhain friends, I hope there is a sweet treat in your day 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!


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! 

Blackout Meditations


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!

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