An aha moment

Last week I was teaching a blackout meditation class in a hilltop pavillion at the Pfieffer Nature Center. It was about as blissful a situation as one could hope for, which is probably why it happened.

The participants were busy making their blackout meditations, and we were talking about using stencils to add images if you are intimidated by drawing pictures. I grabbed a leaf from a nearby tree to illustrate my point, resulting in this

As I was driving home it occurred to me that maybe I could do some botanical contact prints on found text and use them for meditations. And I love them! The botanical print adds a random element to the page and narrows down the amount of page for meditating on.

I decided to use coloured pencils to do the “blackout” part of the process, and then I added in some slow stitch. (I’ve used stitching to make blackouts before).

Here’s the result

Serendipity at work.

Back to the studio!

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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!

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?

Where did January go?

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Over the holiday break from school I sat down with the checklist from Alyson Stanfield‘s Art Biz Blog and tried to analyze my studio practice from a business perspective. I was pretty happy with the results, except in the area of communication. I really have a hard time connecting with people – even people who obviously care about and support my work. I collect emails, and I think about creating a newsletter or something to connect with others, and every year I don’t follow through. I reach out to curators, which is terrifying for me, and then after the first contact or two, I loose momentum. I realized this is really holding me back, and I know over the years I have let opportunities slide through my hands. This year I am resolving again to try and work on this a little more.

Then I saw that SARK was giving away a week long seminar on succulent business practice. FREE – SARK. Yeah I was blown away. So I signed up for that too. On the second to last day there was a session on money. Like many artists not only do I struggle with connecting with people, I also have a love/hate relationship with money. I have to say that the week long seminar has really shifted my attention. I had a really powerful experience during that money seminar. I hope that I can keep building on the energy of that experience. And in what I am sure is really a coincidence but sure feels like divine manifestation, an unexpected series of checks showed up in my life this week. (Unexpected only in that I rarely check in with galleries who carry my work, and I had sold some work at several of them over the holidays – yeah those people skills again). I decided to invest a little of that money in one on one business counseling through the seminar. And yes, I am terrified!

As usual over the holidays I also got way less work accomplished than I thought I would. I really need to manage my time better this year as I have two solo shows and several group shows with new galleries or artist groups coming up. (Again, maintaining those relationships, those people skills need to be a focus) I also want to spend part of my summer back home in the UK, so I have taken on a lot of workshops and an extra course at the college where I teach to help offset all the costs of traveling and the lack of summer income. Just writing that is making me . queasy.

Okay. I really have to get back to work now! If you have any tips on connecting with the people who support your practice, send them my way. And as part of this “people” revolution this year – I pledge to actually post a little more often. Or at least to try.

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.

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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!

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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.

Summer week 5

This week finally feels like summer, something has subtly changed and I feel the weight lifting. The week began with a journal workshop with a summer reading program. We made paste papers using natural materials and then  made nature journals using a simplified stab binding. Here I am at work!

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Tuesday I hosted a wonderful group of creative ladies at my studio. Together we made recycled long stitch journals, drank tea and coffee, and had fun! Here they are at the end of their workshop with their finished books.

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Today I needed to go to Chautauqua Institution to make some small changes to those chalkboard menus. It was a glorious summer day here with a brisk breeze off of the lake, just perfect! After that I took in a lecture at the hall of philosophy on ethics in the visual arts. I ended my morning by looking at the shows at the Strohl And Kellogg galleries. I saw some fabulous art, and I returned home refreshed with the well filled.
This afternoon was spent doing paperwork, cleaning the studio again and getting work ready for this weekend’s festival, “A Stir of Artists” in Bemus Point. Hope this beautiful weather holds!

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.

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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).

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