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.

Bringing in a new year

I don’t usually make resolutions in January, the start of the academic year in September always feels like a more natural time to change things for me, but as the year turns and we travel back into the light this year I feel I need to set my life back in order. But what order?

The winter break is a time to hunker down for me. I don’t really enjoy winter except for the beauty of the cool north light, so it’s a good time for me to buckle down and get to work in the studio. So far this has mostly involved clearing the decks from last year, like these two books which had been partially finished on my bench since spring.

But as that weight clears I am making mental space for some new work for two back to back solo shows at the end of summer. What was I thinking? Well actually I know, I was afraid if I said no I would miss an opportunity, fear, fear answered for me. I am genuinely excited about both shows and both venues. They will each demand something different of me and give me a chance to show unique bodies of work, but seriously two shows in 9 months time, gah!

Okay, so you know there will be sewing, and I was really happy to get this book from my hubby for Christmas

And I have been slowly working my way through it using her techniques but on paper

I have been sucked into her orbit and also ordered her book of clothing designs (because I am going to have time to sew too?!)

I’m also back to my daily blackout meditations, I need to get grounded if I am going to pull this year off, so here are a couple for those who don’t see them on my Instagram feed

Im hoping to blog at least once a week about each project, mostly because that will hold my feet to the fire and hopefully keep me on track. So here’s to a brighter shiny new year.

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!

end of another semester

I had hoped to post more often, but life has been getting in the way at lot. The end of the academic year is always busy, lots of papers and exams to mark, wrapping up, longing for it to be summer already. But this year has been additionally complicated by a sudden illness, and a trip to the hospital. Although I am fine now the 5 days I missed laying around in bed have really thrown me for a loop.

Things are gently ticking along both in and on the studio, which is being renovated right now. After 20+ years of working in a largely unfinished space, my long suffering hubby is helping me frame out some walls and hang sheetrock. This was largely motivated by my decision to be a part of an open studio tour at the end of May. Here’s a picture of my lovely bright space now shaping up, this was taken a few weeks ago, so we are further alongand should be at least halfway done by the time the tour comes along. In the meantime every previously empty space in the house is filled up with my relocated art supplies while we work!


It is hard at this point in the year to find long blocks of time to work on anything but I am still keeping up with my weekly color me positive journal page, and because these meditative pages are so relaxing for me I am also adding a daily quote related challenge for the month of May. I realised I have been doing these blackout style pages for over a decade now as part of my daily studio practise. Here’s a blast from the past

morris 1

Here are a few new images to enjoy.

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This weekend I will be at an Antique Book and Paper show – next weekend our youngest graduates from college and then I Have to deal with Finals for my own students. AND then I have to really buckle down to get ready for the open studio tour and summer festival season. And I REALLY hope a more regular blogging schedule. It may remain a bit quiet here for the next couple of weeks, but please stay tuned.


not much studio time…

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I am the co-founder/creative director of a women’s art biennial. Last week I was busy installing the huge show across two galleries, and Friday we had another amazing opening which was well attended. Of course while that is really fun it does keep me out of the studio, especially as my students are also expecting me to say something intelligble during lectures! I have been trying to stay on track with my blackout journaling project, and do a little catching up to the group. I find the blackout pages are really relaxing when I am stressed. Here’s one I really like from last week. I started out drawing a path to my dreams, but then it sort of looked like a tail to me, so I made it into a dragon instead. I am loving adding the coloured pencil to these pages too. Maybe they are not works of art, but they are so much FUN! This is not a great picture – I just snapped it quickly with my phone, but I hope you enjoy it. I think it looks a bit like a story book illustration.


A little process tutorial

I thought I would share a step by step of my page meditation process for the owl page. As each page is different, this isn’t really a tutorial, more a look behind the scenes.
Step one for me is to hold an idea or thought in my mind and then wait to see what words float up from the page. This is the meditation. Just being with my own thoughts, waiting for what each page has to offer.


The prompt for this week’s journal page was to incorporate an animal. So I added a very simple stylized drawing of an owl, my spirit animal. Solitary, thinks too much.


Then I start blacking out the words I am not using. This goes slowly if I am incorporating a picture as I decide on the fly where the divisions go between areas.


I decided the owl needed to look a little more spunky so I added some spiky hair/feathers. I gave the owl hybrid human/owl eyes.
So here is the page completely blacked out. Next step for me is to add in white doodles and details. I use sharpies to black out and white gel pens to doodle over the top.


Here I have added details to the eyes and feathers. Again, this is not a planned process, I just try to feel what the image needs as I go along.




The last step is usually a quote stamped on. I love the quirkiness of hand stamped text.


I am enjoying the challenge of using only really limited materials to work with the journal prompts.
Here are two more catch up pages I finished up since my last post.


Thanks for visiting!

Looking for a new direction.

It’s been a day around here. When I first started writing this blog I promised myself I would try to be honest about the bad days too. I’m currently trying to figure out what to do next in my life. The college where I teach is restructuring some things, which will mean next semester I will be paid even less to teach the same material in less time. And I am struggling. I just don’t think I can take a pay cut and I feel the students are also getting shafted. So I am looking for new work. It’s pretty demoralizing to realize I am unqualified to adult.
So I am thinking about ramping up the more commercial aspects of my studio practice, which means there would be less time to focus on an upcoming gallery show. I could also get more serious about workshop development and marketing. I could apply for some residencies, look for some grant funding maybe.  I feel like I am standing at a crossroads here.
So I did what all artists do. I went to the studio and pretended everything was okay. Well sort of. Actually thanks to Seth Apter’s blog, I discovered a new source for free journaling prompts. Even though the site is called colour me positive, I decided to go back to basics and work in black and white and do blackout style pages, hoping some insight will appear. Obviously I am behind, but as this week is spring break for me I am doing a prompt daily. Here are the first 3




Journaling left me feeling more centered, so I played with some gelatin printing for a couple of hours. I’m still under employed but I have a roof over my head and a studio full of supplies. Life could be worse.


Summer week 4

Most of this week was spent on production binding for the 4th annual Bookfest at Western NY Book Arts Center. I also experimented with a few more long stitch word bindings.



Yesterday I spent a great day under my tent at Bookfest. I met some wonderful new people, saw some old friends and past professors from my time at UB, sold a few books and taught a mini workshop. If you are looking for the tutorial, it should be up later tonight.
Today I am exhausted! I did a few paste paper experiments for a workshop tomorrow and added some type to a few more brown paper lunch bag journals (another festival next weekend).



Now I am laying on the couch in the air conditioning, and I think a nap may well be in my future!

Summer, week 3, part 2

Yesterday was a wash, another day of driving and hospitals and I spent most of today working on the next exhibit at the gallery. Then I headed out to an opening at the college where I teach. It’s a great show of art department alumni, so I got to see some artists I studied with as a student there, and some of my past students, as well as colleagues and friends. It really brightened up a grey rainy day.
I did squeeze in a little late night work in the studio. Like many of you this link came across my news feed several times this week. The image of the “love” binding stuck in my head, and then today I ran across some variegated rainbow crochet thread, so I had to try making one! I just used a paper cover while I worked it out, and I am pretty happy with it!!


Lunch Bag Journal at WNYBAC Bookfest

my table display at bookfest

my table at bookfest

I had a great day at the 3rd annual WNYBAC Bookfest. If you took my workshop in the blazing hot parking lot here is the tutorial for the little lunch bag book we made – if you missed out on the workshop – here’s a tutorial for you anyway!

To make this brown lunch-bag book you need:

  1. a large brown lunch bag (the 6″ size) – I added some stamps to the bottom of the bag (which will become the front cover) – you could do this or print, collage or paint/draw on your cover(s).
  2. 32 sheets of paper for the book block cut to 8″x6″ and folded to 4″x6″ to make 4 signatures of 8 pages each.
  3. some decorative thread and a bookbinding or upholstery needle
  4. an awl
  5. this handout: lunch bag journal printed out on a sheet of legal sized card-stock

So lets begin!

1. First cut out the four pieces on the handout – then insert the piece labelled front cover into the bottom of the lunch bag like this

brown lunch paper bag with piece of cardstock

2. Fold the lunch bag at the top of the card to create the front cover.

lunch bag folded to create a book cover

3. Glue the strip labelled spine punch template to the bag on the inside next to the crease. Use the awl to punch the holes as marked on the printed template. Fold the bag to create the book’s spine.

brown paper bag with spind template attached

4. Insert back cover into bag, up to the edge of the spine template, and fold the end of the bag over to secure in place – if you like you can add decorative stitching on the edges to create a small pocket.


5. Punch the centers of each of the 4 signatures using the signature punching guide from the handout. I find an old phone book makes a great book cradle and allows you to punch the holes more easily. Then thread about a yard of thread onto your needle and tie a knot in one end. Beginning from the inside of the the first signature – at either the head or tail – it doesn’t matter which, sew through corresponding hole in the signature and then through the spine by either the front or back covers.

begining to sew the signatures into the book structuredetail shot of sewing technique

6. Continue sewing up the row in a running stitch. When you come to the top sew over the end of the spine, pick up the next signature and continue down the next row of holes. Repeat with the 3rd and 4th signatures, wrap back around to the inside of the 4th signature and tie off your thread.

a small journal made from a brown paper bag

7. Lastly I added some decorative stitching on the front and sewed down the pocket in the back.


You can change up the binding technique and decoration!!