Hope in the dark

A year ago, Sarah Mo, started an artists book challenge #areyoubookenough on Instagram. It has been a great way to meet all kinds of book artists, from fine binders to students, and all points in between. The quality of the books being created is always inspiring, but more importantly it has helped me feel like part of a community, helped find my book tribe!

January’s challenge was dark. Sometimes I really have to dig around for an idea, sometimes the muse just pops in and drops a fully formed idea right in your lap. All you have to do then is make it, ha ha!

For me the inspiration was a sheet of paper. I made this beautiful wafer thin sheet of black paper at Paper and Book Intensive with Steve Miller. I have hoarded it since then. Taking it out of my paper drawer from time to time, but afraid to commit to using it. (Does anyone else struggle with using the beautiful materials in their grasp?) But when I heard the word dark, that sheet of paper immediately came to mind.

I tore it down into tiny signatures, and stamped/embossed a quote from Rebecca Solnit’s powerful book, Hope in the Dark, on to the center pages. Then I burned the edges of the pages leading up to those pages, just a little, wow! That was heart stopping! I bound it with a really simple Coptic stitch in black linen thread, actually a reel I don’t use much as it has slubs in the thread, but the imperfections seemed perfect here. To finish the pages I added a single thickness of silver metallic thread. You know me, there’s probably going to be some sewing!

I didn’t want to add covers, it seemed pretty perfect, scuffed and vulnerable. But I did want to protect the book, so I attempted a box. I was thinking that Pandora’s hope was found in a box. I had another sheet of paper from that same class, a sheet of charcoal grey laid, so I used it to cover the box. Of course I got glue on the good side of the paper, so I ended up embossing the box. Oh well, at least the pieces of the box fit together well and look pretty square!

This is a rare instance when I am actually pretty satisfied with the final product.

Thanks for continuing to read the blog, I appreciate it!


Clearing the decks

I can’t believe winter break has already been and gone. Somehow I always have more ambition than time, and this year was no different.

The first week of classes usually has the potential to run off the rails, this semester it was technology, or the lack of it, which caused the biggest hurdles. It didn’t help that my classes weren’t confirmed until less than 2 days before classes started. Luckily I am not teaching anything new, so it was just a matter of brushing things up. I am also auditing a printmaking class so I can learn Japanese style wood block printing, which will hopefully get me in the studio a bit too. By the end of the week I was starting to get my feet under me and fingers crossed all goes well from here on out!

During the week I embroidered some leaves, because my umbrella plant always drops leaves in the winter, and they are great to work on. Here they are fresh

And here they are again a few days later.

I love how ephemeral they are, the process makes me think about manicured gardens, about trying to control the natural world, possess it, and how nature resists our desire to order and control it.

I spent the weekend trying to clear the decks in the studio, I still seem to have a stack of unfinished projects lingering. Some things just needed a little work, like this stack of journals, which just needed the covers

Glad to have those finished, and they will be heading out to local galleries in the next few weeks.

These brown bag lunch journals have been knocking around partially completed for months, today I finished all the decorative sewing on the covers, now all that’s left is sewing in the signatures. Hopefully I can get these buttoned up this week.

I’ve also got a stack of mending, alterations that need my attention, and then there’s the 3 pairs of trousers I cut out but haven’t sewn yet! I really want to get all that done before the grading starts piling up. So I guess less talk, more action is needed here. Back to work.

More leafy fun!

It’s less than a week until I leave for the UK to spend time catching up with family and friends. I have a ton of work to finish before I go, more on that later this week. Today I started work on a special gift with eco-printed pages.

First the rummage in the garden

Then bundling all the leaves and papers. I use ceramic tiles to keep the bundles tight and submerged.

Then off to the dye pot. And this was the beautiful result. I used a dusty pink commercial dye in the pot to tint the edges of the pages pink.

Next up binding and custom covers for this project and so much more! Okay enough procrastinating, back to the studio!

Tale of a tooth

So, as I shared in my last post, on my way home from my workshop last week I broke a tooth, so my week started out at the dentists. I ended up needing a surgical extraction as the tooth had broken below the gum in my jaw. So my plans for this week we’re slowed to a snail’s pace while recuperating. I did start work on a project I have been thinking about for a couple of years after seeing Kevin Steele’s books at PBI.  

I started with this accordion book form, those are Kevin’s PBI handouts under the book

Then I bound it to look like this

I want to add a black work binding to the spine, so next up was adapting a black work design from a period painting by Holbein

And then testing the pattern on some scrap paper

So now I am ready to translate all these sketches into the finished book, although I am going to wait to cut into the fancy paper until I am feeling more the thing. 

On Monday I am starting a big restoration project, and teaching a kids workshop. I can’t believe it is almost time to go to the UK. Time flies!!

Busy making books

Summer = festivals. I have been busy making lots of blank journals to take to some festivals next month. And I’ve been posting pictures on my Facebook and Instagram as I finish things up. Here’s a few samples.




And these woven bindings


Which sparked some interest in how they were constructed. I haven’t made any of these in years so I had to think about where I first learned how to make them. I finally tracked it down to an Alissa Golden book, making handmade books. She calls it a cross structure binding.
To make it you need two soft covers twice the width of the signatures plus the width of the spine. I used two pieces of cardstock here.


You need an odd number of tabs cut out from each cover and spine, leaving just the front and back covers intact. Then I cut the slits in the front and back to coincide with the tabs.


To prepare the signatures mark where the two tabs cross the spine and add an additional station at each end for a kettle stitch


Then sew over the tabs and add a kettle at each end to secure the signatures


Then you just weave the tabs through the covers


And done!
If you want more detailed instructions I’d recommend the book, it has over 100 bindings.
Well back to work. Maybe I will see you at a festival later this summer.

Being a student

Last weekend I took a workshop at WNYBAC with Jill Kambs. I have done plenty of printing and book binding, but never any gelatin plate printing, and I rarely make books with words, so I thought it would be great to try a new way of working.
I really tried hard to work fast and to pick materials I wouldn’t ordinarily choose, although I did cheat and work mostly in black and white. I swapped colors with others at the workshop, picking colours like peach and pink I would never usually pick. I was amazed by the delicacy of the prints, the texture. After about an hour I had a heap of prints, that looked as if they had been made by someone else, but sort of like me.
Once the prints dried, we selected and bound them into little pamphlet stitched books. Since I had worked in such a random way it was a challenge to make any sense of the images I had created. Deciding what went with what was a tricky process, mostly accomplished by eliminating the ones that didn’t fit. I managed to make 2 reasonably sensible compilations but I also had a lot of extra prints that made no sense with each other!
The last step was to do some simple Xerox transfers of text selected by Jill. Again working with someone else’s choices was hard for me. Words that speak to other people’s practice don’t always speak to your own.


Here’s the final product, I keep taking it out and looking at it. I can’t believe I made it honestly. It is subtle and delicate. Needless to say I’m pleased!



I’m so glad I took the workshop, and I can’t wait to try more gelatin printing. I hope I can keep the freshness working in my own space.


First time back in the studio really getting down to work. A while ago I started a series of snowflake inspired bindings. Yesterday I finally started another in the series.


I start out drawing on graph paper. All the snowflakes are being adapted from some illustrations of black work borders.


Next I copy that design onto a piece of graph paper mounted on some card stock.


Then I start sewing. As I go I write out the steps. Once I have figured out how to sew the pattern I make a book block. Cutting, folding and punching the signatures always seems to take forever! This design has 21 signatures! I draw a scale pattern of the binding to help punch the right holes in the right signature.


I bind the top and bottom to hold the tension even as I sew the design. Here I used a french link with a kettle on either side over a translucent ribbon with a little sparkle. Sometimes I use coloured thread for this stage, but I wanted to keep the focus on the snowflake for this one.


Here’s the sewing finished.


I have been trying to make bolder choices with my colours and patterns, to make things less “matchy”. The last step is glueing the covers and ribbons down.
About 8 hours later it is all done!
Feels good to add a new pattern to my repertoire. My goal is to draw them all up and publish them for others to use over summer break this year.