Learning something new

I’m learning to make a Japanese style Woodblock print. I used one of the watercolors I painted over the winter as a starting point for an image. Carving using a traditional knife was tough! But tonight I got the reward for that, the first proof. Another first printing with Sumi ink. Having a ball learning something new!


Unexpected inspiration

I have been working with a group of adult students for a couple of months. We have just been trying all kinds of arts and crafts together, playing really, exploring. Anyway a few weeks ago they wanted to make masks, so we started making papier-mâché. As I was looking at those layers of paper a crazy idea came into my head, what if I used book text and then did a blackout meditation on top. I wasn’t really sure it would work, but that’s the joy of it right? Here’s the end result. I like it! I like it so much I decided to try doing a dress using the same techniques, stay tuned!

1K giveaway

Last week I passed a milestone on my Instagram account, I reached 1000 followers. I know that there are many people out there who have many many more followers, but it is still amazing to me that there are 1000 people out there in the world who take the time to look at my work. The world is a busy place, there are plenty of things in it to draw our attention, really it seems like a small miracle that even one person would see what I do and make time for it.

To celebrate I gave away a book to one follower, but I know not everyone who follows the blog, or my other social media follow me there. And I really want to thank all my tribe, so I am posting some freebies here too. These are a few of my most recent blackout meditations. Feel free to print for yourself, or share with your friends.

Or if you would like to order a nice print, or a book or card, you can find these and more on my redbubble site.

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.

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.

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.