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.

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A long slow recovery

Earlier this semester I got the flu, working with college students this is not unusual, but this year it became pneumonia, and knocked me on my arse. I spent the last three months getting over this, and I still have to marshall my energy to get through the day. One of the things that has come out of the whole experience is that I really need to figure out a way to take better care of myself, the other is that when you are a one-woman show, there’s no one there to spin the plates if you drop them! I have never really been sick like this, I slept for weeks, and I really fell behind on a great many things. This brought home to me how thin I am stretched, and so I have decided it is really time to choose where I focus my energy.

I love writing this blog, although this past year you wouldn’t know it. It helps me figure out what I am doing, and creates a way for me to look back on my work and influences, and it has connected me to some wonderful people. It is definitely a thing I want to keep, and so I hope in the coming year to get back to writing more often.

I have two solo shows coming up in 2018, and in the studio I will be focusing my energy on making new work for those. They are two different venues, so I am hoping to create 2 different but related sets of work. I am working on some new embroidered bindings for one of those shows with themed content, and I am going to try and buckle down and finish the how-to book I am writing about them so I can release it around the same time as the show in the summer.

For the other show I want to do some work that interacts with my day to day life, and which will hopefully get me outside more. Much more on that to follow in the new year.

In the meantime I have taken up painting again. The light in winter and the expanse of the winter landscape always makes me itch to paint, so a few weeks ago I bought a tiny little watercolour set and have been dabbling with it. I’m working very small, so I can just tuck everything away in a box. I’ve never really painted with watercolours, so I am having fun trying to figure out how to do it. Here’s an example of what I have been doing

I’ve also been able to work on some blackout pages between long naps, here’s a recent example

And today I picked up a needle for the first time in months and I am working my way through this book of techniques I got for Christmas.

So that’s what is going on here. I’m really hoping to get back on track in the next couple of weeks before classes start up again.

I really want to thank those of you who still read this, and who follow me on other social media for your patience during my long absences. It means a lot to know I have a tribe out there rooting for me.

Eco journal tutorial

Recently I taught a class to make a journal using eco-dyed and printed papers, using a hybrid sewing (French link & Coptic) and wood veneer covers.

This is a really brief tutorial on how we did it!

We actually started by binding the pages as it was only a one day workshop, but I would recommend sewing after you dye your pages.

For more information on dyeing, check out this blog post or you could do a you tube search for boiled books, that’s how I got started!

After you have dyed your pages and they have completely dried, you need the following in order to make this binding, two pieces of tape, ribbon or bias binding, some linen thread, a book binding or crewel needle, an awl, scissors, pencil, ruler, and a scrap piece of paper the same height as your pages.

1. Make a template to use when punching your pages. To make mine I measured .5″ in from each end, then .5″ from that mark (so 1″ from the end). Next I laid my tape by those second marks, and made a third mark leaving a bit of space so I don’t catch the tape when sewing. Finally I divided the remaining space so there would be 3 more sewing stations.

2. Next fold all your pages in half, then punch each one, using the template, with the awl.

3. To begin the sewing, thread the needle with the linen thread. I like to use shorter lengths and add more thread, so I always start with an “arm’s length”. Enter the first signature at the head or the tail of the book.

4. Then from the inside come out at the second sewing station

5. On the outside sew across the tape and go down the 3rd sewing station

6. On the inside skip the next three sewing stations and come up through station 7.

7. Come out through station 7, see across the second tape and back inside the book at station 8. Then come back out to the outside through the final sewing station

8. Lay the next signature on top of this sewn signature, and take the needle down into the page through the corresponding station on the second signature

9. On the inside come out through the next sewing station next to the tape. Take the needle down through the stitch over the tape to make an x

10. Go down through the sewing station the other side of the tape. Then come up from the inside at the next station. Take the needle down through the corresponding station on the FIRST signature.

11. On the inside of this signature is a long stitch, take the needle around this stitch to anchor the sewing, and exit through the same sewing station you entered.

12. Take the needle up to signature 2, go into the signature through the same sewing station you exited. Travel to the next sewing station and repeat. Do this for all 3 center stations between the tapes.

13. Sew out the next station, next to the tape, take the needle down though the stitch over the tape to make an x then sew back in next to the tape. Finally sew back out through the final station. Tie the tail of the initial sewing to the thread on the needle using a square knot

14. Lay the next signature on top of the sewn ones, take the needle into the corresponding first station on the 3rd signature. Come out at the sewing station next to the tape. This time sew down through the longest side of the x over the tape. Sewn down into the page on the third station next to the tape.

15. Come out at the next sewing station, take the needle behind the pair of stitches between signatures 1 & 2. The sew back in the same station you exited. Repeat with the three central stitches.

16. Sew out through the station next to the tape, sew through the longest leg of the x over the tape. Sew down through the page on the other side of the tape.

17. Come out through the last station, lay the 4th signature on top of the sewn ones. Make a kettle stitch and sew into the corresponding station on signature 4.

Continue sewing until all your signatures are attached.

To finish the book you will also need, 2 pieces of book board the same size as your pages ( mine are 6×6″), two pieces of decorative paper slightly larger than these boards, some scrap paper the same depth as your tape, pva glue, and two pieces of wood veneer the same size as your boards.

1. Cover both boards with decorative paper. Make sure you mark the direction of the board’s grain!

2. Press the books under weights until the glue is completely dry. Attach the book block to the board’s using the tapes

3. Next you need to fill around the tapes using scrap paper. Sand this paper to get it level and smooth. This makes a nice flat surface to attach your veneer to.

4. Attach the veneer to the board. Make sure that the direction of the grain in the veneer and the board’s match or you covers will curl! You could use a double sided adhesive like gudy for this step, or a spray contact adhesive, or pva works fine.

5. Lastly, gently sand the edges of veneer, round off the corners, then varnish or oil the covers.

Please note: usually you would have the grain of the board running parallel with the spine, but if you don’t want the grain on the wood running that way you’ll have to break the rules!

If you found the sewing instructions hard to follow you could always use a different sewing you already know, or search for a good video tutorial for the two different styles online.

I just love the wood with the dyed paper pages, a wooden board Coptic or Ethiopian binding would be lovely too. I’ve dyed lots of paper and I plan on experimenting with some other bindings this winter once the semester ends.

Until then, enjoy, and comment below if you have any other ideas!

Joy in troubled times

So many of you who follow me on other social media know I spent all of August swanning about in the UK. I spent time with artist friends in their studios and homes, and then a couple of marvelous weeks with my parents, sisters, their families, my hubby and my son and his partner just vacationing and catching up. I hadn’t seen my dad in person for 11 years, it was time! I also got to reconnect with old school friends and my hometown. Along the way I also visited tons of cathedrals and stately homes and ate all my favorite British foods!

I had a bit of a visa hiccup on the way back to my real life in the USA, and ended up missing the beginning of classes. I feel like I have been running to catch up since my feet touched back down! Not only did I have to scramble to get on track in the classroom, I also needed to hang work in three exhibitions!

This one women hold up half the sky at the Weeks Gallery

This one, phloem/ Xylem, in a Kozo Exhibit at Wnybac

And a small solo exhibit of my blackout poetry.

I am teaching at two different universities this semester, so I get to spend quite a bit of time listening to audiobooks in the car. This week I finished braving the wilderness by brene brown. If you haven’t picked it up yet, I’m going to recommend you get some tissues before you start. It’s one of the most powerful things I have ever read, and the uncomfortable message is one I really needed to hear right now.

Like so many others I am struggling in the current political climate. I live a pretty blessed existence. I make enough money, I am living my dream of being an artist. I get to see my children and grandchildren often. I have a strong loving relationship with the man I love. It’s taken me a long time to get here, and I am frequently surprised by moments of pure bliss in my daily life. But my joy feels wrong with so many struggling.

I’m making a commitment to being present in my community, and to managing my resources so I can give more. And to counting my blessings.

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!!

2 festivals and a workshop

What a busy week! It started Sunday with a perfect afternoon at Chautauqua Institution, warm sun, gentle breeze off the lake and lots of vendors set up for an afternoon of local shopping. I got to visit with lots of friends and move some merchandise, a fun afternoon! 

Hot on the heels of that was the fourth of July holiday and some family time. I often have a hard time keeping track of what day it is in the summer, but a holiday in the middle of the week really messed me up!

Wednesday I headed out to a new teaching venue. The Springville Center for the Arts is housed in a beautiful old church.

I’m teaching a month long class exploring different ways of manipulating and playing with paper. We started out doing some eco-printing. Here’s my sample

I made this one using some heavy cotton paper I use for etching. After soaking the paper in a bath of water containing a little alum, I make a sandwich of leaves and paper, with a ceramic tile on the top and bottom of that leaf/paper sandwich. Then tie the bundle with some gardening twine or big rubber bands, you want the bundle snug so the leaves make contact with the paper but not really tight. Put the bundle in a large pan and cover with water. I added old coffee grounds to the water, but you can use any organic or commercial dye. Bring to a boil, then simmer for at least an hour. Some people just steam their bundles, but I never have much success that way. Then unbundle and rinse in cold water. I hang mine on the washing line to dry.

Because I knew we were going to make a mess, we opted to work outside rather than in their classroom space. The workshop participants made some gorgeous papers. We used a RIT dye in denim blue instead of coffee, and I used a big turkey roaster crock pot to cook the bundles. We also discovered that clover from the garden added a bright yellow to those papers.

We also tried dyeing some paper using some other traditional dyes, tumeric made a gorgeous brilliant yellow, onion skins make a beautiful ochre and beets with vinegar in the bath gave us a delicate blush pink. 

We also experimented with dip dyeing using some commercial dyes. We really accomplished a lot in a short two hour class, and cleaned up just ahead of an incoming thunderstorm! Next week we are going to try some monoprinting techniques.

On my drive home I was eating some almonds in the car when disaster struck, I broke a tooth. So Thursday was an emergency trip to the dentist. Not fun. 

Today I spent the day at Bookfest at WNYBAC. I had a fabulous day despite the stupid tooth catching up with friends and I managed to sell enough books to cover my dental bills, win-win!

This was my last festival of the summer as I am heading back home to the UK at the end of the month.

Tomorrow I need to finish up a commission and finish my entry for a book exhibit. Monday that tooth is coming out, it broke below the gum and can’t be saved. And then I need to clear the decks of some restoration work before switching gears to finish an installation. How does summer fly by so fast?